Wheels (Australia) - - Garage - ALEX RAE

IF FORD could only tell you one thing about its Ranger Raptor, it would be that it has Baja mode. That’s its desert-bust­ing, humpjump­ing set­ting that al­lows the big unit to launch off the crest of any con­ve­nient sand dune.

That’s what the Blue Oval chucked down our throats from the mo­ment it first told us that it had a per­for­mance­fo­cused ute com­ing – and with good rea­son. A lot of de­vel­op­ment – in­clud­ing

lo­cal – went into cre­at­ing this beast, and plenty of that was fo­cused on per­fect­ing what hap­pens when you en­gage that Baja mode – its moniker a ref­er­ence to the great Mex­i­can desert race of the same name. While the Fox dampers soak up the bumps, the trac­tion con­trol loosens, the throt­tle sharp­ens and it’s wildly en­ter­tain­ing to drive on any sur­face rem­i­nis­cent of that gru­elling desert dash.

So the first thing I did when ed­i­tor In­wood wist­fully threw me the keys to his old flame was take the Raptor to the snow. You know, where Ford’s mar­ket­ing might sug­gest it doesn’t be­long. I was a bit con­cerned, as tap­ping the throt­tle on the slight­est of damp sur­faces usu­ally sees the red rig spin rub­ber like a Bamix com­ing out of thick soup.

In Vic­to­ria, snow chains are manda­tory in alpine parks, so that was of some com­fort. Then again, chains re­ally shouldn’t be re­quired for a four­wheel-drive on any­thing but the most haz­ardous of snow-blan­keted roads.

Then there was the size of the cabin to con­tend with. It’s good for four pas­sen­gers (I car­ried two plus me) but not also for their lug­gage. So all the heavy stuff went in the tray over the axle, which also aided trac­tion (the Ranger, un­like VW’S Amarok, doesn’t run in con­stant all-wheel drive) and I used wa­ter­proof duf­fel bags and plas­tic con­tain­ers for ev­ery­thing else. It was an un­con­ven­tional ar­range­ment, but work­able given our long-ter­mer doesn’t fea­ture a cover over the tub.

As for driv­ing up the moun­tain, I fig­ured that, worst-case sce­nario, I’d drop the Raptor into 4x4 high range and se­lect Weather mode. I was sure the manda­tory hire chains were a mas­sive waste of time. In the event, I didn’t touch ei­ther. It crawled up to the sum­mit driven by the rear wheels only with­out slip­ping a bit, and I re­versed it into a car park and left the hand­brake off for the im­pend­ing overnight dump of snow. It came, and there was a large lump of white to con­tend with, but in 4x4 high and with a dab of throt­tle, the Raptor was climb­ing up over the white stuff with­out break­ing a sweat.

‘Weather’ mode isn’t a name that does jus­tice to the Raptor’s snow smarts. Were Ford to build an Ever­est Raptor ... well, there’s a name that tells a story.

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