Developed by Ford Performance and billed as “Europe’s first-ever factory-built, off-road performance pick-up truck”, the epic Raptor version of the best-selling Ranger is a unique proposition.
Priced from £47,874, it’s powered by a potent 210bhp twin-turbo 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, and is as capable off-road as it is carrying out regular pick-up duties.
Featuring six different drive modes (two for on-road use and four for all-terrain driving), the Raptor is a seriously impressive piece of kit. There’s even ‘Baja’ mode (named after a famous off-road endurance race) for driving over rough terrain at speed.
Make no mistake – it’s a beast. Park it alongside a standard Ranger and it’s noticeably bigger – 168mm longer, 52mm taller and 44mm wider to be exact. Add the 150mm wider track, 51mm extra ground clearance, skid plates, flared wheel arches and 17-inch wheels shod with beefy off-road BFGoodrich tyres and it’s the closest thing to a full-scale Tonka truck.
Climb up into the cabin (no exaggeration there), and the differences between the Raptor and top spec Ranger (Wildtrak) are more subtle, apart from the sports steering wheel and blue-stitched leather and suede sports seats.
It’s also worth mentioning that it’s a double cab, so it’s spacious and comfortable in the rear too, with plenty of room for adults. It would be wrong to call it luxurious, but the Raptor is well equipped and build quality is good.
The biggest surprise is that its relatively modest engine is so strong. It may well be a demon diesel in the eyes of many, but it’s a solid performer and more eager than you might think thanks to those twin turbos.
Mated with a slick, responsive 10-speed automatic gearbox, it’s capable of decent pace, especially in Sport mode. If you want to get more involved, you can change gear yourself using the titanium paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel. If you don’t mind a little audio enhancement, it sounds good too.
As you would expect, there’s plenty of low-down grunt, but it’s swift too. A top speed of 106mph and a 0-62mph time of 10 seconds won’t set the world on fire, but it feels plenty fast in this 2.5-tonne leviathan. Believe me, after a day driving it on challenging roads, it feels like you’ve had an upper-body workout.
It’s frisky too. In Normal (rear-wheel drive mode) it’s even possible to lose the rear end in the damp.
Fuel economy is a claimed 31.7mpg, and 30mpg is achievable on longer runs, while CO2 emissions are a disappointing 233g/km.
The Raptor doesn’t shrink with familiarity like some big cars, but you certainly get used to its bulk. It feels nothing other than solid at speed, and as long as you remember to anticipate corners and braking distances on more challenging roads, it’s a blast.
Body control is good and the ride is more sophisticated than most pick-ups, resulting in a pleasant all-round driving experience. Competent though it is on tarmac, it’s off-road that the Raptor raises eyebrows.
Sporting a tough reinforced chassis frame utilising high-strength, low alloy steels, it has a race-bred suspension and huge FOX RACING shock absorbers enabling it to tackle tricky terrain at high-speed.
I tried a little off-roading and it came through with flying colours. Steep inclines and mud tracks were no bother at all, with plenty of power from the engine and superb 4×4 traction. If you want to get serious, there are both high and low range four-wheel-drive settings and it has a wading depth of 85cm.
So far so good, but compromises have been made, which may put off some buyers who want to use their Raptor for business and pleasure. The payload capacity is down from one tonne to 680kg, and it can only pull 2.5 tonnes as opposed to the 3.5 tonnes of a standard Ranger.
What’s more, thanks to the smaller payload, the Raptor isn’t classed as a commercial vehicle, which means business owners can’t claim the VAT back.
Verdict: Even though the mighty Ford Ranger Raptor is the kind of vehicle you buy with your heart rather than your head, it’s an irresistible proposition – a pick-up that breaks all the rules. The ultimate guilty pleasure.
Review in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk