Last year, once again, the Ford F-Series pickup was the most high selling vehicle in the world. Bearing in mind it's a pickup truck and mainly sells in the US, that's a mind-twisting thought. As such, it's had a lot of refining over the years and is now pushing the limits with its Raptor variant, which is finally reaching the UK.
The Ford Ranger Raptor was created as a reaction to an off-road scene in the US that sees tinkerers modify their trucks to get up seemingly impossible courses until it becomes possible. Essentially the race will have a section that can't be done, competitors keep changing their truck builds until someone has one that can do it, then everyone has that new feature. Ford wanted to offer near that level of capability but right off the factory line. Enter the Raptor.
Built to do it all
The main appeal of the new Raptor is its off-road capabilities. We're not just talking about four by four here, this thing goes way beyond that with options for two wheel drive, four wheel high gear and four wheel low gear as well as six modes including snow, sand and even Baja mode for serious off-road enthusiasts that don't want too much of that assistance lark turned on – like the handy Electronic Stability Control mode.
The beast features a low alloy steel chassis which is super strong to handle knocks. The bash plate in the front is even reinforced as it's built with getting beaten by rocks in mind. You also get a decent 281mm of clearance so rock evasion should be easy even for those new to off-roading. We certainly made use of it more than once. Even the tailgate has attention to detail with a super light easy lift and lower system that makes it a one hand job for anyone.
One of our first experiences in this twin-cab beast was to take it dune-bashing in the desert. As such it meant flooring it most of the time as it flew up and down the sandy hills, seemingly without much effort required. A huge set of grip-laden specialist tyres did likely help but the performance, with no getting stuck in the sand at all, was impressive.
The engine is a 210bhp, 500Nm, 2.0-litre EcoBlue Diesel unit which means this doesn't glug the fuel but still churns out enough power – across the super smooth 10 automatic gears – to get you out of most situations. While we did have it floored for the desert legs, the road going segments had plenty of power. Only serious racers that want to push the car to really dangerous off-road speeds would need any more power than this offers.
Details like the red stitching in the steering wheel give a clue to how extreme this car can go. That's so you know where the wheels are facing when you're thrashing the wheel from left to right and have lost track of where you are. It's actually really, really useful in the sand – especially when cresting a hill blindly and needing to know how you're going to land. Yes we also mean in a jump – this does that too.
We hit a jump at about 40 mph and got over a foot of air and the car landed without even making much of a noise – ideal for those classic movie car chases on the hilly San Francisco roads then, if that's your thing.
The shocks are another area that offers above-and-beyond abilities. These use separate containers to store the hydraulic fluid so you don't have to worry about seizing up in extreme heat or dust conditions. Yup, we told you this was extreme. Even the seats have special suede sections woven into the leather to give you more grip so you stay in position when flying over the bumps at speed.
The sat-nav has a breadcrumb feature that lets you mark out a route when off-road so you can be guided back to the start if you need assistance which is a nice way to feel safe while pushing the limits further than you might otherwise.
As a workhorse, this car is one of the best options out there, it's as tough as that chunky grille makes it look. But it will also be kindly enough to get along with other cars on the roads too. It's not too wide for UK roads, it feature twin cabs for a 'real car' feel inside with lots of space and the noise cancelling is excellent leaving you with a comfy ride.
Sure, the finish inside is rugged but you still get the smarts of SYNC 3, meaning Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. To be honest those two are what you'll likely end up using mostly. You also get multi-zone climate control, heated and electric adjust seats, plus lane keep assist and traffic sign recognition. It's like a really capable car that also has insane boot space and can go pretty much anywhere you point it.
A built-in modem option means you can be permanently connected, where signal allows, with a local Wi-Fi hotspot system that supports up to 10 devices at once. Yup, this is a family friendly car that'll give the parents sat-nav guidance with traffic alerts while also streaming tablet friendly shows to the kids in the back.
The Ford Ranger Raptor is the ultimate plaything, the kind of truck children play with in toy form – but now it's a reality you can drive. While the engine is efficient it's still a big car so don't get this if you want to save the environment. That said, this is a great way to run just one car for both work and pleasure. You most likely won't find an environment in the UK where this can't go – unless you're so extreme that you know specific car-killer bogs or want to go up a mountain that climbers would balk at.
This car isn't cheap, starting at near the £40,000 (about $50,000, AU$75,000) mark. Since you get a car and a truck and an off-road toy all in one that price does seem less steep. But, of course, this is a specific vehicle built for specific needs. If it meets yours then you're going to be hard pressed to find a better alternative. Although, of course, you could save ten grand and go for the Ranger Wildtrack but just be a bit less off-road capable.