Ford is on a bit of a sales roll with the Ranger: from being the UK’s third best-selling pick-up in 2015, it has topped the charts every year since.
With the aim of keeping it that way, Ford has carried out a range facelift, and to add some extra appeal introduced a new halo model, the Ranger Raptor.
Billed as a vehicle inspired by off-road racing, it features a series of meaty mechanical upgrades over the regular Ranger. These include a reinforced chassis frame using high-strength, low-alloy steels designed to help it withstand rough treatment, and an upgraded suspension featuring Fox shock absorbers with position-sensitive damping.
The Raptor has a track that’s 150mm wider plus 51mm more ride height than the regular Ranger, with a 283mm ground clearance and 850mm wading depth, and rides on specially developed BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres. There are also upgraded brakes all round, and an underbody bash plate with 60% thicker steel than standard.
But the Raptor isn’t all go and no show – there are plenty of changes that ensure it stands out a bit more on the road as well as in some cases offering further performance. These include a grille inspired by the American Ford F150 Raptor, a front bumper with LED fog lights and air curtain ducts, flared composite front fenders, and side step boards designed to deflect rocks from the rear of the truck.
The interior changes are more subtle, but include some plush leather and suede bolstered seats and a leather steering wheel with an on-centre marker to help drivers keep track of wheel position off-road.
The Raptor-specific updates sit on top of the changes Ford has made to the basic Ranger underneath.
As well as various cosmetic changes, which are largely superseded by Raptor upgrades, these include autonomous emergency braking and intelligent speed assist as standard, and a new range of engines – the old 2.2-litre and 3.2-litre diesels are out (although Ford says the 3.2 will still be available until the end of the year) and in comes a new 2.0-litre unit. This is available with 130hp, 170hp, or in 213hp bi-turbo tune.
The latter’s performance is brisk for a pick-up, although taken in the context of the Raptor’s racy appearance a 0-62mph time of over 10 seconds might sound a little underwhelming.
The party piece, however, is how much of that performance it can deploy when the going gets rough. Put your foot down on a dirt trail and it has no trouble shooting you along, with the uprated chassis taking whatever comes in its stride. In fact, the quality of the ride actually improves as you pick up speed off-road, as the race-inspired suspension does its thing.
Off-road is where you can also make the best use of the selectable drive modes – Normal, Sport, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock, and Baja, the latter named after a famous desert rally and setting the truck up for the most extreme sports off-roading.
Clearly, the Raptor’s chief appeal will be to enthusiasts who want to off-road quickly and regularly. But that doesn’t mean it’s a nightmare on the tarmac, where the ride is on the firm side but not uncomfortably so, and refinement is good, with no undue intrusion from wind and road noise.
You also benefit from a commanding driving position – that ride-height increase with the chunky off-road tyres put Raptor drivers level with those in medium vans. Its driving manners are composed and surprisingly easy, and making things even easier is the smooth-shifting auto gearbox – despite the 10 speeds it’s unobtrusive, and never feels indecisive due to having too many ratios.
One final word: a payload of just 620kg means the Raptor isn’t classed as an LCV from a VAT point of view (though it is for VED purposes), so you’ll have to really need that off-road ability in order to justify it.
The good news is that underneath the rally-spec upgrades, the fundamental package is stronger than ever should you step down the range.
Ford Ranger Raptor
Insurance group 45E
Service intervals 2yrs/12,500mls + annual inspection
Load length 1,575mm
Load width (min/max) 1,139/1,560mm
Load bay height 561mm
Gross payload 620kg
Load volume n/a
Engine size/power 1,996cc/213hp
Combined fuel economy 31.7mpg
If you need to cover rough ground quickly, the Ranger Raptor will be tough to beat; if you don’t, save your cash and stick to the regular range.