Mark Twain reportedly said “golf is a good walk spoiled”. I used to feel the same about driving off-road. After several experiences of bumping and thumping along Welsh green lanes, making progress at a wearily pedestrian pace, I concluded that hiking boots were preferable to all-terrain tyres.
That all changed in 2019, when I travelled to Morocco for the launch of the Ranger Raptor. Driving flat-out across the desert, leaping off sand dunes and sliding about like Ken Block (RIP), I suddenly realised that off-roading could be fast and fun. I’ve had a soft-spot for Ford’s preposterous pickup ever since.
Now there is a new Ranger Raptor – and you still can’t lose it in a car park. A jutting FORD grille framed by ‘C-clamp’ LED headlights, stretched wheelarches and a taller, wider stance make it look like a boil-washed monster truck. Or indeed the American-spec F-150 Raptor.
Brace for impact
The big news is under the hood (sorry, bonnet), where the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel from the previous Raptor is joined by a second engine option, a 3.0 twin-turbo petrol V6, with both linked to a 10-speed automatic gearbox. The V6’s 292hp still falls frustratingly short of the 397hp that Australian Raptor buyers enjoy (blame EU emissions rules), but 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds is brisk for a 2.5-tonne pickup. It also sounds much meatier than the diesel – especially in ‘practically unsilenced’ Baja mode.
My test truck had the full-fat petrol engine, although this time, sadly, my travels were confined to Surrey rather than the Sahara. However, with Fox Racing suspension, two locking differentials, gnarly BF Goodrich rubber and seven different drive modes, this 2023 Raptor is equally capable of bouncing across rough terrain. Its ‘Live Valve’ dampers even brace for impact when they detect you are airborne…
Such robust over-engineering pays dividends on tarmac as well. The Raptor feels more sophisticated than most pickups, with direct steering and limited body-roll in corners. Its long-travel suspension seems well suited to crumbling British roads, gliding over potholes and smothering speed humps. You’re always conscious of its sheer size (over 300mm longer than a Range Rover), but a lofty driving position, towering above lesser traffic, helps you blaze a trail with confidence.
Fuel for your loving
The Raptor is very car-like inside, too, where you’ll find seating for five, a 12-inch portrait touchscreen and big-bolstered seats inspired by the F-22 Raptor jet fighter. It’s less roomy for passengers than a large SUV, but the load bed, with its roll-top metal cover, means you are never short of luggage space.
Standard kit includes leather upholstery, a 10-speaker B&O audio system, external power sockets and a full suite of parking cameras. Ford also offers a range of adventure-ready accessories, such as a wiring unit for a winch or a rack for fitting a roof tent.
What’s not to like? Well, at nearly £60,000, the Ranger Raptor certainly isn’t cheap, and its 652kg payload falls short of the one-tonne minimum to qualify it as a commercial vehicle. With CO2 emissions of 315g/km – or 278g/km for the diesel – that means a hefty tax bill, even if you own your own business, not to mention fuel economy that easily plunges below 20mpg.
SUV and sports car
However, the Raptor wasn’t designed to spend its waking hours frequenting Wickes. Think of it instead as the mutant offspring of an SUV and a sports car: a fun vehicle that can also accommodate your family.
Seen in that light, this steroidal truck starts to look like better value. It still isn’t a rational purchase, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting one.