While in the middle of filming the new Ford Ranger Raptor out at the Sable Lodge 4×4 Adventure Trail in Magaliesberg; having just negotiated the trans-axle trenches and a 42° incline – I then maneuvered the Raptor atop a hillock awaiting further instructions from my videographer. In preparation, I stepped-out of the vehicle onto the magnesium die-cast side-steps to survey the lay-out of the next section of the trail, but just as I was about to ingress the Raptor’s sporty cabin-interior. I felt a tugging on my pants, just below my knee – thinking I had snagged my jeans on a thorn-bush. I looked down, the blood drained from my face, my heart skipped a beat, as I gasped for my next breath of air, for standing there was a little boy of eight or nine years-old, looking up at me, he asked, “if it’s alright with you, can we please just skip the off-road, 4×4, 4Low-range, diff-lock stuff and jump straight to Baja mode…and I do mean jump?”

Afterall, everyone knows the Ford Ranger Raptor is an extremely capable 4×4 – but that’s because it is – an extreme high-performance off-road vehicle. The deiform craft of a ballistic-missile, all-terrain brawler, immortalized as the vanquisher of all previous generation Raptors – barring the F-150 Raptor. Reading the vast list of technical specifications is like introducing a new hi-tech Marvel Comic superhero – with every component meticulously power-engineered to be a militarian-utilitarian-humanitarian: a monster killer and alien slayer – earth’s ultimate protector. A fierce persona matched only by its hulking stance: propped up by 285/70/R17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain tyres, the Raptor stands 1873mm tall, 2180mm wide, 5398mm long that spans a wheelbase of 3220mm and a ground-clearance of 283mm. The Baja 1000 Desert Race inspired body-frame and chassis/suspension are engineered to be virtually indestructible. The frame-mounted front-bumper with bolden FORD lettering is underscored by a 2.3mm aluminium laminated steel bash-plate which extends two-thirds of the undercarriage. In addition to their rust, scratch and weather resistant durability: the heavy-duty magnesium-alloy perforated step-boards are designed to eliminate mud, sand and snow while protecting the rear of the truck from rock-spray. If you buy the Ranger Raptor, while in the throes of a mid-life crisis – then be warned! Your rational thinking, responsible processing frontal-lobes will never again have control over your primordial limbic-system – the sports-performance cockpit is enough to persuade you that the only life worth living is on the edge. Logically the cabin is both spacious and comfortable – heated/electric front-seats, automatic dual-zone climate-control, with an ample complement of cupholders and utility areas. From the driver-seat position, the multifunction steering-wheel provides a host of options of which you can delegate the FordSync3 infotainment touchscreen, six-mode Terrain Management System as well as configure safety-driver aids like following-distance/forward-collision intervention, cruise-control and lane-keep assist. Perceptively fast, there is nothing ‘in theory’ about this “mini monster truck,” it drives, slides, climbs and jumps. On-road the Raptor drives with silky-smooth comfort but it is not fast on tarmac. The 2.0l, bi-turbodiesel engine boasts an impressive figure of 157kw, but under hard acceleration the 10-speed automatic transmission slurs between gear-changes, paddle-shift manual-bypass does help albeit an inert 500nm of torque. Alas the paradox! That which makes it comfortable on-road is exactly what makes it fast and agile off-road. As the Raptor features a six drivetrain-mode all-terrain management system: Normal, Sport, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock-crawl and most importantly Baja mode. Baja mode tunes the drivetrain and suspension for high-speed off-road performance – though Baja mode gives you wings to fly it’s the Fox Racing suspension that gives you wheels to land. 2.5” internal double-tube shock-absorbers with coil-over springs and position-sensitive adaptive-dampers. Forged aluminium control-arms, independent double wishbone front-suspension along with a Watts linkage live rear-axle: whereas front-suspension travel is increased by 32% and 22% extended suspension travel at the rear. Every inch of the Raptor’s body-frame is reinforced – from the tyres, to the chassis and undercarriage. Solely engineered for high-speed gravel-travel and full-throttle ballistic air jumps. With Baja mode engaged you do not have to be Ken Block to get the Raptor safely sideways or three-feet off the ground. At 120km/h the Raptor skims-over fissured, guttered, rutted and corrugated “dirt-turf” like pencil shavings and saw-dust; at 140km/h the Raptor plays like a little boy in a sandbox throwing mud-pies at his mother but once you reach 160km/h the thrill begins. However, if you want to learn to jump the Raptor – start with how you want to land! Stay with conservative jumps until you have perfected both your speed and angle of approach, thereafter your landing should be poised and controlled. 

Notwithstanding the Ford Ranger Raptor is a standard production vehicle, it is as close as you get to a Stadium Super Truck or an off-road racer. In spite of its R875,700 premium price-tag, bereft the aftermarket cost of transforming your stock Ford Ranger into a Raptor – you still would not come close to the off-road omnipotence of the more accomplished Ford Ranger Raptor.

Written by Dean Joseph