2023 Ford Ranger Raptor review
The Ford Ranger Raptor is back as the performance version of the firm's popular pick-up truck. Here's how it performed when we took it for a test drive.....
On sale Now | Price from £46,300 (exc VAT)
The pick-up truck market has brought us some interesting wannabe-luxury options in recent years, but it doesn’t often do sporty. The Ford Ranger Raptor is a rather unique exception to that rule. The original Raptor was launched in 2019, and now – alongside the launch of the fifth-generation Ford Ranger in its many and various forms – there's a successor.
This second-generation Raptor sits at the apex of the Ranger’s model hierarchy, but like the car it replaces, it’s not technically a commercial vehicle. With coil suspension tuned for enhanced on and off-road handling rather than load-carrying, it's rated to carry only 652kg of cargo in its flatbed. That’s some way off the one-tonne minimum required for the truck to qualify as a light commercial vehicle (and to be taxable as such).
So, this Ranger, while still pretty spacious, versatile and useful, is strictly a private buyer’s plaything. You can spot one over a regular version by its flared wheel arches, chunky all-terrain tyres and bold Ford lettering on the front grille in place of the usual oval badge. And, if that’s not enough, you can add decals and a roll-over bar on to the load bed as well.
The Raptor range initially launched with a 3.0-litre, 288bhp V6 turbocharged Ecoboost petrol, which drinks fuel at a predictably juicy official 20.5mpg. For anyone who liked the more moderate thirst of the old version’s 2.0-litre diesel, that (and its official 26.6mpg figure) arrived later in summer 2023.
What’s the Ford Ranger Raptor like to drive?
The Ranger Raptor is considered a mid-sized pick-up truck in certain parts of the world, but on British roads, it’s imposingly large. Ford offers the car in double-cab body form, with four passenger doors and two rows of seats.
At nearly 5.4 metres long, nearly two metres tall and more than 2.2 metres wide across those generous door mirrors, it makes a typical supermarket car park space feel very small. The large turning circle doesn’t help in multi-storey car parks, either.
The Raptor looms large over any motorway lane, then, but thanks to a raft of upgrades, it rides and handles encouragingly well. Ford Performance went to considerable lengths to put the ‘special’ into this special Ranger, strengthening its ladder-frame chassis, fitting knobbly-looking off-road tyres and an electronically controlled four-wheel drive system with locking differentials.
However, it’s worth noting a couple of big differences between the diesel and the petrol version. First of all, the diesel only comes with a rear locking differential (the petrol comes with an additional one up front). And, while Ford junked the regular truck’s rear leaf springs, and fitted long-travel coil springs at each corner, only the petrol comes with adaptive dampers.
These result in a far plusher ride comfort, thanks to a greater ability to soak up bumps and isolating occupants from them at any speed - both on and off-road. The diesel’s fixed-rate passive dampers means its low speed ride is quite knobbly and struggles to settle down. It’s still better than the Isuzu D-Max AT35, but it’s definitely worth considering the marginal price premium the petrol Ranger Raptor commands for this reason.
Weighing close to 2.5 tonnes, the Raptor doesn’t handle with anything like the energy and grip of a modern sports saloon or a two-seater sports car on the road – and that's no great surprise. That said, the hefty steering is precise, while the uprated suspension ensures that cornering is accomplished in a neat and upright fashion, with great body control over bumps.
The V6 petrol engine is a rather unique offering in the world of pickup trucks and sounds much more appealing than the diesel motors used by the Ranger’s rivals. You have four settings to choose from for the exhaust, from entertainingly-loud Baja mode (for off-road use), to Quiet, eliminating any drone on a motorway cruise.
The diesel does without the twin chrome exhaust pipes at the rear and misses out on this audible level of theatre. Settle down to a cruise and there’s very little road or wind noise to contend with in either version, so it's surprisingly civilised on longer journeys.
The 208bhp 2.0-litre diesel’s 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds trails the Ecoboost petrol’s 7.9 seconds, but it’s still perfectly capable at keeping up with traffic. The diesel D-Max AT35 is far more underpowered in comparison and is much louder in the process.
Despite the extra power, the 288bhp 3.0-litre petrol engine produces, the level of performance isn’t that transformative. When you put your foot down, the engine stops some way short of proper muscle-car acceleration. The engine is eager to rev, and the 10-speed automatic gearbox is never short of another ratio to select, but don’t expect that hot hatchback driver to disappear too quickly in your rear-view mirror.
No, it's off the road where the Ranger Raptor really comes into its own. Even though its sheer size and long wheelbase make it a little unwieldy on tighter tracks, ground clearance is a generous 265mm so deep ruts and standing water aren’t a problem.
The chunky off-road tyres, easy-articulating solid rear axle, hardcore 4x4 driveline and sophisticated traction control software make it the kind of car you really do feel you could drive anywhere – up any incline, and over just about any boulder or drop you might encounter. At higher speeds when running on a Baja-style gravel or dirt track, and even jumping like a rallycross car, the vehicle can take an extraordinary amount of punishment and still come back for more.
In our off road test, the Raptor felt even more capable than the air-sprung Land Rover Defender, with its long-travel suspension helping those wheels dig in to ditches and find that crucial morsel of traction to dig its way out.
What’s the Ford Ranger Raptor like inside?
Adult occupant space is good in both rows, and equipment specification – as far as range-topping pick-ups go – is high.
The material used for the interior is mostly of a respectable quality. There’s some suede-like material on the dash and the soft-touch plastics on the doors help it feel a little more plush, but the majority of the plastics used are harder to the touch and feel like they're made to endure scuffs. The Raptor also gets red highlights on the seats, steering wheel and dash to lift the ambience.
You also get electrically adjustable sports front seats that are comfortable, easy to slide into and adequately supportive (a longer-legged driver might wish for a longer seat base).
The Raptor goes quite large on its secondary transmission and drive mode controls. The V6 petrol gets buttons for suspension, engine and exhaust mode on the steering wheel, while both versions get a large rotary selector on the centre console for various drive modes (there are a lot of those), and dedicated buttons to control its four-wheel drive system.
It’s a lot to take in at first, until you realise you can discount most of it on the road or simply pick the drive mode you want depending on the surface and let the car work the rest of it out for itself.
The Raptor is otherwise like a high-spec Ford Ranger Wildtrak inside. This means it comes with a 12.4in digital instrument display as standard, which is presented clearly and offers plenty of relevant and useful information.
Meanwhile, Ford’s updated SYNC4-A infotainment system sits on a 12in portrait-oriented touchscreen in the centre of the dash. At initial glance, there seems to be a lot of information to decipher, but you soon get to grips with the way the screen is divided up into sections.
It looks great, with sharp graphics and lots of useful camera angles of the car’s immediate surroundings when you’re off-roading (or, indeed, parking). Some of the icons are quite small, though, and the air-conditioning portion positioned at the bottom of the screen is tricky to see and aim for. Thankfully, there are physical rotary knobs below for adjusting the temperature that are much easier to locate.
Wireless smartphone charging and wireless device mirroring are both included as standard features, as is a 10-speaker B&O premium audio system with plenty of power.
The Ford Ranger Raptor offers a lot of versatility, off-road capability and potential for weekend amusement, even for nearly £60,000. Both engines are similarly priced, but if you can stomach the fuel costs of the V6 petrol, it’s the better driving and most capable option. Indeed, the petrol engine doesn’t give it the knockout hot rod performance some might expect, but its eagerness and soundtrack appeals in many ways.
Whichever one you go for, the Ranger Raptor is composed, rather than fun to drive on the road. But, despite its brutish appearance, it's far less compromised to cruise around in than an Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35.
If you hunt out the right off-road environments, you'll soon experience this unusual car’s strongest selling points. The specialised driveline and suspension make it capable of eye-opening hardcore off-roading or tackling bumpy tracks and loose surfaces like a road-legal rally raid car.
A niche offering, it may be. However, if your lifestyle involves the right mix of mud, grass, sand and gravel, this could be the extra-special performance car for you.
What Car? rating 4 stars out of 5
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Ford Ranger Raptor
Price £46,300 (exc. VAT) Engine 6cyl, 2956cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol Power 288bhp @ 5500rpm Torque 362lb ft @ 2300rpm Gearbox 10-spd automatic 0-62mph 7.9sec Top speed 111mph Fuel economy 20.5mpg (combined) CO2/tax 315g/km, 37%
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