This thing makes no sense in the world we live in. We desperately want one!
Do you need a truck? Probably not. Will you drive off road, actually, the question should be, will you frequently drive like a bat-out-of-hell on rough terrain? Unlikely. Is it smart to have a car that’s nearly two metres longer, and half a metre wider than a typical small city car? Not really. During a cost-of-living crisis should you be contemplating buying a car that costs around £60,000 all-in and manages only 20.5mpg? Does your bank manager come to work sporting a mohawk, nose ring and wearing a mankini? Exactly.
Should you then be lusting after the new 2023 Ford Ranger Raptor truck? Oh, hell yeah! Totally. Absolutely. In fact, form an orderly queue of adoring fans that starts just behind me.
Ah, so this is going to be one of those highly biased reviews then? A RayBan Aviator-tinted view of a world where we all dress like Indian Jones or Lara Croft, and go to the ends of the Earth hunting extraordinary relics with mystical powers in a race against baddies that want to rule the world, whereas we’re just doing it for the chase? Yup.
Let’s quickly get all bad points out of the way first then. For example, despite having a flat-bed rammed pack with the rarest and most powerful artefacts in the world, hidden beneath a powered roll-top tonneau cover (an £1800 option along with the roll-over bar – both must-haves along with the £600 Raptor sticker pack), the maximum payload is just 700kg, so this does not qualify as a commercial vehicle, not a great ‘business use choice’. It will tow up to 2500kg though for when you find and bring back the secret second Spinx of Egypt. Plus with CO2 emissions at 315g/km it falls in the highest tax band.
Now the good stuff. For a start it looks beefier, butcher and bolder than ever. It feels squarer, more planted, tougher and check those horseshoe front lights, with that sculpted grille featuring a massive and confident ‘FORD’ script right across the front. In Lighting Blue or particularly the Code Orange I tested, with its blazing decals, this is no shrinking violet, and you wouldn’t want it to be. It’s head and shoulders above everything else and unmissable. This is called ‘having presence’.
The other good, actually ‘great’ news, is there is now a petrol engine available. It launched with a new twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine putting out 290bhp and 491Nm of torque, through a staggeringly sophisticated 10-speed automatic, mated to a new full-time four-wheel drive system (which can switch to 2WD) and features an electronic two-speed transfer case. It’ll reach 62mph from rest in 7.9 seconds, which feels much quicker in reality than it sounds on paper (this is a 2500kg truck after all). Top speed is 111mph.
As you’d expect for something befitting the ‘Raptor’ badge, this thing features a reinforced chassis with better rigidity and durability, upgraded front shock tower, and increased front wheel travel. Plus of course the legendary Fox shocks, which boast sensors that monitor driver and vehicle inputs 500 times a second, and can adjust compression damping in real-time.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to driving modes: Normal, Sport, Slippery, Rock, Mud & Ruts, Sand and… wait for it… ‘Baja’! You can also individually configure the steering for weighting, the suspension and even the exhaust: Quiet, Normal, Sport or Baja. Loud sporty exhaust settings on a truck? Cool!
While it’s built for maximum attack, it’s also a safety-first kind of pick-up. It has a full five-star EuroNCAP crash-protection rating plus a host of clever tech including pre-collision assist, evasive steer assist, reverse brake assist, blind-spot alert with trailer coverage, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane-centring, active park assist, centre side airbag and post-impact braking. Pretty much everything you’d expect on your typical executive level passenger car.
Taking of passengers, they’re catered for too, with generous rear seating in the double cab, good enough for three people, complete with rear vents, USB, USB-C and three-pointed plug charging. You sit a little more upright than a regular car, but I’m told that’s good for posture!
For off-roading experts, here’s the information they’re seeking. Despite the 3270mm wheelbase and 5360mm overall length, it has a 272mm ground clearance, a 24-degree breakover angle, 32-degree approach angle and 24-27-degree departure angle (with and without towbar).
Plus, you can lock the diffs through the centre screen and talking of screens, there is not only a 360 camera on the huge 12-inch centre monitor, but it also automatically presents a front camera in the off-road modes – which is handy when cresting in this behemoth and not being able to see what’s on the other side. Plus, four-low and off-road cruise control for crawling. And let’s not forget a bank of upfitter buttons on the ceiling for extras light lights, and ‘kill switches’ – off-roaders know what I’m talking about.
A diesel option is also offered with a 2.0-litre bi-turbo unit with 205bhp and 500Nm, but don’t get that. It might be around £3k cheaper, but it misses out on a lot of features the petrol has as standard such as damper adjustment, no jump or launch modes and only a rear locking diff.
I can sense your rising frustrations. ‘Yes, dammit man, that’s all good, but what is it like to actually drive?’ you’re thinking. Don’t worry guys, I’ve just been saving the best for last!
As soon as you set off, you know this is a big step-up from its immediate predecessor. Not just from the more contemporary, classier and better-quality cabin, with its huge digital displays, but from the way it’s immediately settled, composed and most significantly, refined. You could be in a regular car, granted a car that puts you up at bus-driver level, and can climb mountains, but a yes a car nonetheless.
Of course, the ride is superb, unbothered by potholes or sleeping policeman, but it also doesn’t wallow or float like you’d expect. Visibility really isn’t too bad, the squared off edges help to place it, and the cameras show you everything.
The steering is nicely weighted but light enough in normal mode and the transmission takes care of itself. Despite the sharp blade like paddle shifts, you don’t want to get involved in gear-changing when there’s ten ratios to pick from, more on that in a minute.
Braking normally is a ‘heave out the anchor and wait’ sort of scenario with large trucks, but you don’t get any of that initial alarm in this vehicle. There’s a bit of travel, but the bite is good and stopping power decent. It’s surprisingly agile and manoeuvrable and doesn’t feel as unwieldy as you’d think.
Turn the knob to select Sport, announced, as each mode is, by a cool full-screen graphic on the instrument display, and everything firms up, the exhaust gets louder the steering meatier, plus the transmission more eager. Not just that, but the gearbox blips the throttle on down changes like some sort of deranged high-riding race car. It’s exquisite. Use the paddles and changes are satisfying instant. But it’s also impressively urgent, sounds fantastic, and grips the road like a god, gliding through corners, barely leaning and maintaining great traction. It’s no sports car, but it’s fun.
Though if you think that’s a laugh, wait till you find a friendly land-owner that lets you go play in mud and bogs, charge up hills, meander through trees and basically barrel across undulating and rutted ground like a rally driver on the last stage, needing to make up tenths of seconds to leapfrog the lead car. And all the time you’ll have grin bigger than any Snapchat filter could manage.
Not only will you marvel at the Raptor’s capability, but just how easy it is now to exploit that ability and, how comfortable. The Ranger Raptor laughs at your typical off-road course, feels indestructible and unstoppable, and frankly defies logic.
Verdict? Well, I already told you that I loved this truck right at the top of this discourse. And I did so with the certain knowledge that you, dear reader, shared my predilection for the Ranger Raptor. Otherwise, you would not be reading a review on such an outlandish vehicle, that’s so insane it’s totally out of step with these sanitised and chastened days. In your mind then, the conclusion has already written itself. Just know it to be true. Every word.