THE images that the word “raptor” conjures are of a strong bird of prey or a prehistoric animal. Not forgetting that it is the name of an advanced fighter jet as well. These are all characterised by features such as fast, fierce and high performance.And that is exactly what Ford had in mind when it designed its unique, high performance Ford Ranger Raptor, a “zhuzhed-up” performance bakkie, quite unlike any other, to set a new benchmark in high-speed, off-road capability. One shouldn’t be fooled by its big bulky looks – this double-cab bakkie has sports car like sprinting abilities and with its advanced off-road equipment can conquer the difficult 4x4 territories. The Raptor, which is the Ford Performance version of the successful Ford Ranger, is also produced at their Silverton assembly plant in Pretoria. Launched in May in South Africa, Ford calls it the “birth of a new breed”. Just like the Ford Ranger, the Raptor is equipped with Ford’s new 2.0-litre-biturbodiesel engine and 10-speed automatic gearbox. But its wheels, chassis and suspension have all been redesigned to make it a racing bakkie.Its innovative terrain management system (TMS) includes the exciting, ultra-responsive Baja mode. Inspired by Mexico’s famous Baja Desert Rally, this mode enables high-speed off-road performance.The colour of the Raptor test driven for this week’s Express on Wheels was the eye-catching Ford Performance Blue. There are four other colour choices, which are Colorado Red, Absolute Black, Frozen White and Conquer Grey.ExteriorAt first glance, those specially developed BF Goodrich 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres tell you the story already – they can go anywhere – but preferably not over one’s foot. The Raptor exudes bold and muscular exterior styling. It has an imposing stance with 51mm taller ride height, 283mm ground clearance, 150mm wider front and rear track and 850mm wading depth.Its aggressive grille sports big bold FORD block lettering. The front fenders are made from durable materials for worry-free off-roading.Interior The interior has the look of a sports car with blue stitching on the top of the dash and Technical Suede sports seats. The instrumentation includes a trip computer and Ford’s Synch 3 infotainment system. According to Ford, the seats are uniquely designed for maximum grip, providing optimum support during high-performance off-road driving, while also providing exceptional comfort when cruising in town. The steering wheel features perforated leather hand grip sections and lightweight magnesium paddle shifters.EngineThe Raptor is equipped with the same high-performance 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine (with 157kW and 500Nm) mated to Ford’s advanced new 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, that are also found in the Ranger.This innovative bi-turbo engine offers both high performance and efficiency. The small high-pressure turbo and large low-pressure turbo work together to provide optimal performance throughout the engine speed range.RideSince this column only looks at the mom’s taxi aspects of vehicles, it was only driven on the urban commute. Finding a parking spot that would enable me to get into and out of this vehicle without embarrassing or injuring myself or damaging neighbouring cars, did prove to be the biggest challenge of the test drive. But its unflustered drive over a pavement when a vehicle was stuck in front of me in peak hour morning traffic made up for all the parking lot headaches. Even though there wasn’t an opportunity to test its off-road capabilities, these are very apparent even to someone like me who is not a 4x4 expert. Its 10-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly – and is perfect for confident overtaking on the open road, and even in stop/start peak hour driving. Its cabin is exceptionally quiet when driving at speed. Its terrain management system (TMS) offers six modes: normal, sport, sand, snow, mud and Baja. The electronic power assist steering is also linked to the TMS, providing varying levels of assistance and responsiveness, according to the specific drive mode selected.The braking system on the Ranger Raptor offers extreme stopping power, through new and bespoke components. In addition, for the first time on a Ranger, the rear brakes include a separate brake actuation master cylinder and booster to increase braking performance.Safety featuresThe Ranger Raptor has various safety and convenience features that make it suitable for both on and off-road driving. A host of driver-assist technologies are available.It is equipped with Ford Stability Control, incorporating Roll Stability Control that was specifically developed for Ford’s sport utility vehicle range, and has been adapted for the Raptor. It utilises clever sensors to anticipate and minimise oversteer, understeer and rollover incidents.Ford’s standard SYNC3 with navigation system offers a unique “breadcrumb” feature to leave a trail in uncharted areas. The Ranger Raptor has a 2 500kg towing capacity.PRICE:Ranger Raptor 2.0 BiT 10AT 4x4 R803 300All Ford Rangers come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year/90 000km service plan is included, with 15 000km service intervals.