South Africans love bakkies. In fact, have a glance at the local sales figures each month and you’ll notice more bakkies are sold than SUVs.
The two major fighters are the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. They’ve been exchanging blows for a while and now Ford reckon they’ve landed the knockout punch: an off-road biased high-performance bakkie called the Raptor.
Has the anticipation and fanfare been worth it? Sean Parker travelled to the dry, arid city of Upington in the Northern Cape to find out.
What makes it special?
Built in South Africa at its Silverton plant in Pretoria, the Raptor steps into the ring with a new 2.0-litre biturbo diesel engine with 157Kw and 500Nm. That four-cylinder engine is mated to a 10-speed (yes 10) automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.
Under the macho exterior sits a stronger chassis with a bespoke suspension and FOX shocks (exclusive to Raptor) that has position sensitive damping. It has a 150mm wider track and a higher ground clearance of 283mm.
The front wheel travel has increased by 32% and rear travel increased by 22%. It can wade in water up to 850mm thanks to its increased ground clearance of 283mm. At the rear it uses a watts-link suspension.
With a 178km/h top speed, good brakes are also needed, and this comes in the form of twin-piston front callipers in the front and increased piston diameter of more than 20% compared with the standard Ranger to 51mm says Ford coupled with 332 x 32mm ventilated discs. At the back, the brakes see 54mm diameter rear callipers and 332 x 24mm ventilated discs.
And finally, it’s packing serious rubber in the form of BF Goodrich’s 17-inch all-terrain tyres adapted from the manufacturer’s KO2 product. They’re 285/70 and are the real deal, more on that later.
What’s it like to drive?
My first dabble in the Raptor was on the road to the pan where we’d be doing off-roading. On the road, the Raptor shows off its impressive ride, despite its massive footprint. I’d go so far as to say it’s as comfortable as a normal Ranger.
There’s hardly any road noise emanating from the off-road biased tyres and rather what dominates the cabin (via the symposer) is a deep (artificial) rumble from the four-cylinder engine.
It rides well and sounds decent, but does it do the job of a performance bakkie? Well, that’s why Ford brought media to Goerapan, a massive salt pan larger than the eye can see.
It has everything you’d think a deserted planet has: sand dunes, gravel, small boulders, and a mixture of sand and salt that can be tricky to drive on. Not so for the Raptor.
It smashed everything in its path, from the tricky sandy hills, that didn’t require low-range to be selected, to the fast rally-type obstacle where I pushed the Raptor at around 150km/h on the pan.
It’s extremely entertaining to drive a vehicle this capable off road and this fast. In 'Baja' mode, named after a North American rally, the traction control is turned down a few notches and steering feel becomes more responsive to offer its sportiest off-road setting.
The 10-speed auto, co-developed with General Motors, is super smooth. In fact, you hardly even feel shifts. The one issue I had was that it labours when downshifting, that became an annoyance.
We used it out on the rally stage and drift section and while I could feel the traction control wasn’t fully off, it provided enough slip to make going sideways almost as exciting as the Premier League title race.
It’s glorious to drive. But how often will you get to use it in the conditions I drove it in? Well, that’s a question I can’t answer. If you’ve ordered one or interested in buying one, try to find a place to drive it off-road, because it feels as energetic as the kids from Ajax Amsterdam football team.
Price and the elephant in the room
Ford will sell the Ranger Raptor for R786 400 that includes a six-year or 90 000km service plan, and all that jazz. Truth be told, there’s no other standard production bakkie that offers this type of performance off-road.
The elephant in the room is, does it need more power? I don’t believe so, but my colleagues reckon it needs some more oomph. However, that will increase its top speed which means the standard tyres won’t be able to cope with it, so it’s a no from me.
With a 32.5-degree approach angle, and ramp-over and departure angles of 24 degrees, the Raptor will pretty much drive over anything, anywhere. And with no real competition at the moment, it’s the king of the ring for now.
Worth the hype? Yeah, this Raptor means business and it doesn't even need all the stickers.