When a mass market automaker such as Ford asks you and a select number of motoring hacks to drive their recently launched performance pickup, you drop everything and accept its offer.
That was what happened to this writer and a select number of motoring media in early December as they were given the opportunity to discern what made the Ford Ranger Raptor a unique runner in the 4×4 double cab segment.
Hieing off to the Liwliwa lahar bed in San Felipe, Zambales, motoring scribes were given just one pass with the Raptor and its one-notch-down P1.695 million Ford Ranger Wildtrak 2.0L 4×4 sibling to show the difference between them. Having driven the latter before, this writer insisted that he take on the Raptor.
Seat time for a good 25-35 minutes was already rapture of the speed off-roading kind. 500 NM of torque from a 2.0L straight four sequential twin turbo diesel mill will do that and make an impression on even the most jaded motoring hack. Careful right foot inputs make the pickup go quickly from rest, even with just the rear wheels moving and the BF Goodrich Baja Champion All Terrain A/T K02 LT285/70R17s constantly clawing for grip on the shifting lahar. Combine the torque with forced induction that spools early, plus a seemingly short ratio 10-speed automatic gearbox and you’re almost always in the powerband. You need not worry about that red needle on the tach dropping down to the nine o’ clock level (read: 1,500 rpm) and below, as the ‘box easily settles into a gear and rarely upshifts.
The Raptor-specific course was designed to feature the pickup’s ability to literally hurdle shifting, yet on occasion scribes often ended up losing traction. Fortunately, a knob at the tranny’s 10 o’ clock side makes for an easy transition from using just the rear wheels to all four wheels. Simply make the unit stationary, press the off road button at the 10 o’ clock side, move the four-wheel-drive/4WD knob from “2H” (rear wheel drive) to “4H” (four high, 4WD used for hard earth and packed sand) or “4L” (four low, 4WD used for soft earth, river crossings, mud and loose sand), wait for the 4H or 4L light on the gauge cluster to stop blinking, step on the throttle and go.
On the Liwliwa dunes, one needed an educated right foot to prevent wheelspin from happening, as flooring the right pedal merely bogged down the rollers. Driving the Raptor at speeds hitting 100-odd kph on terra fluidum totally went against what one knew about going
Ranger Raptor rapture off-road on compacted lahar. With the Wildtrak, having a heavy right foot, 4H engaged and the box in second or third gear was all one needed to move about. But in the Raptor, you had to imagine an egg below the throttle, with breaking that egg resulting in a lack of momentum. Course instructor (and erstwhile off-road guru) Beeboy Bargas claimed that the exercise was how the Raptor should be driven — gradual throttle application, constant direction of momentum and rapid (but not sawing) inputs on the steering wheel.
This writer noted the steering feel was light, with little feedback. On a tricky reverse “K” corner (so-called because the turn looked like the letter K in the mirror) immediately appearing after a 30-degree crest, this writer struggled to keep the Raptor’s front end past the middle of the K (the actual apex of the turn) and into the reverse K’s left-hand upper arm. In fact, due to the pickup’s rear end kicking out once the unit was past the K’s left-hand lower arm, this writer countersteered into the turn (a driving technique learned when a unit oversteers or when a vehicle’s rear kicks out), much to the dismay of Bargas. “Don’t countersteer! Let the (Raptor) unwind! Keep the momentum,” was the earful this writer got from Bargas after that reverse K. However, some two to three corners after that reverse K was a right side K; this time this writer went through that turn with smooth steering wheel movement.
Even with just a short stint in the Raptor, the suspension damping and non-tarmac roadholding proved superior to the Wildtrak’s. The latter pickup’s ride felt bouncy, crashy even, with that constant feeling that your kidneys and lower back are being assaulted, especially if you ride at the rear. In contrast, the Raptor had ride damping that could be described as firm bordering on hard, but with noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels like on its smaller Escape sport-ute relative.
This was due to the leafspring suspension setup of the Wildtrak’s rear, compared to the Fox coilover combo on the Raptor. There was a lot of up-down play from the Wildtrak’s ride, as the steel “leaves” had little to zero rubber bumpstops for NVH absorption. On the other hand, the Raptor’s Fox suspension, aluminum upper and lower control arms (they widened the lateral distance between wheels on a single axle), multiple rubber
Careful right foot inputs make the pickup go quickly from rest, even with just the rear wheels moving
The Raptor had ride damping that could be described as firm bordering on hard.
bumpstops throughout crucial suspension points and a reinforced ladder frame chassis were reasons for that feel-good ride. One cannot help but rain praises on the Raptor’s branded dampers, known throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Asean region for their off-road tuning and their Position Sensitive Damping (PSD) algorithm. What you need to know abut PSD is that it links with the Raptor’s computer box to provide higher damping forces at extremes for off-roading and lower damping forces in more moderate conditions for a smoother on-road ride.
Supposedly, Ford is eyeing the success of the Ranger Raptor as a preview for the upcoming Bronco utility platform. Based on this first drive, the Ranger Raptor has more than enough to envelop in rapture those that spend more time driving off asphalt paths.
VEHICLE: Ford Ranger Raptor 2019
TYPE: Pickup (double cab)
ENGINE TYPE: Ford EcoBlue 2.0L inline four cylinder diesel (211 hp / 500 NM, 84.01 mm bore x 90.03 mm stroke), with common rail direct injection, asymmetrical sequential twin variable geometry turbochargers (Inconel alloy construction) and front mounted intercooler
TRANSMISSION: Getrag 10-speed automatic, with manual mode and steering column-mounted shift paddles, part-time four wheel drive
PRICE AS TESTED: P1.898 million