Finer details and on-sale dates for the U.S. Ford Ranger Raptor are yet to be confirmed, but the Aussies have already driven their version in the Outback. Vehicles at that Asia-Pacific launch in the bone-dry Northern Territory (where Crocodile Dundee lived) were final pre-production prototypes, but that event has revealed a lot of what is likely to be carried over into the North American pickup.
The Engine and Transmission
Ford Down Under has copped a lot of flak for its choice of a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder bi-turbo-diesel engine for the Asia-Pacific pickup, but word is that, despite any lingering doubts about that power plant’s ability to deliver much-needed grunt to the ground, the U.S. market will also get that engine in its version of the midsize sporty pickup.
The engine produces 210-horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque and is matched with the same 10-speed automatic transmission as that of the F-150 version. For drivers who get the go-fast urge, there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
At the time of the global reveal in February this year, when the ‘engine backlash’ started, Jamal Hameedi, Chief Engineer, Ford Performance, Ford Motor Company, said people who criticized Ford’s choice of the smaller-capacity engine were missing the point.
"My response to that is: If you’re focusing on the engine, you’re missing the whole point, dude.
"It’s about the suspension, it’s about the chassis and it’s about [us] breaking the bank on the chassis, the suspension, the architecture, the shocks.
"It’s not about horsepower, it’s not about torque; it’s having enough horsepower and enough torque to do the job, but it’s not a focal point."
It certainly looks like what it’s supposed to look like: a high-performance race-bred pickup. It has a solid, strong stance — high and blocky with 11.1 inches of ground clearance and a 5.9-inch wider front and rear track than the Ranger — and it has that intimidating front end (with blocky all-capped FORD branding), flared fenders and chunky cabin.
Inside, the seats are technical suede and there’s blue stitching, leather accents and brand styling throughout the cabin. The steering wheel has new lightweight magnesium paddle shifters.
The pick-up has Ford’s SYNC 3 media system, and its 8.0-inch color screen also doubles as the rear-view camera display.
Exterior colors include "Lightning Blue," "Race Red," "Shadow Black," "Frozen White" and the range’s hero color, "Conquer Gray," with contrasting "Dyno Grey" accent color.
The specially-designed 17-in wheels on BF Goodrich All-Terrain 285/70 R17 tires add to the pick-up’s outdoors-ready appearance.
The standard Ranger’s rear leaf springs are gone; the souped-up version gets coil springs, Watt’s link set-up, a solid rear axle and a much-hyped suspension set-up, which includes Fox Racing Shox dampers, front and rear. These are designed for fast, hard-core off-road driving and offer greater wheel travel, with 46.6 mm pistons for front and rear. The shocks — categorized as Position Sensitive Damping — are designed to cop the worst of undulating terrain at high speeds and still deliver a smooth ride and handling. No surprise there, as the Raptor stable has been purpose-built and engineered as a line-up of almost-race-ready vehicles.
The U.S. version will likely have 13.1-in (diameter) vented disc brakes all around.
The Off-Road Ability
It may well be targeted at those who want to drive fast off-road, but it still appears to be well-suited to slower off-roading. It has Ford’s "Terrain Management System," which has six drive modes: two for on-road (Normal and Sport) and four modes for off-road (Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock and Baja modes), which have been specially tuned for high-speed off-road performance, dialing back "helping hand" interference from vehicle systems, such as traction control, and also holding gears for longer and downshifting more energetically to suit driving pace and style.
It has 11.1 inches of ground clearance and a 32.5-degree approach angle, as well as hill-descent control, hill-start assist and trailer sway control to further boost its appeal to those who love the outdoors.
In a nod to its buyers’ potentially rugged adventures, this sporty pickup has serious underbody protection, including 2.3 mm-thick bash plates which shield the radiator, sump and other components from off-road damage.
It has a towing capacity of 2.5 tons, as well as two front vehicle-recovery hooks (rated to 4.5 tons) and two rear hooks (rated to 3.8 tons).
It comes standard with an adjustable speed limiter, ABS, ESC, rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, ESC (with trailer sway control), load adaptive control, Roll Over Mitigation (ROM), traffic sign recognition, rain-sensing wipers, rear-view camera and roll-stability control.
Dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags are fitted.
This much-anticipated pickup has already generated plenty of interest in the lead-up to its arrival here. Expect it to be priced between $40,000 and $45,000.