So it’s been just over 18 months since I was lucky enough to get my hands on the keys to Ford’s amazing Ranger Raptor as part of our partnership. You will recall we did an earlier 3 month review, pretty much 12 months ago now and the praise from all 3 people who reported their experience was glowing.
So how has it been since? Overwhelmingly good I have to say – it’s my daily drive and off-road-play-thing and I watched the odometer click over 45,000km on the way back from Fraser a couple of weeks ago. We have added a few bits and pieces, but everything we have done has always been careful to prove the notion that it can be a touring vehicle whilst not detrimentally effecting what is an amazing drive, on and off-road from the factory.
Despite COVID, thankfully I’ve been able to make more time to get offroad for a play. From some sand driving to Point Plomer, countless trips to Lithgow including one with Michael Ellem from Offroad Images with his awesome Mighty 79; a few days up in the Barrington tops getting muddy with Pat Callinan from Pat Callinans 4X4 Adventures, a week down at Green Cape, Moreton and Fraser Island with The Offroad Adventure Show and even a quick stint to outback Queensland.
I’ve kept the setup pretty light with the Raptor. It doesn’t have the payload of the leaf sprung versions for a start, but I also have access to the glorious Tvan if I am going on more long range/term camping, so I haven’t yet felt the need to get all the bells and whistles on the tow-tug.
Nevertheless, with the addition of the barwork we added weight, which saw significant droop front and rear. This was easily remediated with the addition of Tough Dog levelling springs designed to lift things up to standard height to ensure the factory Fox Racing shocks were working in their operating range. It performs as it did from the factory now, which is a really good thing. Getting the clearance back was useful when clearing obstacles in some tougher sections of track at Lithgow and was supplemented by the barwork from Rhino 4X4 which improves what were already pretty good approach and departure angles from the factory. The addition of Toyo Open Country R/T tyres has given me about 10mm more clearance and a world of extra traction off-road. I’ve had these tyres down to 14 psi for sand-work and interestingly you don’t see them bag as much as an A/T, probably the result of stiffer sidewalls. I have to say that as they’ve worn in (they’re about 15,000kms old now) they are only marginally noisier than the factory rubber but can sometimes prove tricky in really greasy on-road conditions – but as a 4WDer I accept and anticipated this.
I’ve been massively impressed with the Raptor’s ability to traverse anything I have thrown at it. The suspension setup is the kicker I think. Whilst it doesn’t have the load lugging ability of a Wildtrack (with its leaf spring setup), the coils just seem to want to articulate and adapt to changing conditions and soak up bumps more readily. The idea of the Raptor is high-speed off-road work, but I challenge anyone that says it doesn’t use it’s skills to traverse challenging rocky and rutty tracks just as well. Up in the Barringtons I recall going through a small bog hole following Pat, who easily made it through in his Wildtrack obviously, but I couldn’t help but notice the bouncing of the rear end. There’s a lot of variables that come into this picture like weight and spring rate, but crawling through it in the Raptor seemed a much smoother affair, from my seat anyway. This was echoed by a colleague from Clearview Accessories who was following me through the inland tracks on Fraser. He was so amazed at how stable the car looked through the bumps that he filmed it and sent it to me!
Sand is such a simple affair in the Raptor. From the soft sand at beaches on the north coast of NSW to the long fourby-sucking stretch at Ngkala rocks, I can say that I didn’t really need to do anything more special than engage 4wd and switch off traction control using the console mounted buttons. At times I do use low-range and obviously I always air down as appropriate. There is a sand driving mode for the Raptor, but to be honest I’ve never felt the need to use it – it just does it’s thing, trailer attached or not.
Through rutty terrain, there are times when I’ve had to use the factory rear diff lock – again activated at the push of a button. It was very helpful out at Lithgow when towing the T-van at full load through some relatively challenging ruts where I kept picking up a front wheel and forward momentum slowed to a halt. I probably could have used the Rock drive mode, but didn’t think of it at the time. Having come out of our GU; a much more analogue machine requiring judicious use of the various inputs to get through obstacles, I’m still getting used to the concept of electronic aids. The photos we gained at this Lithgow trip were the proof of how well the suspension works to flex (as much as an IFS can of course!) and keep as much of the rubber bits on terra-firma as possible to ensure forward movement and traction. There was a moment where I collected a rock slider coming over a pretty big rock, and this is not really unexpected in our hobby, but I was really grateful to have it there as the sill would almost certainly have come off second best!
Some pretty muddy sections in the Barrington tops posed no issue with the inclusion of some more aggressive rubber, there were times where momentum was key in uphill sections and the tyres really helped I believe. I did take a more cautious approach in some of the harder sections to prevent likely panel damage. Not a failing of the vehicle but just making sure I can drive the thing home at the end!
True to its natural form, traversing long sections of bumpy roads has been an absolutely pleasure in the Raptor. At times I would look down and need to remind myself of the dangers that exist in these sorts of conditions, as I’d be carrying more speed than I’d ideally like, should I need to to enact an emergency stop or defensive manoeuvre. This is completely in credit to the composure that the suspension combined with the wider track affords. Undulations are soaked up with ease and turned into much smaller disruptions in the cabin. Given the long outback highways that we all know and love, I think this really is a tremendous benefit and something that most simply cannot believe when riding in the car with me.
One thing we will do soon is add a snorkel. Despite the reasonable wading depth we have had to change directions after having walked some crossings because we couldn’t guarantee we would get across safely. Stay tuned for that addition into the future.
On-road performance is not what were about really are we? No, but given the stretches of time that you need to spend on tarmac to get to the dirt at times it’s worth noting. So the Raptor has been as a bus for my kids, a shopping trolley, a daily drive for me to the office and back and everything in between. The Raptor’s strong suit has been its ability to swap from a tux to a fishing shirt at the drop of a hat and never lose its sense of fun and character along the way.
As I mentioned in the earlier review, the coils mean its attitude on the road is more car-like than a load lugger. It is confident through corners, has plenty of grip and is surprisingly quiet and refined. A highlight for me has always been the seats, with higher bolsters and more support than the regular Ranger, it’s always a comfortable place to sit and get out of after many hours of driving on and off road.
The interior has worn really well – with some slight wear on the driver side bolster from getting in and out, but I do take time to treat the various surfaces regularly as part of my cleaning regime so that definitely helps. Cleaning the Barrington mud off the factory floor mats had me surprised, a little washing powder, a scrub and a hose off had them back to brand new. The only disappointment I came across was some slight delamination in the panel around the gear shifter. It would seem the corners where it attaches to the console are breaking away. A very small problem really, but one that doesn’t sit well with my OCD.
Another pleasing strong point is NVH (Noise/Vibration/Harmonics). It’s a very comfortable place to be; quiet, refined well beyond what I think a dual cab ute should be and well put together. There’s no annoying squeaks or rattles outside of what you expect with two little ladies that think the door pockets are toy storage bins.
One thing that really did frustrate me on the way back from Green Cape earlier in the year was whilst towing. OK yes, I have said before that we don’t really need more power. In this case, an extra 100 Newtons of twist or 50 extra horsepower would’ve been greatly appreciated. It doesn’t always happen, but when you’re stuck behind the type that insists on driving under the speed limit until the overtaking lanes appear, being able to comfortably overtake would certainly be appreciated. With a near full load there was really no way to exceed 95km/h to execute a safe overtake. Eventually I learnt not to worry and hung back and enjoyed the trip. I have to say, the coils in the rear mean towing is just so comfortable otherwise, and despite what many may think, you often forget the trailer is there.
On thing to consider is the size of the Raptor. It has an extra 100mm of track and those Coke-bottle flared guards to match. It may not be a problem for everyone, but I do my fair share of underground parking with spots seemingly designed for Corolla’s and the like. The extra width can sometimes catch you out as you’re going around obstacles. Thankfully this hasn’t resulted in any damage yet and to be fair the aesthetics of the thing are what make you turn back as you walk away anyway! I wouldn’t change it for quids.
A feature that really changed my experience on and off road was the Sync 3 Infotainment system. You see, I couldn’t really have a conversation in the old GU Patrol with the wind noise and tyre roar combined with a Bluetooth setup on the factory radio that would limit the volume during a call. The advent of Carplay to me is a game changer. Being able to take calls, send messages and check my calendar through the touch screen atop the console is amazing and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to daily drive a car without it now.
Worthy of note also is the safety technology packed into the Raptor. A Lane Departure Warning system that can either vibrate the steering wheel or alert you using the in-binnacle display; and Autonomous Emergency Braking are both standard and welcomed features. The latter does at times activate the initial warning a little too readily, but the trade-off of autonomously braking in an imminent collision is well worth it. Kind of like insurance, you hope to never use it. It’s amazing how much technology is available in what only 10 years ago would have been classed as a commercial vehicle.
Touring with the Ranger Raptor
So it’s not the obvious choice for traditional touring, particularly when you consider the sticker price. For a little more, you could have a Landcruiser 79 or even a 200 series – but will you get the smiles per mile? Categorically not. There is a depth to the way this thing does what it does that you simply won’t get with any other vehicle on the market at the moment. That being said, the challenge was always to prove that it can be used as a tourer without compromising the package. So to date, when touring with the family, the Tvan is always hitched and served as storage as well as the living quarters. This meant we have always been able to stick to the reduced payload, GVM and GCM which we’ve outlined before. Recently I hit the road solo up to Fraser Island and Outback Queensland. A swag was in order (a refreshing change might I add) and all the gear to supplement a 10 day trip. Think a swag and stretcher, camp chair, a couple of jerries of fuel (long range tank to come!), water, a well loaded Dometic fridge, recovery gear and a compressor amongst other things. Whilst sticking to the total payload of 748 kilo’s wasn’t really an issue when I included myself, what I found was that it was just a little unorganised. To date I’ve stayed away from heavy drawer sets etc because it’s handy having a load lugger to move stuff around for the business, but also wanting to remain within the weight limits for the vehicle. Stay tuned, I’m setting the bar even higher now and looking at ways to take the next step and build out the tray for touring.
Who cares right? Recently I did 4,500 kms in 12 days – so it does matter! Average all time fuel consumption as of right now on the Raptor is 12.4L/100km. It has been as high as 13.4 during towing down to Green Cape, but remembering that it was well loaded and towing the Tvan for a 7 day trip away. There was roughly a 10% increase in fuel consumption once we put the barwork on which was expected with the extra weight, but during regular duties it will comfortable sit about the 11L/100km mark which I think is reasonable given the size of the thing. When all is said and done it also comes down to the right boot (and I’m not really great with control there!)
Nothing to report here. Mechanically the Raptor has been flawless and in fact we’ve not had any sort of serious issue in the entire 18 months we’ve had it. The only bug was a trailer plug which resulted in a very unhappy set of brakes on our Tvan after a trip down south to Green Cape. Thomson Ford quickly diagnosed it as having had a bit of dirt and corrosion at the connections, something that I will pay much closer attention to in the future. Other than that, aside from having to blow out the brake shields after certain types of off-roading to stop any squealing, it has been completely reliable regardless of the situation. The confidence this gives was a refreshing change from the GU which, towards the end of ownership, seemed to want to throw its toys out of the cot whenever I was away with my family.
So you’re probably clear on what my verdict is on my time so far with the Raptor. It’s a well thought out and engineered vehicle that’s put together pretty well. It’s great off and on road, travelling, towing or pottering around town. It looks great, is supremely comfortable to drive and has all the safety features a father of two young’ns would want in a daily. With some careful planning it’s a great tourer for my needs and I look forward to doing more remote trips later this year if the dreaded COVID can be kept in its box!
The Greats and the Not-So Greats
- Offroad Performance – getting to try it out more in different scenarios over the last 12 months has really crystallised this. Mud, water, sand, snow, rocks and ruts have all featured and it just does it all with so much confidence.
- Those seats (still!) – these came further into their own over long stints of up to 7hrs at a time in the last 12 months
- Versatility – it is a weapon offroad, can lug a load of timber during winter, gets the kids to school and the shopping home, tows with complete comfort and not bad on the eye to boot.
- Reliability – its never missed or skipped a beat, a welcome change from our old vehicle
Not So great
- The dirty trailer plug – although this is really a maintenance issue rather than one to do with the car
- The size – sometimes it gets hard to park in urban situations, particularly with the wider guards. I’m one who doesn’t like car park dings so I like to leave space, sometimes this just isn’t possible
- The USB port issue – getting used to Car Play meant the port not recognising my phone was a bigger problem than it needed to be realistically. The Car Play update fixed the problem
- Not being able to switch off the start/stop function