The demise of the Fiesta and Focus in the U.S. marked the end of Ford’s long-held but never realized ambition to create a “world car” that could succeed in all global markets. Maybe Ford should have concentrated on a “world truck” instead, a niche that the Ranger seems to have achieved. The Ranger is sold in no fewer than 180 countries. The outgoing version was the most popular pickup in Europe, which is where we had our first experience with the hotly anticipated new Ranger Raptor.
The Euro version has much in common with the upcoming U.S. Ranger Raptor, which we expect to see next year, with the same styling and gravity-defying suspension featuring internal-bypass dampers made by Fox Racing. Beyond the fact that Rangers sold in Europe are produced in Thailand while our version will be built in the good ol’ USA, the major difference is that the U.S. Raptor is set to get a brawnier engine.
That’s because Europe is entering its own Malaise Era. There, the Ranger Raptor is getting a detuned version of the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 from the Bronco Raptor, the pickup’s engine strangled by the need to meet stringent new emissions standards. In Australia, where the Ranger Raptor was launched first, its V-6 makes 392 horsepower and 430 pound-feet, but in Europe, it will produce 288 horsepower and 362 pound-feet. We will have to wait for U.S. specs, but it seems certain our Raptor will have at least as much power as the Australian version—and possibly the full 418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of the Bronco Raptor. A 10-speed automatic gearbox with a two-speed transfer case, plus locking front and rear differentials, will be standard in all markets.
The new Ranger’s fresh metalwork sits on the same T6 platform as the outgoing truck, and the Raptor uses a reinforced version of that ladder chassis. From the front, it really does look like a baby F-150, with LED headlights pushed to the edge of the bodywork and a similarly shouty all-caps FORD grille motif. Like the F-150, it also has plastic wheel-arch extensions and a broader track. Although huge by European standards, the Ranger Raptor’s 211.0-inch overall length and 79.8-inch width make it 21.6 inches shorter than the F-150 version and 7.0 inches narrower. A crew cab is the standard configuration in Europe and has a 61.6-inch cargo bed.
The addition of some microfiber panels and colored accents elevate the Raptor’s cabin over the regular Ranger’s, but the plastics remain hard and utilitarian. The 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster and 12.0-inch portrait-orientated central touchscreen both looked good. Ford’s SYNC 4A infotainment system works cleanly and intuitively, although we welcomed the continued presence of physical controls for heating and ventilation.
The Raptor’s center console features a stubby shifter with a button on the side that engages manual mode—manual shifting is via the steering-wheel paddles. A rotary dial selects the drive modes and controls the transfer case, which has 2H, 4H, 4L, and 4A settings—the last automatically sending power to the front axle when required.
On-road refinement felt very impressive considering the Continental General Grabber A/T tires our truck was wearing. The Fox Racing shock absorbers vary damping force according to both wheel travel and an adaptive valve, meaning the ride at everyday speeds is plush and compliant. Noise insulation proved equally good at highway speeds, the Raptor’s cabin staying quiet at a 75-mph cruise in Normal mode—an unexpected virtue.
Steering weight feels heavier than in the F-150 Raptor, even in its lightest setting, but delivers little feedback. There isn’t much for it to talk about given the front tires’ limited ability to deliver lateral grip on asphalt. The Ranger tracks straight and doesn’t wander, but although it feels stable at speed it has little appetite for tighter corners. It doesn’t take much enthusiasm to get the front pushing wide and the rear axle struggling for traction.
Although much quicker than the last-generation Ranger Raptor sold in Europe—which used a four-cylinder diesel engine and required more than 10 seconds to reach 60 mph—the new one still feels some way short of being fast. Ford of Europe quotes a 7.9-second zero-to-62-mph sprint. The transmission’s blunt reactions in Drive didn’t help to raise confidence for passing moves, either. Selecting Sport mode improved responses but also added artificial weight to the electric power steering and introduced a droning exhaust note.
The Raptor’s exhaust has four different modes, including Normal, Sport, and a new Quiet setting for low-key departures. There’s also a Baja mode that’s so noisy it comes with a dashboard admonition that it is only for off-road use.
Driving the Ranger Raptor on a demanding off-road course quickly proved where its heart truly lies. It feels like a smaller version of the F-150 Raptor, slower but more wieldy and yet equally adept at tackling serious bumps at speed. The Ranger has 10 inches of wheel travel at the front and 11.4 inches at the back, which is less than the F-150 Raptor, but the engineering team says that the smaller truck’s dampers work harder. Sensors monitor wheel travel at each corner, so the Raptor’s brain knows when its tires have left terra firma, at which point it stiffens the dampers to their firmest setting to brace for impact. Hitting a big bump at speed proved the truck can fly and—more importantly—land without undue drama.
Yet it was on more technically challenging terrain that the Ranger Raptor impressed most. Ford’s claim of 10.4 inches of ground clearance and a 32-degree approach angle might not get close to the Bronco Raptor’s 13.1 inches and 47 degrees, but the pickup’s figures are better than those for a coil-sprung Land Rover Defender 90. The Raptor also has a Rock Crawl mode that automatically maintains a creeping speed and took it up a steeply graded dry stream bed without any throttle input. The electronically locking front and rear differentials can be engaged and disengaged quickly too—although the icons controlling them on the touchscreen are small and hard to locate when the truck is bouncing over rugged terrain.
The Ranger Raptor is smaller than its F-150 sibling, and the European version is considerably slower, but it doesn’t feel like any less of an experience when driven hard over demanding terrain. We await the arrival of our own turned-up version with great enthusiasm.
2023 Ford Ranger Raptor (Europe)
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/four-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup
Base: $72,000 (U.K. $ equivalent, including VAT)
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 180 in3, 2956 cm3
Power: 288 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 362 lb-ft @ 2300 rpm
Wheelbase: 128.7 in
Length: 211.0 in
Width: 79.8 in
Height: 75.8 in
Passenger Volume: 99 ft3
Bed Length: 61.6 in
Curb Weight (C/D est): 5300 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 7.5 sec
1/4-Mile: 15.4 sec
Top Speed: 111 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 17/17/18 (but won’t be EPA-rated)
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Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com