OFTEN described as tradie’s sports cars, dual cab utes like the 2020 Ford Ranger Raptor; with big alloy wheels, aggressive tyres and even more aggressive bull bars, driving lights and paint jobs, are among the best selling vehicles on our roads today.
The problem is that sports cars are generally considered to be light weight performance machines with minimal passenger capacity and even less room for luggage, the exact opposite to these new behemoths.
Truth be told though, we’ve emulated our cousins across the Pacific in the good ol’ US of A, where the ‘pickup’ truck and Ford’s F series have long ruled the sales charts in that country. Likewise, the Ranger is now the Blue Oval’s bread and butter here in Australia.
Without it, they’d be in more trouble than the early settlers. Roughly two out of every three cars Ford sells in this country is a Ranger. That should give you some perspective. But, there’s also an upside.
The Ranger is an Australian designed and engineered ute, penned and developed at Ford’s design centre in Melbourne and built in Thailand. In a twist of irony, the Aussie designed Ranger has launched in the USA, albeit built in local plants there.
And while the Ranger is the second highest selling ute on Australian roads to Toyota’s HiLux, it is, in this writer’s opinion, also the second best ute on the market. But not to the Toyota as you might expect, rather to Volkswagen’s Amarok.
This is of course a personal opinion and many more people put it above the Amarok on the shopping list, so maybe we are wrong. Then again, Ben Ean Moselle was, for a long time, the best-selling wine in Australia, so popularity may not be a good indicator.
That brings us to Ford’s ‘special’ Ranger, the Raptor, a prehistoric bird of prey moniker that has long been associated with the top shelf models in Henry’s US F150 range, but it’s no dinosaur.
On paper the Ranger Raptor has some strong credentials, a 2.0-litre twin turbo four cylinder turbo diesel boasting 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque, mated to a proper 10-speed torque converter and low range transfer case equipped self-shifter.
Under its bloated guards are a truck load of the best suspension kit you can fit to a dual cab pickup. Like we said, all well and good, on paper. But despite higher horsepower and torque, to this writer, the new engine has always felt, well, doughy.
By this we mean that despite having plenty of urge, it has never felt really sharp and willing. Fact is, it just doesn’t deliver the shove in the back and urge that the image of the Raptor would suggest.
It feels underwhelming when the throttle is floored, and the dull and slightly out of sync sound from the engine is very unsatisfying. Still you can’t fault the looks Ford’s design gurus down in Broadmeadows have gifted the Raptor.
It is a hero ute, with an unmatched aggressive look, aggressive graphics, wheels and stance, and it turns heads. It has become a hit with our ute obsessed market despite the fact that the look and suspension package are better than the power plant.
That suspension package, from Fox Racing Shocks, gives the Raptor great dynamics and handling capabilities, both on and off road. And you don’t just get better running gear either, there’s also side steps, styling graphics and heavy duty under-body protection.
The look is set off by special 17-inch Ford Performance alloy wheels shod with some excellent K02 all-terrain tyres from the Michelin owned BF Goodrich brand. The Raptor also boasts LED lighting, a tub liner, an auxiliary 12-volt outlet in the load tray.
Price doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Raptor either, at least prior to COVID-19, with Ford selling as many as they can make, despite its list price of $76,220 plus on-roads, and despite being dearer than some of its competition.
It’s even more expensive than Volkswagen’s hot rod Amarok Ultimate at $72,790 (plus on-roads) but less than the ill-fated and not long for this world Mercedes X-Class 350d, at $79,415 or thumping petrol V8 RAM 1500 at from $79,950 (both plus on-roads).
The reality is though, that the Volkswagen uses a V6 turbo diesel that has been taken directly from Porsche’s Cayenne and delivers a smoothness and swiftness of performance that places it head and shoulders above every other engine in the class.
Inside, there’s special interior trim, seats and carpet, a 4.2-inch display screen along with a Ford Performance instrument cluster, a 240v three pin GPO outlet in the rear passenger seat, climate control air con, and a centre console ‘cooler’ box to keep your drinks frigid.
You’ll also find key-less entry and push button start along, with a chunky leather trimmed wheel and gear knob. The AV system features an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen mounted in the centre of the dash using Ford’s Sync3 operating system.
That gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio and an integrated satellite navigation system. Climb into the driver’s seat and settle in. The seats feel really special, and wrap around you and hug you tight.
When you grip that thick leather steering wheel you can almost imagine sitting on the start line of the Baja 1000. The Ford team has done a great job at keeping the finishing touches classy and stylish.
There is plenty of space in the Ranger too for front and rear seat occupants alike, with nice, spacious door openings. It is a long way to climb up given the high ride height, but it’s made easier thanks to the side steps.
Being high up, the forward vision is excellent, and the mirrors are also very well designed, gifting the driver with excellent all round vision. This is a big ute though and keeping an eye on the extremities in a tight city or airport car park can be a challenge.
The Raptor’s strong suit is its ride and handling, particularly when you hit the gravel and start clambering over rough stuff. The trade-off is a reduction in both towing weight (2,500kg) and payload (758kg), but then again, this isn’t meant to be a workhorse.
Fuel economy is just under 10.0-litres/100km, which is very impressive given the size and weight of the machine, and a figure that some other dual cabs struggle to match. The 10-speed auto no doubt help the fuel figures with the small downshift gaps.
Safety wise, the Raptor gets a 5-star ANCAP rating and comes loaded with auto emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, ABS and stability control, as well as six airbags, including rear curtain bags in the cabin.
Off road it benefits from hill descent control, hill launch assist, ‘load adaptive control’ and a six mode terrain management system as well as roll over mitigation, and trailer sway control.
Like all Fords, the 2020 Ranger Raptor gets a five year warranty, including road side assist, free auto club (NRMA, RACV etc), and a free loan car at every service.
So, if you’re after a dual cab ute with street cred and presence that rides and handles better than any other commercial on the market, and the 2.0-litre twin turbo doesn’t turn you off too much, then the Raptor could be for you.
Our test vehicle was provided by Ford Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Ford Ranger Raptor, contact your local Ford dealer. Images supplied.