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Getting a 4WD airborne at 120km/h is usually an activity associated with off-road racing and highly modified trophy trucks, right? Well, not anymore.

Recently I travelled overseas for the South African launch of the Ranger Raptor, and as ludicrous as it seems, was told to do exactly that – in a brand-new ute (or ‘bakkie’, as they are known in Africa). While we have had the Raptor in Australia since last year, this is a new vehicle to them and is actually manufactured in South Africa at Ford’s plant near Pretoria. Build spec is exactly the same as our versions, so nothing new there, but it was a great opportunity to really unleash hell on these cars in an environment that is remarkably similar to Aussie conditions. I reckon what we drove was almost identical to the southern Simpson Desert; claypans and sandy dunes with plenty of traps for the unsuspecting.

Well, launching the car into orbit was definitely fun, but that was actually the last activity in a long day that saw us punishing a car at will. There was only one rule to be followed on this event – there are no rules! It was a very welcome change to the over-regulating we see here in Australia, and also nice that Ford had the faith that the vehicles would hold up in the face of 15 over-excited motoring journos who now had ear-to-ear grins.

Can Ford’s ‘unbreakable’ Ranger Raptor survive 120km/h jumps through the harsh South African desert?

WORDS BY SCOTT MASON, IMAGES BY FORD

VEHICLES

Got one like it? Insure it here

Don’t get caught without protection!
Purchase a Summit or Summit Sahara Bar,
Summit Side Steps and a Summit or
Summit Raw Rear Step Tow Bar between
15th July and 15th September 2019, and we’ll

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SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Got one like it? Insure it here

ACTIVITY 1: RALLY
After an orientation lap with a young race instructor, it was time to jump behind the wheel. I could feel the red mist falling like a curtain over my eyes already; I was not about to take this easy, at all. ‘Baja mode’ was selected via the steering wheel and, it was game-on.

Firing across the claypan at 100km/h it was straight into a hairpin turn that saw the car completely sideways, with dirt flying everywhere. Accelerating again it was into a jump at about 90km/h and with a flick of the wheel beforehand, saw us landing slightly sideways – positioning into a landing drift for the next corner. A few more sweeping and tight turns and it was onto a long claypan stretch heading straight toward a dune at 130km/h. A late stab of the brakes, and with a little speed scrubbed off, it was a fast sweeper at about 110km/h, that narrowly missed the base of the dune and offered the chance of a potential rollover for stepping out wide.

After skirting the dune base, which was deeply rutted, it was into the dunes at speed. A narrow single track with plenty of whoops, holes and half-foot corrugations was attacked with vigour. Sharp crests, which fell metres deep into immediate tight turns, further offered the chance for really messing up the car and launching into the scrub and doing plenty of panel damage. Dips and holes were hit at maximum speed, and a downhill fence line run, with plenty of tight turns (and even more dips and holes) back to the claypan, was pushed to the absolute limit. There were a few frantic saves as the Raptor was pushed hard, narrowly avoiding the fence and posts. Another dash along the claypan at 140km/h was finished with another high-speed drifting turn before closing out the stage.

Somehow, I had kept myself, the young instructor and another well-respected Aussie motoring journo in the back seat alive, but more impressively the car had held up. Not only that though, the car did it with ease. Not once did I feel the suspension hitting a bump stop, not once did the car feel unsettled, and in fact, the car really felt like it could have done more. I have spent five years tuning the suspension in my four-inch-lifted Patrol, and I also run Fox suspension but, this car was taking hits with far more composure – right from the factory floor! The steering was not bent, when really, it should have been and certainly would have been in another modern ute; what the heck was going on here?

Activity 1: Rally

ABOVE The rally stage started on the claypan, before heading up into the dunes in the background. As you can see, it is remarkably similar to conditions found in Australia

BELOW The Raptor’s wide stance is sexy and offers great performance benefits

Got one like it? Insure it here

ACTIVITY 2: STEEP AND SOFT SAND DUNE TRAILS
With the adrenaline of the rally stage left behind it was time to hit the dunes again, this time at a much more sedate pace; this was all about testing the traction control systems.

Steep dunes with some very soft sand crests and tight turns without the opportunity for momentum building made this course a challenge for any modified 4WD, let alone a factory roller. Well, the traction control did work well. The rear locker was helpful in places and the Raptor got the job done as expected, although in my opinion, was not a standout in the current crop of modern utes. So, there is nothing really exciting to report here. It did the job well and that is about it. Once again, the ride was simply sublime though. The Raptor really does off-roading well with incredible amounts of comfort and confidence.

ACTIVITY 2: STEEP AND SOFT SAND DUNE TRAILS

BELOW The dunes offered plenty of steep, tight and soft sand, testing the mettle of the traction control modes

“Not once did I feel the suspension hitting a bump stop, not once did the car feel unsettled, and in fact, the car really felt like it could have done more.”

Got one like it? Insure it here
ACTIVITY 3: DRIFT

ACTIVITY 3: DRIFT
Yep, drift! An oval course with a side loop to be taken on the second lap, sort of creating a figure eight, was set out on the claypan. Mission? Get the Raptor as loose as possible while maintaining forward momentum.

After another orientation lap, it was back behind the wheel again; average speed was to be around 70-80km/h on a fairly large circuit. The first few laps were all about driving in Normal traction control mode, while the rest were once again a test of the Baja mode.

Well, the car did well, noticeably so in Baja mode. It was hard to reconcile the fact that I was driving a 4WD ute, and not a performance car, such was the level of confidence behind the wheel and the behaviour of the car. The Raptor was incredibly planted and responsive. Not once did I feel unsafe, even at high speed.

What was disappointing though was the lack of punch from that engine bay to hold a drift. Now, let’s keep this in perspective here. I was driving beyond the limits of traction on some of the best tyres in the business (BFG K02s; yes, standard factory fitment again), in a zone where you would not reasonably drive your own car. The performance figures from the new bi-turbo 2.0-litre are better than the larger 3.2-litre standard Ranger, and to be honest, it is a nice powerplant, particularly mated to that sweet 10-speed auto. Gear selection is seamless, native and it is genuinely a pleasure to drive.

But, the car beckons for more. If there is anything that lets down this whole experience it is the fact that the engine is outdriven by the rest of the vehicle.

BELOW The Raptor felt perfectly at home being pushed hard, offering great control and response – handy to know if something unsuspecting jumps out at you in the bush

Got one like it? Insure it here
ACTIVITY 4: JUMPING

ACTIVITY 4: JUMPING
A windy gravel back road not much wider than two cars was punctuated by a series of rolling crests. Before each crest was placed a speed sign that was to be our target speed – for getting airborne. It was unnatural and unnerving approaching some of these crests carrying what was clearly too much speed. Well, air time we did get on many crests and once again, the landing on the other side was absorbed beautifully by the chassis and suspension. Bump stops? What bump stops? Not even needed…

LEFT + BELOW A target speed indicator before a dune – purpose? To get air, baby!

Got one like it? Insure it here

MORE POWER PLEASE!
With a vehicle of this capability, it is hard to look past the frustration of not having the ponies to back up the bullet-proof chassis and large tyre and suspension combination. Even driving through town, there is a feeling of wanting more. While the Raptor will happily keep up with, and even out-drag, some of the other off-the-shelf utes (forget about the Amarok V6 though – and the V6 X-Class), you are reminded that Ford has gone into emphysema mode here with the engine; pandering to emission and economy expectations, instead of completely stamping out future competition with a decent capacity and powerful powerplant. A powerplant capable of not just numbers on paper, but one which can easily tow and take a heavy towable load, day-in-day-out without stress.

It’s like ordering a double-shot coffee, but one of those shots you get is actually a skinny latte (whatever that means). It is a mean bit of gear but, it could and should be bigger and better.

The engine does have a great note though, it really sings and works well with that sweet 10-speed transmission. It is a nice drivetrain combination, and even makes the solid VW V6 gearbox look slightly clunky in terms of driver experience.

The Raptor has an advantage though; low range – something that some of the competition should be sorely regretting. Towing or long loaded ascents over tough terrain in a single-speed overheats the transmission pretty easily. The Ford does not suffer this problem, provided the driver selects the correct gearing.

The number of gears you have available in any modern box does not currently equal the advantage of having a transfer case in steep or technical terrain – that magical box that steps down your power to a slower, stress-free and more controlled speed. Without the transfer case, you are solely relying upon the auto transmission and they do get hot and will go into limp mode at the most inconvenient times.

ABOVE Everything was taken at speed, yet the composure of the car never wavered

BELOW One unlucky motoring journo went wide into the rocks at speed, slashing a tyre sidewall. It was the only tyre damaged during the event

Got one like it? Insure it here

FOR THE TOURER…?
Well, there is no doubt at all, that the Raptor’s chassis and suspension can handle ANYTHING you want to dish up to it. Question is, how does this translate to off-road touring in Australia?

Well, for a start, the payload in the Raptor is 203kg less than its WildTrak sibling – which is itself in-line with most other 4WD utes. So, straight away, you are limited in terms of the amount of mods you can bolt on and how much gear you can throw in. If towing is your jam, then you are limited to a 2500kg towable, versus 3500kg for the standard Ranger.

Weights are where you pay the price in the new Raptor. If you plan on touring you are going to have to be very savvy and lightweight to stay legal and insured.

BELOW Examining the suspension technology in the Raptor; Ford have absolutely nailed it

MOVE OVER HILUX
Payload aside, and with a question mark still hanging over the new and not yet endurance-proven powerplant, there is no question that if you are after the ultimate unbreakable ute, then this is your baby. There is nothing else like it available from the factory floor.

VEHICLES

Can Ford’s ‘unbreakable’ Ranger Raptor survive 120km/h jumps through the harsh South African desert?

Getting a 4WD airborne at 120km/h is usually an activity associated with off-road racing and highly modified trophy trucks, right? Well, not anymore.

Recently I travelled overseas for the South African launch of the Ranger Raptor, and as ludicrous as it seems, was told to do exactly that – in a brand-new ute (or ‘bakkie’, as they are known in Africa). While we have had the Raptor in Australia since last year, this is a new vehicle to them and is actually manufactured in South Africa at Ford’s plant near Pretoria. Build spec is exactly the same as our versions, so nothing new there, but it was a great opportunity to really unleash hell on these cars in an environment that is remarkably similar to Aussie conditions. I reckon what we drove was almost identical to the southern Simpson Desert; claypans and sandy dunes with plenty of traps for the unsuspecting.

Well, launching the car into orbit was definitely fun, but that was actually the last activity in a long day that saw us punishing a car at will. There was only one rule to be followed on this event – there are no rules! It was a very welcome change to the over-regulating we see here in Australia, and also nice that Ford had the faith that the vehicles would hold up in the face of 15 over-excited motoring journos who now had ear-to-ear grins.

WORDS BY SCOTT MASON, IMAGES BY FORD

Got one like it? Insure it here

Don’t get caught without protection! Purchase a Summit or Summit Sahara Bar, Summit Side Steps and a Summit or Summit Raw Rear Step Tow Bar between 15th July and 15th September 2019, and we’ll

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ACTIVITY 1: RALLY
After an orientation lap with a young race instructor, it was time to jump behind the wheel. I could feel the red mist falling like a curtain over my eyes already; I was not about to take this easy, at all. ‘Baja mode’ was selected via the steering wheel and, it was game-on.

Firing across the claypan at 100km/h it was straight into a hairpin turn that saw the car completely sideways, with dirt flying everywhere. Accelerating again it was into a jump at about 90km/h and with a flick of the wheel beforehand, saw us landing slightly sideways – positioning into a landing drift for the next corner. A few more sweeping and tight turns and it was onto a long claypan stretch heading straight toward a dune at 130km/h. A late stab of the brakes, and with a little speed scrubbed off, it was a fast sweeper at about 110km/h, that narrowly missed the base of the dune and offered the chance of a potential rollover for stepping out wide.

After skirting the dune base, which was deeply rutted, it was into the dunes at speed. A narrow single track with plenty of whoops, holes and half-foot corrugations was attacked with vigour. Sharp crests, which fell metres deep into immediate tight turns, further offered the chance for really messing up the car and launching into the scrub and doing plenty of panel damage. Dips and holes were hit at maximum speed, and a downhill fence line run, with plenty of tight turns (and even more dips and holes) back to the claypan, was pushed to the absolute limit. There were a few frantic saves as the Raptor was pushed hard, narrowly avoiding the fence and posts. Another dash along the claypan at 140km/h was finished with another high-speed drifting turn before closing out the stage.

Somehow, I had kept myself, the young instructor and another well-respected Aussie motoring journo in the back seat alive, but more impressively the car had held up. Not only that though, the car did it with ease. Not once did I feel the suspension hitting a bump stop, not once did the car feel unsettled, and in fact, the car really felt like it could have done more. I have spent five years tuning the suspension in my four-inch-lifted Patrol, and I also run Fox suspension but, this car was taking hits with far more composure – right from the factory floor! The steering was not bent, when really, it should have been and certainly would have been in another modern ute; what the heck was going on here?

ABOVE The rally stage started on the claypan, before heading up into the dunes in the background. As you can see, it is remarkably similar to conditions found in Australia

BELOW The Raptor’s wide stance is sexy and offers great performance benefits

Activity 1: Rally
Got one like it? Insure it here

ACTIVITY 2: STEEP AND SOFT SAND DUNE TRAILS
With the adrenaline of the rally stage left behind it was time to hit the dunes again, this time at a much more sedate pace; this was all about testing the traction control systems.

Steep dunes with some very soft sand crests and tight turns without the opportunity for momentum building made this course a challenge for any modified 4WD, let alone a factory roller. Well, the traction control did work well. The rear locker was helpful in places and the Raptor got the job done as expected, although in my opinion, was not a standout in the current crop of modern utes. So, there is nothing really exciting to report here. It did the job well and that is about it. Once again, the ride was simply sublime though. The Raptor really does off-roading well with incredible amounts of comfort and confidence.

BELOW The dunes offered plenty of steep, tight and soft sand, testing the mettle of the traction control modes

ACTIVITY 2: STEEP AND SOFT SAND DUNE TRAILS
Got one like it? Insure it here

“Not once did I feel the suspension hitting a bump stop, not once did the car feel unsettled, and in fact, the car really felt like it could have done more.”

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ACTIVITY 3: DRIFT
Yep, drift! An oval course with a side loop to be taken on the second lap, sort of creating a figure eight, was set out on the claypan. Mission? Get the Raptor as loose as possible while maintaining forward momentum.

After another orientation lap, it was back behind the wheel again; average speed was to be around 70-80km/h on a fairly large circuit. The first few laps were all about driving in Normal traction control mode, while the rest were once again a test of the Baja mode.

Well, the car did well, noticeably so in Baja mode. It was hard to reconcile the fact that I was driving a 4WD ute, and not a performance car, such was the level of confidence behind the wheel and the behaviour of the car. The Raptor was incredibly planted and responsive. Not once did I feel unsafe, even at high speed.

BELOW The Raptor felt perfectly at home being pushed hard, offering great control and response – handy to know if something unsuspecting jumps out at you in the bush

ACTIVITY 3: DRIFT
Got one like it? Insure it here

ACTIVITY 4: JUMPING
A windy gravel back road not much wider than two cars was punctuated by a series of rolling crests. Before each crest was placed a speed sign that was to be our target speed – for getting airborne. It was unnatural and unnerving approaching some of these crests carrying what was clearly too much speed. Well, air time we did get on many crests and once again, the landing on the other side was absorbed beautifully by the chassis and suspension. Bump stops? What bump stops? Not even needed…

LEFT + BELOW A target speed indicator before a dune – purpose? To get air, baby!

ACTIVITY 4: JUMPING
Got one like it? Insure it here

MORE POWER PLEASE!
With a vehicle of this capability, it is hard to look past the frustration of not having the ponies to back up the bullet-proof chassis and large tyre and suspension combination. Even driving through town, there is a feeling of wanting more. While the Raptor will happily keep up with, and even out-drag, some of the other off-the-shelf utes (forget about the Amarok V6 though – and the V6 X-Class), you are reminded that Ford has gone into emphysema mode here with the engine; pandering to emission and economy expectations, instead of completely stamping out future competition with a decent capacity and powerful powerplant. A powerplant capable of not just numbers on paper, but one which can easily tow and take a heavy towable load, day-in-day-out without stress.

It’s like ordering a double-shot coffee, but one of those shots you get is actually a skinny latte (whatever that means). It is a mean bit of gear but, it could and should be bigger and better.

The engine does have a great note though, it really sings and works well with that sweet 10-speed transmission. It is a nice drivetrain combination, and even makes the solid VW V6 gearbox look slightly clunky in terms of driver experience.

The Raptor has an advantage though; low range – something that some of the competition should be sorely regretting. Towing or long loaded ascents over tough terrain in a single-speed overheats the transmission pretty easily. The Ford does not suffer this problem, provided the driver selects the correct gearing.

The number of gears you have available in any modern box does not currently equal the advantage of having a transfer case in steep or technical terrain – that magical box that steps down your power to a slower, stress-free and more controlled speed. Without the transfer case, you are solely relying upon the auto transmission and they do get hot and will go into limp mode at the most inconvenient times.

ABOVE Everything was taken at speed, yet the composure of the car never wavered

BELOW One unlucky motoring journo went wide into the rocks at speed, slashing a tyre sidewall. It was the only tyre damaged during the event

Got one like it? Insure it here

FOR THE TOURER…?
Well, there is no doubt at all, that the Raptor’s chassis and suspension can handle ANYTHING you want to dish up to it. Question is, how does this translate to off-road touring in Australia?

Well, for a start, the payload in the Raptor is 203kg less than its WildTrak sibling – which is itself in-line with most other 4WD utes. So, straight away, you are limited in terms of the amount of mods you can bolt on and how much gear you can throw in. If towing is your jam, then you are limited to a 2500kg towable, versus 3500kg for the standard Ranger.

Weights are where you pay the price in the new Raptor. If you plan on touring you are going to have to be very savvy and lightweight to stay legal and insured.

BELOW Examining the suspension technology in the Raptor; Ford have absolutely nailed it

MOVE OVER HILUX
Payload aside, and with a question mark still hanging over the new and not yet endurance-proven powerplant, there is no question that if you are after the ultimate unbreakable ute, then this is your baby. There is nothing else like it available from the factory floor.

Got one like it? Insure it here