Leading up to the launch of the new Ford Ranger Raptor, I was filled with both excitement and anxiety. The latter being because I would be camping in the Namib desert for three days with no access to a proper toilet, shower, or cellphone range. It might come as a shock to you, but I am not much of a camper. Look, I have done my time at Rocking the Daisies, Synergy, and the likes, but I outgrew those festivals almost as quickly as I started going to them. I don’t mind sleeping in a tent, I just don’t enjoy having to climb out of said tent in the middle of the night to go and relieve myself in a what can only be described as a ‘poop cooler box’ while trying to avoid snakes, scorpions and fellow journalists.
But what will genuinely shock you, is that I enjoyed every minute of this epic trip, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
INTO THE WILD
After a very early start we landed in Walvis Bay around midday to rather pleasant weather – we weren’t to know temperatures were about to hit close to 40-degrees Celsius. Lined up outside of the sandy airport were the Raptors. A range of Raptors, if you will. (A rally or Raptors? A raft of Raptors? A rabble of Raptors? Gosh, this could go on).
If there is one thing Ford’s flagship bakkie has, its kerb appeal. Flip, it looks good. Much like its standard Ranger sibling, the front grille with the F-O-R-D lettering looks intimidating while the Matrix LED lights with C-Clamp daytime running lights make such a statement. The dual active exhaust tips make it known that this bakkie means business. Press the Start button and you will know what I am talking about. The growl coming through those exhaust tips hits you right in the belly. Pop it into Baja mode (more on that later) and you’ll squeal with delight.
WHY THE SQUEALING?
Powering the new Raptor is a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6 engine. It is a staggering 135 kW more powerful than the outgoing model, now pushing out 292 kW, and it gains another 80 Nm, taking it to a total of 583 Nm. It is considered the most powerful double cab bakkie in South Africa. And one can feel it. Especially when you are hurtling yourself up (or down) a dune! This is where more squealing occurred.
I would like it to be known, that I did not get stuck once on any of the dunes. The only time I may have had a hiccup was at the camp site when I took the Raptor to get some water and didn’t put it in the correct driving mode. But it took all of about three seconds to get myself out of the situation before anyone noticed what a chop I looked like.
Speaking of driving modes, there are seven to choose from, but we were mostly in Sand or Baja mode. The latter being the meatiest of the lot. Nothing sounds quite as good as a Raptor in Baja mode. It also means that everything is running at its ultimate, such as the throttle and transmission response, the braking, the suspension etc. What I took away from this adventure, is that there is nothing the Raptor cannot do and nowhere it cannot go! Ok, that isn’t entirely true, it obviously can’t climb up the side of a building…yet. One thing I can attest to, though, if you put your foot down and travel at speed over even the softest sand, the Raptor will glide over it, no questions asked.
Something that really stood out for me was just how comfortable the entire experience was (excluding the toilet situation). This is thanks not only to the enhanced and strengthened chassis, but also the redesigned suspension that now includes rear Watt’s link coil springs and FOX 2.5-inch Live Valve Internal Bypass shock absorbers with electronic damping. Bearing in mind that this is designed to ensure that if you gooi this 2.4-tonne beast into the air, you will land safely and comfortably. And what a job it is doing of that! Honestly, I have never felt more composed while off-roading. There wasn’t even much need for a sports bra – the tell-tale sign!
Raptor’s Rise is a place I stayed at in Tulbagh once and it is just wonderful, hence the headline here. It has nothing to do with this part of my review. The interior of the Raptor is similar to that of the standard Ranger. There are a few vibes here and there that tell you this is no plain, old Ranger though. Touches of orange throughout the cabin as well as the Raptor logo here and there should give it away. But the main event for me are the fighter-jet inspired seats. Not only are they rather comfy, they also provide oodles of support when you’re hitting the corners pretty hard. Or even when you’re heading up a dune and do a sudden, unexpected turn to avoid something (not that I did that, obviously, I am a very safe and alert driver). The rear seats, however, are a little less comfortable. But if you’re the driver of the Raptor, are you really going to care? I think not.
The moerse infotainment screen houses a host of things and while it is all kinds of intimidating to begin with, you’ll have the hang of it in no time. By the third day I was far more accustomed to it and was almost able to navigate the off-road menu without asking my co-driver for assistance. I do love that you can easily engage the front- and rear differential at the touch of a button (on the screen).
IT’S A LOT TO TAKE IN
There is so much to this new Raptor. More than I could ever put into one review, in fact, it would be a struggle to get it across in a few reviews. But the bottom line is that this next-gen Raptor is bigger, badder and better in every possible way. It is quite possibly my favourite bakkie on the market and maybe, just maybe, the best car I have driven this year (it is only Feb though).
The pricing is another plus for me. Thinking it was going to be a ridiculous amount, I was so happy to learn that it comes in at R1 094 900. And when you consider what it is you’re getting, you’ll see that it’s quite a bargain. The only bummer is that a service plan is not included in the price, you have the option of purchasing one of up to eight-years / 165 000 km. The cheapest one of four-years/60 000km will cost you R9 283.95. However, a four-year/120 000km warranty, which can be optionally extended up to seven-years/200 000km), a four-year/unlimited distance Roadside Assistance and five-year/unlimited distance corrosion warranty is standard.
A quick side note and only because pricing of it just released on Friday last week, but the top of the range Amarok Aventura 3.0 TDI V6 184 kW 4MOTION 10-speed auto will cost you R1 105 000.
The Raptor has no direct rivals. Even the Jeep Gladiator can’t really be considered much competition. If Toyota came out with a performance bakkie, then maybe we could have a chat, but until then, the Raptor takes the win in my eyes! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and get the sand out of all my orifices.