By: André Kruse
Johannesburg: It is not often that people come up, ask questions, talk about and pass comments about your car. But, with the Ford Ranger Raptor SE, it happened on more than one occasion.
The only other time I experienced this is with my brother’s vehicle, also a Ford; his 1967 Mustang, almost the same colour too as the Raptor – Ford Performance Blue.
I recently got to spend a week with IOL’s long-term Ford Ranger Raptor SE and decided to take it on a road trip to the Mpumalanga region. We knew that we would encounter 4x4 conditions that include a mix of driving surfaces and conditions. Thank goodness we had this car and not just any other SUV!
We started out early in the morning but, unlike a colleague who downloaded the FordPass App and started the vehicle from his smartphone – with the last settings the car had when stopped, we fired up the Raptor using the smart keyless entry and push button starter. We set the seat heaters to suit us in the cold morning to ease us into the journey.
But it is a bakkie?
As the trip was going to be long, the concern was about how comfortable the ride was going to be in a bakkie that sits so high. The driver’s seat is fitted with full electronic settings. The backrest has a lumber support setting too.
The body-contoured seating and upholstery is purpose-built; sport seats that offer comfortable support – front and back. The black leather, with suede inserts, are not only aesthetically pleasing but also make for better grip when driving off-road, as we found out later. All seats have adjustable and unique Ranger Raptor headrests.
We wanted to do a few routes on this road trip that I had not done since the late ’80s. The first was to get to Lydenburg. We were advised to not do the route off the N4, just after Machadodorp (eNtokozweni). We were warned – more than once – that the road gets really bad after Bambi. But, when the people saw our ride, the uniform consensus was that we should be okay “with that car”. And so we went!
To start with, the surface was tarred but then it was a mix of driving on the side of the road, one wheel on the tar (to miss potholes) and the other on the verge. In a few places, there was no road surface – maintenance was being done and the detoured surface was horrendous.
The vehicle handled it with ease, no doubt a function of Ford’s all-terrain tyres and race-bred suspension, calibrated for tough terrains. It is on point when it comes to this type of driving. It is a pity that the road was not as I remembered it in the late ’80s, but it was a breeze in the Ford Raptor.
On another occasion, we took a drive out to the small, little-known rural community of Tonteldoos. As a road sign stated, “Where the @#?! is Tonteldoos?”, it is a (really) small hamlet, 23km outside Dullstroom on the Limpopo border.
This is a dirt road, badly corrugated and eroded in many places. Numerous parts had loose stones and rocks and some slippery rocky spots and ditches. A challenge, indeed and requiring a slower, cautious drive. But, again, it was made easier in the Ford Raptor. The “high-ride” gave us just that bit more assurance too.
On the paved roads, the vehicle handled well. We used cruise control for the most part. All the while, we listened to music via the two USB ports on the six-speaker sound system, easily switching to the radio for news updates.
We had great fun using voice commands to dial and speak hands free via the Bluetooth connectivity. There are numerous other voice activated things that you can do – we just did not get to them. Next time!
Braking and accelerating
But how easily does it brake, given we were four up, loaded with baggage in a 3000kg vehicle? At no point was this a problem.
Similarly when we needed extra speed to overtake, the Raptor’s 2 Litre, Bi-turbo, 10-speed auto gearbox stepped up to the mark and soon, we were overtaking at speeds the authorities might deem inappropriate.
At times, I switched to manual, using the magnesium paddle shifters on the steering wheel. They were easy to get used to and soon it was a breeze driving in this mode too, with seamless changing – no need to take your hands off the wheel at any point.
4x4 - bring it on!
Later, we found a 4x4 track, deep in the hills above Pilgrim’s Rest. This is where the high clearance, and Ford performance that we had heard of, came into play.
We had two notable experiences: one of the passengers, fearing and loathing the steep, narrow rocky terrain, decided to exit the vehicle upon the first occasion down the hill. Another passenger loving every minute, strapped in, waiting for us to navigate the stones, holes and narrow, twisting and steep track. Not being experienced 4x4 drivers, we didn’t know what to expect. The fear of otherwise undriveable conditions had us high on adrenaline but, in the four Low setting, the Raptor crawled down the incline with such ease that our confidence in its off-road abilities were solidified. The experience confirmed our belief in its immense power and off-road adaptation.
The route included a few water crossings; in summer there ought to be more water though. The settings were easy to understand and use. The ride was great but best to give it its own platform upon a later occasion.
The Ford Ranger Raptor has a comfortable cabin (even for the people in the back) and gives a smooth, comfortable drive on the long road.
Outside noise is hardly audible and the sound system is great.
Off-(tar)-road, it is comfortable and you do not feel that you are about to bottom out at any point. The higher ride (most probably the highest in such comfort) is a whole new dimension.
Getting in and out is made easy using the black side steps.
This is an imposing vehicle and it sure looks like it can go where other bakkies wouldn’t dare.
The Ford, just like the ’67 Mustang solicited conversation and demanded attention.