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FLEET UPDATE: Packed with tech and features the Ford Ranger Raptor SE is uber cool

The Ford Raptor - built for the South African bush - handles dirt track and muddy byways with ease. Picture: Renata Ford

The Ford Raptor - built for the South African bush - handles dirt track and muddy byways with ease. Picture: Renata Ford

Published Mar 11, 2022


Pretoria – 2021 was a good year for Ford – well for me anyway as I had the opportunity to test drive not one, but three vehicles in the Ford stable, and it has been pure driving pleasure.

First up was the Ford Ranger FX4 – a beast of a bakkie – that I drove up north to Phalaborwa and the Kruger National Park in April last year. I then had a Ford EcoSport Black for a week, and last but not least, a Ford Raptor SE that’s on long term loan to Independent Media. As was the case with the FX4, my motoring colleague Willem van de Putte, offered me a chance to use the Raptor when I mentioned I was planning a short trip to the bush.

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But, before we get to my Raptor experience, a few words on the EcoSport Black.

Ford tweaked their stalwart EcoSport model and the result was the limiited edition EcoSport Black. We took it through its paces on a trip to Maropeng. Picture: Renata Ford

As many of those in the motor industry tend to do up in Gauteng, I took the EcoSport out on a Hartbeespoort-Magalies meander. This route seems to be one of the most popular in terms of putting a vehicle through its paces. I had the basic EcoSport Black model with automatic transmission. After driving the Ranger there is a distinct difference in power and size, obviously, but the compact SUV proved to handle well, both on the open road and in urban areas.

Automatic is seriously the way to go when looking at getting a new vehicle. Because my own car has manual transmission I really do enjoy the automatic experience. The extra height and visibility in the EcoSport also served me well. It’s a perfect car for the school and office commute, has good fuel consumption, is a comfortable ride and easy to park. The extra length – with the spare wheel on the back – took a short while to get used to but wasn’t a major hindrance.

The Ford Raptor after an afternoon on the track. Notice the wheel clearance - the tyre has a lot of room to move. Picture: Renata Ford

And now for the highlight of my Ford experience, thus far. The Ford Raptor.

This is a bakkie that is out of this world cool.

It’s packed with tech and safety features. It’s also the biggest vehicle I have driven, yet I felt comfortable and at ease as soon as I climbed up into the cab.

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Ford Adventure Club instructors demonstrate how to get through a sandy track. Picture: Renata Ford

Prior to our trip, Willem had received an invite to a Level 1 4x4 course, but having already mastered the art of 4x4 driving, he had no need to attend. But, rather than let the training go to waste he offered me the opportunity to attend. Hosted by Ford Adventure Club, and offered to customers who purchase the Ford Everest, Ranger or Raptor, the course is also, conveniently, located near Harties, so I got to feel the nature of this brute on the trip to and from the course.

I set off on a cool and overcast Sunday morning, a little apprehensive, not knowing what was in store. Not being an overly adventurous sort, I was, however, ready to step out of my comfort zone. It had been raining overnight – which actually proved to be perfect conditions for the track.

Ford Adventure Club venue in Broederstroom, Pretoria, offers 4x4 training courses from Level 1 through to advanced. Picture: Renata Ford
Taking the Ford Raptor down a hill at the Ford Adventure Club track in Broederstroom. Picture: Renata Ford

On arrival, I noticed that there were a number of other women, which was pleasantly reassuring. Stereotypically, I had associated 4x4s with men only. Well up to that point at least. I was feeling less anxious knowing that if other women could do this course, so could I. After a short welcoming introduction, coffee and snacks, the theory part of the class began.

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The instructor took us through obstacle identification and explained the function of each and every button in the vehicles. I was wondering how I was going to remember what to select at which time but luckily there were instructors at each obstacle point on the track ready to advise.

I wish I had completed this course prior to driving the FX4. I now understand wheel clearance, diff lock and hill descent assist. I am a newbie at this so I had no idea a vehicle weighing 2 500kgs could traverse a mountain – literally by itself – at the touch of a few buttons. It took a mountain of effort not to apply my foot to any pedals in order to feel the full effect of these intelligence features. I was nervous approaching a massive ditch the likes of which I had never seen before – well not from the vantage point of needing to negotiate a vehicle through. I had also seen the other bakkies’ back wheels rise into the air while the front part of their vehicles sunk into the ditch!

I was undeniably anxious and the instructor said “don’t worry, you’re safe, you’re in a Raptor”. With a deep intake of breath I pushed on and was surprised at how the Raptor handled the obstacle with ease. I confidently went around that track a second time, giving the other ladies a thumbs up!

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The interior of the Ford Raptor showing the eight-inch touchscreen and SYNC 4 infotainment system. Picture: Renata Ford

Completing the Adventure Club course is well worth the effort, in order to learn what specs and features your vehicle has, and how to ensure your own safety (and that of others) and to learn how to maintain your vehicle to keep it functioning at optimum level in the long term.

Armed with this new knowledge, I felt confident as my daughter and I set off on our short trip. We headed out and after a week of heavy rain, I was pleased we were in the Raptor. We were staying in a secluded part of Modimolle and had to use muddy roads and cross a number of low level bridges to access the property. It was cool and wet for the majority of the trip so we actively sought out more dirt track and dust roads to put my newly-gained 4x4 skills to the test. The Raptor rose to the occasion every single time.

Preparing to make a splash. The Ford Raptor handled this flooded low-level bridge like a pro. Picture: Renata Ford

I’ve no doubt that if I hit a powerball jackpot I would definitely park a Raptor in my driveway. It certainly lives up to the Built Ford Tough motto. We are blessed and privileged in South Africa to have many hidden gems off the beaten track, and in order to get to some of those far-to-reach places, a bakkie like the Raptor or Ranger is not just a nice to have, it’s an absolute necessity.

If we did not get the Raptor on this most recent trip I would have had to cancel as there was absolutely no chance my low-sitting Chevy would have made it. While the Ford EcoSport is more practical and realistic for urban commuting, the Raptor and FX4 are bakkies that are built for those adventure-seeking bushveld junkies.

The Raptor is by far the biggest, and widest, vehicle I have driven but it doesn’t feel massive once you get comfortable. I simply love the added height advantage on the road. Parking had its challenges as I did have to get used to the space I was taking up, but the parking sensors and rear-camera assist made it easy and are essential must-haves. As with the other Fords the Raptor has the factory-fitted easy-to-use SYNC 4 infotainment system (and eight-inch touchscreen). Music and navigation is, of course, essential to any road-tripping.

I’ll share dates of my next getaway with colleagues to see if there are any other test driving opportunities for 2022. I have been spoiled, but I still haven’t seen the inside of a Ford Everest, and I am open to new experiences … just saying.

Related Topics:

FordCar ReviewsBakkie