It’s a wrap for our long-term Ford Ranger Raptor
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PRETORIA - I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that Ford’s Ranger Raptor is probably the most well balanced double cab currently on the market.
Here’s the caveat though. For what it’s been designed to do and for my needs and lifestyle I wouldn't entertain anything else.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the opposition bakkies but if I could fork out the money, the Raptor would have pride of place in the garage.
We recently returned our long termer and I was lucky enough to put it through some tough and hectic situations that included mud, rocks, soft sand, river beds, water crossings, towing and general 4x4 challenges.
Would another bakkie have done it? probably, but you would have had to spend a good few thousand rand to get it on a par and it wouldn’t be as good.
Our first experience was just as lockdown had started to ease and we managed to wangle a cross provincial trip to Giyani to drive the Klein Letaba river before the summer rains came.
Accompanying us were two 4x4 mates who I have experienced some of the most hardcore off-roading with, including various trips to Lesotho in -19 degree weather, as well as an eight-hour journey up a six kilometre donkey track.
They both have well modified vehicles for extreme off-roading and having spent time with us in soft sand, water, and driving technical sections over rocks towing an off-road trailer, they came away suitably impressed.
It’s things like proper steel rock-sliders that can take the weight of the car, decent underbody protection, the low gearing in low range in Rock mode, Tracks4Africa on the Sync3 infotainment system, the Fox suspension set-up as well as the BF Goodrich 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres and uncompromising front and rear recovery points that set it above the rest.
There’s some footage of the bakkie going full tilt along the river bed with the four wheels bouncing like mad things while the cab merely stays the course thanks to the suspension set-up.
It was again the case at the end of the year, fully loaded travelling in the Richtersveld along the Orange River when we had a spot of bother that needed us to drive 200km on some of the worst corrugated roads in the country.
It was the second day of the adventure and the Raptor was still fully loaded with 80 litres of spare diesel, 100 litres of water, wood and charcoal for 10 days, spades, toolboxes and recovery equipment.
I drove the whole way mostly with the speedometer in triple figures around bends and gentle curves in a plume of dust with my partner holding on tight mostly with her eyes closed.
The Raptor held its line almost perfectly until we managed to get cell phone reception and solve our dilemma, and that is solely because of the suspension. Had it been any other double cab as opposed to the Raptor, we would have had to drive a lot slower or else all four wheels would have been facing the sky.
Having had the Raptor for six months and almost 15 000km I managed to get around and often people would ask whether the two-litre twin turbo is enough. The short answer is yes. With 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque coupled to a 10 speed automatic transmission with paddles should you need it, there wasn’t one occasion where I wished I had a lot more power.
Sure, when you’re fully loaded and towing, passing slower traffic has to be negotiated responsibly but you have to do that even if you have a V8 under the hood.
At Kamgab on the Orange River, a group of fellow adventurers arrived in a variety of vehicles and to a man they wanted a closer look at the Raptor. When I mentioned the power under the hood a few eyebrows were raised and one guy jokingly commented that its direct competitor pushed out the same Nm but fewer kW’s and no one ever questioned whether that was powerful enough.
Remember too, that the Raptor was designed from the ground up and the engine carefully honed to make it well balanced to compliment the complete vehicle.
There’s no mistaking it on the road either, it stands out from the rest not only because it’s big but also because the ratios from the grille through to the rear lights are all in proportion.
Once you get used to the size it’s easy enough to park although I tended to look for bays a little less cluttered at shopping malls for my own comfort and to prevent dings from other cars parked in minimum spec size bays.
The cabin proved to be a comfortable place to spend time in, even with the outside temperature touching 52-53 degrees. The unique Raptor seats provide good support all round especially when you’re flinging the vehicle in and out of dirt road corners on the odd occasion you select Baja Mode.
Ford’s Sync3 infotainment touchscreen has been around for a good few years now but I reckon it’s still one of the better ones out there. It’s logical and easy to use and for someone like me who prefers the road a lot less traveled, Tracks4Africa makes planning and executing trips a lot easier without having to plug in a GPS.
Consumption depended largely on terrain and use, on long freeway drives we averaged 9.5l/100km and during 3500km in the Richtersveld and West coast almost 15l/100km, bearing in mind we drove mostly soft sand and gravel with the tyres on 1.2 bar heavily loaded and towing a fully kitted off-road trailer.
Like any car there are one or two things that detracts from the otherwise pleasant experience. I would suggest that the next generation Raptor is fitted with front park assist. Because of its size, it’s a bit of a mission when parking in tight spots with walls or other vehicles and I tended to err on the side of caution often getting out when I had a lot more space to move in.
Also, when you switch the vehicle off to walk an obstacle, the setting reverts to normal and when it’s hot and sweaty or cold and wet, switching to the desired mode isn’t always top of mind.
I would also suggest having a custom towbar made to ensure that whatever you are towing is level behind the Raptor, especially if it’s loaded.
They’re minor things really and easy enough to overcome which is why I said that Ford’s Raptor is currently the most well-balanced double cab on the market.
It’s easy to live with on a daily basis, will gladly carry five adults, tow without any hassle, has people eyeing you jealously and the deal clincher for me is that you can do some very serious 4x4ing without having to spend money to make any modifications.