Now for the road test! 2 000km from Namib dunes to Joburg in new Ford Ranger Raptor

Published Mar 9, 2023


Johannesburg - We had had our fun in the Namib dunes for two days in the new Ford Ranger Raptor but it was time to turn its large and impressive front end towards Joburg and head home.

Ahead of us lay just under 2 000 kilometres of road tripping and the best part was that more than 60 percent of it would be on gravel roads.

If you’ve ever been to Namibia you’ll know that there’s an extensive network of these roads and according to Wikipedia they have 6 664 kilometres of tar and 25 710 kilometres of gravel connecting far flung towns, villages and farms.

And if you haven’t you’re probably thinking like a South African with visions of our national and local government in charge of maintenance.

Forget it, they are regularly repaired and scraped and when you enter towns there are signs proclaiming “roads scraped for prosperity”.

Compare that to those supposedly in charge of our future and prosperity who can’t take their eyes off the feeding trough long enough to manage keeping our road infrastructure from collapsing into a lethal potholed fiasco.

Filling up our tanks the evening before we left, the consumption on my allocated steed showed 18.5l\100km after two days in the soft desert sand before zeroing it for the drive back. Tyres were also pumped to 2.4 bar from the 1 bar we had used in the dunes.

A quick hearty breakfast saw 14 Ford Ranger Raptors in convoy heading out towards Solitaire, an impressive sight to be sure and many wolf whistles and waves ensued as we snaked our way out.

A few kilometres later and a sho’t left onto the gravel saw us start the drive properly.

Namibia isn’t exactly blessed with an abundance of rain so the dust trails stretched for kilometres on a windstill day, necessitating a long distance between the cars to avoid the possibility of a pile-up.

The Raptor is fitted with Pre-Collision Assist with Dynamic Brake Support, Forward Collision Warning and Automated Emergency Braking should things happen to go awry.

The Raptor is a permanent four-wheel drive vehicle so I had the setting in normal mode, the exhaust sound also on normal and the off-road dial on 4A, which constantly monitors the driving situation and adjusts power between the front and rear wheels as needed.

There were also long stretches that I used 4H for, which splits power equally to the front and back.

Apart from the Raptor’s lump of turbocharged V6 metal under the bonnet, the finely tuned Fox suspension is what sets it apart from anything else on the market.

Connected to a completely new chassis and 33-inch all terrain tyres on 17-inch rims they continuously monitor driving conditions, adjusting accordingly making gravel road driving an absolute pleasure. So much so in fact that once the convoy had settled down, I engaged the adaptive cruise control and settled down to 110km/h pleasantly ensconced in the comfortable seat.

You can imagine how much entertainment there is in Solitaire, so a string of growling Raptors refuelling was quite an event for residents. We duly obliged their requests to let rip in Baja mode, and with wolf whistles and smiles we left them behind.

Temperatures were hovering in the high 30s so when we pulled into Lapa Lange after a long and dusty day, a cold beer was top priority.

Clearly this wasn’t their first rodeo. Few things beat a glass stored in a freezer filled with Namibia’s best while washing off the dust in the pool watching the sun set over the plains.

Day two saw us heading for a nine hour drive from Mariental towards the Rietfontein border post again exclusively on gravel via Vanzylsrus ending at Kuruman.

I was suitably impressed with the Raptor’s dust ingress, or rather the lack of it, considering how much of it was around, especially at the back of the convoy. Equally impressive are the interior finishes with soft touch surfaces, Raptor specific stitching and lots of nooks and crannies to store odds and ends.

There was also time to fiddle with the 12-inch infotainment touchscreen fitted with Sync4. Like the previous generation it’s easy to use with not too many drop down menus to confuse the issue especially when you’re driving. Graphics are crisp and reaction time switching between settings is swift.

My only complaint is that unlike the previous generation, there’s no Tracks4africa setting which comes in very handy when you’re planning a route to remote places, both locally and across our borders. Perhaps Ford can look at updating their software allowing it to be downloaded.

The border crossing was easy enough with the correct vehicle papers and some zealous South African immigration officials digging around cooler boxes looking for illegal booze.

From here the Ford Ranger Raptor would show us what it was capable of on tar.

The road towards Kuruman is deserted, long and straight and after so much gravel we did our best to shake off the dust via airflow around the vehicle using the full 292kW and 583Nm available.

Look, as an offroad bakkie the Raptor is unsurpassed but make no mistake the Fox suspension is just as effective on the black stuff.

At no stage does it feel uncomfortable or on the edge at speed or heading into and out of corners. Sure if you’re going to drive like an idiot well outside the parameters you will get into trouble but the same will happen in a low-slung sports car.

It was a tired bunch that stepped out at Gamagara Lodge late in the afternoon. A shower, fantastic dinner and fresh linen ensured that we were ready to take on the last stretch before finishing at OR Tambo International Airport.

On our departure the radio crackled around what the purpose of 2H on the selector was if 4A disconnects the front wheels’ drivetrain while driving on tar at a constant pace as we were.

There’s not really a fuel saving so it seems it’s pretty much there for fun in Baja mode like leaving black stripes on the tar or if you’re irresponsible enough to tear up your tyres doing doughnuts.

Leaving it in 4A will provide optimum driving and as so often seems to happen on our roads, if you’re forced to avoid a collision and head off the tar, the electronics will take care of what power needs to go to which wheel to keep things in control as much as possible.

I had also put the exhaust mode in quiet mode. You don’t hear a thing from the tailpipes and apart from slight wind noise from the rear view mirrors you’d be forgiven for thinking you were driving a well-heeled sedan.

When I climbed out my consumption stood at 15l/100km keeping in mind that much of the drive was done in 4H and on gravel.

A colleague that zeroed at Askham when we hit the tar averaged 13.2l/100km which considering how we drove is not bad at all.

However, when you put your name on the waiting list for the new Ford Ranger Raptor you know exactly what you’re signing up for and consumption will feature low on the list of must-haves.

Instead you’ll be champing at the bit to do exactly what we did because that’s why it exists.

IOL Motoring