Since the T6 Ford Ranger was introduced in 2011, we've always thought of it to be quite a game changer. Yes, that term is thrown around a lot by marketing departments of many companies -not just automotive- but in the case of the T6, the term really does hold water.
The current Ranger has, in so many ways, changed what the public can expect from a midsize pick-up truck. Before, they were seen (and felt) as uncomfortable beasts of burden. They had basic boxy looks, sparse but easy to clean interiors, and rear leaf-spring suspension systems that bounce like a lowrider with hydraulics. They were great for carrying loads like materials and workers, but were definitely not family friendly.
The Ranger changed that perception, teaching many of us that modern pick-ups can be as good on the daily drive to and from the office as they are ferrying stuff to and from the jobsite. Ford showed us that a very happy compromise can be found, and even packed it with as much technology as they can to suit our modern and connected lifestyles.
The competition, however, was watching very closely, and applied many of the lessons behind the success of the Ranger. They started building trucks that looked better. They started packing more technology into them. They even built trucks that had coil spring rear suspensions for even better comfort.
So what was Ford to do?
They chose to build a true performance version of the T6, and they used much of what they had learned from another bigger truck in their foreign line up, including the name: Raptor.
The Ranger Raptor, much like the F-150 Raptor, aptly sits atop the food chain of its model line. Raptor, after all, refers to a bird of prey. And like a hunter to its prey, the look is absolutely purposeful.
The body is still the T6 Ranger; already a good looking one. But Ford Performance gave it a bodybuilder makeover of sorts. The Raptor is taller than the Wildtrak; the roof and undercarriage are both about 2 inches higher than the former top dog of the Ranger line. The body is wider too, made so by the more muscular fenders and rear quarter panels, but it's not just cosmetic; those panels were extended to accommodate the wider track, or the space between the left and right wheels.
What really draws the eyes, however, are the many new pieces that make the Raptor distinguishable like the big FORD grille, the distinct DRLs on the headlamps, the high clearance bumper, the decals, the massive side step boards, and the 17-inch wheels with the special all-terrain tires developed by BFGoodrich. All in all, it's a very visually inspiring vehicle, and one that has the flexibility of the same truck bed as the standard Rangers.
Inside, you'll be surprised to find that the Ford didn't sacrifice creature comforts for the sake of creating a performance truck. The seats, while clearly bolstered on the sides to better hold you while cornering, are exceptionally comfortable. There's leather applied all around with the seats, steering wheel, shifter, and more. I particularly liked the feel of the steering wheel; it's meaty to hold, and there are big paddle shifters behind so I can select gears as I see fit.
The Raptor also gets all the features that are standard on the Ranger Wildtrak and then some. A dual zone control, the latest SYNC system, Bluetooth, adaptive cruise control, USB charging ports, power adjustable seats, auto headlights, automated rain-sensing wipers, a 230 volt socket and many more are found in the Raptor. For safety you get 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and more. Surprisingly, the Raptor didn't get the more advanced safety and convenience features that the Wildtrak has such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and the like. That's not really a problem; those features are best for vehicles that aren't as involving in terms of driving feel. You'll want to be as involved as you can with how the Ranger Raptor drives.
Last year when Ford first released the Raptor, I found Ford's choice of engine for the Ranger Raptor as somewhat odd. Many of us remember that the pre-facelift version of the Ranger came with a 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbodiesel, so it was logical to either (A) launch the Raptor with a tuned version of that engine or (B) come up with a larger motor. Ford went in the opposite direction: they put out a new 2.0-liter turbodiesel with just four cylinders.
That shouldn't have surprised us; we are in the age of downsizing after all. But don't fret about the old adage that there's no replacement for displacement when it comes to outright performance from an engine, because there is. And that came in the form of a pair of turbochargers and better technology. The result is a small 2.0 that makes 213 horsepower (metric) and 500 Nm of torque; that means its more powerful and has more torque than the 3.2-liter model it replaced.
The engine on the Raptor is the same as the one of the new version of the Wildtrak, and Ford matched it with a 10-speed automatic. The gearbox drives the rear wheels for casual driving, and all four wheels if you need (or want) it to. The truck actually feels great to drive around town; the acceleration is clearly there and the engine has plenty of torque to spare. Overtaking slower vehicles is easy, and the gearbox kicks down quickly to respond to my throttle inputs at speed. Still, I wish Ford came up with a more powerful version of this engine for the Raptor compared to the Wildtrak, as well as an option for a manual gearbox (say, a 6-speed?) because, well, why not? It's supposed to be an off-road performance truck, right?
Unlike the off-road 4x4's we've come to know in the Philippines that were built for negotiating trails and crawling through jungles, the Raptor is a 4x4 that's built for fast off-roading... the kind that you see on the Baja rally in Mexico. And as such, it doesn't come equipped with things like winches or a snorkel, instead it comes with a reinforced chassis, coil springs on all four corners, and a special damper system from Fox; the company that makes shock absorbers for ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and yes, off-road trucks. And yes, the suspension system (which reportedly costs about $5000) works wonders, easily absorbing what the road or high speed trail can throw at it.
But this isn't a one-trick pony; the Raptor has some incredible qualities on the road. I had actually expected a rather bouncy ride before I drove it last year, but the Raptor certainly bucked that expectation. It was sublimely comfortable. The suspension that was built to take the rigors of high-speed off-road driving was simply breezing through any kind of road imperfection. Does your primary route consist of horridly unmaintained or unfinished roads? Don't worry, the Raptor will give you the ride comfort you need.
But what surprised me the most was the overall refinement beyond the expensive suspension. While there's a more marked note emanating from the engine's exhaust system, the Raptor drove fairly silently. There wasn't much wind noise at speed; again, a surprise for a truck with a very un-aerodynamic profile and bed. And also, there's very minimal tire noise.
Tires classified as all-terrain (A/T) are supposed to be significantly noisy because of the blockier nature of the treads and the larger gaps between them to allow for improved traction off-road. It's supposed to be a compromise between highway terrain (or H/T) and mud terrain (or M/T). Somehow BFGoodrich's engineers nailed it, finding a very happy compromise between the two that resulted in a quieter ride at 100 km/h and on-road cornering grip that can pass for an H/T, but the off-road capability of an M/T.
The more you drive the Ranger Raptor on a daily basis, the more you realize how good it is. As an everyday vehicle, you've got the space and option to carry stuff with the bed. Do take note that this isn't meant to be a workhorse given the lowered cargo capacity at 766 kg and 2500 kg tow rating compared to the Wildtrak's 1120 kg and 3500 kg, respectively.
But it's still a versatile pick-up truck, nonetheless. And it just so happens to be comfortable, quiet, and quite efficient; in city driving I was getting 10.2 km/l (19 km/h average) and on the highway it's about 15.8 km/l easily. The Raptor has light steering and good high-speed road handling for its size. It's easy to park for a wide vehicle thanks to the sensors and camera, can easily clear most kinds of debris on the road, and it has all the features you'll need on a daily basis. And that's for a price of PhP 1,998,000; yeah, there was a price increase after a few months. Originally, Ford Philippines launched it at PhP 1,898,000.
Some may wonder why we didn't take the Raptor off-road, and that's because I've already driven it off-road and, of all places, it was in the very demanding dust bowl conditions of the Aussie outback. I would have wanted to really take it up to the sand dunes of Ilocos, but time didn't permit. Still, you can read about how the Raptor drives off-road in that article, but in a nutshell, this Ford is confidence inspiring when driven fast on the dirt. And when you play with the drive mode selector, including the drift-friendly Baja mode, you'll realize that the Raptor is one incredible machine.
It's a smile machine.