“Oh crap.”

That's what I was muttering when the Ranger Raptor ground to a halt in the middle of the Sacobia River just outside of Clarkfield in Pampanga.

We were here for a media drive to test (nay, enjoy) the Raptor and the rest of Ford's mighty morphin' facelifted Rangers, driving the Raptor at speeds exceeding 60 km/h on the rocky, tricky and slippery lahar beds, and the Raptor decided to give up.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

The driver, fellow journalist Tribdino, was frantically trying to restart the engine, to no avail. I was just glad it wasn't me driving (last touch rule and all), but we weren't keen on staying stuck in a river, just as rain was pouring in the mountains upstream, threatening to refill Sacobia.

Maybe it was just the water messing with the electronics, but it doesn't matter; Ford haters will have a field day with this. F.O.R.D. they would say: Found On Road, Dead.

Our case was a little different: Found On River, Dead.

At least I can swim.

-

The day actually started fairly normally. Gather up in Quezon City, have some coffee, and head out for a drive.

The Ranger needs no introduction already. This generation of the Ranger, the T6, has been around since 2011. The selling points were easy: 2.2 and 3.2 liter engines, Wildtrak versions available, comfortable, high-tech (with voice command and all), and very capable with high payload capacities and claims of 800mm water wading, or fording... an essential quality in the post-Ondoy era.

2011 is a long time ago already. People were occupying Wall Street, the Space Shuttle was still around, and REM was only just breaking up. In car terms that's eons ago, and the competitors have clearly caught up, chipping away at the advantage that Ford had with a Ranger.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

Nope, it was no longer a spring chicken. And that's why Ford gave it a new face; a new look to join the unusual beauty contest of pick-up trucks, including the all-singing-and-dancing Ranger Raptor. In fact, when they debuted the Raptor, it was a dead ringer for quite a few of the customized F-150 Raptor-inspired models, especially with the FORD grille.

Looks are important in a brand conscious and style snob market such as ours, but in the realm of trucks turbodiesel capability is still king. Ford fans did find it confusing that they ditched the 5-cylinder 3.2-liter, retained the 2.2-liter 4-banger and added another, even smaller, 2.0-liter. And the smallest engine in the line is actually the top tier model.

That's the beauty of technology. Much in the same way that they can cram all the capabilities of computer into a smartphone, Ford pumped out 213 horsepower and 500 Newton-meters of torque from it. That's mega from a 2-liter turbodiesel with 4 cylinders, and outperforms the far larger 3.2-liter unit which only had 200 horsepower and 470 Newton-meters of torque. The output is clearly a result of Ford's diesel technology and tuning.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

On the NLEX, the 2.0 really performed as advertised in the Raptor. It's smooth, quiet, and capable, and the Fox shocks that were designed for extreme off-road use proved (as before in Australia) to be exceptional for comfort on-road. And they also put in a 10 speed automatic for the new models, a huge upgrade over the 6-speed automatic... at least on paper.

While I do like having quite a bit of technology in any vehicle, I'm still of the mind that Ford shouldn't have been so forward with the technology with a truck, even if it's the Raptor. Pushing a small engine to produce unnaturally strong power and torque figures, in my assessment, isn't ideal. The same goes for shoehorning a 10-speed auto.

These are trucks, and they're often put to work in hard conditions and potentially with overloaded beds. If I was in the R&D or product planning departments, I would have pushed for improving the performance and reliability of the 3.2-liter engine and refining the 6-speed as opposed to tossing them aside, instead of going for unique selling propositions like a 2.0 with 213 horsepower or class leading with 10 speeds. In my opinion, that decision to actively one-up the competition was probably one of the reasons behind the Powershift dual clutch problems.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

Regardless of what went on inside Ford's R&D, product planning, or even the boardroom, the Raptor is still fantastic on the open highway. Same goes for the regular Rangers. Once you do get the trucks up to speed, the gear hunting is minimal. The Raptor we're in is from the original batch, and it comes with those superb BFGoodrich KO2 tires. On the road it's exceptional once you realize it's actually all-terrain; blockier tires like that are expected to be much noisier than its highway tire (H/T) counterparts. And it's got grip to match, even when cornering at speed.

Once off the NLEX and SCTEX, we make our way to the Sacobia river; our base camp was actually located under that long bridge that spans it just past the Clark North exit. This isn't our first time in this area; we've been coming here for years because it's a test of off-road capability... and the endurance of the driver and passengers.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

The regular Ranger 4x4 models went off into the distance to an off-road course. Nothing new to report there really; they just demonstrated the approach angles, the hill descent control, and the other capabilities that we already know are built into these trucks. While they went away, we donned our helmets for the part we were really excited about: the Raptor on lahar.

When I first drove the Ranger Raptor, it was just outside of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. That desert-like drive was epic, and showed is the real capabilities they engineered into the vehicle to make it deserving of the Raptor name. But that was in the dry, on fairly smooth red dirt. Sacobia river was different: this is lahar, the volcanic sputum from Pinatubo so many years ago. It's doesn't compact well, and the streams of water makes it even softer and trickier. If that wasn't enough, it was rocky, with many jagged boulders hidden underneath. Think Titanic, but instead of icebergs, they were rocks. Now we know what the helmets are for.

I elected to drive second; all the better to observe from the back seat as Raymond (of Malaya) took out the Raptor with off-road boss Beeboy in the passenger seat, giving instructions. The Raptor is very capable of driving this course at 140 km/h, says our instructor. But that's with Baja (kind of like a drift mode) on and traction control off. For safety reasons, we were to keep it at 60 to 80 km/h, and with the TC on. It's a bit corny, but we did sign liability waivers for a reason.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

I won't exaggerate: the Ranger Raptor glides over the rocky lahar like a champ. The things they did to the chassis, the tires, and the Fox suspension really do work wonders. In a regular Wildtrak (which already has a good suspension system) we'd be begging to turn back after the first kilometer. What we did learn was that when the Raptor hit water at 60 km/h, the splash pattern took much of that spray forward and onto the windshield. There was so much spray that the wipers simply could not keep up. This would have been an awesome shot if we had a drone that had the automatic ability to follow the vehicle.

And then it happened.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

Halfway through the course and after a series of heavy bumps (remember the icebergs?) the Raptor sputtered to a halt with a veritable Christmas tree of lights flashing on the dash. The driver pushed the ignition, the 2.0 fires up, but dies soon after. Push it again, and the engine dies seconds after. We did this again and again, until I realized that the A/C was stalling the Raptor's engine after the restart. We turned off the A/C, started the engine, and it stayed on... but in limp mode, so we turned back to basecamp. Somehow, we killed a Raptor.

Once out of the vehicle, we examined it thoroughly. There were splashes of water in the engine bay, but nothing too serious. Maybe a bit of water got in where it wasn't supposed to like a sensor or some random exposed wire.

When we looked underneath, however, we realized the real problem: the lahar had fully ripped out the exhaust system.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

From the flexible pipe, that section of exhaust with the woven-like structure of wire, had been torn up. The exhaust was actually cut from right underneath where the shifter is. One of the other drivers found the pipe on the course later on. I wouldn't tally that up to vehicle though; any vehicle would have had the exhaust ripped apart under the same series of unfortunate events, but maybe a skid plate protecting that section would have been apt given the kind of drive we were on.

The other odd bit was the noise, or the lack of it. In a naturally aspirated gasoline engine, such damage would have been immediately noticeable: the noise level simply shoots up to the point that you'll need hearing protection. In the Raptor with its twin turbocharged engine, it was oddly quiet. Actually, it seemed even more quiet than before.

Eventually the Raptor got out of limp mode, and it was my turn to drive. I knew the Raptor was damaged beyond reasonable field repairs; the kind using either WD-40, zip ties, or duct tape, whichever the case may be, but that can't be helped now. Initial acceleration was alright; there's still some grunt at the bottom end (AKA: arangkada), but the top end (AKA: rekta) was completely gone. The reason behind that is the turbo (particularly the second turbo) requires back-pressure (not quite sure if that's the proper technical term) to work properly and generate the 213 horsepower it was rated for. With the exhaust system gone along with the back-pressure, it felt like we had about 150 horsepower max.

We drove the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor on lahar with the exhaust ripped out image

No matter though, as I can compensate for it using the paddles to short shift the 10-speed auto. I got it up to 80 km/h, but each splash of water slowed me down. That's the effect of the TCS system, and since I wasn't allowed to turn it off, you have to be a bit creative and use your right foot to “massage” throttle and coax the Raptor to go up higher. You don't just mash the throttle and pray, not to mention the traction, the lack of power, and the spray proved to be very limiting factors. Now I know why some Dakar rally cars have huge front splitters to deflect spray and dust.

Still, after some creative shifting, 100 km/h went by after a while, and we were really cruising fairly gracefully with the 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor. In some parts I think we even hit 120 km/h.

Just don't tell Beeboy. Or Ford.