From the April 2018 issue
The Ford F-150 Raptor is one of the most entertaining vehicles on the market today, as much giddy fun in its element as a sports car is on a track. But it’s also surprisingly well rounded. It is simultaneously a toy, an effective tool for hauling as much as 1200 pounds or towing up to 8000, and, with its spacious cabin and cushy ride, a perfectly comfortable—albeit enormous—vehicle for daily use. Given the breadth of its skill set, the Raptor is also something of a bargain, starting at just $51,415.
Now imagine it at a slightly smaller scale. Actually, you don’t have to. The Ranger, Ford’s dormant mid-size pickup, will relaunch in the U.S. next year, but ahead of the start of sales, Ford introduced the Ranger Raptor in Bangkok, Thailand. A step-for-step downsizing of the F-150 version, the newest Raptor isn’t yet confirmed for sale here, but Ford would be foolish not to bring this brute stateside.
Ford's ultimate Ranger is poised to do many Raptor things as well as its big brother does, and one thing even better: fit down tight trails.
As with the F-150 Raptor, its Ranger-based sibling is built for high-speed off-road work. That means a long-travel suspension and Fox internal-bypass dampers. The latter pieces ramp up damping force at the extremes of compression and rebound, improving control during acute suspension events. The independent front suspension employs forged-aluminum upper control arms and cast-aluminum lowers. The coil-sprung rear benefits from a Watt’s linkage that locates the live axle laterally and features an electronically controlled locking differential. Ford hasn’t released suspension-travel figures for the littler Raptor yet, but as on the full-size version, longer control arms push a significant increase in track width, here up 5.9 inches both front and rear over the standard Ranger. Ground clearance is also up 1.8 inches, to 11.1.
For the Asia-Pacific markets where it’s being launched, the Ranger Raptor will be powered by a sequentially turbocharged diesel 2.0-liter inline-four. We’re certain it won’t be under the hood of the U.S.-market truck. The 10-speed automatic behind it is the same unit that will serve in the rest of the Ranger lineup on our shores, so we don’t expect that to change. While we’d like to see what Ford could do with its twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 in the mini Raptor, Ford hasn’t offered a V-6 in the Ranger since it discontinued American sales in 2011. As the revived U.S. version is largely based on the same Ranger that’s been sold continuously around the world since then, reengineering the platform for a V-6 likely would be a significant undertaking.
All other Rangers sold here will use Ford’s turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, which could very well power the Raptor, too. Something close to the 350 horsepower this engine makes in the Focus RS would allow the smaller truck to match the big Raptor’s desert-scorching pace. The brand that put versions of the same V-6 in its $450,000-plus GT supercar and the most boisterous, badass pickup on the market seems unlikely to have many quibbles regarding cylinder count in, well, anything.
The side steps are unique to the Ranger Raptor and are there not only to help you get inside, but to keep debris kicked up by the front tires from sandblasting the rear fenders.
There’s not a lot of fresh thinking apparent in the modifications Ford made to the Ranger’s styling, but we’re not complaining. The puffed-out fenders and block-letter grille look just as gnarly on the Ranger as they do on the F-150. And here, as on the bigger truck, Ford’s designers didn’t even try to integrate the headlamps and taillamps into the bulging bodywork. Sinking the lights into fender pockets as if they were chocolate chips in an underbaked cookie exaggerates the truck’s width in a way that more gracefully integrated lamps never could. The Ranger even rides on six-spoke wheels that look identical to the F-150 Raptor’s. Its 285/70R-17 BFGoodrich rubber is 1.2 inches narrower than its big brother’s but, at 33 inches tall, gives this truck bragging rights over Chevrolet’s mid-size off-road special, the Colorado ZR2, which rides on mere 31s.
This Raptor’s approach angle of 32.5 degrees bests the Chevy Colorado ZR2’s by 2.5. The Ford also has a half-degree edge in breakover and departure angles, at 24.0 degrees each.
From inside, it’s easy to see where Ford’s design dollars went: outside. This is true of both the F-150 Raptor and the Ranger-based truck. The latter picks up the red centering stripe at the top of the steering wheel, as well as the magnesium shift paddles, from the bigger Raptor. New seats with revised padding and suede inserts are intended to keep occupants comfortable and in place while the driver is doing things that would keep his mother awake at night. Perhaps the blue contrast stitching and “Raptor” embroidery in the seatbacks—just like in the you know what—could convince her that this is all just an aesthetic exercise.
The Ranger Raptor doesn’t get the amber identification lights across its grille like its big brother because it isn’t wide enough to need them.
Officially, Ford isn’t going to sell the Ranger Raptor in the U.S. Officially, it’s not not selling it here, either. Also officially, the spokesminions say Ford is currently focused on launching the regular Ranger, which will go on sale in early 2019. But there’s little doubt that Raptor Jr. would kill on our shores. The mid-size-truck class is going strong, with the General Motors twins—the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon—combining for more than 145,000 sales in each of the last two years. In its heyday, the Ranger regularly surpassed 200,000 units a year and hit a high of nearly 350,000 in 1999. And while Ford won’t quote volumes for the F-150 Raptor, sales have increased every year the truck has been on sale. At the Ranger Raptor’s unveiling in Bangkok, Ford’s global performance-vehicle chief engineer, Jamal Hameedi, was quoted by Australian website drive.com.au as calling Raptors “a slam dunk” for the U.S. We figure the Ranger Raptor will be here in 2021 or ’22. And we’re as giddy as anyone.