Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
We drive the US-only Ford Bronco Raptor.

What we like

Awesome performance Huge capability Rugged looks

What we don’t

Cramped back seat Complex removeable roof system Not available in Australia – yet

What we like

Awesome performance Huge capability Rugged looks

What we don’t

Cramped back seat Complex removeable roof system Not available in Australia – yet

f you’re the kind of person who really suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out), you may want to stop reading now. But if you love high-performance, highly-capable off-roaders, then you’ll want to stick around.

This is because the Ford Bronco Raptor is an incredible vehicle that’s not available in Australia – at least for now. For those unfamiliar with the Bronco, it’s Ford’s answer to the Jeep Wrangler, a rugged SUV that comes with removable doors and roof for the ultimate open-air off-road experience.

While the Wrangler is a niche off-road offering, there’s an argument the Bronco would be a more appealing proposition in Australia. The key reason for this is because under the retro-inspired exterior is the same basic ‘T6’ platform that is used for the incredibly popular Ranger ute and Everest SUV in Australia.

The Bronco Raptor is obviously the range-topping model, loaded with the same high-performance upgrades as the Ranger Raptor. Ford bills it as the “desert-racing, rock-crawling… most powerful street-legal” Bronco ever built – which means expectations are high.

Ford management recently left the door open for the Bronco to potentially make its way down under in the future, hinting that if the right-hand drive F-150 program is a success it could lead to more low-volume projects and the Bronco would seemingly be at the head of that list.  

CarsGuide was able to sample the Bronco Raptor in the US recently to see what it could offer Australian audiences.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The Bronco Raptor is priced from US$73,780 in its domestic market, which is almost US$20,000 above the Bronco Wildtrak in the range. It’s an expansive line-up of Broncos in the US, running all the way from the Base model through to the Raptor with dramatically named Big Bend, Black Diamond, Badlands and Everglades models in-between.

The Raptor comes well-equipped for the money, although there are some oddities because of its open-air nature. For example, despite the big price tag the seats are trimmed in marine-grade vinyl as standard and come with manual adjustment, but you can option power-adjustable, leather-trimmed seats if you plan to keep the doors on when off-roading.

Other standard features include a seven-speaker sound system with Ford’s ‘SYNC4’ multimedia system running through a 12.0-inch centrally-mounted touchscreen; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; keyless entry and ignition; 12.0-inch digital instrument cluster; unique rubber floor mats; and cargo area protector.  

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
Inside is a 12.0-inch centrally-mounted touchscreen. 

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

The design of the Bronco is a great example of a retro-inspired vehicle but with equal focus on functionality. While not a famous model here, in the US the Bronco is an icon that dates back to the mid-1960s.

Its original intention was to give Ford a rival to the likes of the Jeep CJ-5 and Toyota LandCruiser, so off-road performance has always been at the heart of the Bronco. By the mid-1990s, though, it had evolved into a bigger, heavier, F-150-based SUV and was dropped from the range in 1996.  

So, when the design team looked to bring it back they focused on the Bronco’s glory days in the ‘60s and ‘70s, even laser-scanning the 1976 Bronco owned by then Ford design boss Moray Callum.

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The Bronco Raptor gets a unique graphic package as an optional extra.

That’s why the new Bronco has a big, bold grille, flared fenders and an angular, chunky silhouette. There’s also the removable roof and doors, which matches what Jeep offers with the Wrangler, and provides the kind of open-air adventure that US audiences seemingly love.

The Raptor takes the Bronco to the next level with a noticeably more aggressive look – or “badass” as Bronco design chief, Paul Wraith prefers to call it.

It swaps the ‘Bronco’ lettering on the grille for a bigger ‘F-O-R-D’ and gets unique front and rear wheel arches and fenders which make it 248mm wider than the standard Bronco.

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The design of the Bronco is a great example of a retro-inspired vehicle.

For better off-road protection and performance, there are reinforced rock rails with removable running boards.

Like the Ranger, the Bronco Raptor gets a unique graphic package as an optional extra. It’s the same ‘splatter’ graphic we see on the locally-available ute, so the family connection between the Ranger and Bronco Raptors is obvious.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The standard Bronco is available in either a two- or four-door body styles, but the Raptor is only available in the bigger size. The Raptor also comes exclusively with the removable hardtop, instead of the soft-top available on lower-grade models.

The roof comes off in three panels that cover the seating area and there’s the four piece that sits over the boot. This fourth element is very large and doesn’t fit inside the car, so you’ll need to store it safely at home before you drive.

Removing the front portion of the roof is meant to be a one-person job with L-shaped locks that twist open and allow you to lift the two panels off one-at-a-time. There’s a bag in the boot that can secure to the rear-seat headrests and cargo clips.

The rear roof panel and boot is a much bigger job and requires two people, and a socket wrench. 

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The Raptor comes exclusively with the removable hardtop.

Door removal requires both a 13mm socket and a ratchet but each one comes with its own protective bag. All four doors can fit inside the boot, as long as you put them in a specific order and it does require the rear seats to be in their most upright position, plus it means there’s no room for anything else.

In other words, you can drive the Raptor with the wind flowing through the Bronco, but you’ll need to plan ahead.

The cabin has rubber floors and drain plugs – as well as the marine-grade vinyl seats – so if you do go off-roading without the roof and doors you can wash the cabin out.

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The front seats are comfortable and supportive.

Once inside the Bronco you’ll notice some similarities with other Ford models in terms of design elements and switchgear, but it’s a unique machine without a blue oval logo in sight and instead the famous ‘Bucking Bronco’ logo is on the steering wheel and gear shifter.

There are some clever design touches, too, that will allow owners to make the best of the Bronco for their own purposes, including a range of auxiliary switches that are ready to go as well as a mounting bolt for a GoPro camera or other similar accessory. 

As for occupant space, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the rear space is relatively tight. There’s respectable headroom but knee room is tight for adults, which is surprising given how big the Bronco appears from the outside.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The Bronco Raptor has the same powertrain as the Ranger Raptor, a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. However, the US model gets a more potent tune, making 311kW of power and 597Nm of torque, compared to the Ranger’s 292kW/583Nm.

But that’s only part of the drivetrain story for the Bronco Raptor, because Ford has a long and proud history in desert off-road racing in the USA and that inspired the design of this latest model. Ford says the four-wheel drive system has been inspired by its racing experience and its limited edition, competition-only Bronco Desert Racer vehicle which is built by the same team behind the Ford GT supercar.

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 produces 311kW/597Nm.

The Bronco Raptor gets a semi-float Dana 50 Heavy-Duty AdvanTEK axle with 235-millimetre ring gear at the rear, while at the front there’s a Dana 44 AdvanTEK front-drive unit which includes upgraded half-shafts with a 210-millimetre ring gear.

Thanks to these enhancements the track of the Bronco Raptor is 218mm wider than the entry-level model in the range for a bigger footprint off-road. The Raptor also sits higher than the standard Bronco, with a minimum ground clearance of 332mm.

Other upgrades for the Raptor’s four-wheel drive system includes a new, higher-capacity clutch that Ford says has been designed to “withstand the demands of high-performance desert events”, plus there’s an upgraded transfer case to further improve its rock-crawling ability.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

A high performance off-roader with chunky aerodynamics is not the combination for a frugal car. So it’s unsurprising the Bronco returns a 15-litres per 100km rating on the US EPA cycle, which is noticeably worse than the 11.5L/100km (WLTP) claim from the Ranger Raptor.

The Bronco Raptor does have a fuel tank capacity of 80-litres though, which should give you approximately 500km of range between trips to the bowser.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

Being a US-based model the Bronco doesn’t have an ANCAP rating, nor has it been crash test rated by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It does have good on-paper specifications, with stability control, roll stability control, autonomous emergency braking, a lane-keeping system, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree camera system. However, active cruise control is an optional extra as part of package up upgrades.

There are front and side airbags, too, plus a unique feature for the Bronco thanks to its removable roof. The ‘safety canopy’ are airbags mounted in the roof side rail section above both rows of seats. These deploy if the vehicle detects a roll-over or in a side impact to protect occupants in both rows, even if the roof panels are removed.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

In the US the Bronco is covered by a three-year/58,000km warranty for the car but a five-year/96,000km warranty for the powertrain. 

There’s also no included service plan for the Bronco in the US market.

Obviously, though, if the vehicle ever makes it to Australia it’s highly probable that it would at least get Ford Australia’s five-year/unlimited km warranty – but that’s a potential future problem.

What’s it like to drive?   9/10

We were fortunate enough to sample a few Bronco variants on the same day, including the recently-added Everglades model that’s powered by the 2.3-litre four-cylinder ‘EcoBoost’ engine. This gave us some context for the extra performance the Bronco Raptor brings. 

And it does bring plenty of extra punch. Just like the new Ranger Raptor is significantly quicker than the previous 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine is an excellent engine. 

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The off-road performance compromises on-road handling.

While some will still miss the fact it’s not a V8, in reality this new EcoBoost V6 does almost everything a V8 can and does so more efficiently. It has the same raspy exhaust note as the Ranger Raptor, too, which suits the sporty, aggressive nature of the Bronco to a tee.

The two Fords also share a similar suspension set-up but there are some key changes. The Bronco is fitted with what Ford calls its ‘H.O.S.S. 4.0’ set-up, which stands for High-speed Off-road Suspension System. This is made up of Fox race-ready, 3.1-inch internal bypass semi-active dampers that allow the Bronco Raptor to soak up bumps at high-speed or crawl and articulate over rocks and through ruts at low speed. For comparison, the Ranger Raptor has a similar but slightly different system, with Fox Shocks with 2.5-inch internal bypass dampers.

The Raptor rides on 17-inch alloy wheels with 37-inch all-terrain tyres (with the option to swap to beadlock-capable wheels – either cast or forged aluminium – instead).

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The Raptor is fitted with 37-inch all-terrain tyres.

Like the Ranger, these big knobby tyres offer excellent off-road performance but do compromise on-road handling. They can struggle for grip and don’t feel as sure-footed as a specific road tyre – but that is the trade-off for the Bronco Raptor’s off-road prowess.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to drive it off-road but its on-paper credentials are strong because it’s loaded with seemingly every piece of equipment to help that Ford makes. There are heavy-duty underbody steel bash plates, unique splash guards and the Raptor gets Ford Performance-designed front and rear control arms for superior wheel travel.

Ford Bronco Raptor 2023 review
The Bronco is fitted with High-speed Off-road Suspension System (H.O.S.S. 4.0).

Ford claims the Raptor has a 47.2-degree approach angle, 30.8-degree breakover angle and 40.5-degree departure angle. As previously mentioned it has a minimum ground clearance of 332mm and a maximum water wading depth of 939mm.

Then there’s the hi-tech elements, what Ford calls its ‘Terrain Management System’ with ‘G.O.A.T. Modes’ – which stands for ‘Goes Over Any Terrain’. The clever acronym is the name for the seven driving modes – ‘Normal’, ‘Slippery’, ‘Tow/Haul’, ‘Sport’, ‘Off-Road’, ‘Rock Crawl’ and ‘Baja’.

All are self-explanatory and alter the various settings within the powertrain and suspension to cater for each condition. Baja is the same high-speed off-road mode that’s used on the Ranger Raptor, and is arguably the mode that really separates Ford’s off-roaders from anything else on the market today.

Verdict

If Ford is seriously going to consider any more models for low-volume, right-hand drive conversion in the same vein as the upcoming F-150 program, the Bronco Raptor should be a prime candidate. It has the kind of performance and capability that would appeal to the local audience, while also offering something different to the existing Ranger Raptor.

It’s an amazingly potent performance SUV, but also has the rugged, off-road capability with its plethora of upgrades and enhancements.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.

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