Ford Ranger Raptor pickup (2019) review: what's that coming over the hill?

► Second generation of Ford’s immense Raptor pick-up
► Now with more befitting V6 petrol engine
► Indulgent, ostentatious but supremely capable
and fun

We loved the first generation of Ford Ranger Raptor. It was fun, a great example of what off-road engineers can do when unleashed and it thumbed its nose at the idea of being sensible. But we always felt there was a missed opportunity when it came to the engine, which was the bog-standard 2.0-litre diesel that featured in lesser Rangers.

This second generation sorts this by whacking in the sort of engine that is very rarely available in something this big and heavy – a 3.0-litre biturbo V6 petrol engine. Yep, you read that right. Not only a petrol engine in a truck, but a 292hp one with silly exhaust modes and a seeming disregard for most of the things that define a pick-up in the UK.

Although it is still some way short of the all-out nonsense that could theoretically be possible it still feels more befitting for what is essentially an off-road sports car to come with an engine of this sort.

Ford Ranger Raptor pickup (2019) review: what's that coming over the hill?

There are plenty of changes and upgrades to the Ranger Raptor beyond just the engine, though. The star of the show the first time around – the suspension – has been worked on, while there are a host of new tricks, including multiple driving settings and an interior that is very much not aimed at the sort of buyer that will balance a muddy toolbag on the front passenger seat.

As proof of the Raptor’s importance, this is the first version of the all-new Ranger, with the more sensible versions set to follow a few months later.

But does all the hardcore ability make up for the inevitably painful fuel economy, punchy purchase price and lack of tax-based benefits?

What’s new on the second generation Ford Ranger Raptor?

There is only so much you can do with the fundamental styling of a pick-up truck but Ford has done what it can within the three-box parameters. The standout elements are the beefed up bumpers, the bonnet hump, the 2.3mm-thick steel under-body bash plate and the functional air vents on the side and bonnet. It also sits higher than a standard Ranger, with chunky all-terrain tyres and there is a couple of bespoke colours to pick from – an orange and a grey, although the former seems much more suited to the Raptor’s overall attitude.

Ford Ranger Raptor pickup (2019) review: what's that coming over the hill?

Despite all the visual updates, the bigger changes are those hidden underneath. Apart from that engine, the suspension is the most unusual element, as it is unlike anything fitted to any other pick-up truck you can buy in the UK. Rather than the rugged leaf springs at the rear, the Ranger Raptor has a sophisticated set of 2.5-inch adjustable Fox shock absorbers all round.

These can be specified in a variety of different ways, thanks to the seven (yes, seven) different driving modes, three for on road driving and four for tackling off-road terrain.

Other elements that the modes tweak include the exhaust settings and throttle response, while both front and rear differentials can be locked. There is also a low-ratio gearbox and an off-road creep mode. In short, this thing has a whole host of features you might never need until you suddenly really need them.

So what is the Ford Ranger Raptor like on road?

Despite all its tricks, most of your journeys in a Ranger Raptor will at least start on road. It’s here that it is its most underwhelming. The sheer heft of the thing – it weighs 2454kg – means that even the upgraded engine doesn’t give it much in the way of speed as 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds. It feels quick-ish, but not raucously so.

Ford Ranger Raptor pickup (2019) review: what's that coming over the hill?

It all sounds rather subdued too, especially if you leave it in Normal mode, with the various exhaust modes all tempered so as to not annoy the neighbours or the lawmakers. Even in Baja mode (more on that later) it sounds nice rather than outrageous.

The benefit of all that suspension engineering wizardry is that the Ranger Raptor is about the best-riding pick-up truck you could hope for. It smooths out nasty road niggles and speed bumps without breaking stride. Which is little surprise really, given what it is capable of off road.

Tell us about the off road bits then…

Turn off the tarmac and the Ranger Raptor really starts to make sense. The four off-road modes – Rock crawl, Sand, Mud/Ruts and Baja – cover pretty much any terrain that you are likely to encounter.

Slotting it into the first three of these does various things with the settings and differentials, depending on what you need. You can also play around with the various settings, with clear and easily accessed menus on the large central screen.

It’s on this screen that you also get the various camera views from around the vehicle. The overhead one is handy for spotting any notable drop offs, while the forward facing one is particularly useful given how huge the bonnet is and how hard it is to see over it. The only oddity is that we’ve now been conditioned to expect a camera display on a central screen to be a rear-facing view, so you will have to reprogram your brain slightly on that front.

Ford Ranger Raptor pickup (2019) review: what's that coming over the hill?

The standard-fit all-terrain tyres, low-ratio gears, locking differentials and all-wheel drive will get you through pretty much anything. That said, we can’t comment on its ability in snow or mud, as our experiences were limited to a Spanish quarry on a dry day. It’s not totally infallible, as we did get stuck going up a steep slope but this was having lost momentum due to a slower vehicle ahead. We got going on our own, though, with a bit of rechoosing of lines.

More often than not it will be the Ranger’s size that prevents it from getting through some spots. This is a big vehicle, with a long wheelbase, and this means that you are likely to bump things or ground it from time to time if you want to go into really inaccessible spots.

But what about Baja mode?

The mode that really makes the Raptor stand out from, well, pretty much anything out there is the Baja mode, which lets you get a little taste of what it’s like to have your own off-road racing truck. You activate it courtesy of the rotary dial in the middle of the cabin, and it sets everything to maximum, including opening all the throttle valves to provide a soundtrack that, while not deafening, feels much more appropriate.

Ford Ranger Raptor pickup (2019) review: what's that coming over the hill?

This is the mode that allows you to cover ground at a pace that feels laughable. It soaks up the ruts and bumps on off-road tracks in a way that feels unreal, allowing you to hurl it around at a speed that you would be beyond brave to attempt in anything else. Our track was specially curated, but featured some hefty potholes and plenty of little lumps and bumps – 20-odd Raptors flying around in the hands of amateur wannabe rally drivers will do that to a surface.

It’ll give a little, too, so you can play around with the throttle and get the back end to step out and it will allow even the most ham-fisted of drivers to feel like a hero. As with the slow stuff, eventually physics will win over and everything will let go, but it will take a long time in something with this much grip.

One other trick that is bespoke to Baja mode is the anti-lag, which is able to keep the turbos spinning for around three seconds when you lift off in the corners, allowing you to keep momentum up when in full attack mode.

Enough of the driving, tell us about the jumping

The Ranger Raptor’s party trick, though, has always been its ability to get off the ground and land without breaking itself, or you. The engineers have been refining this ability and the new one is even better than before. Our route had a small-ish hump and hitting it at 50mph resulted in all four wheels getting of the ground.

Ford Ranger Raptor pickup (2019) review: what's that coming over the hill?

Any car could do that bit, but the impressive element was how it landed with minimal fuss and a bit of a ‘floomph’ rather than the jolt that even the first generation or Raptor produced. It is able to sense when the wheels no longer have contact with the ground and essentially go into brace mode, prepping the car for landing. The end result is so comfortable that we’d be hunting out places to test it again and again.

What else do I need to know?

There are downsides to all this, and they are, in one way or another, largely financial. The first factor is fuel economy, as using a big V6 petrol engine to power a truck that is this heavy is going to use a lot of petrol – the official economy is just 20.4mpg and you’d be doing well to get that if you spend as much time playing off road as you might want to.

Then there is the price, which is just shy of £60,000. The good news is that there is a generous kit list included as standard, which means you shouldn’t feel that you have been left wanting in any area. There are various bespoke touches to the interior, including the Raptor-specific seats, coloured details on the steering wheel and some dedicated switches that will link up to any external accessories that you wish to fit that require power.

It also comes with wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto and wireless charging, that 12-inch touchscreen with the latest Sync 4A infotainment system and plenty more. You won’t be left wanting.

The final bit of bad news is for those who are used to buying and running pick-up trucks. Unlike every other truck on sale in the UK, the Ranger Raptor is not officially classified as a commercial vehicle thanks to its payload. The Ford can only carry 652kg, and a pick-up needs to be able to carry 1000kg to qualify as a light commercial for tax purposes. This means you not only can’t reclaim the VAT on the purchase price, but you can’t run it on the van company vehicle tax rates, which are very favourable compared to the car equivalent.

All this means that if you do want to buy a Ranger Raptor you’ll have to really want to. Objectively there are better value propositions out there, but that is the case for any sports car. The Raptor is just that – a toy that you are unlikely to utilise to its full potential, but one that is highly entertaining even used to a fraction of that

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