Ford’s new Raptor is an engineering feat - but a thirsty beast

Incredible off-road ability, but ultimately this is a toy rather than a practical pick-up

Ford Ranger Raptor

To be enraptured by the Ranger Raptor, you need land. Ideally plenty of it. You also need Nora on speed dial.

In these energy-chastened times, the National Oil Reserves Agency (Nora) should be notified when a Raptor takes to the road. During our time behind the wheel of this Ford pick-up we were averaging 16.2l/100km. In old money, that’s 17.5mpg, the sort of fuel economy you get from a Rolls-Royce or a Ferrari.

Welcome to the world of the performance pick-up. Think of it as a sport car swallowed by a farm vehicle.

Americana doesn’t get much deeper than cruising down a country road in a pick-up truck. The workhorse of US farms and Middle East war zones, this format has been making serious inroads into the Irish market in recent years, largely unnoticed by the occupiers of the environmental moral high ground who have instead set their sights on suburban SUVs.


Yet the sales stats tell a fascinating tale. An impressive 799 Ford Rangers have been registered so far this year. This means it has outsold the VW Golf (604). It’s just outside the top 20 best-selling models on the new car market.

Even more eyebrow-raising is that 56 of the newly registered Rangers were petrol-powered 3-litre V6 Raptors, each priced at €75,000 or more.

For that sort of cash, you’d expect something very special. In many ways, that’s what you get.

The Raptor isn’t just a load-lugging workhorse. Nor is it simply raw motoring muscle, despite what the Americana looks might suggest. There’s a serious amount of high-end engineering at work underneath that practical pick-up format.

The Raptor is a motoring anachronism. It’s massive, measuring in at nearly 5.5 metres long and just shy of two metres in height. You climb up on this car rather than sit into it. All the nearly 2.4 tonnes of its weight hangs out front, which should make it a mess to handle through bends. And it should bounce along like Tigger when its shy of a payload in the back.

Ford Ranger Raptor

None of this turns out to be true. Sure, it’s a big beast to slot into a city street parking space, but I’ve come across far smaller cars that made harder work of shopping centre car parks.

Out on the open road it can cruise along with all the other mile munchers, it keeps a general line in corners unless you do something really daft, and you don’t need to load breeze blocks into the back to keep the rear axle on the road.

Even the interior is largely similar to what you’d expect from a family Ford, with decent legroom in the back of the dual cab.

While its natural state is streaked with mud, there’s plenty of bling and facade about the Raptor as well

Yet it has some notable flaws. First off there are the tyres, designed for off-roading rather than long motorway treks. They may be ideal for rough and tumble off-roading, but they deliver a rough ride on regular roads. One passenger complained that travelling in the Ranger was making him car sick.

Yet tarmac is not its natural terrain. This Raptor is engineered to tackle deserts and muddy dirt tracks. Ford’s Performance division weren’t thinking of the M50 when they teamed up with suspension specialists Fox, a brand that has earned an envious reputation for top-end all-terrain suspension systems for everything from mountain bikes to behemoth pick-up trucks.

Ford Ranger Raptor

On the Raptor it has delivered a set of “live valve” dampers that respond to throttle and steering inputs to keep the cabin on an even keel by either stiffening or loosening the set-up in each bend. The end result is pretty incredible, delivering little bodyroll while soaking up even the biggest craterous pothole or mountainous bump without requiring you to let off. At times the Raptor defies the laws of physics in its capabilities. It makes many of the traditional work-orientated pick-ups or SUVs seem like tractors in comparison.

The 10-speed transmission is also matched to a front or four-wheel drive set-up with locking front and rear differentials. In all, there are seven drive modes offered, along with the options of two- or four-wheel drive. But you need some decent off-road terrain to really see this car in action.

While its natural state is streaked with mud, there’s plenty of bling and facade about the Raptor as well. In Dayglo orange, our test car had all the subtlety of a brick in your face, while for added fun – or the annoyance of others – you can adjust the sound emitted from the exhaust from a mild grunt to a teeth-rattling, menacing snarl. All from the touch of a button on the steering wheel.

The 3-litre V6 engine, matched to the 10-speed auto box, puts out a credible 288hp and manages to hit 100km/h from a standing start in 7.9 seconds. That’s not groundbreaking in the age of immediate electric torque, but for shifting this hulking lump of metal towards the horizon at that rate certainly feels fast.

This pick-up has practical appeal and is clearly winning favour with workers who opted for vans in the past

You can also send this orange rocket into orbit off a hilltop and be certain that when it returns to terra firma, you won’t have to rebuild your spine. And for the engineering coup de grace, the faster you tend to hit a bump, the more agile and adept this Raptor seems to deal with it.

There is no way you can ignore that thirst for fossil fuel though. If you are getting the most from your Raptor, you are definitely on first name terms with filling station staff.

This, combined with access to a fair amount of private land to actually put the Raptor through its paces, means it’s a plaything for posh farmers. A pretty practical one in terms of load (although the payload capacity is a mere 652kg), but more farm fun than farm machinery.

Away from the Raptor end of the Ranger line-up, this pick-up has practical appeal and is clearly winning favour with workers who opted for vans in the past. It is proving itself a sales success and others – notably VW with its Amarok – are well aware of the potential for growth in the Irish commercial vehicle fleet.

Ford Ranger Raptor

In the last decade or so, the pick-up has become a lot more polished and accomplished on the road, not to mention plusher inside. The Raptor adds serious performance perks to a pick-up. The fact that 56 of them have already been registered here shows that neither its sticker price nor its thirst deter well-heeled off-roaders.

Personally, for all its novelty, the Raptor is just an expensive toy that’s fun to play with but impossible to justify.

Lowdown: Ford Ranger Raptor

Power: 3-litre V6 petrol matched to 10-speed auto transmission putting out 288hp through four wheels, with the option of two or four-wheel drive with front and rear lock differentials

0-100km/h: 7.9 seconds

Official L/100km (mpg): 13.8 (20.5)

Price: €77,355 as tested (Ranger Raptor starts at €74,355)

Our rating: 3/5

Our verdict: An engineering feat, but really just a fun toy for the fortunate few

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times