The demise of the Fiesta and Focus in the US marked the end of Ford’s long-cherished but never-realized ambition to create a “world car” that could succeed in all global markets. Perhaps Ford should have concentrated on a “world truck” instead, a niche that the Ranger seems to have achieved. The Ranger is sold in no less than 180 countries. The outgoing version was the most popular pickup in Europe, which is where we had our first experience with the hotly anticipated new Ranger Raptor.
The Euro version has a lot in common with the upcoming American Ranger Raptor, which we expect to see next year, with the same styling and gravity-defying suspension with internal bypass dampers made by Fox Racing. Besides the fact that Rangers sold in Europe are manufactured in Thailand, while our version will be built in the good old USA, the big difference is that the American Raptor will get a more powerful engine.
This is because Europe is entering its own era of Malaise. There, the Ranger Raptor gets a detuned version of the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 from the Bronco Raptor, the pickup’s engine strangled by the need to meet tough new emissions standards. In Australia, where the Ranger Raptor was first introduced, its V-6 produces 392 horsepower and 430 pound-feet, but in Europe it will produce 288 horsepower and 362 pound-feet. We’ll have to wait for US specs, but it looks like our Raptor will have at least as much power as the Australian version—and possibly the full 418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of the Bronco Raptor. A 10-speed automatic transmission with a two-speed transfer case, plus locking front and rear differentials, will be standard in all markets.
The new Ranger’s fresh metalwork sits on the same T6 platform as the outgoing truck, and the Raptor uses a beefed-up version of that leather chassis. From the front, it really does look like a baby F-150, with LED headlights pushed to the edge of the body and a similarly screaming FORD grille motif. Like the F-150, it also has plastic wheel arch extensions and a wider track. Although large by European standards, the Ranger Raptor’s 211.0-inch overall length and 79.8-inch width make it 21.6 inches shorter than the F-150 version and 7.0 inches narrower. A crew cab is the standard configuration in Europe and has a 61.6-inch cargo bed.
The addition of some microfiber panels and colored accents elevates the Raptor’s cabin above the regular Ranger’s, but the plastics remain hard and usable. The 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster and 12.0-inch portrait-oriented central touchscreen both looked good. Ford’s SYNC 4A infotainment system works cleanly and intuitively, although we welcomed the continued presence of physical controls for heating and ventilation.
The Raptor’s center console has a blunt switch with a button on the side that engages manual mode—manual shifting is through the steering wheel paddles. A dial selects the drive modes and controls the transfer case, which has 2H, 4H, 4L and 4A settings—the last automatically sending power to the front axle when needed.
On-road refinement felt very impressive considering the Continental General Grabber A/T tires our truck wore. The Fox Racing shocks vary damping force according to both wheel movement and an adaptive valve, meaning the ride is soft and compliant at everyday speeds. Noise isolation was equally good at highway speeds, the Raptor’s cabin remaining quiet at a 75-mph cruise in normal mode—an unexpected virtue.
Steering weight feels heavier than in the F-150 Raptor, even in its lightest setting, but provides little feedback. There’s not much to talk about, given the front tires’ limited ability to deliver lateral grip on asphalt. The Ranger tracks straight and doesn’t wander, but while it feels stable at speed, it has little appetite for tighter turns. It doesn’t take much enthusiasm to push the front wide and the rear axle to tighten.
While much faster than the last-generation Ranger Raptor sold in Europe—which used a four-cylinder diesel engine and needed more than 10 seconds to reach 60 mph—the new one still feels somewhat short on speed. Ford of Europe quotes a 7.9-second zero-to-62-mph sprint. The transmission’s blunt responses in Drive also didn’t help boost confidence for passing moves. Selecting Sport mode improved responses but also added artificial weight to the electric power steering and introduced a booming exhaust note.
The Raptor’s exhaust has four different modes, including Normal, Sport, and a new Quiet setting for low-key deviations. There’s also a Baja mode that’s so noisy it comes with a dashboard admonition that it’s for off-road use only.
Driving the Ranger Raptor on a demanding off-road course quickly proved where its heart truly lies. It feels like a smaller version of the F-150 Raptor, slower but more torturous yet equally adept at taking on serious bumps at speed. The Ranger has 10 inches of travel in the front and 11.4 inches in the rear, which is less than the F-150 Raptor, but the engineering team says the smaller truck’s dampers work harder. Sensors monitor wheel movement at each corner, so the Raptor’s brain knows when its tires have left terra firma, at which point it stiffens the dampers to their firmest setting to lock in for impact. Hitting a big bump at speed proved the truck could fly and – more importantly – land without unnecessary drama.
Yet it was on more technically challenging terrain that the Ranger Raptor impressed the most. Ford’s claimed 10.4 inches of ground clearance and a 32-degree approach angle may not come close to the Bronco Raptor’s 13.1 inches and 47 degrees, but the pickup’s numbers are better than those for a coil-sprung Land Rover Defender 90. The Raptor also has a Rock Crawl mode that automatically maintains a crawl speed as it climbs a steeply graded dry stream bed without any throttle input. The electronically locking front and rear differentials can also be quickly engaged and disengaged—though the icons that control them on the touchscreen are small and hard to locate when the truck is bouncing over rough terrain.
The Ranger Raptor is smaller than its F-150 sibling, and the European version is significantly slower, but it doesn’t feel like any less of an experience when driven hard over demanding terrain. We await the arrival of our own tweaked version with great enthusiasm.
2023 Ford Ranger Raptor (Europe)
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, Rear/4 Wheel Drive, 5-Passenger, 4-Door Pickup
Base: $72,000 (UK $ equivalent, including VAT)
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 180 inches32956 cm3
Power: 288 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 362 lb-ft @ 2300 rpm
Wheelbase: 128.7 inches
Length: 211.0 inches
Width: 79.8 inches
Height: 75.8 inches
Passenger volume: 99 feet3
Bed length: 61.6 inches
Combat weight (C/D east): 5300 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D IS)
60 mph: 7.5 sec
1/4-mile: 15.4 sec
Top speed: 111 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D IS)
Combined/City/Highway: 17/17/18 (but won’t be EPA-rated)
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