As the Performance Blue Ford Ranger Raptor came back down to Earth with a thump and the long-travel Fox suspension deftly soaking up the impact, I wondered - where in the real world are you supposed to make the most of this thing? The launch of Ford’s burly pick-up in Morocco and its closed off-road courses were hilarious fun but tinged with the overall feeling that the average buyer would struggle to find anywhere to make the most of this impressive ability.
That’s why I’m now hacking around some green lanes in the decidedly less exotic environs of northern Cambridgeshire, in a Ranger Raptor which will be with Car Throttle for four months. Can we actually find anywhere to properly stretch its legs, or has the Raptor been compromised for the sake of making it better in the kind of environment you’ll never experience?
The Raptor, you see, is inspired by the beefed-up recce vehicles used for off-road competitions like the Baja 500. Its ladder chassis has been strengthened so it can take up to 1G of load without bending. There are 2.5-inch-thick Fox Racing dampers in each corner, increasing suspension travel by 32 per cent at the front and 18 per cent at the rear. The final main piece of the puzzle is a set of chunky BF Goodrich tyres.
All of this makes the Raptor heavier, less efficient and more expensive. A lot more expensive - it’s £51,000, which is £10,000 more than the priciest regular Ranger. And that’ll be a Ranger you can use as a commercial vehicle and claim the VAT back. No such luck with the Raptor - thanks to the new suspension, the strengthening, the underbody protection and some other bits, it’s 250kg heavier than its less burly siblings. That eats into its gross payload, so it can’t be classed as a commercial.
Sounds boring, this is important, as it takes away one of the biggest draws for UK pick-up buyers. You do at least get plenty of equipment for your money - the sole option on ‘our’ Raptor is Performance Blue paint (£700), and the standard features haven’t left us wanting for anything. Apart from a front camera, maybe - due to its sheer size, it isn’t the easiest thing to parallel park.
Over the next few months, we’ll attempt to find somewhere to make the most of the Raptor’s off-road nouse, see if the changes Ford Performance has made compromise daily useability, and learn to live with the less-than-spectacular 210bhp, 369lb ft 2.0-litre diesel engine.
And as ever, we want some reader input. Is there anything you want to know about the car or anything you’d like to see us do with it? Let us know in the comments.