Certain people insist that supercars are pointless. You’ll know the sort of person I mean - you show them the latest and greatest performance machine to grace the road, and the best reaction they can muster is “where are you supposed to do 200mph when the speed limit is 70?” Sigh.
Begrudgingly, these types do, to an extent, have a point. The likes of the McLaren 765LT and Ferrari F8 really don’t need over 700bhp - such outputs make moments of wide-open throttle frustratingly short on the road. But the fact is there are plenty of places to make the most of these monsters. You can get as close as possible to the top speed at an event like VMax, or feel the full force of its acceleration out of a corner at a track day knowing you won’t have to back off again after a second or two.
The same can’t be said for the Ranger Raptor. Ford says it’s been built to tackle rough terrain all the way up to its top speed of 105mph, which is why the frame can take an additional 1G of load, and the reason you’ll find long-travel, 2.5-inch thick Fox Racing dampers at each corner. Really taxing this car, then, is easier said than done.
As we pointed out when driving the car on the press launch a little while back, you’re not supposed to charge along the UK’s ‘green lanes’ (unpaved public highways, which can be pretty gnarly) at speed, and most dedicated off-road play centres limit you to walking pace. Yes, you could potter around at lower speeds in the Raptor, but that’s not its forte. If outright mud-plugging ability is what you want, something like a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon will do more.
What the Raptor wants to be doing is bouncing off the kind of terrain seen on the Baja 500 off-road race. This car was inspired by the modified production pick-ups used as recce vehicles for such events, and as such, it seems to have been designed for someone living in rural Utah or Nevada, not East Anglia. Ironic, given that the Ranger Raptor isn’t available in the USA, although the next-generation version will be.
On the sodden, deeply rutted green lane we shot a Ranger Thunder and ‘our’ Raptor longtermer on last year, the increased ground clearance did stop the latter bottoming out as much as the former, but the main differentiator was the tyres. Stick a set of the Raptor’s BF Goodrich A/T tyres on a normal Ranger (as many owners seem to do, I’ve noticed) and most of your realistic mud-plugging needs will be catered for.
The knowledge of the Raptor’s capabilities versus my absent opportunities to test them to the max was a constant frustration throughout my four months running one. The beefed-up Ranger was a great car to live with, but most of the attributes I liked are present in any derivative from the line-up, including the much lower-specced XL we switched to for a few weeks when the loan ended.
The versatility of a pick-up load bed, the impressive (for a pick-up) refinement and the pleasant cabin - it’s all there in this Ranger that costs £20,000 less. And that’s before you’ve claimed the VAT back as a commercial user, something you can’t do with a Raptor.
Regardless, I still missed the Raptor like crazy when it went back. I missed the sight of its widened arches, its clearly visible bash guard and its lofty stance. Yes, it’s a heavier, less economical and more expensive because of all those upgrades which you’ll make the most of, but there’s something satisfying about bimbling over to the local supermarket knowing you’re in a vehicle that could easily enter a rally raid and live to tell the tale.
It’s probably Ford’s most pointless car, and one of the silliest things you can buy. Yes, perhaps even more unnecessary than a supercar. Which is the very reason I want one.