Western Cape – Since it’s highly anticipated local launch in late 2019 we’ve come to appreciate the unique and talented bakkie that the Ford Ranger Raptor turned out to be. It’s buff exterior design, supple suspension setup and all-round off-road capability clearly separated it from regular double-cab bakkie rivals. With the current Ford Ranger model reaching the end of its life cycle and the next-generation Ranger freshly revealed, a fitting farewell to the Blue Oval’s popular bakkie was due. That’s why we got to drive this, the Ford Ranger Raptor Special Edition (SE), from Cape Town International Airport to the Tankwa Karoo.
We left the airport in a fifteen-strong Raptor SE convoy, headed on to the N2 before taking the R300 and then merged with the N1 highway towards the Waboomskloof 4×4 trail in the Du Toitskloof area. Here we got to engage low-range and occasionally select the rear diff-lock while tackling a slow, steep, slipery and rocky obstacle course up the mountain side. The Raptor as expected completed the trail without a hiccup and was undoubtedly aided by the aggressive off-road biased 285/70/R17 General Grabber AT3 tyres. After turning around and heading back down the boulder-infested trail we then headed towards our final destination in the Tankwa Karoo. To get there we took the spectacular Gydo Pass where we could really get to experience the pleasing on-road handling characteristics of the Raptor along the bumpy and serpentine stretch of road. At Die Dorp Op Die Berg we eventually hooked a right towards Tankwa taking the narrow and undulating Katbakkies pass. After taking in the view of the barren land ahead we hit some longer high-speed gravel sections that seemingly disappeared into the horizon. It’s on these long and fast sections of gravel where the Raptor comes into its own offering immense stability while traveling at eye widening speeds. The 70 km leg of the R355 between the Tankwa Padstal and our overnight accommodation at the Tankwa tented camp was a pleasant gravel drive that the Raptor devoured and the only thing I could have hoped for was a more characterful engine.
The Ranger Raptor SE unfortunately does not have the new 3,0-litre V6 turbodiesel motor that we know the Raptor deserved in the first place. Although we would have loved to see the new locally-assembled engine debut here the SE remains with the same 157 kW and 500 N.m bi-turbo oil-burner as before. We’ve come to know this engine mated to Ford’s 10-speed automatic very well having experienced it in a variety of other Ford products including the Ranger Wildtrak, Thunder, Everest Limited, XLT and more recently the Ranger Stormtrak. It’s a known quantity that’s fit for purpose with strong rolling performance and despite the synthetic engine sounds that are played through the stereo under hard acceleration it’s an inoffensive mill. I got to rediscover its talents on the launch drive and was reminded of it’s accessible low-down grunt while on the 4×4 route and enjoyed the smooth and linear acceleration while out on the open road and gravel.
So, it’s still the impressive Raptor driving experience you’d expect and this SE model simply adds some extra features to justify its R950 200 price. The most notable new features are found over the load area which include a black roller shutter and sports hoop similar to the ones found on the Ranger Stromtrak. At the front you’ll find a black grille and bumper rather than the matte grey unit on the regular Raptor. There are also red recovery hooks and let’s not forget the black and red decals along the bonnet, sills and rear fenders that help it to stand out even further. Inside you get the same Raptor-grade interior with suede sports seats and all the gadgets and tech except the blue stitching from before is replaced with red to match the exterior racing stripes.
Whether or not you like the fact that Ford has launched numerous Ranger special editions, including this SE, there’s no doubt that the Raptor remains a deeply compelling off-road machine with class leading on-road manners. Now it has a lockable roller shutter so when you do engage Baja mode and head to the rocks and gravel in the middle of nowhere you won’t risk throwing your luggage all across the landscape. With that we cannot wait to experience what the next generation Ranger has to offer as this is one tough act to follow.
Price: R950 200
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Transmission: Ten-speed automatic
Power: 157 kW
Torque: 500 N.m
0-100 km/h: n/a
Top Speed: n/a
CO2: 220 g/km
Service plan: Optional six-year/90 000 km