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We let Ford’s eagerly anticipated off-road rocket spread its wings on dunes, dirt and blacktop to see just how capable this formidable-looking newcomer is...

For all of its hardebaarde connotations and braai-side bragging rights, off-roading requires a surprisingly delicate touch. Obstacles often need to be carefully negotiated with balanced applications of throttle and steering inputs, lest your 4x4 is unceremoniously bogged down in the mud or gutted by sharp rocks lurking just beneath your diffs. Even sand driving, where momentum is everything, can punish the ham-fisted with whinnying tyres and a resigned reach for the shovel to extract your now beached wheels.

But with the Ranger Raptor, Ford now prescribes a different modus operandi; all-out attack with pretty much any semblance of calculated off-roading obscured by high-revving engines, wakes marked with plumes of kicked-up sand and the occasional bit of airborne ridge-negotiation. Unlike the approach taken with the 336 kW V6 F-150 Raptor, the folks behind this apex 2,0-litre Ranger have instead opted to make their bakkie a nimble athlete. It’s a bold move, especially with a R100 000 premium over the already impressive 2,0-litre Wildtrak, and the all-too-common perception the only thing that should come in two litres is the bottle of Coke accompanying your brandy. But does a paucity of punch detract from the Raptor’s appeal? We took it and its more conventional Wildtrak stablemate over roads, dunes and dirt tracks to see if the wait was worthwhile.

Packaging

Going purely on design, it seems the wait was worth it. We’ve always considered the Ranger, especially in Wildtrak garb, an imposing slab of bakkie but the Raptor makes it look meek by comparison. Along with the block “Ford” lettering in the grille, Raptor decals and bulging wheelarches housing not only model-specific 17-inch rims shod with 285/70 R17 BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres – plus front and rear tracks 150 mm wider than those of the Wildtrak – the Raptor’s ride height has also been jacked up to 283 mm. That extra 46 mm of ground clearance may not sound like much, but park the two nose to nose and that height difference shows. Factor in chopped bumpers and underbody protection made from 2,3 mm steel, and the Raptor looks every bit the Baja racer.

And that’s exactly what Ford’s performance arm has aimed for. Changes underneath that muscular shell start with a ladder-frame chassis combining the Ranger’s front-end architecture and the Everest’s rear section; the latter accommodating a Watts linkage axle in lieu of the Wildtrak’s leaf-sprung tail. With suspension travel upped by 32% fore and 22% aft, this setup lends itself better to the rigours of high-speed off-roading and combines with additional chassis bracing to up torsional rigidity and check lateral movement.

As with the F-150 Raptor, Ford has turned to Fox Racing for the Ranger Raptor’s suspension setup. Double-tube racing shocks have been allied to the revised front wishbone suspension with coil-over springs out back. The inner lining of the front tubes features a line of oil-bleeding holes which close sequentially under compression, incrementally modulating the Raptor’s damping in response to whatever surfaces it’s traversing.

On-road

It’s this sophisticated system that immediately impresses with a compliant ride on tarmac bereft of wallow. Furthermore, the Raptor’s wide track makes it feel foot-sure and pleasingly composed under cornering. This is especially evident when the uprated, six-setting Ford Terrain Management System is in its sportier preset, rendering the variable-ratio electric power steering palpably more direct than the Wildtrak’s more benign helm.

Time on the tarmac also highlights the impressive levels of refinement served up by both cars. Even the bit of extra noise you’d expect from the Raptor’s knobbly tyres is well suppressed, albeit in part by synthesised engine sound lending the turbodiesel a warbling, off-beat tone. Indeed, you can settle back in wonderfully supportive sports seats and chip away at the miles without fatigue. Just beyond the steering wheel’s chunky leather rim, a pair of magnesium paddle shifters beg to be toggled. But with what’s sitting under the bonnet, their slow response on both up- and downshifts is understandable.

Drivetrain

While Ford’s engineers have had a field day with the Raptor’s underpinnings, the constraints of mechanical packaging and economy of scales see it share the company’s new 2,0-litre, four-cylinder sequential twinturbo-diesel engine with the Wildtrak. Yes, it’s exactly the same. The same reasonable 157 kW and 500 N.m of torque; the same GM co-developed 10-speed automatic transmission.

Looking at the Raptor’s hulking form, you do feel this concession sits astray of its perceived reputation. Our performance testing compounded this impression when the Wildtrak outstripped the Raptor in the 0-100 km/h run, clocking 10,10 seconds versus 10,94. A kerb weight that’s 166 kg north of the Wildtrak likely didn’t help acceleration off the mark, nor did it help bring the Raptor to a halt from 100 km/h any quicker, despite its uprated braking system with 332 mm discs all-round.

But the Raptor’s natural habitat isn’t a drag strip. The brilliant bowls of white sand in the Atlantis dunes is the perfect place for it to strut its stuff. Toggle the drivetrain-management system into its model-unique Baja setting and traction control intervention is kept to a minimum, while the gearbox adopts a more aggressive gearshift pattern. Then it’s a case of throwing caution to the wind and barrelling onto the sand. The large footprint afforded by those BF Goodrich tyres and that wide track make the most of what little traction is on offer.

You recalibrate your previously cautious off-roading approach; foot flat wherever you go, dismissive of most bumps and searching the landscape for a natural ramp. And when you find a suitable launch pad, the Raptor just begs to take wing. That chopped bumper and bumped-up ride height means you can approach inclines at a pace that would see other bakkies spearing their noses into the dune. Grit your teeth and feel the suspension hunker down as your momentum builds to the bottom of the ramp before seemingly springing the Raptor clear of the rise. The expected impact of the fast-approaching ground isn’t as jarring as you’d expect, owing to dampers tuned to retain their pre-flight compression and resist bucking the bakkie about on landing. It’s only when you’re climbing steeper slopes or trying to get a bit more height on the parabola you’re carving along a dune face that you feel a bit more power wouldn’t go amiss.

Having effortlessly attacked the sand in the Raptor, traversing the same terrain in the Wildtrak, with its more conventional footwear and suspension, brings into stark relief just what different creatures they are. The Wildtrak is a capable off-roader, of course, but the traction and effortless ability to skim over the sand that characterise the Raptor isn’t there. Without that purchase on loose surfaces, you have to take a more measured path through the sand, paying more attention to maintain momentum.

The Raptor carries this ability to confidently traverse rough terrain at speed onto dirt roads, too. The Wildtrak takes to loose gravel and rutted surfaces well enough but the Raptor’s broad tracks and supple suspension allow it to coast over bumps you’d skirt around in the Wildtrak. Driven back to back on dirt, the Raptor’s more settled nature and direct controls often see you confidently carrying upwards of 20 km/h more pace across rough roads than you would in its more stock sibling.
I remember my childhood days quite fondly. As an eight-year old, I was squished between my two big brothers, my small frame restrained only by the rudimentary lap belt provided by my mother's 190E. For hours and hours I'd sit there, acting as an armrest for my larger siblings. Sounds terrible, doesn't it?

Well no, not really. I used to love getting into the car, watching the scenery through the windscreen, wondering where we were and asking hundreds of questions about anything that aroused my curiosity. It may come as no surprise then, that at the age of 24, I still absolutely love road trips. The idea of taking a car onto the open road and absorbing all the sights and scenes is still immensely appealing.

So when the opportunity to do a road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg came my way, I snatched it with both hands. A full 2 303 km in Ford Rangers would be fantastic. Comfortable double-cab bakkies, with automatic gearboxes to make the job easier and a high seating position to enjoy the scenery being pushed past the windows. However, this wasn't just going to be any regular road trip. The entire journey was to be completed away from the velvety smooth tar of our national roads. Nearly each and every kilometre was to be travelled on gravel.

Upon arrival at Meerendal Wine Estate, the Rangers were lined up and ready to set off for the first leg. I decided to start the trip in the Ranger Wildtrack. With 157 kW and 500 N.m of torque, the Wildtrak would have no problem making steady progress on loose surfaces, especially with four-wheel drive engaged. Initially, the gravel roads just outside of Cape Town were reasonably smooth and easy to drive on. The Rangers, especially the Raptors, took everything in their stride, handling bumps and corrugations without fuss.

Our guide told us via radio that a stop was imminent. As we arrived in the small town of Moorreesburg, we entered a farm. There, the bakkies were all loaded with hay bales, which would be taken to a farmer in the Karoo where a drought had caused severe food shortages for farm animals. Interestingly, the hay bales further improved the road holding of the Rangers on the gravel roads, their weight pushing down on the rear wheels and aiding in cornering stability. Our first stop was Tankwa, one of the driest and possibly most desolate places in South Africa. To watch the sunset from the hill, low range was engaged and the Wildtrak scaled the incline with ease, as if it were crawling slowly in stop/start traffic.

The sun was up at 5:30 am and soon we needed to be on the move. Despite the day just starting, the temperature gauge read an alarming 25 degrees celcius. Day two saw myself and my driving partner switching to an XLT. While it shares its 2,0-litre engine with the Wildtrak and Raptor, the XLT has to make do with a single-turbo arrangement. While it may produce a modest 132 kW and 420 N.m of torque compared with the loftier figures available in the Wildtrak and Raptor variants, the XLT held its own, making impressive progress over the Ouberg Pass. Not a road to be scoffed at, it demands a capable four-wheel-drive vehicle with plenty of ground clearance. Even in the lowliest of Rangers, we tackled the pass with caution and ease, the electronics slowly guiding the XLT over rough terrain when needed. In fact, the only thing that did stop the Rangers were the pesky hay bales (sometimes the rough and rutted roads simply proved to too much for them).

After dropping off the hay bales, we set off to our lunch stop. As we approached Sutherland, something rather unexpected happened. A raindrop or two hit the windscreen. In most parts of the country, that's nothing to write home about but when you're in an area that hasn't seen rain in more than eight months, it's rather special. Once the drivers and Rangers were filled up, we set our sights on Nieu-Bethesda. The rain had turned the once dusty and rough gravel into a rather slippery, muddy road. Puddles formed in ditches, often spanning the width of the road. Our guide instructed us to adapt our driving styles to this foreign surface. Without the hay bales in the rear, this advice was even more important. Interestingly, to keep control through a large, deep puddle, you need to maintain speed. As the car dives into the water, it feels as if the entire vehicle is about to spin. While the mud and water washes over the car, and the automatic wipers fight to keep the windscreen clean, the four-wheel drive and traction control take charge of the situation and the South African-built bakkie is still pointing in the right direction. After a while, it even becomes fun.

On day three, we had a much easier journey. A mere 300 kilometres, but on far rougher roads. Adjusting our speed appropriately, we glided across the rutted surface, dodging Springboks and large stones in the road. Of course, this led to one or two tyre issues. Strangely, the Wildtrak I was piloting seemed to pick up a nail. With the help of our expert guides, this was plugged in no time. Unfortunately, one of the Raptors suffered a similar fate but needed a complete tyre change. This, too, was remedied in no time, and we were on the road again. The Wildtrak, as competent on gravel as it is, had to deal with a fairly loose back end, the smooth surface and fine dust proving a worthy adversary, trying to flick the Wildtrak off course every chance it got. By contrast, the Raptor ahead was as composed as a car could be in these conditions, shrugging off whatever the road ahead could throw at it. As we arrived at Otterskloof, the sun set on the Rangers, their bodywork and powertrains tinking away in exhaustion.

The last stretch was upon us. It was the final day, and the next stop was Johannesburg. Ahead of us was 800 kilometres of gravel, and I sure was thankful that I'd be in the Raptor. Employing the same engine as the Wildtrak, the Raptor has a trick or two more up its sleeve when compared with its lesser counterparts. Indeed, indpendent suspension and Fox shocks go a long way to making the Raptor the capable off-road machine it is. Surfaces that make other bakkies shudder go unnoticed in the Raptor, its compliant suspension soaking up the bumps and rattles so commonly associated with gravel driving. At times, it really does feel like the accomplished Raptor is driving along on tar. The way it deals with undulations and corrugations too, is a revelation. Puddles and standing water are waded through with ease, as if the Raptor is unstoppable. The standard Ranger XLT and Wildtrak are already competent on gravel, making the Raptor stand out just that much more.

As great as the vehicles were, this trip was about so much more. Being able to experience a road trip on gravel is certainly something I won't be forgetting any time soon, especially with all the natural beauty that constantly surrounded us. Much like the Rangers, our country surprised me and left me amazed by what it has to offer, by its natural beauty and ability to leave you in awe.

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: partial suede-cloth + leather
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: driver electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Hill descent control downhill brake control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Driver knee airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 7
  • Lane departure warning: std + lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: adaptive
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • CD player: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: 2
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear + load box
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Electric seat adjustment: driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: LED
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Towbar trailer hitch: Standard
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 964 km
  • Driven wheels: all
  • Driven wheels quantity: 4
  • All wheel drive: part-time
  • Gearratios quantity: 10
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Diff lock: rear
  • Front tyres: 285/70 R17
  • Reartyres: 285/70 R17
  • Spare wheel size full: alloy
  • Length: 5398 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 2028-2180 mm
  • Height: 1873 mm
  • Wheel base: 3220 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 283 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 12.9 m
  • Approach angle: 32.5
  • Break over ramp angle: 24.0
  • Departure angle: 24.0
  • Wading/fording (water crossing) depth: 850
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 2338 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 607
  • Gross weight (GVM): 3090 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 2500
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 80l
  • Fuel consumption average: 8.3 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 220g/km
  • Power maximum: 157 kW
  • Power maximum total: 157 kW
  • Power peak revs: 3750 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 67.2 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 500 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1500-2000 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 500 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 214 Nm/ton
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1996 cc
  • Engine size: 2.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 2.0TD
  • Engine + detail: 2.0 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 4
  • Warranty distance (km): 120000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 6
  • Service plan time (distance): 90000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 3
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Ford
  • Status: c
  • Segment: LCV
  • MMcode: 22032975
  • MMVariant: RANGER RAPTOR 2.0D BI-TURBO 4X4 A/T P/U D/C
  • MMintrodat: 2019-05-14
  • Introdate: 2019-05-14
  • DuoportarecordID: FordRang3Fd87

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