The 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor is not available in America, the land of wide parking spots and wider-open spaces where wild trucks can roam free. Instead, this angry off-roader comes to England. Roads are tight, getting off-road isn’t simply a matter of “oh look, a desert,” and slinging mud from all-terrain tires is generally frowned upon here.
Somehow, we managed to have fun with the thing anyway.
(Full Disclosure: The team at Ford wanted me to drive the Raptor so bad I was invited to a hotel on the outskirts of the adorably named village of Bepton in the UK. They fed me, watered me, and took pictures of me driving the new Range Raptor because they’re nice like that.)
As an Englishman, the American penchant for pickups has always mystified me. They’re big, have a large, exposed load bay in the rear, and the interiors range from “grim” to “grim with shiny bits on.” As far as something to use as a car, they appear to offer the worst of two worlds: illogical family car, overdressed load lugger.
At a water park in Tulsa I once saw a lady and her children climb down from an F-650, a vehicle so needlessly large I was stunned into rare silence. To my tea-drinking mind, they’re just a bit cack.
However, I do think they’re cool. This may be because in the UK we basically don’t get them. Trucks being used as cars simply isn’t a thing.
OK, if you’re a tradesman or a farmer, pickup trucks make sense. But drive to most towns and you won’t see one. We have vans over here, or wagons. This means that when you do see a pickup, it’s a special day. They usually come with big, overly masculine names like Barbarian, Ultraviolence, or Gun, and that appeals to my inner 12-year-old.
They’re never usually all that fast, often powered by a torquey but slow diesel motor, but that rarely matters because they’re pickups–tools, rather than trinkets. And that means they’re going to be able to go up dirtier tracks than a Range Rover, and have scuffs and mud all over the inside. As I said: cool.
Unsurprisingly, Ford doesn’t sell the F-150 in England. It’s too big, too silly, too much for our tastes. That’s a shame purely because I’ve only ever heard good things about the full-sized Raptor. As you well know, the Raptor is the truck you get if you want to compete in a desert race on your way home from work.
Ford does, however, sell the Ranger here. It’s a smaller, more sanitized, diesel truck. You can have one with a single, or double cab, and varying degrees of luxury. It’s a decent way to get around–it’ll go up muddy things and it’s just fine on the road.
Now though, there’s a Raptor version which means a toughened up exterior, Fox Racing shocks, beefier brakes, chunky BF Goodrich tires, six drive modes, and a big ol’ bash plate under the car so you can scrape a rock without tearing the bottom apart. I went to drive it to see whether it was pointless, cool, or pointlessly cool. Oh, and whether it actually makes any sort of sense.
The UK was not designed around the car. It also wasn’t modified to accommodate them when they became the best way to get around. As such, our roads are narrow, parking spaces skinny, and finding somewhere to park is increasingly challenging.
The Ranger Raptor is, by UK standards, quite large. At 212 inches long, and over 85 inches wide (yes, really), it owns every space it finds itself in. Park it in a field and you won’t notice the trees lining it–the Raptor seems like the biggest thing around. Stick it in a supermarket car park, there is no supermarket, only Raptor. Threading it through a country lane can make bits of you pucker, while tight city streets may well lead you to create the world’s next great swear word.
It fares better on wider roads, its presence causes cars you wish to overtake to simply get out of the way lest they think they’re about to be eaten. You don’t get that in a Range Rover. You get called a tosser. Part of this is because Ford’s designers made it look so chuffing angry compared to the fairly unremarkable stock model. Every angle of it wants to devour you.
The big plastic F-O-R-D on the front is brash, its wide arches show that it’ll climb a mountain and punch a goat square in the face just for fun, and its rear is big and boxy with a soft close tailgate that could contain all manner of things capable of squishing any small French hatchback that dares get too close. In a country where small hatchbacks are de rigueur, the Ranger Raptor is a predator. Or even THE Predator. Shoulder gun and heat vision included.
Thing is, it’s not especially quick. So you’ll be eternally grateful for the scared saps who leap out of your way–its takes a while to build up speed in this vehicle. Where the F-150 Raptor gets a 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6, the Ranger gets a turbocharged 2.0 four-cylinder diesel.
It produces a “dizzying” 210 BHP and 369 lb-ft of torque. The zero to 62 mph time, according to Ford, is 10.5 seconds, and it’ll crack 106 mph if you have room to hold the tall pedal down long enough. As it weighs a hulking 5,141 pounds, it’s got a lot of weight for a diddy engine to lug around. Though Ford promises it’ll manage 26.4 mpg during mixed driving, which is nice.
On the road it’s pleasant. You sit high, so you can see other people and obstacles. Thanks to its large, slabby sides you can easily place it on the road, and if you do cock up a turn in town mounting the kerb isn’t an issue anyway.
On the highway there’s a bit of wind noise to contend with, but not so much you have to raise your voice to talk to your passengers. Its motor is pretty quiet too, so on a cruise you don’t have to worry about errant drones making your journey a misery. Steering is light, and makes the Raptor easy to place. I’d say it’s a little too light in its standard mode, but for people looking to transport stuff in and around the city giving their arms a break at the wheel will likely be welcome.
You’d hope that with all that turbo torque the dinky 2.0-liter diesel would be rather quick off the line, but in reality it’s a touch sluggish because the thing’s so damn heavy. Prod the gas and it takes a while to find its momentum. Once you’re going, it’s all gravy. Stopping is pretty rad, with smooth and direct pedal progression. You won’t find the brakes jarring at all.
Off-road is where it really shines, though. You’re not likely to find anything approaching Baja style conditions in the UK, but you can still have some fun with it. Baja mode sets the Raptor up for some pretty serious abuse, and really sets it alive. It lets the Raptor slip a little more in the dirt, which means you can play with it to your heart’s content. Though on the narrow tracks in the south of the UK the margin for mistakes is... narrow.
Like America’s full-fat F-150 Raptor, there are more off-road modes to use: 2H for rear-wheel drive fun, 4H for four-wheel drive traction and 4L for slower, tougher stuff. In 2H, with the traction control turned off it’ll do a hell of a rolling burnout off-road, and spectacularly big slides. This is a good thing.
Thanks to its tall ride height, you can send it over pretty much anything–tree stumps, ruts, pot holes big enough to sink a small town–and it won’t complain. In fact, the slower you go the worse the ride gets. When you’re giving it stick the Fox Racing shocks do their thing and make the ride almost serene. Well… as serene as you can get ragging it over nasty forest tracks.
Driving it at speed on the road isn’t exactly what I’d call a delight–there’s a bit of lean and you start to feel its weight and size in the bends. You can’t win ’em all.
It’s angry, it’s almost too big for the roads over here, and it’s not that quick. But it will take pretty much anything you’ll likely encounter in the wilds of the UK’s various off road spaces.
Is it pointless or cool though? Well… in Performance Blue it looks badass and you’ll certainly be noticed whether you’re on or off road. But it’s big, it’s brazenfaced, and it’s a little bit Monster Energy for the day to day. Those who need a pickup and want something a bit different will dig it, and love its potential abilities (though won’t likely ever fulfill them). For the rest of us? It’s a thing to admire and lust after, but we’ll not likely take the plunge because pickups aren’t really a thing in Europe... and this isn’t the one to change that. Like most car guys we talk a big game, but at a little over $60,000 it’s not a casual game to play.
Much like few personal trucks you see bumbling around the highways and byways of the UK it’ll be cool to spot one, but I’ll always quietly wonder what the point of it really is. And and the same time I’ll always want one, because... look at it. It’s just cool.