DRIVEN: Ford Ranger Raptor SE is in a league of its own
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When it comes to high-speed dirt road travelling Ford’s Ranger Raptor is in a league of its own. It’s damn good too on rocky technical trails and gobbles up smooth tar with ease.
It needs no introduction, having taken the segment by storm since it was launched, with more than 2 500 sold.
Now, the blue oval has added a few nice-to-haves to spruce it up a bit before the new Ranger range starts to roll off the local Silverton plant production line next year.
They've called it the Ford Raptor SE (special edition). While it would be instantaneously recognisable should it find itself in a double cab line-up, the cosmetic changes do add a nice touch.
We know that South Africans love a bakkie that’s been refreshed with a couple of decals and some zoosh additions to make it stand out from the standard fare. Like the Ford Ranger Thunder, which had an initial limited run of 1 000 and ended up with more than 2 000 being sold, I have no doubt that the Raptor SE will head in a similar direction.
It gets twin parallel stripes with red etches that run from the front of the bonnet to the middle of the roof and then finishes on the tailgate, giving it an almost Shelby Cobra logo look as it bends around the Ford logo and tailgate handle.
It has the black sports hoop found on the Wildtrak and the loadbay and gets a manual Mountain Top black roller shutter that adds a reassuring cover for valuable items.
Matte black fender trims, grille and door handles and red recovery hooks finish off the exterior look.
Subtle changes to the cabin set it apart from the “standard” Raptor, with red stitching on the steering wheel, instrument panel and door cards and a Special Edition-only raceway grey instrument panel.
All the underpinnings, engine, drivetrain, sublime Fox suspension, 17-inch rims with 35-inch rubber and protective plates remain. Why change a good thing?
We got the opportunity to put it through its paces in the Western Cape. I included a rocky technical off-road trail and long dirt roads into the Tankwa Karoo.
The Raptor is designed and built from the ground up as a heavily off-road biased vehicle, so the specially designed chassis, 283mm of ground clearance, 32.5 degree approach angle, 24 degree breakover and departure angle, 850mm wading depth and rear differential lock make it highly capable when you leave the black stuff.
The trail we drove included some serious obstacles with large rocks, loose sand and two streams, all of which you would encounter on a weekend away to drive a 4x4 track.
With the setting in rock mode, the Ford Ranger Raptor SE made short work of the challenges. Choosing a more difficult line while using a bit more of the 2.0-litre bi-turbo’s 157kW and 500Nm, it revelled in the challenges.
While there might have been a few tense moments with the side steps scraping, they are made to be rock sliders and, from experience, I can say that they are strong enough to carry the weight of the vehicle.
Heading to the Tankwa Karoo, you’re reminded what a comfortable on-road experience the Raptor is, with the seats keeping you supported in all the right places, the automatic 10-speed gearbox keeping you at the national speed limit and the Sync3 infotainment system playing your favourite tunes.
Heading to the Tankwa Tented Camp with its almost Mad Max/Quinton Tarrentino appeal with an average rainfall of 80mm on a wide dirt road that’s in better condition than many tar roads across the country, the Raptor comes into its own.
With the setting on gravel (and occasionally Baja mode) and using the paddles to change gears, the Raptor is unsurpassed in the sector. Everything combines perfectly to give you an incredible driving experience. The star of the show was undoubtedly the coil-sprung rear axle, Fox dampers and aluminum control arms combined with decent wheel travel.
It’s perfectly weighted for the kind of speed that would send any other double cab into a panic with bumps in the road becoming an excuse to see how much airtime is possible.
That’s why the Raptor stands apart from the competition, even within its own stable. It’s the ultimate lifestyle bakkie that combines off-road prowess as well as comfortable cruising on tar and dirt no matter the distance.
So, Ford, how about a V6 option when the New Ranger hits the streets?
The Ford Ranger Raptor SE comes with a four-year/120 000km warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty.
A six-year/90 000km service plan is included which covers six services.
Ranger Raptor: R920 300
Ranger Raptor SE: R965 300