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Ford Ranger Raptor – Fighting extinction

Like the velociraptor, cars such as the Ford Ranger Raptor will eventually become extinct. Until then, all we can do is enjoy them as best we can.

The name is what gets you first. Raptor. Kudos to the person at Ford who had the idea, as half the sale is done – I mean, who would not want to drive something named after a super-fast, super-bad dinosaur?

The name Raptor was first applied to the Ford F-150 and not the Ranger, but the F-150 is not sold in Europe so the only Raptor we get is this. One of the most curious things about it is that, however big it is – and believe me, it is very big at 5.40m long – the Ranger is considered just a medium-sized pick-up in the States!

What exactly is the Ranger Raptor then? Easy: it’s the performance version of the standard Ranger pick-up, a sportier iteration of a car that began life without any sporting pretensions whatsoever but ended up being the closest any normal driver can dream of being on the Paris-Dakar when taking the kids to school.

The first series came out in 2019 with a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 220 horse-power. It was not very fast but the boxy look, the flared arches and the incredible off-road ability started building a certain reputation for the model. A very good reputation.

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Owners fell in love with their cars and journalists and youtubers began giving the Raptor a lot of space in print and online media. The Raptor, a car very few people actually need, was suddenly an object of desire. Urbanites living in the middle of busy cities bought one because they wanted one; beach residents bought one because they wanted one; suburban dads bought one because they wanted one. You see my point: almost everybody wanted one.

What also happened was a lot of potential customers who lusted for a Raptor didn’t take the jump because a diesel engine is not as appealing as a petrol unit, and they knew there was a petrol engine in a Ranger Raptor in the US – so they waited and hoped Ford would eventually bring it to Europe. Now, there are two ways to look at it: one, they lost a few years not enjoying what was already a magnificent car; two, good things come to those who wait, and a very good thing has come this time – the desired petrol-engined Raptor.

The second series Ranger Raptor follows the same recipe as the first one but ditches the oil burner for a 3-litre Ecoboost V6 petrol that gives it that last little bit of specialness it was missing.

The Raptor was developed in Australia to be a Baja-style performance truck that would be the closest thing a road driver would get to a rally-raid machine for daily use. It nailed its brief spot-on. It’s an enormous super truck built with the same focused mindset that Toyota used to build the GR Yaris. For old-style petrolheads, fans of world-class engineering and pure mechanical solutions, not big screens and capacitive buttons, these cars are something to cherish and admire as they get rarer and rarer. Extinction is inevitable, but for now they are still available.

The Raptor can do things no other road car on sale in Europe can and I never even went anywhere near its limit. All the time I felt it teasing me, asking for a little more throttle, a little more steering angle but, mainly, asking for a more challenging road. This is a fantastic machine capable of amazing things and thoroughly over-engineered for 99% of the time. Customers will almost never use it the way it was intended by the people at Ford.

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The Raptor has two locking differentials, a very advanced electronically controlled four-wheel drive system with transfer gearing and comes with 265mm of ground clearance, a ladder frame and 70-profile off-road tyres. It is not a car for the faint of heart, those who want to go by unnoticed or unbothered by the next guy at the petrol station – because the Raptor is a subject of many a conversation with strangers who want to know more about it.

In the US, it has 405 horse-power, but in Europe, Ford decided 288 ponies were enough and easier to homologate. Having never driven the 405 horse-power version, I found 288 to generate enough grunt to make the Raptor a hoot to drive in all situations. Yes, it does drink quite a lot of petrol, but I don’t think anyone is really worried about that in this case. I certainly am not.

It also costs over €80,000, so not everyone can afford it. Still, the Raptor has been a big commercial success for Ford and an even bigger success in terms of brand image. A very well-deserved success.

The Raptor should be celebrated as one of the last great hurrahs of the combustion era. I wish I had an enormous estate where I could build an off-road trail and play with it every single day.

If nothing else, it’s a car to make us dream and we need those now more than ever.

Guilherme Marques

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