2023 Ford Ranger Raptor review – Australian launch (video)

Brett Davis

Now here’s a vehicle with a sense of humour. It’s the new, 2023 Ford Ranger Raptor. Just look at it. It’s like a cartoon truck. But in reality, it’s actually one of the most advanced and versatile utes currently on the market.

As before, it is based on the Australian-developed T6 platform. And as before, the Raptor comes with serious suspension and hardware modifications to give it Baja rally-ready capability. Such changes do come at a cost though, with sacrifices to payload and towing capacities over the regular Ranger.

Prices for the new model start from $85,490, which makes it about $5000 more expensive than the last of the last-gen Raptors, the Raptor X (it started from $79,390). We think the mild price hike compared with the old model is more than justified, albeit being a high figure to begin with.

2023 Ford Ranger Raptor – THE SPECS

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol
Output: 292kW@5650rpm / 583Nm@3500rpm
10-speed auto
Drive type: Part-time RWD/4WD, locking front & rear diff
0-100km/h (PD tested): 5.73 (Sport mode [RWD]), 5.99 (Baja mode [4WD])
Tare weight: 2422kg
Official fuel economy: 11.5L/100km
Starting price: $85,490

2023 Ford Ranger Raptor – THE PACKAGE

The new Ranger is filled to the brim with on-board technology and gadgets, and Ford has obviously taken in plenty of customer feedback to ensure maximum practicality and convenience remains an underlying quality. And it’s the same with the Raptor. It really does come with everything you could want and need, whether you want to use this is a family car or daily workhorse. Or weekend party bus, for that matter.

Inside, there’s a pair of fighter-jet-inspired seats (F22 Raptor, apparently), splashes of red around the dash and for the stitching, while the dash houses the new 12-inch vertical touch-screen supporting wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Raptor also comes with a thumping 10-speaker B&O sound system as standard.

In our opinion the main screen layout is a little bit confusing, as many ‘pages’ and functions often roll down or up, concealing whatever screen you had running prior. We’d like a more centralised home menu area. Aside from that though, the graphics are superb and the sheer amount of content is just nuts.

Hit the off-road button down on the centre console and it prompts the hardcore drive modes and options. It also provides a direct feed from the front-mounted camera so you can see where you’re going, with easy access to the front and rear differential locks and hill descent control right there on the screen. The screen also displays the full surround-view camera system, fitted as standard, when parking.

Passenger space is good and the driving position is much better than before. You’ve now got more steering column adjustment allowing you to really snuggle into these waist-grabbing sports seats. It’s a similar story in the back, with rear climate vents, cup holders on a flip-down armrest and a charging port on offer. The rear bench is sculpted a bit like the front seats too, so the whole family can go rallying.

Due to a switch to coil-spring suspension at the back, from leaf springs in the regular Ranger, and the installation of Fox Racing Live-Valve 2.5 shocks, the payload and towing capacities are reduced. This offers a payload of 708kg and a braked towing maximum of 2500kg (down from 3500kg). But that’s just a compromise you have to make for the sake of off-road performance, and increased comfort, actually (more on that below).

2023 Ford Ranger Raptor – THE DRIVE

One of the key attractions to this new model has got to be the engine. It finally gets the power it deserves. It might not be appealing to look at, but under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol ‘EcoBoost’ V6 engine. It produces 292kW at 5650rpm, and 583Nm at 3500rpm. As you can see, peak torque is not spread across a wide band but it does sit right in the middle of the rev range.

Out on the road you can hear the engine, almost all the time. There are four different exhaust modes to choose from, including a Quiet mode. However, at idle, they all sound pretty similar (see our video below). It’s not until you dial up some revs that you’ll hear the differences. Even in the default Normal mode you can definitely tell this is not your average Ranger. This sounds angry and sporty, like a European sports car in some ways.

Power delivery is strong and there is good low-end pick up. Although it’s hard to spot any turbo-lag the 10-speed auto transmission is probably the main delay. Sometimes, if you kick it in the guts, it takes a while to automatically kick down, especially if you’re already travelling at around 60km/h. In fact, it often remains in a high gear and simply leans on the torque to get moving. And it does get moving.

We ran some 0-100km/h tests on a quiet backroad, which was flat and dry. According to our Racelogic Vbox Sport the best time was 5.73 seconds, and that was in Sport mode in 2H rear-wheel drive. We also tried it in Baja mode, which locks the front and rear diffs and engages 4WD. It scored 5.99 seconds. However, you cannot drive around on tarmac in Baja mode as it will put a lot of pressure on the locked diffs (we only ran it in a straight line and then switched straight back to 2H).

At under six seconds this is a quick vehicle. Especially for a 2422kg ute. According to our performance results database it is the quickest ute we’ve ever tested. These sorts of times have been experienced in vehicles such as the new Subaru WRX manual (5.93), the Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus (5.63), and not far off the last Holden Commodore SSV Redline V8 ute (5.29). You won’t be disappointed, put it that way.

The other main attraction to the Raptor is the modified underpinnings. Ford engineers have made reinforcements to the chassis but the Fox suspension is an absolute gem. The dampers incorporate something called Live-Valve technology, which basically means the shocks are not only active but proactive.

They monitor inputs at up to 500 times per second, making fine adjustments as you go and as you hit bumps and undulations. On the road it is very comfortable. There’s none of that bumpiness you might be accustomed to in a ute. It rides like a quality SUV. However, off the road the control and stability is just amazing. Sideways, sliding into ruts and mounds, the vehicle remains directionally planted and predictable. It even handles jumps without bottoming-out.

The new setup is position-sensitive, like before, so it can adjust on-the-go if you’re carrying a load, for example. However, now the shocks are also velocity-sensitive, so they can prepare for impacts immediately based on the movement speed, and not simply wait for the damper to reach a certain compression level. Very clever stuff.

Also helping off road are the set of standard BG Goodrich all-terrain tyres, measuring 285/70, mounted on 17-inch alloy wheels – you can even option for beadlock-compatible rims as well. The tyres bite the dirt firmly, offering excellent traction on various terrain types. On the road there is a bit of roar, but it is more than tolerable. You’ll probably notice the sound of the engine before you hear the tyres.

Interestingly, despite featuring a high-performance, fairly high-revving engine, the powertrain incorporates a two-speed transfer case with low range. So you can still tackle really tough, slow-speed climbs and descents. The ground clearance is rated at a whopping 272mm, with a water wading depth of 850mm. It can basically take on anything you throw at it, offering a higher level of capability than any regular Ranger.

2023 Ford Ranger Raptor – THE VIDEO

2023 Ford Ranger Raptor – THE VERDICT

Look, obviously this cartoonish ute is not for everyone. It’s very big and can be difficult to park in tight spots. The engine can be quite loud and somewhat obnoxious, while the big chunky tyres are going to be expensive to replace and they are not primarily designed for on-road driving.

However, we can’t think of any other vehicle – including other vehicle types – that offers such a high level of off-road energy, fun and capability. You can literally go rallying in this thing straight out of the box – we did. And it takes it all in its stride without a hiccup.

It smashes over ruts and moguls, barges through thick mud, and climbs slow technical obstacles with finesse. Yet, give it a wash and it becomes a respectable (sort of) family car or piece of evening transport. And it goes like a sports car. It has to be one of the most versatile vehicles currently on the market.

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