Living the dream: new Raptor mixes the mad with the mundane
Beefed-up pick-up is excellent on road but is it worth €64,000 price tag?
Let yourself be transported for a few moments to a desert somewhere, or perhaps the dust-strewn plains of the American Midwest. The sun is beaming, there's an oven-baked wind skirting the cacti. But you don't care; it doesn't bother you. You're at the wheel of a motoring monster and you are absolutely thundering along regardless of climate or terrain.
That's the sort of near-surreal picture conjured for me by this week's review car.
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I can't see the sense of it for too many Irish buyers, to be honest, yet I'm told as many as 100 are expected to buy one next year.
It's ridiculously powerful, quite large and expensive. But fascinating.
Say hello to the Raptor version of the Ford Ranger, a large pick-up with a twin cabin, load area, high towing capacity front and rear and all the macho stuff you could dream of.
Its real claim to fame, however, is that it has been technically elevated to super-performance status by a team of specialist engineers.
The Ranger itself is a big-selling workhorse that gets people, businesses and semi-state companies over rough terrain and to remote parts in the course of their everyday lives.
This Raptor version (it's more a major mutation than a mere upgrade) beefs up that capability - thanks to extensive re-engineering by the brand's Performance arm.
All is designed to pump in additional appeal to thrill-seekers who can afford to spend €64,000 on a car such as this to drive their outdoor lifestyles as well, one presumes, as doing the everyday mundane business.
This thing, Ford says, can tackle the harshest off-road terrain at speed. It's programmed for an array of underfoot conditions. Driving modes include normal, sport, grass/gravel/snow, mud/sand, rock and 'Baja' for high-speed off-road performance. The on-and-off-road speed bit I can guess at from my tarmac driving, but there was no way I could remotely try it out in the sort of underfoot conditions it boasts it can handle.
I was so sorry I couldn't take it where it belongs; I had to make do with a feeble attempt over a few rutted, dry 'off-road' stretches. They'd be rough for many a motor, but mere pimples for the Raptor.
It was a bit like asking a plough horse to pull a pram; ridiculously easy and no challenge for a go-anywhere vehicle with its substantially strengthened chassis, specific suspension, massive tyres, mighty muscular looks and terrain management system.
Driving the show was a bi-turbo version of Ford's 2-litre EcoBlue diesel engine. It pumps a smooth but noticeable 213PS. And there is a 10-speed auto gearbox so you can cruise on the highway at low engine revs. It kicked down fairly quickly for overtaking, too; one passenger asked that I take things a little easier.
There were practical good and bad things about the Raptor. I became supersensitive to parking slots - this fills out conventional ones and you need loads of space out front to turn and manoeuvre or you'll dent an already parked car.
And at least one of my passengers had difficulty alighting and leaving the cabin such is the stretch to ground level.
We were lucky we had good weather; the running board/skirting along the lower flanks was dry. I wouldn't fancy my chances with good clothes escaping unscathed if there was mud or dirt because it is such a long way to terra firma.
A real upside was the amount of rear-seat passenger space. One particularly tall fellow traveller was quite comfortable (albeit after the front seat passenger moved the seat forward a bit).
Overall, it was a big and extremely comfortable cabin.
For all the boasts and claims about it being able to take tough terrain in its stride, it was exceptionally good on the road.
That has to do, in part, with the race-bred suspension and track that is 150mm wider than the ordinary Ranger. It was really well planted for such a large motor. It has a 51mm taller ride height than the conventional Ranger and 283mm ground clearance as well as 850mm wading depth should you wish to take to the water as well.
Of course, I wouldn't buy it. This is not a car for my mostly city/suburban driving, though the on-road comfort is excellent.
It's a bit mad and different and despite the price, they expect 60 to 80 here to buy one this year and up to 100 next as I've said.
The first batch has already been sold out. Seems to me some people are living the dream.
Facts & Figures
Ford Ranger Raptor pick-up:
2-litre EcoBlue 213PS diesel, double cab, 10spd auto; 0-100kmh in 10 seconds, 8.9 l/100km, 233 g/km; 2,500kg towing capacity, 620kg payload; terrain management system, 17in x 8.5in alloys, leather and suede trim, electric driver/passenger seats, dual-zone air con, navigation centre.
Spread of passive/active safety equipment.
Price from €63,950.