26 September 2023

Winner, Winner, Aussie Dinner

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By Paul Gover.

When the Ford Ranger Raptor conquered the toughest off-road race in the USA – the Baja 1000 – it brought major kudos to Australia.

That’s because the Raptor, like every Ranger, has its roots down under.

The Ford workhorse might be built in Thailand, where labour and power is cheap and there is a duty-free deal for imports, but it’s as Aussie as the old Falcon.

Ranger sales have erupted since the arrival of the all-new model at the end of last year – even if there have been some quality problems, most notably with tail-shafts.

It’s the Raptor which has set the pace, not just for Ranger sales but also for its pick-up rivals.

The Toyota HiLux might have been Australia’s favourite ‘car’ last year, but no-one should bet against the Ranger taking #1 in 2023.

There are plenty of reasons, from the most car-like driving feel in the pick-up class to impressive quality, a big infotainment screen, and little tweaks including a small step at the back of the load bed to help with access to the tray.

The Ranger Raptor is something special, not just because it costs $92,000 – yes, really, and that’s before on-road costs – to park one in the driveway.

It has brilliant suspension from a company called Fox, which made its name doing motocross bikes, and 3-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engine. There are also oversized off-road tyres and sports seats and big flared guards.

The Raptor was developed to be a speedy beast on gravel roads and desert dunes, for people who buy their work/play pick-up mostly for play.

When it completed the 1000 miles in Baja, with no modifications beyond essential safety stuff, it proved the package was truly a step up from other pick-ups.

It is, in reality, the modern equivalent to one of the Ford Performance Vehicles packages developed for the Falcon.

Driving the Raptor, even on the road, is more enjoyable than you might expect.

The suspension is surprisingly plush, the engine has instant urge and a sweet exhaust note, and the cabin is well equipped with leather trim on the sports seats, comfortable and nicely finished.

It even has flappy paddles behind the steering wheel for manual shifts on the 10-speed automatic gearbox; and the four-wheel drive system was not bothered by any of my off-road driving.

It’s a car to reward yourself.

Of course, it’s not all happiness and light.

The Raptor only has 2.5-tonne towing, down from the 3.5 on the rest of the range, and the fuel economy is not great. It also won’t run as long between refuels as the diesel models in the Ranger line-up.

And then there is the price-tag – which is very very expensive for something that began its life as a work truck.

Then again, if you feel the need – and you know somewhere like Baja here in Australia – it is pretty much untouchable.


Position: top-level sports pick-up

Price: $92,000

Engine: 3-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol

Power: 292kW/538Nm

Transmission: 10-speed auto, four-wheel drive

Plus: brilliant suspension, sporty feel, Raptor badge

Minus: lightweight towing, can be thirsty, expensive

THE TICK: a winner.

Score: 9/10

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