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If there ever was one truly complete ride with a far ranging breadth of ability that encompasses almost everything you can think of doing on four wheels, it would be the Ford Ranger Raptor. It is the one ride you can take to a race rally, haul stuff for your business or work, bring out of town, go camping, or simply take a nice cruise for the sake of driving, regardless of road and weather conditions. I have always been critical of Ford in the past, but the Raptor literally blew me away. I run out of both superlatives and expletives (in amazement) thinking about how fantastic it is to drive. 

The Raptor’s key ingredients are its impressive bi-turbo 2.0 liter CRDi engine producing 210hp and 500 Newton-Meters of twist action. This is partnered with Ford’s latest super-fast shifting and now ubiquitous 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission which is also used on the F150, the Expedition, the Mustang and the upcoming Ford Bronco. But the Raptor’s piece de resistance, the FOX Long-Travel Suspension is the real source of ride magic. Never have I tried a suspension so good, so complete, so well-sorted previously, it makes me wonder why it’s not standard on ALL cars, Ford or otherwise.

The Raptor utilizes coils on all four corners with a Watt’s Linkage designed for massive jumps and bumps in lieu of traditional leaf springs, but towing capacity is limited to a meagre 2,500kg versus 3,400kg for regular Rangers.The FOX Suspension is the Raptor’s “clutch” player: with 30 percent more suspension stroke and travel than a regular Ranger, it helps keep everything cool and composed so you can really keep the pedal flat to the floor, engine singing happily, transmission shifting smoothly, and surprisingly for a pick-up, a steering feel that is just as good and as capable. The brakes are more than a match for the engine, delivering powerful, fade-free and well-modulated stopping prowess. On the highway, you use the noticeable roll to feel the grip levels on the Raptor and the massive Goodyear all-terrain tires, sized 285/70R17 (or 33 inches if you measure things the “English” way) have surprisingly amazing grip on both paved surfaces, and when there’s almost no decent surface to speak of. On the highway, it rides really smoothly. CALAX, with its purely concrete surface can be very choppy on even high-end luxury and sports cars but the Raptor simply soaks up the uneven ripples of the road. On winding roads going up Tagaytay, the suspension comes alive and literally transforms the Raptor to something straddling the lines of a powerful heavyweight MMA fighter mixed with the grace and fluidity of a ballerina, overtaking slower cars with gusto. 

But it is on the off-road trails where the Raptor is truly in its element.

The Terrain Response Software nicked from JLR really makes off-roading the Raptor almost like a walk-in-the-park even for green horns like me: it doesn’t require a very high skill level. I had the chance take another Raptor on the Mayton River Farm trail in Rizal. From huge rocky trails, to tall grass, river crossings well above a meter, and reversing up a very steep, wet and muddy trail to avoid getting trapped, the Raptor simply lapped it all up and was egging me on to dish out even more difficult tasks for it. Never in my life have I had so much enjoyment in wet, wild and muddy conditions. It’s also massively improved from the last Ranger I drove: seating position is excellent, very car-like versus its predecessor, the T6 generation. There’s good feel, feedback and progression from the brakes, long-travel throttle and steering wheel.

The FORD SYNC multimedia interface offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reverse camera, and parking sensors front and back. LED headlights are now available on the latest models, plus ABS-EBD brakes with emergency autonomous braking, traction/stability control, a rear differential-lock when you really wanna go rock ‘n’ roll mud-plugging and four airbags. It boasts that all important 285mm ground clearance, a conservatively-rated 800mm flood wading depth (I personally have done over a meter crossing rivers while off-roading), a 22.7 break-over angle for clearing big obstacles with its long wheelbase, and a 27.9 approach and 25.2 departure angle, you know it’s ready for anything you can throw at it out of the box. Turning radius however is a large 6.45 meters; its competitors are all close to 6 meters flat.

Complaints? None. About the only thing I don’t like is the P1.998 million price tag. I’ve heard rumors of the 10R80 overheating in traffic and high-load/low-speed off-roading, but I never experienced it, but it seems to be something the aftermarket can help solve, or at least mitigate significantly.Sports truck, rally truck, work-horse or fun-run blaster, the Ranger Raptor is the real king of the pick-up mountain. No other pick-up will ever get you as worked up.

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