Simon Johnson climbs out of the camouflaged Ford Ranger Raptor with the red Alice Springs dust swirling behind him. Removing his racing helmet, the Vehicle Dynamics Lead has a grin from ear to ear….
“Wow. People are going to be able to buy this?”
Johnson and his team had just come off the back of a Desert Endurance Test – 1,600 km at full race speed on tracks where the engineers had deliberately sought out whoops, jumps and chatter bumps to push the then-secret Ford Ranger Raptor to its limits. One of the very first to experience the Ranger Raptor’s ride, Johnson understood early on that Ford had created a whole new class of off-road vehicle.
“I’ve pushed the Ranger Raptor far harder than any customer is likely to push, and I’ve been absolutely stunned by how capable this vehicle is. It’s incredible to drive and so easy to place into corners. It has some fantastic technology in there.”
It’s the combination of technology and high-performance off-road design that allows the Ford Ranger Raptor to deliver unmatched driving dynamics, and if the Bi-Turbo diesel engine and 10-speed transmission are Ranger Raptor’s heart, the all-new chassis and suspension are its soul.
For starters, there is an extra 150 mm of track, allowing loads more stability on high-speed corners. Front suspension is Independent SLA with Aluminium Arms, featuring FOX 2.5-inch Internal Bypass Shock Absorbers with Position Sensitive Damping. At the rear, there is a Multi-link Solid Rear Axle with Watt’s Linkage, also featuring the Position Sensitive Damping FOX Shocks. With huge ventilated disk brakes and a red centre marker on the steering wheel to ensure the driver knows which way the 285/70R17 BF Goodrich tyres are pointing, the Ranger Raptor is primed to deliver the driving experience of a lifetime.
For Damien Ross, chief program engineer for the Ford Ranger Raptor, the Terrain Management System’s (TMS) Baja Mode is the pinnacle of the Ranger Raptor driving experience.
“We’ve really upped the ante on the TMS with Ranger Raptor, and Baja Mode is unique to the Raptor name and its Ford Performance DNA, which was inspired by the trucks used as course pre-runners in the Baja 1000 race.”
“In Baja Mode, we have adjusted back some of the systems that would normally intervene, allowing the driver to become one with the vehicle and really have some fun with it.”
Loading a performance truck with this much cutting-edge suspension and technology has massive benefits for everyday driving. Damien Ross, Simon Johnson and the other Ford insiders who drove the first prototypes soon dubbed it ‘the magic carpet ride.’
“Around town, Ranger Raptor is beautifully smooth. The suspension absorbs everything and it’s an incredibly comfortable and relaxing place to be for everyday driving. You can’t help but smile, because you are sitting in a very plush truck that can turn into a high-speed, terrain-eating beast whenever you feel the need. It’s a fantastic combination,” Ross said.
For Simon Johnson, the Ford Ranger Raptor’s ride is something that can only be authentic.
“You can’t replicate the ride of a Ranger Raptor. You can’t build one yourself. You can’t bolt on the parts or wire in the technology. It isn’t going to happen. The ride is in the underpinnings – the new chassis, the Watt’s Link rear end, the FOX shocks and damper settings, the integration of the Terrain Management System and Baja Mode. It’s engineered from the ground up to be this way, and it’s a thrilling ride.”
See more pics of the Ford Ranger Raptor in the gallery above.