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Jurassic lark

Wednesday, 27th November, 2019 4:32pm

I know. I know it’s daft. I know it’s the height of silliness and I equally know that it’s hardly in keeping with the environmentally friendly zeitgeist. But I just can’t help myself. I just cannot deny my utter and abiding love for the Ford Ranger Raptor.

The Ford Ranger, as a standard vehicle, is a perfectly serviceable pickup truck. Able to haul a one-tonne load, it’s simple, rugged, and reliable and as good as hard-working car as you’ll find. No wonder Ford sells so many of them — across Europe, the Ranger has been one of the Blue Oval’s sales stars this year so far, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Of course, even that success pales in comparison to the F-150. The F-150 is Ford’s US-built-and-sold pickup and it’s not exaggeration (in terms of sales, cashflow, and profits) that Ford is actually a company that builds the F-150 and then a few other models on the side. The F-150 range is huge (literally and metaphorically) and diverse, encompassing everything from cheap-and-simple products for utility companies to the F-150 Raptor.

The F-150 Raptor is a bit special — designed to be incredibly rugged and tough, it’s also fast, thanks to using basically the same 3.5 litre turbo EcoBoost V6 as Ford’s GT supercar and Le Mans racer. Huge and hugely capable, the F-150 Raptor has become something of an icon for Ford in the US market.

Keen to see some of the same in Europe, Ford has a problem — the F-150 is too big, and too thirsty, for Euro tastes.

So, instead, the Ranger Raptor was created.

Created by taking a standard Ranger double-cab pickup and adding a twin-turbo 2.0 litre diesel engine with 213hp. Adding extra ride height, and suspension that’s basically lifted straight from an off-road racer, with staggeringly long (and staggeringly strong) springs and dampers, designed by rugged suspension specialist Fox.

Then, to that, is added a huge, chunky, grille with the name Ford spelled out in aggressively large letters, and a bulging, flare-sided bodykit that takes the basically handsome Ranger and turns it into the four-wheeled equivalent of Vin Diesel.

To call it awesome is to vastly undersell the concept of awesome. I know and admit that I’m a sucker for American cars (and Americana in general) but I just love the way this thing looks. It is a total cartoon of a car, but knowingly so.

You get the impression that the Ranger Raptor knows just how ridiculous it looks, but doesn’t mid admitting to the fact.

Inside, there’s the basic structure of the Ranger cabin, over which has been laid some nice touches such as a stitched leather dash-top, and really impressive bucket seats with Alcantara centres. Those make the Raptor superbly comfortable and they help to turn this rugged and tough pickup into a wonderfully comfortable long-haul transport.

In the centre of the dash is a large eight-inch touchscreen running Ford’s easy-to-use SYNC3 infotainment system and the instruments are part-digital, part-analogue. There’s plenty of space in the back, too (room for three child car seats across) and of course the load bed is vast, and can essentially carry anything you need.

Performance is… unusual. It’s worth noting that the Raptor, with its 213hp and 500Nm, and its ten-speed automatic gearbox borrowed from the Mustang, is actually a fraction slower to 100km/h than the V6 TDI Volkswagen Amarok.

Then again, speed is not really the Raptor’s thing, at least not on tarmac. Its acceleration can even feel a little strained at times. No, the trick here is that once you’ve built speed up, you can keep it up no matter what the terrain looks like.

We took the Raptor on a daunting off-road course, one full of steep climbs, deep dips, and water-logged trenches and it didn’t even flinch.

It has both a low-ratio transfer box and manually locking differentials, designed to keep it mobile in the most difficult of situations, but we didn’t even need those. Just high-ratio four-wheel drive and the tractive abilities of those chunky BF Goodrich tyres was all that was necessary.

The Raptor coped with our off-road course with the insouciance of a Rolls-Royce on a run to Harrods.

Then, we cleaned it up and drove it home, and it was exemplary on the motorway, and has sharp, responsive steering when the roads get bad. Over the usual broken Irish blacktop, it keeps going, shrugging off the worst sorts of bumps and potholes with nary a pause. It is, in many ways, the perfect Irish sports car.

Which is not to say it’s perfect all-round. It’s wide, and slightly too much so for narrow lanes or tight car parks. It’s heavy, and has the aerodynamics of a thrown house brick, so fuel economy is closer to 25mpg than to 30mpg. And it’s expensive — €63,000 for the one you see here, which is hardly what you’d call affordable.

But, frankly, who cares? At this late stage of the year, we’re not going to drive a car more enticing than the Ranger Raptor in 2019.

Silly, and a poor environmental choice, it may be but I’m calling it — the Ford Ranger Raptor isn’t the best car of 2019. But it is the coolest.

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