THE rampaging Ford Ranger Raptor, which will soon set a new Australian benchmark for sports utes, is ready to roar.
Powered by a completely new twin-turbo four-cylinder engine, with a 10-speed automatic gearbox and terrain-tuned all-wheel drive, it was unveiled overnight in Thailand.
Australian sales will begin in the third quarter of the year with a price tag in excess of $70,000.
That’s a lot of money for a one-tonne ute but Ford insists the Raptor is not just a Ranger in party clothes.
“When the dust settles, you will see our first high-speed off-road compact pick-up,” the maker says.
It has a long list of unique equipment that takes it up and beyond the current Ranger flagship, the Wildtrak at $61,790.
Many pieces can’t be switched between a Wildtrak and a Raptor — bumpers, grille and ute tub — which highlights the effort that went into the three-year development program on the vehicle.
Although it will be made in Thailand, the Raptor was designed and developed in Australia as the latest step in the Ranger-Everest program. It was also extensively tested in Sweden and the US, as well as the Aussie outback.
It is only available as a dual-cab ute, continuing the approach which has worked for Ford with the XLT and Wildtrak versions of the Ranger — these account for 75 per cent of sales.
It will run against a new generation of high-performance utes, led by the Colorado SportsCat from Holden Special Vehicles and the Toyota HiLux Rugged X, both priced above $65,000.
Ford says the Raptor’s advantage comes from its powerful engine, although rumours persist that HSV intends to produce a turbo V6 petrol SportsCat.
The new engine promises 157kW/500Nm to power the part-time, dual-range four-wheel drive package. There are paddle-shifters — a first for any Ranger — and six terrain modes, the toughest being Baja, copied from the US-market F150 that contests the desert events.
The Raptor’s suspension is unique, from aluminium arms to twin rear dampers mounted nearer the wheels. The 17-inch alloy wheels are shod with 285×70 BF Goodrich tyres.
Visually, the biggest change is the unique front bumper and a punchy grille with FORD stamped prominently in another visual link to the F150. Inside are unique seats and a leather sports steering wheel.
Ford Australia is yet to confirm the exact arrival date for the Raptor, but it will also be joined by a refresh of the rest of the Ranger line-up due about mid-year.