AUSTRALIAN tastes can certainly be unique amongst the rest of the world. Vegemite on toast for breakfast, beetroot on burgers, flat white coffees, Violet Crumble and the insistence that Sam Frost is some sort of celebrity.
This strange flavour palette certainly carries over to our taste in cars too, with Aussies being known for their love of high-performance hoon cars and now, one-tonne pick-up trucks that are amongst the most popular models every month in the sales charts.
What better way to capture the Australian imagination than a mash-up of the two, and with the reveal of Ford’s performance-honed Ranger Raptor in Thailand in February, the hardcore pick-up is primed to do just that.
Straight off the bat, the Ranger Raptor simply looks like nothing else on the road – if a bodybuilder’s bicep was turned into a car, this would be it.
Measuring 2180mm, the Raptor version is 330mm wider than the standard Ranger, 25mm taller, 9mm longer and sits on a 150mm wider track front and rear for an even more dominating road presence.
The Raptor also wears a new front grille with ‘Ford’ emblazoned boldly up front, beefed-up fenders and a new bonnet that houses a brand-new diesel powertrain.
Under the sculpted bonnet sits a 2.0-litre oil-burning EcoBlue engine boosted by not one, but two turbochargers working in sequence, with the smaller snail used for lower revs before the larger blower takes over for boost higher up the rev range.
Despite being the smallest displacement engine in the Ranger line-up, smaller than the previous range-topping 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel and even smaller than the entry-level 118kW/385Nm 2.2-litre mill, the Raptor is actually the most powerful Aussie Ford pick-up available.
Peak power of 157kW and maximum torque of 500Nm is produced from the 2.0-litre unit, which directs performance to all four wheels via a low-range capable transfer case and Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission shared with the 2018 Mustang.
However, amongst the landscape of other dual-cab workhorses, the Ranger Raptor still comes up short amongst its European peers, namely the Volkswagen Amarok and incoming Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
To outmuscle the Ford though, its German competitors have to employ an extra litre of displacement and two whole extra cylinders.
Both powered by 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engines, the range-topping VW Amarok V6 Ultimate produces 165kW/500Nm (180kW/550Nm on overboost) and the six-pot Mercedes X-Class develops 190kW/550Nm when it lands in Australian showrooms in mid-year.
While many will complain that Ford did not shoehorn its 336kW/691Nm twin-turbo petrol V6 engine from its US-spec F-150 Raptor cousin into the new top-spec Ranger, they would be missing the point.
Six driving modes are on offer covering two-wheel drive options including Normal, Sport and Weather, four-wheel drive Mud/Sand and Baja settings and a low-range-only Rock/Gravel – and it is those last few modes that should clue you in to where the Raptor will truly shine.
MacPherson strut suspension is still used at the front, but Fox Racing Shox dampers with longer springs are now fitted. The rear though, is basically all-new thanks to a Watts linkage-equipped coil-spring axle with Fox dampers.
Chassis rails have been strengthened with additional reinforcement for the front shock towers and hard-mount points for the rear to ensure the Ranger Raptor will be able to take an off-road beating and still keep ticking.
Bigger brakes ensure the flagship Raptor will pull up at a set of red lights, while wheels are taken care of by 17-inch, dark-coloured hoops wrapped in all-terrain 285/70 BF Goodrich rubber.
The inside of the Raptor wears less-obvious changes to the Ranger formula, but features bespoke sports seats, a new steering wheel, 8.0-inch SYNC3 infotainment unit, and leather and suede-accented cabin.
Although not confirmed for the US market, our American cousins gain access to a different sort of animal in the form of the aforementioned 336kW/691Nm 3.5-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost V6
Ford F-150 Raptor large truck.
Bigger than the Ranger in all dimensions, the F-150 version wears the blacked-out ‘FORD’ front grille that is adopted by the Ranger Raptor, as well the 10-speed automatic and four-wheel-drive system.
Other additions in the F-150 Raptor over the standard truck include a torque-on-demand transfer case, Fox Racing suspension with longer travel and all-terrain tyres.
However, prior to the F-150 Raptor, Ford produced the SVT Raptor that was powered by either a 5.4-litre or 6.2-litre petrol V8 engine producing 230kW/495Nm or 306kW/588Nm respectively, alongside the usual added off-road go-fast bits.
The Australian-developed Ranger Raptor seems to be a bit of an oddity in the Raptor family then with its small displacement engine – even smaller than the entry-level 2.2-litre diesel of the base Ranger.
Our bet though, is the upgraded off-road capability, beefed up aesthetics and piles of street cred will still make the Ranger Raptor a popular choice for cashed-up tradies around Australia.