The Ranger Raptor is the Ford Mustang of the pickup world, and I’ll prove it.

This is the Ford Ranger Raptor – I like to give it its full name wherever possible, because there is of course, The Raptor, (no, not the theropods from the Cretaceous Period) I mean the big bad Ford F-150-based monster pickup. That comes with a 450bhp, 3.5-litre V6, though not to the UK, it doesn’t.

Instead we get its little brother – although at 5.4m long and 2.2m wide, it’s not so little and boasts a bigger footprint than a BMW 7 Series. Your friends will call it a Tonka truck, your neighbours will peg you as a builder and your other half will think you lost your marbles. Particularly when you proudly pronounce to all the doubters that this sticker-festooned, jacked-up, Ford Ranger overdosed on highly illegal steroids, is actually the Ford Mustang of the truck world. It has more muscle, potency and metal than you’ll ever need, but doesn’t it feel great to have it anyway?

Compared to a regular Ranger, the Ranger Raptor is about £15k more expensive at around £50k and that’s not including the Ford Performance Blue paint costing £720 and the Raptor decals (an absolute must-have) at £900.

As we’ve already established, the Raptor is too big for our shores, it takes ‘fitness-for-purpose,’ nukes it with ‘shock and awe’, and drips brutish machismo like the mop cleaning up at Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s gym. This truck is designed to race off-road at up to 100mph, which its 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel is easily capable of propelling it too, thanks to 210bhp and 370lb ft of torque. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic (from the Mustang) and four-wheel drive.

Ford quotes the 0-62mph acceleration time at 9.0 seconds and a top speed of 112mph. Fuel economy is over 36mpg and CO2 emissions are up to 204g/km. The Ranger Raptor is the only vehicle of its kind offered overtly for its high-performance off-roading ability – even though there isn’t really anywhere to do that on this small island of ours.

A Ranger looks cool as it is, but the Ranger Raptor looks in-yer-face awesome. It stands out a mile, terrifies traffic, horrifies pedestrians and makes little children laugh and wave in wonderment at the cartoony craziness of it all. And they all know somehow, that this isn’t just another workhorse pickup. This is something rather different, and a bit special.

But that’s not the real feat here, the magic comes from the increased and lofty ride height (with a ground clearance of 283mm) and the sophisticated Fox suspension transplant including position-sensitive damping – which means they  are softer in the middle range, but firm up at the extremes. They also give 32% more suspension travel at the front and 18% more at the rear. And get this, the Raptor actually ditches the leaf springs of the Ranger at the back and is reengineered to accommodate coil-over springs and dampers instead.

There are huge flared wheel arches made of composite material, which are not just for style but necessary as the track has grown by 15cm. They wrap around the massive 33-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain rubber with toughened sidewalls mounted on 17-inch dino grey alloys – you’re not going to have to worry about kerbing this thing or London’s notorious potholes!

It also has a reinforced chassis, a 2.3mm thick high strength steel front kick plate, and boasts a wading depth of 850mm. While it’s a classic body-on-frame construction, the frame has been reinforced especially around the suspension mounts, and it gets bigger brakes. This thing is decked out like Arnie at the end of Commando, complete with war paint. Driving one in London is like taking an M16 assault rifle to a spot of clay-pigeon shooting in the country.

Why London? Because that’s where I’m driving it. When Ford say the Ranger Raptor’s components are designed to take Baja 1000 levels of high speed rough terrain abuse, I believe them. I’ve seen what modified trucks can do in the desert. But in the urban jungle it’s not so much about it being a rally-raid special or even a load-lugger (though both load and towing capacities are reduced compared to a regular Ranger – mostly due to ditching those leaf springs), I want to know if it works as a cool family SUV.

Let’s start with the boot – I mean bed. It’s the same size as the regular Ranger at 1560mm by 1575mm. I’d recommend getting one of those divider things, because with the lockable roller shutter, you want to compartmentalise it so that when you go shopping your groceries remain accessible and you don’t arrive home to find your eggs have been scrambled all over that bedliner. There are tie-down hooks and even a power socket.

Being a double cab, climb into the rear and any initial concerns that the passenger pace there is shoehorned in, immediately dissipate. It’s actually very spacious, which makes sense if you imagine the regular pickup is designed to carry four burly builders or the like. You sit a little upright, and it’s quite some height for some passengers to pull themselves into, but otherwise remarkably comfortable.

Up front it’s even more accommodating with suede trim heated and powered seats, plus a load of kit including paddleshifts, 8-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, collision mitigation, lane-keeping, and a six-mode terrain management system that includes Sports and Baja modes!

At 3.5-turns lock-to-lock the steering isn’t the quickest, but it’s linear and light. The turning circle isn’t great, but there’s very little body roll and the ride is fantastic. In fact this car is so much better composed than most modified 4×4 vehicles I’ve previously driven. You can always tell they’ve been messed with and compromised.

But the Ranger Raptor is well sorted, stable, has good brakes, is easy to place on the road and not at all intimidating to drive as you may have imagined. It even sounds good when powering on, though I suspect that’s artificial. And makes up for the tyre noise.

Okay, so it could probably do with more power, and perhaps more petrol-like attributes. But you feel invincible and your steed seems indestructible. Unless you have a large estate or a farm, you probably won’t be able to make use of its amazing abilities, but it remains a real event to drive in town and you instantly somehow feel cooler for doing so. Even if everyone else reckons you’re being anti-social.

Again this is why I equate this to being the Ford Mustang of the pickup world. And for the money, that’s what I’d get. But on the other hand, the Ranger Raptor is just so awesome and cool, and makes such a huge statement on the road, that you think, well if I’m going to be cursed for driving such a extravagant vehicle as a performance SUV, than I might as well go big or go home.

People won’t know for sure if you’re being vulgar, defiant or perhaps even a little ironic – and you know what, just leave them guessing.

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