Ford's Baby Raptor Isn't Short on Off-Road Fun

a black car parked on a dirt road
Ford's Baby Raptor Isn't Short on Off-Road FunLucas Bell

When Ford announced that the first-generation Ranger Raptor wouldn’t be coming to the United States, off-road fans were understandably peeved. The Blue Oval has officially acknowledged the error of its ways, developing the second-generation model with the U.S. market front of mind. R&T visited the Ford Performance Racing School in Tooele Valley, Utah, for a first taste of the new baby Raptor, and to experience Ford’s upcoming Ranger Raptor Assault School program.

What You Need to Know About the 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor

The 2024 Ranger Raptor is new to the U.S. market, but this second-generation truck made its debut all the way back in November 2021. Like all 2024 Ranger models, it is based on Ford’s T6.2 platform. This is the same platform that has underpinned the Ford Bronco, but has undergone some changes for pickup duty, including wheelbase and track width adjustments. The Raptor pushes things even further, coming in at nearly three inches wider than the standard trucks. In fact, only the roof, glass, and doors are retained from the less capable machines, helping to give the Ranger a familiar desert-running appearance.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor Engine and Power Output

The swollen bodywork isn’t just for show, as it hides some seriously potent off-road hardware. The Raptor picks up unique frame rails and upgraded suspension mounts at all four corners to cope with off-road abuse. Under the hood sits a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6, which the Ranger shares with the Bronco Raptor. Output for the U.S. market is listed at 405 hp and 430 lb-ft, down from 418 hp and 440 lb-ft in Bronco spec. That drop is owed to a different exhaust layout in the pickup. Mated to the engine is Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission, which feeds power into an on-demand two-speed transfer case. Ford has set the powertrain up with revs in mind, with only a 10 percent drop in peak power at the top of the range.

ford ranger raptor engine
Lucas Bell

Its revvy character is a somewhat rare experience in a truck, though it comes with a loss of some of that punchy low-end pickup customers may be used to. That said, the truck had no trouble idling over obstacles in low range on Ford’s rock crawling trail outside of the Ranger Assault School. Chasing redline in the more open sections also proved entertaining and more rewarding than in other trucks. Paddles mounted behind the wheel control the shifts, and respond with a satisfying amount of feedback.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor Suspension and Tires

As with any Raptor product, the real magic is in the suspension package. Under the front fenders sits a double A-arm suspension with forged aluminum upper and lower control arms, bolstered by Fox 2.5-inch live valve shocks. Out back, Ford has ditched the leaf springs of the standard truck in favor of a trailing arm setup tied together with a Watts link, utilizing the same Fox shocks with piggyback reservoirs. A set of 17-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain KO3 tires put that suspension to the ground, with beadlock-capable wheels on offer for the die-hards.

ford ranger raptor front suspension close up
Lucas Bell

The package provides the truck with a minimum running ground clearance of 10.7 inches, as well as approach, departure, and breakover angles of 33 degrees, 26.4 degrees, and 24.2 degrees, respectively. Despite its heavy off-road focus, the Ranger Raptor doesn’t have an overly stiff ride on the pavement. However, my head did make contact with the door frame on more than one occasion when bounding over rocks. It’s not an entirely uncomfortable machine in a crawling scenario, but that extra stiffness for high-speed desert running is noticeable. Ford doesn’t want fans to compare this new Raptor offering to its F-150-sized sibling, but those comparisons are going to be hard to ignore. Not only does the truck look more like the F-150 than its predecessor, it also follows the truck’s Baja-bashing formula.

That said, the Ranger Raptor does have a decidedly different character from behind the wheel. Part of that comes down to the fact that this thing is so much smaller than its pseudo-trophy truck sibling. The Ranger is the only Raptor product that slots in at under 80 inches wide, and that makes a huge difference out on the trails. You can actually place this thing where you want, no longer resigned to taking whatever line is afforded by your dimensions. The Ranger Raptor is also around 600 pounds lighter than a “small tire” F-150 Raptor, which translates to much more eager direction changes at speed.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor Drive Modes

Ford says that the truck was tuned with a bit of rally car flavor, which starts to pop out as you cycle through drive modes. Those include Normal, Tow/Haul, Sport, Slippery, Off-Road, Rock Crawl, and Baja. Off-Road and Baja modes both disable traction control and allow for a bit of rear-end wiggle, but neither fully deactivates stability control. Aggressive steering and brake inputs will still let you get the truck sideways, but it’ll shut down when trying to link a few slides in succession.

While the Ranger Raptor Assault School wasn’t keen on drivers fully disabling the nannies during instruction sessions, the procedure is listed in the owner's manual. Get everything turned off and the truck will have no problem hanging the light rear end out. The steering is well-weighted for loose surface fun and provides enough feedback to feel out the grip. It’s a slightly less serious and more playful take on what the Raptor name has come to mean since 2009.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor Interior

The cabin is also improved over the standard Ranger, with well-bolstered sport seats lined in leather and suede. Orange highlights line the interior as with other Raptors, giving the truck a bit more of a sporting appearance. The range-topper also comes equipped with the brand’s 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster, as well as the vertically-oriented 12-inch infotainment system. The screen is backed by SYNC 4a software and supports both wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

There are a number of hard buttons that flank the center stack, including your controls for the transfer case and the drive mode selector. The cabin is spacious, albeit quite a bit less so than the full-sizers. A human does not fit behind this driver’s seating position, for instance. The rear seats are comfortable enough when you can access them, and fold flat should you want to store things back there. The view out of the front might prove challenging for shorter drivers, however, as the high hood stretches on without any real drop-off.

2024 ford ranger raptor interior
Lucas Bell

How the 2024 Ford Range Raptor Compares to the F-150 Raptor

The 2024 Ranger Raptor might not have the same character as its larger sibling, but in the process of differentiating itself, it has created a new space for the sub-brand. Yes, this Raptor will still jump without batting an eye (or breaking your back), but it does so in a more approachable manner. The truck isn’t nearly as difficult to navigate around the street or a trail, nor does it overwhelm you with the performance on offer. It's a well-rounded machine, and one that will certainly prove more fun on a back road than more trail-oriented offerings. That’s not exactly why people have bought trucks like this in the past, but the off-roading community is growing. This is a Raptor that is a bit more palatable for the uninitiated, and for one's wallet.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor Pricing

My tester carried an as-tested price of $59,045, which is notably more expensive than the Colorado ZR2’s base price of $48,395. Toyota hasn’t announced pricing for the Tacoma TRD Pro Off-Road quite yet, but we suspect it will fall closer to the Ranger than the Colorado. Regardless, that is a lot less than the $80,325 base price of the 2024 F-150 Raptor, or the $91,930 Ford wants for the Bronco Raptor.

For that money, you also get free admission into the Ranger Raptor Assault School, which includes guided lessons in rock crawling, Baja runs, rock climbing, side hilling, hill descents, and off-road braking. Ford provides the trucks and lunch during the one-day course, you are just on the hook for travel and accommodations.

This high-performance Ranger might be the smallest of the Raptor models, but it's not short on open desert fun.

2024 ford ranger raptor
Ford

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