St Andrews, NB — I’ll come out right away and say it; when I first saw the Ford Bronco Raptor, it wasn’t what I expected.
Of course; it has flared fenders (nearly 10 inches wide, after all), large 37″ tires with 17″ beadlock-set wheels and more which we’ll cover in a moment. Initially, however, the main aspect I couldn’t get past was the fact that it was only available as a four-door hard top Bronco, not a two-door model.
Moreover; a super-performance off-roader like this would be the perfect spec for a two-door car, wouldn’t it? Two doors and performance; the two go hand in hand, right? Not to mention that the old Broncos that hit Baja – think Big Oly Parnelli Jones – have always been two-door models, like the current Bronco DR (“Desert Racer”) truck. Shouldn’t this be the same? I mean, it has a “Steel” mode, after all…
Well, according to Ford, four doors is the way to go. The longer wheelbase provides more stability in fast off-road environments where the truck excels, and the four-door Bronco is a more popular choice among consumers. Not to mention that the Bronco Raptor’s main competitor in the form of the Jeep Wrangler 392 is also available as a four-door only, and while there used to be a short cab and Super Crew version of the F-150 Raptor, the latter has always outperformed the former. I’m sure if they succeed, the Bronco Raptor team will also develop a two-door version, but business is business and four-door is good business.
And the holy moly, even in four-door form, is the ever-handsome Bronco Raptor. I wouldn’t call it “handsome”, of course, but while the standard Broncos already look pretty aggressive, they’ve found a way to quickly pop in here. The fender flares are absolutely massive, to the point where the Raptor – especially when finished in one of the many vibrant colors on offer, including the Raptor’s exclusive Code Orange – literally looks like fenders adorning its body like a hoop dress from the Victorian era. Since the fenders are dark gray/black, the effect is not as strong on darker colored trucks.
The BF Goodrich K02 tires, however, are impressive no matter what color the truck is. Measuring 37” high and 315 mm wide and wrapped around some aggressive wheels properly, it’s some rolling stock that leaves little to the imagination. It is huge and ultra in every way and I suspect it will drive many off-roaders crazy with desire.
Also unique to the Raptor is the custom taillight assembly as well as the heavy-duty hitch. The hitch can only fit the Raptor as it doesn’t have the exhaust mounted crosswise under the rear bumper like other Broncos. The result is the Raptor and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque is the Bronco’s most powerful, but at 4,000 pounds it can also pull the most.
Of course, you wouldn’t create such an exterior without beautifying the interior as well. Here, it comes in the form of a splash of orange all over the cabin; the seat stitching, the GOAT (“Goes Over Any Type of Terrain”) drive mode selector, handrails, vents, and even the center strap above the custom Ford Performance steering wheel are all finished in color, matching the custom Fox shocks. It’s mostly good, although the orange “Bronco” script in front of the front passenger is a bit of an exaggeration. The seats are also a highly supported specialty item from the Ford Performance catalog, and are comfortable and supportive. Finally, there’s the magnesium paddle shift and the gauge cluster is a custom all-digital item tailor-made for the Raptor that can be modified to feature little more than a centralized tachometer – a very, very racing truck.
Everything points to the Raptor as something special, and you’ll know it when you turn it on. It starts with a menacing exhaust growl that can be modified into four levels, including the noisiest Baja level. It’s not easy to get reports like that from a turbocharged motor, but that’s how it is.
As soon as you get into the truck – requiring a bit of work, as the extra side step will eat up the 13” height you gain – take those wheels and look outside the wide square hood (which remains framed by “gunsight” at every corner), it takes a lot of work. self-discipline not to push that start/stop button (shaped to mirror the Bronco’s headlight assembly) and step on it.
So, why bother with self-discipline? Just hit it! So I did.
The start of our journey had us on the highway just outside St. John is on his way to a trail network frequented by ATVs and snowmobiles. If my experience with the F-150 Raptor is any indication, I expect the Bronco Raptor to be less than perfect in this environment. The Bronco, however, weighs less on the rear axle and doesn’t appear to be flying behind like the F-150. You’ll still get a bit of road noise from those protruding tires and since the roof is made up of three separate, removable panels you do get some wind noise but the Bronco Raptor seems more at home here, just a little more relaxed.
Of course, when you step on it – especially in Sport mode – it changes a bit as the full rage of that twin-turbo V6 makes itself known when you’re hurled onto the road at speed like a heavy off-road SUV like this one. really don’t have to be able to. Obviously, passing the truck at freeway speed or picking up speed as you enter the freeway is not a problem. You will never feel hopeless in terms of acceleration power, that’s for sure.
All good things, but there’s little that can prepare you for a smile the size of a Cheshire Cat that strikes your senses as the road gets rougher, the trees beside it get closer and the puddles get deeper and more frequent.
However, before we get to the faster stuff, we have to walk there and that means a bit of a crawl. Like the Badlands version, the Raptor gets a sway bar disconnection which once activated, you can feel the whole vehicle relax as the wheels are free to flow with the ground below, keeping the body in control and the passenger a bit more comfortable. In this setup, the Raptor climbed the loosest, steepest incline – so steep that on our way up, we saw nothing but blue skies – without much to complain about. Looking up isn’t a problem, as the Raptor gets a 12” infotainment display as standard and in rock crawl mode it becomes both a forward and downward facing camera so you can see what’s going on below you. I don’t like that you can’t use the screen for anything else while in this mode. That means if you try to adjust the temperature, for example, you can’t see to the level you set. It will change, but you don’t know how much.
However, is it ever capable here, made more than the Trail Turn Assist feature. When active, it applies the brakes to the inner rear wheel to spin you, as if you had a cat track. It’s quite something to see your nose move sideways as if on a caster to get you through a tight situation. Wild things.
Wild, but nothing compared to what you can do once you get off the rocks and into the fast gravel. Turn on Baja mode, keep the sway bar away and you can traverse this kind of stuff with your scalded hair. Listen as the gravel rubs against the underbody skidplate; feel it as the tires fall gallantly into the divot and rise over the rock chains; watch as the scene continues to blur a little more as you gain a little more confidence with your right foot. It gets to the point where your thinking goes from “Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t get out of this puddle” to “how high can we make that splash? Let’s coat that windshield!”
This is a halo vehicle, this Bronco Raptor. It’s a special version of the pedestrian vehicle (just a little) more and you’ll pay for it – just five dollars under $100,000, if you ask, and $103,390 if you add a luxury package that includes adaptive cruise control, B&O 10-speaker audio, navigation , and heated steering wheel. It’s considered a trim from the Bronco, but at that price and all the customization it really does seem like a model in itself. It takes some commitment – to learn the various 4WD controls, how to handle all that width, how, you know, buy it and all – but oh boy. This is a specialty truck, and it’s a road-going truck of its kind that we won’t be seeing much more of (or many of them, as it will be in limited production) going forward – so now’s your chance.
- Very strong
- Very capable off-road
- Hard interior
- Adaptive sailing and heated steering wheel are not standard