2024 Ford Ranger Raptor First Drive Review: Go Go Power Ranger

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

Love It

Leave It

Hilarious fun off-road

Cheapish cabin

Better on the tarmac, too

Doesn't always feel 400-hp fast

Right-sized footprint

Shifter is frustrating

If the 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor can be boiled down to a single modern abbreviation, it's this: LOL.

I've spent the better part of a day getting to know Ford's latest off-road warrior at the new Ranger Raptor Assault School. As cringey as that name is, the actual vehicle is the polar opposite. We've conquered rocky trails, whipped around a tight and slick baja course, even launched the truck off a (sweet) jump. Through everything, the muscled-up Ranger has had me at least giggling.

Heading into this directly after driving regular Ranger, I thought the Raptor might be too spendy for what it is. I was wrong: provided you have the setting to properly use it, this might be one of the most fun vehicles available at this price and—whisper it—the best Raptor.

What’s new?

This bird of prey is built on the new-for-2024 Ranger, which you can read all about here. It’s an evolution of the outgoing platform, with a wider track and longer wheelbase. Ford moved the rear suspension further outboard for this one, and used hydroforming for the front end to unlock additional space. That last bit is crucial because it allows the Ranger to accept a V6 once more.

That’s an important distinction, because while this isn’t the first Ranger Raptor, it follows the Raptor recipe we’re more familiar with here in North America. Europe got one last generation, but it came with a four-cylinder. A diesel four-cylinder. Ew, gross. This one swipes the Bronco Raptor’s 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6, swelling its figures to 405 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Like every other ’24 Ranger, the Raptor pushes its power through a 10-speed automatic.

Unlike every other Ranger, this one comes in 4x4 guise only. We’re talking full-time four-wheel drive too, with electronic-locking front and rear diffs. Ground clearance is up, now sitting at 10.7 inches (272 millimeters). Approach and departure angles measure 33 and 26.4 degrees respectively, with a breakover angle of 24.2.

I can’t skip over the visual makeover either. Ford hasn’t strayed from the formula here: flared arches (adding 90 millimeters in width), big blocky “FORD” grille, generous bash plates, and 17-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch all-terrain tires. The dinofication process butches up the Ranger’s friendly shape without overdoing it. To these eyes, it’s a more cohesive look than the gaping maw of the Chevy Colorado or the new Toyota Tacoma’s Lego-like blockiness.

Delivering the goods

The rock-strewn trail we start the activities on is a fine enough first challenge. The Raptor dispatches just about all of it with no more than a shift to 4LO; there are a couple places where we engage the rear lockers, but I’m not even sure that’s needed. Trail Control does the whole off-road cruise control thing in single-mph increments up to 20 mph in Off-Road Moade which, along with the standard front-facing camera allows the driver to pick their line and focus on it. It’s something those of us in the Ranger can actually do: the lead F-150 Raptor ends up in more than a few situations where its extra six inches of width force its line. (In Rock Crawl mode, Trail Control does 0.5 mph increments up to 10 mph.)

Back at camp, we start small with a simple course to get to grips with the Raptor. It’s clear the truck already wants to have fun, though the default drive mode will cut power abruptly should the truck’s digital brain sense even moderate amounts of yaw. Moving over to Sport livens things up, as the Ranger shakes off the stiffness and adopts a more neutral stance.

Then there’s Baja. This drive mode switches over to rear-drive—drivers can maintain front-axle power if desired—yet you’d never know It by how easy the Ranger Raptor is to throw around. We’re on the larger, more technical baja course now, full of tight corners and lined with momentum-sapping mud off the ideal line. Get on the brakes early enough to be done with them by turn-in, feel the rear regain some weight, and rely on that quick steering to get the nose tucked in as quick as you’d like. The front tires find incredible grip while the wheel provides natural, consistent feedback, making it easy to play the hooligan and hang the tail out and maintain a slide. Quicker corner? Commit early and keep the throttle steady to witness the Raptor simply dig in and carve the desired line. Ford swapping out the regular Ranger’s leaf springs for a Watts linkage has paid off here: there’s no squirrely behavior from the back axle, just sure-footedness.

A steep drop-off and a separate, dedicated jump exercise allows for some clear air beneath the Raptor’s tires. The instructors remind us to stay off the pedals while airborne for optimal landings. The Raptor touches down well, those Fox 2.5-inch Live Valve shocks providing serious suspension travel while avoiding hard bump stops. If anything, I’m hitting the bump stops in the seats.

Better on-road, too

As much fun as the Raptor is in its element, it’s important to consider how it works as an everyday vehicle, right? Unsurprising news: it’s low-key brilliant there, too. The trick suspension that makes the Raptor so malleable in the dirt gives it remarkable composure on the road—better than the regular Ranger, in fact. There’s more road noise from those knobbly tires but that’s to be expected.

It isn’t all rosy Raptor goodness. Rolling starts are only quickish, never truly feeling like there’s 405 ponies pushing you back in the seat. The active-valve exhaust still doesn’t unlock enough attitude either, though I appreciate the usefulness of Quiet mode. Towing and payload maximums drop for Raptor as well, coming in at 5,510 and 1,375 lb (2,500 and 624 kg) respectively; both figures are down on the Chevy Colorado ZR2.

Minimal cabin changes

Most of the Ranger Raptor budget has obviously—and understandably—gone to the suspension and powertrain upgrades. The cabin gets generous amounts of orange trim and stitching, with a neoprene-like material along the dashboard and door panels. An off-road button near the drive mode selector offers a quick-access path to a variety of useful features in the 12.0-inch central touchscreen such as the front camera and pitch/roll meters.

In addition to compression-related limitations, the Raptor seats lack enough cushion bolstering to keep the driver firmly in place over rougher terrain. The passenger grab handle locations could be better too: the A-pillar one is a stretch, and the center console’s are laughably tiny. As I complained about in the regular Ranger, the electronic shifter is awkward to use. No such complaint about the paddle shifters, however.

Dollars and sense

Pricing for the baby Raptor begins at $57,065 ($80,040 CAD), including destination. On one hand, it’s a healthy amount more than the Chevy, and (probably) whatever amount Toyota will charge for the Tacoma TRD Pro. On the other, it’s currently a $20k discount over an F-150 Raptor, and the related Broneo Raptor is now a $92,000 ($110,000 CAD) affair. Suddenly the Ranger Raptor makes more sense.

Buyers will get to do what we did too, as every Ranger Raptor purchase comes with a one-day experience at the Assault School.

Final thoughts: 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor first drive review

There’s no denying there are a handful of sacrifices one must make to live with the 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor. Yes, the interior’s basically some bolstering and orange stitching away from a $30,000 truck, it doesn’t feel 400-horsepower quick on tarmac, and it’s pricey.

It’s not like Raptors have ever been anything other than spendy, mind you. The value in the Ranger Raptor is as much in what you don’t get as what you do: less width, less bulk, less humming and hawing about whether it’ll fit in that parking spot or garage. It’s a right-sized Raptor with better road manners than the regular truck it’s based on, and four-wheeled laughing gas in the environment it was designed for.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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