Rapt with wonder over the Raptor in South Africa

The first time we tested the all-new Ford Ranger Raptor at one point in our journey from the city of Darwin, Australia to the Tipperary Station (a distance of over 143 kilometers of mixed surfaces that lead to a private, almost 210,000-hectare property, roughly twice the size of Hong Kong), Wheels ed Manny and I literally soared airborne at a tick over 160 kph as we jumped over one of the deepest cattle grids along the route yet landed without any drama—aside from Manny losing his breath and the grip on his smartphone!

So here we are again, as we further try to punish the Ranger Raptor into submission. It was another round of guiltless pleasure all over again! The Darwin Ranger Raptor experience combined abundant wildlife, rock, tarmac, fine red sand, and water. This time around, Ford Philippines sent me to represent the Philippine media to cover the landmark celebration of the Ranger Raptor super truck being built in Silverton, Pretoria, South Africa.

Baja Mode affords optimal high-speed off-road performance.

We, along with journalists from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, and South Africa, were the first wave of media to test the factory’s finished production super bakkies (I prefer how the South African’s refer to pickup trucks). The Silverton plant currently produces the Ranger pickup range for export to 148 markets in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

We first flew in to Johannesburg to settle in and immerse ourselves in the local culture as best we could, given the limited time. We went to the Lion and Safari Park in Broederstroom for a couple of entertaining and informative hours with the wildlife, then carried on to the Harties Aerial Cableway, which extends to the top of the Magaliesberg mountain range and offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Hartbeespoort Dam and the surrounding area. 

On the next day, we flew out of Johannesburg and headed northwest to Upington, Northern Cape, on the banks of the Orange River, known for fine wines from the Orange River Cellars and the Kalahari Basin. After we landed and had our briefing, we jumped on our dedicated Ford Ranger Raptors and drove north on the R360 for the Goera Pan, an ancient salt bed which is surrounded by characteristic Northern Cape Kalahari rolling red dune landscapes, situated on route to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and a gateway to Namibia and Botswana. 

It was here after driving on the well-paved tarmac of the R360 that we all got to explore the incredible abilities of the Ford Ranger Raptor. 

For a quick recap, compared to the current Ranger Double Cab Wildtrak, the 211-bhp twin-turbo 10-speed Ranger Raptor uses upgraded 332mm front brakes and with slightly narrower but identical diameter rear vented discs (instead of drums), perfectly calibrated long-travel Fox Racing internal-bypass dampers on all corners for extreme compression and rebound, independent front suspension that uses forged aluminum upper control arms and cast-aluminum lowers, coil-sprung rear (instead of leaf springs, which are what the current Ranger uses) with a Watt’s linkage that manages the lateral live axle, an electronically controlled locking differential, a 150mm wider track, 168mm wider body, bespoke BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires (a paragon for all-terrain capability), 46mm more ground clearance, is 44mm longer, 25mm taller, and is 110kg lighter, together with over 350 unique components. It can wade water to a depth of the new class-best of 850mm, while being the fastest, nimblest, quickest, and most comfortable super truck ever.

At the Goera Pan, we all got to drive, for as long as we desired, primarily via three exercises; a rally stage, a sand stage, and a slalom stage. The only physical differences applied to the vehicles were adjusted tire pressure, the lowest setting for sand, mid-setting for the rally, and the closest to stock pressure for the slalom stage. The other adjustments made to suit each exercise were from the steering wheel six-mode intelligent terrain control, 4-Low and 4-High knob, and rear differential lock button.

The rally stage course was an eight-minute route that had the most variable terrain that began on the salt-bed flats, that led to the semi-desert hills then back down again. We ran it on “Baja” mode for optimal high-speed off-road performance. The most challenging stage was on the deep sand dunes where we all maxed out our off-road skills using the “sand” mode climbing and plowing through the course. The last stage was the least laborious and the most juvenile as we just enjoyed four-wheel drifting through dual concentric courses.

There was one last exercise after the whole day in the beating sun, a seven-kilometer alternative route near a cattle range that had multiple consecutive high-speed jumps where we would literally jump and soar at speeds over 150 kph! We drove the living hell out of the Ford Ranger Raptor over some of the most challenging terrain without breaking a sweat. It is so capable that it makes even inexperienced drivers perform like professionals. The Ford Ranger Raptor is the very top triathlete in the trucking class. Its monumental ability to maintain speed as it jumps, crawls, wades through rivers, all in even the most unforgiving terrain is truly astonishing. It is the very best balanced and most exploitable super truck ever produced. This last South African experience simply reinforced this view.

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