- The Bronco Raptor is here, and it means business.
- A heavily revised chassis, more tire and more power mean more capability.
- So is this the ultimate Bronco? Read on to find out more.
"Wow! What fun!"
This was my first impression from driving Edmunds' own long-term Bronco First Edition. But then something else crept in the more I drove it. There was an almost unfinished quality to it. Intentionally or unintentionally, Ford left something on the table. The Bronco was a Jeep Wrangler equivalent, but not the Wrangler-dominating machine I thought it might be. I confided in colleagues because maybe my expectations were too high, but they mirrored my sentiment.
Expectations are resentments under construction, y'all, remember that.
I should have taken my own advice, because when I got the invite to drive the new 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor, my expectations were once again through the roof. This has to be the one, I kept telling myself. After all, for more than 10 years, Raptors have represented the pinnacle of Ford's F-150 lineup. These trucks are no-compromise machines that aren't done by just anybody at Ford, but by the hardcore folks at Ford Performance. If it's a Raptor, it means business.
Wouldn't you know it, I had barely made my way out of the parking lot in the new Bronco Raptor when I could feel something else in my bones: This really was the Bronco I'd been waiting for. So, how did Ford Performance do it?
It doesn't start with what's under the hood, in case you were wondering. Yes, the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 is new to the Bronco (its original application is the Explorer ST) and makes 418 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque, but the big news is what's been done to the frame and the suspension.
New upper and lower control arms are both beefier and longer than before, meaning the Braptor (yes, we're calling it that) should probably have a yellow wide-load sticker stuck on the back. The truck is nearly 10 inches wider overall thanks to those massive fender flares, and there's 8.6 inches of extra track width at the front and the rear for greater off-roading stability.
There's more. The wheel hubs are from the F-150 Raptor and the shock towers are new and stronger to support the added stresses Raptor owners will put through them. And as on the F-150 Raptor, the Bronco Raptor comes with adaptive and remote-reservoir Fox suspension dampers to ably soak up bumps during high-speed driving. You even get giant 37-inch tires as standard. In fact, almost everything is standard. There are no optional extras that make the Raptor faster or more capable, which means you have everything you need right out of the gate.
It all pays off the second you hit the road. The first twirl of the wheel reveals much better steering. Just off center the rack is more precise and more responsive. We think that's mostly down to a new electric power assist system calibration, but it's not the only reason. Ford added extra bracing to the top of the Bronco that results in 50% more rigidity, and the benefits are immediately obvious. The result is far more confidence, better response to inputs, and far less slop overall. It feels more finished, and that's part of what the regular Bronco needed.
The steering wheel itself isn't new, but the paddles behind it are a Raptor exclusive, and they control what is likely the best iteration of Ford's 10-speed automatic to date. Downshifts are dealt with snappily in manual mode, and when left in auto, the shift logic finds the right gear almost every time. It is possible to fool the new transmission by quickly matting the go pedal and immediately letting off, which results in a quick downshift of three or four gears and a yowling V6.
OK, so back to the Bronco Raptor's turbocharged V6. It's strong. Despite the immense 5,750-pound curb weight, it feels much quicker and much more eager than the standard Bronco. Putting your foot to the floor on the highway gives you the sense that you're both the unstoppable force and the immovable object — a rare sensation that's really only matched by other &über-powerful off-roaders like the Mercedes-Benz AMG G 63 and Jeep Wrangler 392.
That's just on the road. Once you turn off the smooth stuff and make your way into the bush, the Braptor really finds its happy place. The first half of our day in the desert was limited to rock crawling. The Raptor's electronically disconnecting sway bar, 13.1-inches of ground clearance (up from 11.6 on a Sasquatch package-equipped Bronco), and extra suspension travel (13 total inches up front, 14 inches in the rear) mean that it tackled all of the slow going with ease. Rock crawl mode is uniquely calibrated for this type of work, and it starts you off in second gear for better throttle control of what can be an overeager engine.
There is also a one-pedal off-road mode that simulates two-pedal driving. Essentially, the software rides the brake so you don't have to cover it off with your left foot while modulating the throttle with your right one. It was a tricky sensation to get used to, as you have to apply enough throttle to push through the brakes, but you aren't sure how much brake pressure is being applied because the car is doing it for you. In the end, we found that two-pedaling it ourselves still netted the best results, but those new to rock-crawl scenarios will likely find it a helpful tool while gaining experience in these environs.
One thing worth noting is that Ford actually took us up a portion of the King of the Hammers off-road course. For those unfamiliar with King of the Hammers, think of it as the World Series, but for off-roaders. The Raptor had almost no trouble with what was an extremely technical trail. Ford provided spotters, but I only needed their help when, well, when I got stuck. But that's human error — the Bronco, for its part, was cool as an iced-over lake in the middle of a Michigan winter.
Seriously. Not once did the Braptor overheat or cry foul, and temperatures got up to 109 degrees in Johnson Valley that afternoon. Even when we started going flat out over whoops, lumps and jumps, the Bronco did everything we asked it to without making a single fuss. Ford brought nearly a dozen journalists out to the desert that day, and I heard not one single complaint about overheating or mechanical failure. Transmission temperatures, oil temps and oil pressures all stayed well within their safe zones. The air conditioning even provided real relief from the heat.
In the latter part of the day we were able to push the Raptor to its reasonable limits during some high speed off-roading. We saw 75 mph over all sorts of nasty, sandy terrain and it only starts to get floaty above that threshold. The antilock braking system is tuned well for off-roading, and though there is a lot of brake pedal movement once you've dug all the way in, this truck really does stop. The beefier steering and long travel suspension made going as fast as we dared a cinch, and that's exactly what a Raptor is supposed to do.
Look, you probably get the idea by now. The 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor isn't just another Bronco, it is now THE Bronco. It is so much better than the standard model you'd barely believe the two were related. If there was one gripe, it's that the Braptor's EPA-estimated fuel economy of 15 mpg combined is poor, and with gas prices only headed skyward, that might weigh on the minds of potential buyers.
Pricing starts from $70,095, including destination. The Raptor's most serious rival, the Jeep Wrangler 392, is a cool $10,000 more with a base price of $81,190. A V8 might be worth the extra cash to some buyers, but the V6 is plenty potent. Plus, considering the only options on the Ford are for some interior niceties and an upgraded stereo, we'd say skip all the options, get yourself a Bronco Raptor, and see as much of the desert as you dare. It's the right tool for the job.
The standard Ford Bronco is a fun but unfinished off-road ready SUV that really does leave performance and capability to be desired. The Bronco Raptor goes above and beyond the call of fixing our gripes and is now the Bronco to have.