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2024 Ford Ranger Raptor First Drive: Finally, Forbidden Fruit Arrives

With turbo V6 power and dirt-jumping antics, the new Ranger Raptor was definitely worth the wait

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor front
  • The fifth-generation Ranger brings a Raptor variant to American shores.
  • Twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine provides plenty of power.
  • 2.5-inch live valve Fox shocks are perched at each corner.
  • Additional Baja drive mode is set up for traveling at high speeds over dirt and sand.

When the Ford Ranger made its American return for 2019 (what a different world that was), one of the first questions that sprang to mind was: Does this mean we're going to get the Ranger Raptor as well? At the time, the answer was a resounding "no"; the not-for-U.S. Raptor was only offered with a diesel powertrain that wouldn't have worked over here. But Ford told us to still keep our hopes up. We'd be getting something soon. And thankfully, that time is now.

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Everything's changed

The Ford Ranger Raptor has the same doors, windows, roof and frame rails as the standard truck, but nearly everything has been replaced or tweaked in some way to help with overall performance. There are even different seats up front with more aggressive bolstering and larger, more comfortable headrests.

The Raptor's power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 good for 405 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque that is shared with the Bronco Raptor and represents a big jump in output over the pickup's 270-hp base engine. Four-wheel drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission are standard, and there's a long list of drive modes, including Normal, Tow/Haul, Sport, Slippery, Off-Road, Rock Crawl and (most excitingly) Baja.

To provide added stability, the Ranger Raptor has a 3.5-inch-wider track and a Watts linkage with a trailing arm setup in the rear. The rear leaf springs were removed in favor of a coilover setup, and there are 2.5-inch Fox live valve shocks with internal bypasses at all four corners. Heck, there are even piggyback reservoirs on the rear for better cooling of the Teflon-infused shock oil.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor original screen

It's disappointing that the Raptor doesn't get an additional lift over the standard four-wheel-drive Ranger. However, its 33-inch BFGoodrich KO3 all-terrain tires add a welcome bit of ground clearance, for 10.7 inches in total. The Raptor's chassis was also upgraded to include reinforced front frame rails and stronger suspension mounting points to withstand a desert beatdown, and all the important mechanical bits underneath the truck are protected by skid plates.

The Ranger Raptor has a departure angle of 26.4 degrees and a breakover angle of 24.2 degrees. However, its front approach angle of 33 degrees is the worst in the midsize off-road segment, falling behind the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 by a good 5 degrees and behind the Jeep Gladiator Mojave by over 11 degrees.

From the outside, it's easy to tell that this is no ordinary Ranger from its prominent fender flares to the giant "F-O-R-D" text integrated into the grille. Even with that, the Ranger Raptor doesn't have the same stance and presence as the Bronco or F-150 Raptors, though that may be a function of its smaller form factor. Smaller doesn't mean worse, though, as the Ranger Raptor's tidier dimensions also give it a nimbleness that's missing from Ford's other Raptors.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor front

Keeping it moving

Our day with the 2024 Ranger Raptor consists of time on a dirt track, a short trek meant to simulate a fire road with some light rock crawling, and a quick stint on the street. The dirt track is up first and that gives us a chance to get right into the Baja drive mode, which also opens up the exhaust and gives us some extra play with the stability control. (We love getting the truck's tail to hang out.) Power delivery from the engine is good, but the Ranger never quite delivers the same firm kick in the chest that we remember from the F-150.

In Baja mode, the Ranger Raptor has a helpful feature that keeps the turbocharger spinning for 3 seconds after the driver takes their foot off the throttle. That means if you lift midcorner, you won't lose all of your momentum, and the engine is immediately ready to provide power. The 10-speed automatic is a dream in the regular Ranger and it's similarly good here; it never seems to hunt for gears, and there are paddle shifters if you want to take matters into your own hands.

It's clear that a lot of Ford's effort has gone into making the midsize offering feel much more nimble. The suspension is adept at absorbing impacts with its 10 inches of front travel and 11 inches at the rear. Sharply turn the truck and the front end dives down into the corner with a quickness the F-150 can't match; there's less understeer than you might expect.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor original front

Slow it down, now

We always enjoy how Ford's Raptor models drive on pavement; even with aggressive all-terrain tires, these trucks and SUVs have a comfortable ride quality that mitigates most any road imperfection. The Ranger Raptor is no exception. It's lovely on the street. At slower speeds, power delivery is easy to modulate, and you can always tell there's a ton of oomph under your right foot.

A rocky hill lets us test out the low-range setting for the four-wheel-drive system, and to go through some of the Raptor's off-road screens. A button in the center console transforms the screen into an off-road display, with a forward-facing camera view on top with guidelines for the front wheels and controls below it for the locking differentials and a few other settings. We don't always love vertical touchscreens in vehicles, but we commend Ford for this application. This screen gives the driver quick access to the camera and other off-road setup options with the single push of a button. And with those lines on the screen for the front tires, there's no excuse for missing your mark on complicated trails.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor original interior

Incomplete grade

While our first hands-on impressions of the 2024 Ranger Raptor are quite positive, it's not time to give it a final grade just yet. We need to put this truck through some stiffer tests to truly see how capable it is, and while we're at it, we should probably put it up against the Colorado ZR2 and upcoming Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro as well. It's a pretty close matchup on paper, though there's one big area where Chevy has an advantage: value.

The 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor starts at $57,065 including destination charges, while the ZR2 is nearly $10,000 cheaper. Even if the Ranger Raptor is the much better performer, that's a pretty big price gap to have to overcome.

Edmunds says

The 2024 Ranger Raptor proves to be worth the wait, with its powerful V6 engine and nimble handling. Just like its larger siblings, the Ranger Raptor is a laugh factory and is perfectly adept to both low- and high-speed off-road shenanigans.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor front