There’s no shortage of videos, reviews, and stories of the Ranger Raptor kicking up dust ang getting some serious air. After all, it takes after the larger F-150 Raptor, which was designed with the Baja dessert in mind. Yet with all these high-speed thrills, more down-to-earth pickup enthusiasts in the country are beginning to wonder if it can handle the same tough trails conventional pickups can.
That’s the question Ford hoped to answer with a recent test drive of the cars in Vietnam. There aren’t that many deserts in Southeast Asia like those in Baja, New Mexico or in the middle east, but surprisingly, Ford managed to find one in Mui Ne in Vietnam. Of course, besides sand dunes, Ford also prepared a mountain trail in Da Lat to showcase some of the Raptor’s low-speed off-road capabilities. With two various diverse kinds of terrains and several hundreds of kilometers separating them, the drive would serve as a great way to show off everything the Raptor can do.
Made for the rough stuff
The Raptor simplifies it all with its Terrain Management System (TMS). Twisting this knob calls up six modes for various driving experiences. The center button activates Hill Descent Control, which continually adjusts braking pressure to help control slippage and maintain a constant preset speed when driving down an incline. The Raptor’s race-bred suspension isn’t just made for fast bumps. It handles uneven terrain well too, boasting of axle articulation that rivals traditional pickups with live axles and leafsprings. It also has an electronic locking rear differential delivering full engine torque to both rear wheels, even if one is off the ground, easily climbing uneven and slippery terrain even when at a crawl.
The course was no different from anything Ford would put its Ranger Wildtrak through. Yet the Raptor, with its Fox shocks, 2.0-liter Bi-Turbo diesel engine, 10-speed automatic and multiple driving aids made it exceptionally easy and even comfortable. With the right settings, just light dabs on throttle was all it took to surmount what initially looked like impossible obstacles.
The next day, our Ranger Raptor caravan headed on a roughly 205-kilometer drive to Mui Ne. Given the lengthy distance, new driver assist technology like the Lane Keeping System and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection and Vehicle Detection made it seem far shorter. Long rides like this in the second of a pickup are usually quite uncomfortable. Yet we had a harder time convincing some of our colleagues to drive what with the softer ride at the back.
The White Sand Dunes of Mui Ne where a geographical wonder with sand as fine as the middle east. Naturally, we put the cars in either Sand or Baja mode and 4×4 to High. Fine sand like this can easily swallow a slow-moving car so driving at higher speed was the order of the day. It was a welcome change of pace being able to simply floor the throttle with the Terrain Management System taking care of everything else. It’s not hard to see why middle easterners love their sand dunes so much. Ripping through the sand and kicking up rooster tails is quite an adrenaline rush. We did it all from racing up the tallest dunes to rolling down some of the steeper slopes.
Best of all, these activities were done with the same new Ford Ranger Raptors that can be purchased in the Philippines. Besides the 2.0-liter Bi-Turbo diesel, Fox Shocks, and 10-speed automatic you’ve already heard about, the 2020 model comes with improvements like a camera-based Autonomous Emergency Braking system with pedestrian detection, lane keeping aid, high-mount USB (by the rearview mirror for dashcams), and LED headlamps, all at the same price.
If the trip has taught us anything, it’s that both the Filipinos and Vietnamese are much more alike than different, be it in the way we treat guests, the many scenic sights in our countries, and even the food. As for the Ranger Raptor, it’s not different from the Wildtrak in terms of rugged low-speed off-road ability. It just does it better, more easily, and gets your heart pumping in the process.
By Iñigo S. Roces