The Ford Raptor Ranger is not the most high-tech pick-up truck on the road, but it points the way to the merging of technology and performance.
However, it must first be said that the Raptor is intended for serious off-road use, rather than the lifestyle experience that is usually associated with cutting edge technology. As a result, you will find six modes of terrain management, including Grass, Gravel, Mud and Sand, but you won’t be able to use Android Auto wirelessly.
That sums up the dichotomy between a vehicle aimed at the traditional petrolhead, and one geared to a new generation of motorist who wants it all, and wants it all connected. However, as Ford prepares to unveil the next generation of Ranger and Everest next week, the Raptor provides us with a useful baseline from which we can expect the tech evolution of the brand.
All 2021 and later Rangers come with FordPass Connect, an embedded modem that allows the driver to connect and control vehicle functions like remote locking and unlocking, remote start, locating a parked vehicle, checking fuel status, and cooling the cabin. The on-board infotainment system runs on Ford’s Sync 3 operating system, which allows for voice commands, hands-free phone use, streaming from another device via Bluetooth, and launching Sync-enabled mobile apps.
Sync 3 is also compatible with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which in turn means that both Siri and Google Assistant can be used for voice control. Both of these are more effective than the on-board voice control, as is typically the case with most current vehicles with voice options.
The same applies to on-board navigation: the mapping system provided by Sync 3 promises “a navigation experience very similar to smartphone offerings”, but we all know that doesn’t sync with the real-world experience: Waze and Google Maps are superior to any onboard navigation system currently on the market, in any vehicle. It is still a mystery why car manufacturers bother, instead of simply licensing these options.
The good news is that the next-generation Ranger will simplify the process of connecting to “modern” mapping apps, as it will come with Sync 4, which will allow wireless connection to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Currently, Sync 3 requires a connection cable.
The significance of this advance was brought home dramatically in a test-drive of the current Raptor, which uses Type-A USB ports for connecting to phones. That means a new Samsung S21 or S22 phone, which comes with a Type-C to Type-C USB cable, is not compatible with the Raptor unless one obtains a separate Type-A to Type-C cable. Which we happened to have around, but: the car refused to recognise the cable.
The failure to recognise USB cable is not unusual, and we have experienced it on various vehicles, but it is usually rectified by using the original cable that came with the phone. In the case of Type-A USB, that is not going to be possible with most new phones.
That said, Bluetooth works perfectly with Sync 3, so one can still enjoy streaming music and make full use of calling, contacts and messaging functionality without having to plug in a device.
The 8” touchscreen supports swipe functionality, making it quick and easy to use, if one must, while driving,
Ford says the next-gen Ranger will be available with either a standard 10.1-inch or optional 12-inch infotainment screen, both vertically-oriented, and running Sync 4 in vertical mode. All buttons have been replaced with on-screen controls, and the touchscreen will be customisable. In a fascinating shift, it will include “dash cards”, interactive cards that place frequently-used dash items at the top of the screen.
Not only will Android Auto and Apple Car Play be accessible wirelessly, but software will be updateable over the air.
When all is said and connected, however, it is still the performance of the car that will sell it. Check the video of the next-gen raptor in action to get a sense of how it will hit the road – and off-road.
* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee.