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Ford Raptor has your
back – and front

When it’s horsepower you need, and high-tech you want, the Raptor offers the best of both, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

There is something satisfying about feeling secure in a powerful vehicle that handles highways, side-roads and off-road tracks with equal mastery. Not to mention a brutal athleticism, which you feel the moment you approach the vehicle and climb inside.

Those chunky all-terrain tires are not just for show – though they definitely look the part. The aggressive stance, extended-travel suspension, and underbody skid plates all say, probably in a low growl, “Bring it on.”

Thanks to a 3l twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine, delivering 292kW and 583Nm torque, combined with a 10-speed automatic transmission, that wouldn’t be mere bravado. It is said to be the fastest bakkie in the land, and it has a potent punch when one needs to hit the pedal.

You may even feel you’ve left your insides behind as the acceleration forces pin you to the seat, but this car has your back – not to mention your front, as you eye distant horizons that suddenly feel easily within reach.

The on-board tech also has your back. In fact, the cabin of the Raptor is unexpectedly refined. Ergonomic design, seats upholstered in premium leather with supportive contours, and advanced noise insulation techniques make this a surprisingly luxurious cabin, augmented by a B&O sound system’s crystal-clear audio.

The Raptor’s cutting-edge Terrain Management System offers a full 7 drive modes tailored for different conditions. Want to bound over sand dunes? There’s a mode for that. Slogging through deep mud bogs? Of course.

A massive 30cm digital cluster is fully configurable to feed you the vitals one needs, especially off-road: tyre pressures, pitch and roll angles, and ambient temperature, among other. The tablet-sized 3centre touchscreen runs Ford’s latest Sync 4 infotainment software, and handles all navigation, audio streaming and phone mirroring needs. Both Android Auto and Apple Car Play, thankfully, connect wirelessly, reducing the amount of loose cabling that floats about many other vehicles.

A full suite of camera views is provided by the Raptor’s 360-degree lens system, which is not only useful but a lifesaver when squeezing past a narrow gap between boulders or requiring precise driving positioning. A standout feature we didn’t manage to test is the advanced Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which simplifies the process of reversing with a trailer. This system allows the driver to steer the trailer via a rotary knob, taking the stress out of sticky situations.

Safety is enhanced by Ford’s Co-Pilot360 – no relation to Microsoft’s artificial intelligence suite, although it may feel that way. This suite includes the likes of a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with trailer coverage, a Lane-Keeping System, and Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking.

With all its off-road credentials, you’d think it would be hard ride on regular tar, but Ford’s engineers have come up with a rear suspension design and next-generation electronic shocks to deliver a remarkably smooth on-road ride experience.

As always, there is a catch. The 2024 Raptor line-up starts around R1.2-million for the base model, going up to a wallet-busting R1.5-million. Pair that with a thirst for juice, and it’s not for the budget-conscious.

Then again, no one buys a Raptor to be economical? This is a bakkie that will wow the serious off-road enthusiasts who demand capability and performance, both on and off the road. It’s beautifully engineered, and takes no nonsense. The combination of horsepower under the hood and high-tech in the cabin make the Raptor an all-conquering, beautiful animal.

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