2022 Ford Bronco Raptor First Drive

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor First Drive

St. Andrews, NB — I’ll come right out and say it; when I first saw the Ford Bronco Raptor, it was not what I expected.

Sure, it had the massively flared fenders (it gains almost 10 inches in width, after all), huge 37-inch tires with 17-inch beadlock-prepped wheels, and more we’ll discuss in a minute. At the outset, though, the overriding aspect I couldn’t get past was the fact that it was only available as a four-door hard top Bronco, as opposed to the two-door model.

After all; a superperformance off-roader like this would be the perfect spec for a two-door, wouldn’t it? Two doors and performance; the two go hand-in-hand, don’t they? Not to mention that the Baja bashing Broncos of old – think Parnelli Jones’ Big Oly – were always two-door models, as is the current Bronco DR (“Desert Racer”) truck. Shouldn’t this be the same? I mean, it has a “Baja” mode, after all…

Well, according to Ford, the four-door was the way to go. Its longer wheelbase provides more stability in the fast off-roading environments in which this truck is to excel, and the four-door Bronco is the more popular choice among consumers. Not to mention that the Bronco Raptor’s main competition in the form of the Jeep Wrangler 392 is also available only as a four-door, and though there used to be both a short cab and Super Crew version of the F-150 Raptor, the latter always outsold the former. I’m sure if they had their way, the Bronco Raptor team would also have developed a two-door version, but business is business and the four-door is good business.

And holy-moly, even in four-door form, is the Bronco Raptor ever good-looking. I wouldn’t call it “handsome”, necessarily, but even though the standard Bronco is already a pretty aggressive-looking thing, they’ve found a way to turn up the quick here. The fender flares are absolutely massive, to the point where the Raptor – especially when finished in one of the many bright colours on offer, including Raptor-exclusive Code Orange – really does look like its fenders kind of adorn its body like a hoop dress from the Victorian Age. Since the fenders are dark grey/black, the effect isn’t quite so powerful on darker-coloured trucks.

The BF Goodrich K02 tires, though, are impressive no matter what colour truck it is. Measuring 37-inches tall and 315 mm wide and wrapped around some properly aggressive wheels, it’s some rolling stock that leaves little to the imagination. This thing is massive and ultra in every way and I suspect will drive many an off-roader mad with desire.

Also unique to the Raptor is a special taillight assembly as well as a heavy-duty hitch. The hitch can only fit a Raptor because it doesn’t have the transverse-mounted muffler slung beneath the rear bumper like other Broncos. The result is that not only is the Raptor and its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 with 418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque the most powerful Bronco, but at 4,000 pounds, it can also tow the most.

Of course, you’re not going to craft an exterior like that without gussying up the interior as well. Here, that comes in the form of splashes of orange throughout the cabin; the seat stitching, G.O.A.T. (“Goes Over Any Type of Terrain”) drive mode selector, hand holds, vents and even the centring band atop the specialized Ford Performance steering wheel are all finished in the tint, which matches the specialized Fox shocks. It’s mostly good, though the orange “Bronco” script ahead of the front passenger is a little much. The seats are also special high-bolstered items from the Ford Performance catalogue, and they are comfortable and supportive. Finally, there are magnesium shift paddles and the gauge cluster is a specialized all-digital item crafted specifically for the Raptor that can be modified to display little more than a centralized tachometer – very race truck, that.

It all points to the Raptor being something special, and you’ll know it the moment you fire it up. It starts out with the menacing exhaust growl that can be modified to four levels, including a Baja level that is the noisiest of the bunch. Not easy to get that kind of report from a turbocharged motor, but there you have it.

As soon as you clamber into the truck – it takes a little bit of work, as supplemental side steps would eat in to the 13-inches of ride height you get – grab that wheel and look out over that broad, squared hood (that remains framed by a “gunsight” on each corner), it takes a whole lot of self-discipline to not press that start/stop button (shaped to reflect the signature Bronco headlight assemblies) and stomp on it.

So, why bother with self-discipline? Just hit it! So I did.

The beginning of our drive had us on the highway just outside of St. John on the way to a trail network typically frequented by ATVs and snowmobiles. If my experience with the F-150 Raptor was any indication, I expected the Bronco Raptor to be less than refined in this environment. The Bronco, however, has a little more weight over the rear axle and it didn’t seem as flighty at the rear as did the F-150. You’ll still get quite a bit of road noise from those knobby tires and since the roof is made up of three separate removable panels, you do get wind noise, but the Bronco Raptor seemed much more at home here, just a little more relaxed.

Of course, when you step on it – especially in Sport mode – that changes a little as the full fury of that twin-turbo V6 makes itself known as you’re catapulted down the road at speeds that a heavy off-roading SUV like this really shouldn’t be capable of. Obviously, passing trucks at freeway speeds or getting up to speed as you enter said freeway is no problem. You’ll never feel put out when it comes to accelerative force, that’s for sure.

All good stuff, but there is very little that can prepare you for the all-out, Cheshire Cat-sized grin inducing assault on the senses that you get once the road gets rougher, the trees alongside it get closer and the puddles get deeper and more frequent.

Before we got to the faster stuff, though, we had to make our way there and that meant some rock-crawling. Like the Badlands version, the Raptor gets a sway bar disconnect that once activated, you can feel the whole vehicle relax as the wheels are free to flow with the ground below, keeping the body in control and the occupants a little more comfortable. In this setting, the Raptor clambers over the loosest, steepest climbs – so steep that on the way up, we saw nothing but blue sky – with nary a complaint.

The view skyward isn’t a problem, because the Raptor gets a 12-inch infotainment display as standard, and in rock crawl mode, it becomes a forward-and-down facing camera so you can see what’s going on below you. I don’t love that you can’t use the display for anything else when in this mode, however. That means if you were to try an adjust the temperature, for example, you can’t see to what level you’ve set it to. It will change, but you don’t know by how much.

Is it ever capable here, though, made more so by the Trail Turn Assist feature. When active, it applies the brakes to the inside rear wheel to essentially pivot you ‘round, as if you had cat tracks. It’s quite something to see your nose moving sideways as if on casters to get you through tight situations. Wild stuff.

Wild, but nothing compared to what you can do once you get off the rocks and on to the fast gravel. Activate Baja mode, keep the sway bar disconnect and you can traverse this kind of stuff with your hair nicely scalded. Listen as the gravel clatters against the underbody skid plates; feel as the tires drop gamely into a divot and up over chains of stones; watch as the scenery continues to blur juuuust a little more as you gain a little more confidence with your right foot. It got to the point where your thinking changes from “geez, hope I won’t bottom out through this puddle” to “how high can we make those splashes? Let’s coat that windshield!”

It’s a halo vehicle, though, this Bronco Raptor. It’s a specialized version of an (only slightly) more pedestrian vehicle and you will pay for it – just five bucks below $100,000, if you’re asking, and $103,390 if you add the luxury package that includes adaptive cruise control, 10-speaker B&O audio, navigation and heated steering wheel. It’s considered a trim of the Bronco, but with that pricing and all those adjustments it really does seem like a model unto itself.

It takes some commitment – to learn the various 4WD controls, how to handle all that width, how to, you know, afford it and all – but oh boy. This is a special truck, and it’s one that walks the walk, and it’s of a type we won’t be seeing much more of (or many of, as it will be a limited production run) going forward – so now’s your chance.

Categories: Driver Plus, Off-Road Plus