First Drive: 2024 Ford Ranger and Ranger Raptor

Salt Lake City– If you’ve ever had the pleasure of observing American Bison, also known as buffalo, you know they are imposing, solid and deceptively quick bovines. So, when coming face-to-face with a rather large bull while driving the 2024 Ford Ranger, it was a comfort to know that the truck is itself impressive, solid, and deceptively quick. Like the bison, the Ranger may not be flashy, but don’t underestimate it.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor

For this model year Ford has completely revamped the popular mid-size truck, from the body right through the interior and drive train options. And its stablemate, the brand-new Ranger Raptor is a seriously engineered, off-road performance truck. More on that later.

The occasion was the launch of the new truck and its performance sibling in Salt Lake City, Utah. On a 40-kilometre highway drive out of town to Elk Island State Park, the Ranger performed like a well-mannered cruiser. The XLT trim truck, with the base 2.3-litre turbo 4-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic, with 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, is no powerhouse, but its quiet ride, comfortable cabin, and sure handling make it viable as a daily driver, even for a family.

2024 Ford Ranger

The new cabin includes clever new storage options with big door pockets, a second glovebox and spacious centre console. The rear seats fold flat with storage underneath, and there’s space behind them for more gear. There’s enough room for the whole family and gear.

And when it’s vacation time, the new truck can tow up to 3,400 kg (7,500 lbs) and has a payload of 776 kg (1,711 lbs). For trailering it has marvellously intuitive trailer controls that allow even a novice at towing to execute perfect back-up maneuvers. It’s also got an expanded bed that can accommodate a full sheet of plywood flat on the floor.

2024 Ford Ranger

More Power: The company also listened to customers who said the Ranger could use more power. Juan de Peña, the chief program engineer for Ranger and Ranger Raptor, said customers demanded a truck that’s tough and can handle the challenges they put to it. “Seventy-six percent of Ranger customers told us that performance was important to them, compared to just 60 percent for the segment…For people who considered but rejected a Ranger in the past – performance was one of the top five reasons,” he said.

As a result, Ford has made a 2.7-litre V6 available on the truck for 2024. It makes 315 hp and 400 lb-ft. Sadly it’s not yet available, slated to arrive in the late spring, so we’ll have to reserve judgment on its performance until then.

The Ranger is available with either the base or larger engine in three trims. Only 4×4 models are available in Canada.  The base XL starts at $41,870 (CAD), the Raptor starts at $77,945 (CAD). Destination and delivery are $2,095.

With the base engine, the truck carried itself smoothly over rutted gravel roads, and provided an excellent viewing platform for watching the massive herd of roaming bison in the State Park. A new step just behind the rear wheels makes for an easy climb into the bed. Under the bed, the truck’s wheelbase and track are two inches wider than before, allowing the shocks and mounts to be moved outboard for a smoother ride.

2024 Ford Ranger XLT

Against the backdrop of the arid Utah landscape, sagebrush and majestic wild animals, the truck fits right in. Its new rugged exterior look pairs with features designed to make it a better outdoor companion. There’s an available 400-watt power inverter with an outlet in the bed to run a coffee maker or air compressor for filling tires, or other tools for camping. It’s also got zone lighting and bed lighting to make setting up camp in the dark easier.

Hard-Core Off-Road: But for the hard-core off-road enthusiast, the new Ranger Raptor will be the main attraction in this model year. The Raptor joins its F-150 and Bronco cousins in the lineup as the Ranger halo truck.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor

The truck was designed by Ford Australia, in conjunction with Ford HQ engineers. Australia-based Ford performance program manager Justin Capicchiano said the truck is not a facsimile of its Raptor cousins, instead projecting its own personality. Designed to excel at off-road racing, the Raptor has been tested and proven in numerous events like the Baja 1000 and Australia’s Finke Desert Race. It won its class in both races.

“We’ve prioritized things like steering response and rotation around corners,” Capicchiano said.

He emphasized that with its smaller size the Ranger Raptor can go places the F-150 raptor cannot. “You can take what we call in Australia ‘the bonus line’ and pick and choose where you want to go because it’s narrower and more agile,” he said.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor

A Suspension Story: Its suspension is the story here. The Raptor shares almost none of its chassis and running gear with the Ranger. Everything has been beefed up and purpose-built for offroad running. The suspension includes lightweight aluminum upper and lower control arms and a long-travel rear suspension with a Watts linkage and trailing arms for better control.

Live-valve shocks adjust for each different driving mode. Normal, Tow/Haul, Sport, Slippery, Off-Road, Rock Crawl, and Baja all provide different tuning for the conditions. That includes the engine, transmission, ABS calibration, traction control, steering, throttle response and even the instrument cluster and touch screen look and information.

In Baja mode the truck’s 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 shines as systems direct its 405 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque in the right place at the right time, making for an exhilaratingly loose yet responsive ride. Coming off a jump at full throttle, you barely feel the landing as the long-travel suspension sucks up the impact.

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor

Ranger Raptor also comes with Trail Control for slower back country off-roading. The truck handles the throttle and brakes to a set speed, and all the driver does is steer through the obstacles. It’s remarkably sure-footed even on steep scree and sheer ledges, going up or down.

Owners of the new Raptor will be able to enjoy a free day of off-road training at the newly launched Ranger Raptor Assault School. The program will be offered at the Ford Performance Racing School in Tooele Valley, Utah, starting in June. New owners just have to register and get themselves to Utah to take part in this intensive day. Ford provides safety gear and the vehicles.

Watch the next issue of Vicarious for more on the Ranger Raptor and Raptor Assault School experience.

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