Ford Bronco Raptor — A magnificent beast

By Jim Prueter

(September 21, 2022) While it isn’t quite the Rubicon Trail located in California’s historic gold rush territory in the Sierra Nevada, the 27,000-acre Butcher Jones OHV, UTV, ATV and Off-Road Trail system Recreation Site in Arizona was the perfect location to test the limits of Ford’s new and nearly unstoppable Bronco Raptor. It’s the most capable production off-road vehicle ever built snatching that title from its Jeep Wrangler competitor.

Butcher Jones is a frame-scraping, rock and boulder crawling paradise with long stretches of deep sand dry washes and riverbed trails located in Arizona’s Prescott National Forest Preserve just north of Saguaro Lake. The extremely rugged trails run along the edge of the lake where steep, adrenaline pumping hill climbs and descents can easily challenge one’s courage and fortitude mettle.

Ford Raptor modifications first arrived on the scene via the F-150 pickup in 2009 premiering a suspension and powertrain with high-speed Baja off-road motorsport creds that are more than capable of tackling the prestigious off-road races held there. Now for 2022 Ford has applied the extremely capable Raptor-grade to the Bronco as a four-door only with a starting price of $70,095 including destination and delivery charges.

Designed and engineered by Ford Performance, the same team that delivered the F-150 Raptor, their mission was to build the world’s first Ultra4 Racing-inspired SUV with capability of highway-speed desert-dune racing and Baja rock-crawling.

The team began by reaching out to the BFGoodrich tire manufacturer for massive 37-inch KO2 all-terrain tires (37x12.50R17LT) the largest on any production SUV in America. Next, the Raptor builds on Ford’s exclusive G.O.A.T. Modes (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) Terrain Management System with its seven driver-selectable modes including a uniquely tuned Baja Mode that activates a turbo anti-lag calibration to maximize performance over high-speed desert runs. There’s also a Tow/Haul mode, Trail Control, Trail Turn Assist and Trail One-Pedal Driving choices included.

Power is courtesy of its 418 horsepower 3.0-liter twin turbocharged V6 engine with 440 lb. ft of torque that’s connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can choose to how they want their Raptor to sound with selectable exhaust modes button on the steering wheel including Normal, Sport, Quiet and Baja.

The Bronco Raptor was track tested and recoded a 0-60 mph in just 5.6 seconds and covered the standing quarter mile in 14.4 seconds at 94 mph. That’s more than impressive considering its curb weight of nearly three tons at 5764 pounds, some 793 more than Bronco Sasquatch trim. A huge chink in the armor however is its dismal gas mileage that we recorded city, highway and off-road driving combined of 14.7 mpg. We drove some 425 miles of testing burning 28 gallons of gas costing us $112 at $3.89 per gallon. Still, most buyers will rank the Raptor’s performance over fuel economy.

Ford Performance collaborated with FOX suspension technology company to develop and upgrade the High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS) that fortifies nearly every suspension component. The FOX Live Valve 3.1 dampers come with three adjustable settings and external reservoirs on the rear units that results in a lengthy 13-inches of wheel travel up front and 14-inches at the rear. The track has been widened over non-Raptor Broncos by almost 10-inches for added stability in high-speed running. Raptor sits higher with a full 13-inches of ground clearance.

I spent an afternoon of absolutely delightful off-road driving switching back and forth between deep sand washes and dry riverbeds to steeply rutted two-track trails in Baja mode via the R button on the steering wheel for changing drive modes. Throttle response is immediate with zero turbo lag flying through the undulations hoping to send the Raptor airborne for testing the Fox damping. The Raptor suspension is beyond a beautiful work of design and engineering resulting in cushioned impacts that would bottom out a Wrangler and possibly ejecting its passengers.

But Butcher Jones isn’t just about deep sand washes with high-speed launches and floating-like landings.There are ample low-speed sections that require spotter assistance in negotiating steep ascents and descents with frequent wheel articulation rock crawling with my eyes seeing only blue sky and the hood of the Raptor. Extensive steel bash plates stand ready to protect all critical undercarriage parts. With immediate engine response, precise steering, brakes that didn’t overheat, the Raptor proved to be a beast that can handle anything thrown in front of it.

I was also thoroughly impressed by how well the Raptor drove on-road. One would expect a vehicle with an incredibly capable off-road suspension would be a rough ride on paved roadways. Not the case here. We found the average half-ton pickup truck had more bounce, bang and rougher ride than the Raptor. True, with the oversize 37-inch tires and high stance it won’t hustle through curves or corners and isn’t quite up to canyon carving on twisty roads. The ride comfort and handling aren’t punitive, and the insulated hard top was a huge improvement muting cabin noise sans highway speed wind noise.

Inside, the Raptor has the identical interior design and dimensions as the other seven models in Bronco’s lineup. A dashboard rack includes a threaded mount for smartphones and GoPros, with nearby 12-volt outlets (plus standard USB and USB-C outlets). The Sync 4 interface, Ford’s latest, includes a 12-inch (diagonal) touchscreen and the infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a wi-fi hotspot.

The cabin is especially large with ample head, hip, shoulder and legroom in both the front and rear seats. The steering wheel is fat, black and leather-wrapped with a top center red marker for quick visual reference if you should slide sideways or recover from a spinout  to make sure your wheels are pointing straight. Our test Raptor included optional leather-trimmed suede seats, an interior carbon fiber pack, the much-needed sound deadening headliner and a gray molded hardtop that looked terrific with its Code Orange exterior color and massive black fender blisters at all four corners.

Ford claims the Bronco Raptor is the most capable production off-road vehicle on sale today.  Not so coincidentally, Jeep makes the same claim with its Rubicon Wrangler, and I look forward to a future comparison test between the rivals to determine “King of the Hill” bragging rights to make a final call. I’ve driven and tested both vehicles and my sense is the Bronco Raptor puts the Jeep Rubicon in its rear-view mirror in that regard.

Vital Stats

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor

Base Price: $70,095
Price as Tested: $74,425
Engine/Transmission: 3.0-Liter 418-horsepower twin turbocharged V6 connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 15/16/15 -MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: The Bronco Raptor has not been crash test rated by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The similar non-Raptor Bronco was awarded an overall Good rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Where Built: Michigan

Competes With:
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Land Rover Defender

The most capable off-road production vehicle ever
Hugely entertaining to drive
Roomy seating and cargo space

Dismal fuel economy
Lots of highway wind noise