Ford challenges the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with a purpose-built ultimate off-roader. It’s a great-looking 4×4 with retro styling cues that closely mimic the first generation (1966–1977) Bronco.
The Raptor edition is the most extreme Bronco. It sports more power, a taller and wider stance, giant fender flairs, unique accent lighting and an off-road, racing-derived suspension.
Like the vintage Bronco, the new Bronco goes topless. The roof and doors are removable. Adding versatility, the roof has a removable panel over the front seats that allows partial open-air motoring.
Comfort and Convenience
While the Raptor’s exterior sports retro styling, the interior is thoroughly modern. The instrument panel and center stack feature large graphics-intensive displays. There’s a full suite of infotainment features and customizable instruments.
I appreciated the large knobs for the climate control system. They’re easy to use, even when being tossed around while driving off-road. The seats are big, handsome buckets with Raptor graphics embroidered on the headrests.
They have just the right amount of bolstering. They’re road trip comfortable yet hold you in place when driving takes a turn for the wild side.
The Bronco Raptor comes only as a 4-door. It’s 15.7 inches longer than the 2-door model, yet the door openings are narrow and the back seat is cramped. My chief complaint is the challenging ingress and egress. The door openings are uncomfortably tight. When climbing in I bumped the door frame, every time. Looking cool while climbing into a 4-door Bronco takes practice.
On The Highway
The Raptor has a free-revving 418-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 under the hood and heavy-duty 4-wheel disc brakes borrowed from the F-150 Raptor. It’s quick off the line and has plenty of passing power, but it begins to feel unsettled at higher speeds.
Road manners mimic the retro styling. The ride is floaty and the handling is 1960’s vague. I blame the new 37-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain K02 tires for some of the squirminess. At highway speeds wind noise is thoroughly retro. I had a whistle from the windshield area and a howl from the right rear quarter area.
It’s not a deal breaker. I expected an extreme 4×4 like the Bronco Raptor to have some on-road drivability trade-offs. Yeah, it has some quirks. I wouldn’t recommend the Raptor as a daily commuter. Much of my time driving the Bronco Raptor was spent driving off-road or on the prowl for off-roading opportunities.
Any vehicle that catches as much air as the Bronco Raptor should be registered as an aircraft. It’s a blast to drive this thing off-road and Fox’s live valve suspension system is epic.
I took the Bronco on a 1,700-mile roundtrip from Oakland to Salt Lake City. The trip offered ample opportunity to test the Bronco’s off-road prowess. I bounded through the high desert of Nevada, ran flat out on the Bonneville Salt Flats and climbed mountain trails in Utah.
The Raptor is equipped with Ford’s HOSS 4.0 (High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension System) and Fox Live Valve Technology, position-sensitive dampening, and Fox 3.1 Internal Bypass Semi-Active dampers with integrated reservoirs in front and remote reservoirs out back.
What all this means is driving at highway speeds through some seriously rugged terrain. The Raptor’s ability to absorb major suspension impacts is astonishing. Repeatedly transitioning from a fully unloaded suspension (airborne) to brutally hard landings on rocky terrain would break the frame of lesser trucks. The position-sensitive dampening keeps the suspension within its 13-inch range of travel up front and 14-inch in back.
I don’t think I ever mashed the bump stops. What’s mind-boggling is that Ford has engineered the Raptor’s structure to tolerate brutal punishment yet manages this capability in a vehicle with a removable roof and removable doors.
The Raptor Is Defeated
My Utah trip allowed me to visit a WWII air base. I met with volunteers from the Historic Wendover Airfield Museum and set out to visit the crash site of a B-24 bomber. The plane went down on a training mission during WWII.
Eighty years later, wreckage from the big bomber is still scattered near the crest of a nearby mountain ridge. The museum staff wanted to pay their respects, document the crash site and recover artifacts for the museum. The Wendover museum guys were driving a blue, 2022 Ford Bronco.
I followed in my Orange Bronco Raptor. As we climbed farther up the mountain the terrain turned to loose shale. The two Broncos struggled to climb. The museum guys parked their Bronco and we all piled into the Bronco Raptor.
I pressed the selector buttons to lock the Dana 44 front axles and the Dana 50 solid rear axle. I selected “Baha Mode” and selected the ”Rock Crawl” G.O.A.T. Mode (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) and aggressively attacked the mountain ridge. It wasn’t to be so.
The Bronco Raptor only made it 200 feet farther than the base Bronco. Soon I was digging in with all four wheels. The shale was too loose and the incline too steep. I tried again at a higher rate of speed. A dozen attempts later, it became clear the mountain defeated the Raptor. The remainder of the climb would be on foot.
The Bronco Raptor is a full-blown desert racing machine. It’s a hoot to throw around in the dirt. Straight from the factory, it’s not perfect, but it is a great starting point. At a minimum, I would run more aggressive tires and real bead locks. A central tire inflation system would be nice.
I’d prefer a 2-door Raptor with wider door openings. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Let’s hope Ford goes ahead with a Bronco Raptor “R.” A supercharged V8 would wake the Bronco nicely. I averaged 15.2 miles per gallon during 1,700 miles of aggressive driving. Price as tested, $78,830 including destination.
Article Last Updated: November 15, 2023.
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