Words and photos by Kevin C. Limjoco
IT WAS another round of guiltless pleasure all over again! This time Ford Philippines sent me to cover the landmark celebration of the Ranger Raptor super truck being built in Silverton, Pretoria, South Africa. I, along with journalists from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, and South Africa, were the first wave of motor journalists to test the factory’s finished production super bakkies (I prefer how the South Africans refer to pickup trucks). The Silverton plant currently produces the Ranger pickup for export to 148 markets in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
We first flew in to Johannesburg to settle in and immerse ourselves in the local culture as best we could, given the time constraints. We went to the Lion and Safari Park in Broederstroom for a couple of entertaining and informative hours with the wildlife, then carried on to the Harties Aerial Cableway, which extends to the top of the Magaliesberg mountain range and offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Hartbeespoort Dam and the surrounding area.
The next day we flew out of Johannesburg and headed northwest to Upington, Northern Cape, on the banks of the Orange River, known for fine wines from the Orange River Cellars and the Kalahari Basin. After we landed and had our briefing, we jumped on our dedicated Ford Ranger Raptors and drove north on the R360 for the Goera Pan, an ancient salt bed which is surrounded by characteristic Northern Cape Kalahari rolling red dune landscapes, situated on route to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and a gateway to Namibia and Botswana. It was here, after driving on the well-paved tarmac of the R360, that we all got to explore the incredible abilities of the Ford Ranger Raptor.
For a quick recap, the Ford Ranger Raptor uses bespoke long-travel FOX Racing suspension, has a 150 mm wider track, 168 mm wider body, bespoke BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires (a paragon for all-terrain capability), and over 350 unique components compared to the standard Ranger. It can wade water to the new class-best of 850 mm depth, while being the fastest, nimblest, quickest, and most comfortable super truck ever.
At the Goera Pan, we all got to drive, for as long as we desired, primarily three exercises: a rally stage, a sand stage, and a slalom stage. The only physical differences applied to the vehicles were adjusted tire pressures, the lowest setting for sand, mid-setting for the rally, and the closest to stock pressures for the slalom stage. The other adjustments made to suit each exercise were from the steering wheel 6-mode intelligent terrain control, 4-Low and 4-High knob, and rear differential lock button. The rally stage course was an 8-minute route that had the most variable terrain that began on the salt-bed flats that led to the semi-desert hills then back down again. We ran it on “Baja” mode for optimal high-speed off-road performance. The most challenging stage was on the deep sand dunes where we all maxed out our off-road skills climbing and plowing through the course. The last stage was the least laborious and the most juvenile as we just enjoyed four-wheel drifting through dual concentric courses.
There was one last exercise after the whole day in the beating sun, a 7-kilometer alternative route near a cattle range that had multiple consecutive high-speed jumps where we would literally jump and soar at speeds over 150 km/h! On my last jump at close to 160 km/h I saw a large and unfazed South African Oryx at the crest. The huge buck must have confused the convoy of jumping bakkies as a herd of mechanical fools!
We drove the living hell out of the Ranger Raptor over some of the most challenging terrain without breaking a sweat. It’s so capable that it makes even inexperienced drivers perform like professionals. The Raptor is the very top triathlete in the trucking class. Its monumental ability to maintain speed as it jumps, crawls, wades through rivers — all in even the most unforgiving terrain — is truly astonishing. It is the very best balanced and most exploitable super truck ever produced. This last South African experience simply reinforced it!