BREAK THE RULES: 2023 FORD BRONCO RAPTOR
I will admit my first experience with a Ford Bronco didn’t go over so smoothly. Granted, my first experience was with the baby compact, Bronco Sport that ended up getting its undercarriage damaged after crossing a small creek. The damage was significant enough that it warranted a call from Ford with a stern “no more off-roading.” But when the new Bronco Raptor arrived at my office, I couldn’t help but break the rules, just this once. I’m sorry Ford, just this one time, I hope you can forgive me.
Luckily, the same trail that was no match for the Bronco Sport was a cake walk for the Bronco Raptor. Even with it covered in a foot of snow. But that is partly due to its beefed-up performance specs riding on 37-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires, a more sophisticated Fox Live Valve 3.1 damper set up that results in a bewildering 13-inches of front wheel travel and 14-inches of rear travel as well as 13.1-inches of total ground clearance, oh and a twin-turbocharged V-6 engine to boot.
Like the F-150 that carries the Raptor badging, the Bronco Raptor carries so much more than just a few off-road technicalities. The chassis itself underwent a complete reinforcement to the front frame and increased rigidity with a carbon bow tie brace at the rear. Even the rear spare tire arm had to be reinforced to withstand the 100+ pounds of tire on the back.
On the pavement, the Bronco Raptor doesn’t use quite the same set up as the F-150 Raptor with a smaller 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that makes good on 418-horsepower and 440lb-ft of torque. But don’t let that fool you, for an off-road machine, this thing can move, getting to 60-mph in around 5.5-seconds. Around town, the Bronco Raptor makes good use of the new suspension, isolating us from any of the city’s unattended road works that need proper care. And when feathering the throttle like a old woman driving a Windstar, we managed to squeeze out 17-mpg’s around town – that’s 2-more than the EPA rating. Score!
What I’d like to do is talk to you about how well the Bronco Raptor manages its off-road course, and the use of its G.O.A.T. mode with seven different driving and off-road modes. However, with Ford still emended in our brain, I wanted to make sure that this one and only time of off-roading, went as smooth as its suspension tunning. So unfortunately, I did not Baja my way through the desert putting the Fox Live suspension system to its maximum test. But what the Bronco Raptor did do, is provide the level of confidence that perhaps, it really can go anywhere.
After a unique experience of getting a J**p Gr**d Wag*n**r (censored to protect the innocent) stuck in just a few inches of snow, my confidence of managing snow dwindled into a little worrier. With that, I brought reinforcements, a couple of back woods men that know their way around a locking differential and had a tow truck on speed dial, just in case. What little did I expect, that after putting the Bronco Raptor into Snow Mode, it did all the work; whatever knowledge I had of off-roading could be tossed aside and just let the computers sort it out. Plowing through what seemed to be over 18-inches of snow, the Raptor drove through as if it was only a minor inconvenience. With the use of its 10-speed automatic transmission, its gearing stayed tight and held itself in lower gear and maintained steady RPM’s. When not off-roading, the transmission is remarkably quick, shuffling through its gears like a deck of cards.
Crossing through the same creek that sent the Bronco Sport crying home with a boo-boo, was more than a creek at this point, as with all the snow, it was several inches of water. Luckily the Bronco Raptor has a layer of armor underneath to handle such unknowing terrain that protects all the important fundamentals including the muffler. Although I didn’t put the Bronco Raptor into a sketchy situation, it has all the rudiments of an off-roader, with just a push of a button, the front and rear differentials can be locked, the front anti-roll bars can be disconnected, it carries a two-speed transfer case and even crawl control assist.
Inside, the Bronco Raptor is like any other Bronco. But, perhaps nicer? The seats are utterly comfortable, and form fitting, upholstered in part suede, part leather. The large center 12-inch display dominates the center cabin with wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity that is easy to use, easy to navigate. Annoyingly enough though, it requires a subscription to utilize the navigation feature, but at least features the map, I suppose. And while not noticeable to the naked eye, Ford did a better job outfitting the Bronco Raptor with better quality materials like leather around the dash mounted handles, a leather gear knob, better quality netting on the door pockets. And even equipped it with programmable AUX switches for accessories like lights or a generator.
At a starting price of $70,095, the Bronco Raptor, to us, seemed a little on the steep end. But after hearing many Bronco owner’s dealership stories, perhaps it is not so bad if the dealer stuck to the MSRP. And it goes without saying that the Bronco Raptor has its fair share of qualms; you can’t see out the back with the spare tire, you can barely see out of the side passenger mirror due to the dash mounted handle, it nose dives like a suburban housewife at an upside-down pineapple party and the exhaust sounds like a teenager tuned it thinking it would attract the opposite sex. But like anything that is fun to drive and drains our wallets, sacrifices must be made for the greater good.
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