It Drives As Crazy As It Looks

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It’d be wrong to call the 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor anything less than extreme. Upon its release, it was quickly dismissed as “outrageous” and “silly,” and after hustling it through the desert, I can confirm the truck does deserve those labels. But for good reasons, actually. Those fender flares are questionable—that much hasn’t changed—but much like with all the over-the-top features of this truck, the function more than backs up the form.

This Bronco manages to feel even more outlandish than its F-150 Raptor stablemate. Aesthetics aren’t enough on their own, of course, and there’s more to this high-performance 4×4 that helps it live up to the Raptor name. From the twin-turbo, 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 to the Fox Live Valve shocks and 37-inch tires, it all works together to form a desert-running SUV the likes of which we haven’t really seen until now. The Bronco Raptor might not have a big V8 like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, and it is down on power in comparison, but I never really cared as I zipped, zigged, and zagged through Johnson Valley in one.

So long as you’re okay living with something this tall and wide in town, it’s a blast in pretty much every trail situation. There are sacrifices to make in exchange—it returns 15 mpg, hubba hubba—but if you’re able to use it in the conditions it was built for, I’ll confidently say it’s worth nabbing. Just make sure you’ve got $70,000 or so to spend, plus a few grand more for gas every year.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $70,045 ($76,620)
  • Powertrain: 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 | 10-speed automatic | selectable four-wheel drive with two-speed transfer case
  • Horsepower: 418 @ 5,750 rpm
  • Torque: 440 pound-feet @ 2,750 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 116.5 inches
  • Dimensions (length | width | height): 191 inches | 86.9 inches | 77.8 inches
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Towing capacity: 4,500 pounds
  • Off-road angles: 47.2° approach, 30.8° breakover, 40.5° departure
  • Max ground clearance: 13.1 inches
  • Curb weight: 5,731 pounds
  • Payload: 1,100 pounds
  • Fuel economy: 15 mpg city | 16 highway | 15 combined
  • Quick take: If every road fell apart and you needed to get somewhere just as quick as before, this is the rig to have.
  • Score: 8.5/10

The Bronco Raptor borrows its V6 from the Ford Explorer ST, though in this application, it’s tuned to make 418 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque. That’s a good deal more than the normal Bronco’s optional 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, which produces 330 hp and 415 lb-ft. Almost everything is taken a step further from the standard Bronco that we’re all familiar with by now.

For instance, the Bronco Raptor is still built on Ford’s T6 architecture. Certain areas have been heavily reworked, though, including the independent front suspension with taller shock towers that are seriously reinforced. I go into more detail about that in another story coming soon, but just know that the Blue Oval engineers put in work to ensure it holds up to heavy abuse. The active Fox shocks tie everything together by reading incoming terrain data 500 times per second, which is apparently how fast our brains process visual information. They then formulate an algorithm that also factors in your driving behavior to provide the optimal response with adequate preload, damping, rebound, and so on.

This is all to say: There’s more to the Raptor than a lift kit and big flares. That’s what a lot of folks will notice first, and rightfully so, given that the overfenders look like innertubes that have been cut in half. Ford says you can remove them, but they do serve a purpose and they sort of define the truck, along with the trademark “FORD” grille lettering. The taillights are different from other Bronco models, too, as they’re supposedly easier to see in dusty conditions. Either way, they contribute to the tactical look the designers were going for.

I wouldn’t say I was embarrassed while driving it next to Corollas and Accords, but you definitely notice how noticed you are. Fortunately, you’re able to dictate people’s impression of you at least a little with the valved exhaust and what mode you select. Set it to Normal and things are relatively quiet; flip it to Sport and people are sure to raise an eyebrow as the 10-speed downshifts on its way to the stoplight.

On the other hand, that 10-speed is actually pretty responsive and gives you firm shifts that are quicker than you might expect from a truck on 37s. While driving the Bronco Raptor through California’s San Bernardino National Forest, I found it engaging to lean into the throttle and click the paddles up or down as I entered and exited tight corners. However, at least half of my brainpower was dedicated to making sure all four tires were staying in my lane.

Preproduction model with available equipment shown. Available Summer 2022

So while the Bronco Raptor isn’t an effortless rig to drive quickly on the road, it does the job okay considering it’s meant more for sand, dirt, and gravel than asphalt. Still, the road is where most will spend the majority of their time, so keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for avoiding cars, curbs, and everything else on it. Potholes aren’t such a problem; the Bronco Raptor eats those up without drama.

The good news is that it also eats up sand whoops like you’d expect. With a HANS device and a helmet, I put in a hard day of wheeling on some of the same terrain where they race King of the Hammers. During that time, I found that zooming along at 60 mph was even more comfortable than 40 mph on wide-open sections. That doesn’t mean you should flog it no matter what, but I was quickly sold on how well the Bronco Raptor maintained its composure when the path was more than unsettling. Even when rapidly entering loose sand, the truck never dug in or felt like it’d get topsy turvy.

Being a Raptor, at least some of this truck’s hardware is devoted to leaping off of stuff, and it’s a sight to see the Bronco Raptor at full droop when launching off a jump. It stays planted with 13 inches of suspension travel up front and 14 inches out back, which also helps soften the landing should you achieve take-off. You can see everything going from preload, to droop, to full compression in this series of photos showing a 60-mph event.

The truck is just as impressive at low speeds when climbing up obstacles and descending back down from them. Thanks to its 13.1 inches of ground clearance, I rarely felt the truck bottom out while traversing over big ol’ boulders; even at the dedicated rock crawl course, there wasn’t an excruciating amount of banging and clanging. That’s saying something, too, considering there wasn’t even a visible path for 4x4s to travel on in some places. Thank God for spotters.

So long as I kept my eyes on them, I didn’t have an issue navigating through whatever the heck was ahead. And even though the Bronco Raptor has a one-pedal off-road function, I spent most of my time two-footing it; the braking threshold wasn’t always predictable and I found it easier to do it myself. It’s plenty low-geared enough to calmly place the front wheels on top of almost any boulder, and the brakes are more than adequate, though I think there’s still a way to go with automated off-road driving assists.

It’s a star player all around, without a doubt, but if you’re going to do more slow and technical trail driving, you might be better off with a Bronco Badlands or Wildtrak for roughly $15,000 less. I’m not saying you’ll regret having that go-fast capability if you do buy a Raptor, but unless you live somewhere that offers wide-open spaces and lots of ’em, you’re missing out on a big part of what the truck does great. Plus, you can still get those higher-trim Bronco models with the push-button stabilizer bar disconnect, which provides a good deal of axle articulation. You’ll just need bigger tires to make up the difference in ground clearance, as they come standard with 35s.

The 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor starts at $70,045 after destination fees. The Hot Pepper Red tester I spent most of my time in had about $6,000 in options, with the special 17-inch wheels ($1,695), carbon fiber interior pack ($1,725), and leather seats with suede trimming ($2,995) driving up the price. That places it among some serious competition in the off-road space, including the F-150 Raptor it shares so much with. However, they’re different vehicle types in totally different shapes, and you can’t get an F-150 Raptor with 37s for less than $78,470. Instead, this Bronco’s main rival is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 that I mentioned earlier.

The Jeep, with its 470-horsepower V8 and slightly smaller 35-inch BF Goodrich tires, clocks in at $74,995. That means the Bronco Raptor is actually a skosh cheaper, and I’d wager that it’s better suited for more driving scenarios—particularly those at high speed—than the Wrangler and its solid front axle. Everyone has their preferences, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for picking the Jeep if that fits their tastes better. If you’re a numbers type, the Bronco Raptor still wins in terms of ground clearance, off-road angles, water fording, suspension travel, and what have you.

I’m left with no question that the Bronco Raptor is as capable as Ford makes it out to be. The limiting factor, unless you’re a seriously seasoned and professional driver, is likely going to be you. That’s the case with so many performance vehicles today, though it hadn’t been true of the Bronco until this variant came to life—it’s really that good.

It’s important to keep your expectations in check because even though it’s a premium truck, it still has a removable hard top that lets in wind noise. There’s that, and there are also a few trim pieces that you can wiggle around without much effort. What I’m saying is, don’t go thinking this will outclass a G-Wagen from a luxury standpoint. If you keep that in mind, you can still take comfort knowing that you’d blow the doors off one in the desert.

The Bronco Raptor, in all its brashness, is a good truck that earns its right to look the way it does. If you don’t believe me, drive it in its element. Once you’ve done that, I think we’ll see eye to eye.

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