Ford Ranger Raptor wins 2023 Drive Car of the Year Best Off-Road Dual-Cab Ute

Proof that car companies still want to have some fun, the Ranger Raptor is the full-size, go-anywhere Tonka Truck we all want.

The Ford Ranger Raptor is the 2023 Drive Car of the Year Best Off-Road Dual-Cab Ute.

Proof that car companies still want to have some fun, the Ranger Raptor is the full-size, go-anywhere Tonka Truck we all want.

It’s the car you don’t realise you want until you drive it. The new Ford Ranger Raptor makes every drive an adventure.

Ford's original Ranger Raptor rewrote the rule book for four-wheel-drive utes in Australia, but this next-generation model has managed to significantly up the ante once again. And it's an incredibly impressive vehicle.

While it is undoubtedly expensive, the Ranger Raptor comes with a big array of major upgrades, including a heavy-duty chassis, hardcore suspension, and chassis electronics, a bespoke (for Ranger) performance-oriented powertrain, widebody treatment, and upgraded interior elements.

The 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine – which makes 292kW and 583Nm – is part of the revelation, offering high levels of performance and response. While able to shift this 2.4-tonne lump to 100km/h in 6.0 seconds – stratospherically fast for a ute – it's also smooth, quiet and loping when cruising.

The Raptor's price may be considerably higher than its two main rivals, but there's plenty inside to make buyers feel special.

Naturally, much of the Raptor's interior builds atop the offering of a high-spec Ranger, with some importantly upgraded materials and finishes.

Seating front and rear is different to a regular Ranger, giving a lot more lateral support and sporting looks to match. They are also very comfortable for everyday useage. And the combination of a 12.0-inch vertical-style infotainment display and 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster gives the Raptor a high-tech edge over the competition.

But, of course, it's the Raptor's dynamic capabilities that set the benchmark in this category.

The suspension is comprised of 2.5-inch Fox bypass dampers (with active compression adjustment) and coil springs all round, which offer high levels of compliance and control. There's more overall ride comfort on offer than other utes, yet this new Raptor also feels better tied down on undulating roads, corners and rough surfaces.

If you're lucky enough to push the Raptor hard off-road, you'll find high levels of performance on offer – likely more than you'll ever need. The suspension is race-derived and is more than up to the task of keeping up with the 292kW motor across rough, wallowing and corrugated terrain. The Raptor can jump high, land adeptly, and hold dizzying amounts of speed through off-road corners.

You can feel the high levels of engineering and capability in this car, and why it recently performed so well at the world's best-known off-road endurance race.

A permanent all-wheel-drive system, which uses a sophisticated system of electronically controlled clutch packs, adds a big dose of traction and surety, especially for these off-road-biased all-terrain tyres. And don't forget about locking differentials front and rear, which combine with impressive amounts of ground clearance for technical off-road driving.

The major trade-off with the Raptor – aside from having the highest entry point in terms of price – is the reduced payload and towing capacities. This isn't a workhorse any more. However, it's an unashamed 'lifestyle' ute, which is smooth, tech-laden, comfortable and capable, with a massive dose of performance potential. And higher levels of everyday driving refinement – through that impressive suspension set-up – yield further dividends.