• Home
  • /
  • 4WD
  • /
  • Sending It With the 2024 Ranger Raptor at Ford’s Assault School

Sending It With the 2024 Ranger Raptor at Ford’s Assault School

I spent a day in the new 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor, throwing it around corners and launching it into the air. Hold on to your socks, because this is definitely no ordinary Ranger.

It’s Far More Raptor Than It Is Ranger

Over 400 horsepower, front and rear lockers, a long travel suspension, 33-inch tires, racing-inspired seats, and a “Baja” drive mode set the stage. It was explained to me that the only things the 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor has in common with its siblings, the Ranger XL, XLT, and Lariat, are the side doors, window glass, and roof. Aside from those elements, and I’m sure a few other small details, the Ranger Raptor is a wholly different vehicle. It has a different chassis, engine, suspension, wheels, tires, drive modes, seats, skid plates, and more.

Ford Ranger Raptor

The Raptor is Built for Performance

The new Ranger Raptor is a product of Ford Performance, a team of highly skilled designers, engineers, and test drivers who get to implement their best ideas. The Ranger Raptor is built upon a racing foundation and has been proven in the Baja 1000 and the Australian outback. Ford has prepared the new 2024 Ranger Raptor to handle the extra strains of at-the-limit driving. They are expecting and encouraging this vehicle to be driven with enthusiasm. It sits on a fully boxed frame with unique reinforcements to the front frame rails, the front shock towers, the rear shock brackets, and the suspension mounting points. The engine is a twin-turbocharged and intercooled 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 paired with the 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. Power results are 405 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque.

Ford Ranger Raptor Suspension by Fox

Ranger Raptor Suspension and Ground Clearance

The Ranger Raptor’s suspension is completely different from the base models. A long travel suspension with a Watts linkage utilizes 2.5-inch Fox Live Valve shocks. The internal bypass shocks are electronically controlled to adjust valves based on the selected drive mode. The new 33-inch BFG KO3 all-terrain tires come standard on an aluminum wheel with a beadlock-capable wheel as an option. Minimum ground clearance is 10.7 inches, nearly an inch and a half more than the standard models, and the angles are improved as well with a 30.2-degree approach, 25.8-degree departure, and 23-degree breakover. Another significant measurement difference is that the track width has been widened by 3.5 inches for additional stability and cornering performance.

Ford Ranger Raptor beadlock wheels with BFG KO3 tires

Ford Ranger Raptor Selectable Drive Modes

The Raptor Ranger’s drive modes have been enhanced to include Normal, Tow/Haul, Sport, Slippery, Off-Road, Rock Crawl, and Baja. The modes are selected with a round toggle switch on the center console. Each drive mode changes the engine tune, transmission shifting, ABS, traction control, steering, throttle response, and the information provided in the user interface displays. The changes are noticeable and impressively effective in the different driving scenarios.

Another highlight is the Ranger Raptor’s Trail Control which takes over throttle and braking to allow the driver to focus on steering in challenging terrain. It is meant for slow speeds, like extreme descents and rock crawling. The idea of a hill descent assist has become commonplace, but Ford’s Trail Control is not just for descending. I tried it for slow-speed climbs, flat traverses, and steep descents on a tight trail mixed with soft dirt and sharp rocks. Controlling speed between one and five miles per hour is done using the cruise control toggle switch. However, it would be easier if they utilized the big paddle shifters at the driver’s fingertips behind the steering wheel. The small toggle switch was distracting to find in high-concentration settings.

Ford Ranger Raptor Selectable Drive Modes

The New Ford Performance Ranger Raptor Assault School

You know you’re in for an amazing day of driving when you’re shuttled to a private property in the high desert of Utah, fitted with a helmet, strapped into a HANS device, and given a safety briefing. Not far from Salt Lake City, in Tooele Valley, is the new Ford Performance Racing School, where Ford Ranger Raptor owners can attend a full day of instruction at the Ranger Raptor Assault School. The program is included with the purchase of a Raptor and owners have a year from the purchase date to redeem the opportunity, all you have to do is register and get there. On-site, a staff of professional driving instructors will help Raptor owners understand the capabilities and potential of their new vehicle using a fleet of Ranger Raptors that has been dedicated for instructional use. The property includes a variety of terrain to help develop skills and build confidence. The dirt-oriented courses include rock crawling, high-speed Baja-style runs with sharp turns, steep climbs, cambered side hills, descents, drops, and even a jump.

The instructional staff are all enthusiastic and well-experienced. They help attendees with a deep-dive understanding of all the Ranger Raptor’s systems. The trucks are outfitted with radios for two-way communication on the courses. Classes walk through the functionality of different settings and instructors talk through each change and driving example. The goal is to prepare Ranger Raptor owners to safely enjoy their driving experience to its full potential.

Raptor fast across the flats

2024 Ford Ranger Raptor Drive Impressions

On opening the door, I was greeted by heavily bolstered seats and a centerline stitched into the steering wheel. The Ranger Raptor felt fast and responsive even before starting the engine. When I did fire it up, a little shiver of anticipation ran up my spine as the adjustable Active Valve Exhaust brapped to life and resonated throughout the truck. The interior is spacious and comfortable, the bolstered seats add noticeable support, all the driver controls are readily accessible, and sight lines from the driver’s seat are generous.

From the Assult School, it’s a 30-minute drive on the pavement from the main building to the off-road course and offers a great opportunity to cycle through the drive modes, getting a feeling for how each mode receives drive input. I drove across the parking lot in Normal mode and switched into Sport mode before turning onto the main street. The enhanced throttle response in Sport mode was enough to make me double-check that my seatbelt was latched and that the side mirrors were properly adjusted. It doesn’t pin you to the back of the seat like a Porsche Turbo, but it does make the 5,325-pound truck much more nimble than expected.

Ranger Raptor Assault School

• Do not attempt unless you have special off-road driving training and are driving on a closed course. Always consult the owner’s manual before off-road driving, know your terrain and trail difficulty, and use appropriate safety gear.

The first driving course at the Raptor Assault School is the Handling Course which has six varying-radius corners from 90° to 135° and five dedicated braking zones. This operates as an introduction to the drive modes. The instructors place colored cones on the side of the track to indicate braking, turn-in, apex, and exit points, and they help drivers navigate the track. I did three laps in Normal, Off-Road, and Baja modes.

Each lap of the course became easier to drive as the Ranger Raptor became more responsive and controllable through the increasingly aggressive modes. Then it was over to the Baja Course, with 13 turns, 12 braking zones, and a straightaway with a big belly-tickling dropout in the middle. The Baja Course is tight, with each action of braking, turning, or accelerating immediately transitioning to the next. Aside from a big smile, my takeaway was how thoughtfully integrated the Ranger Raptor’s systems are. The drive modes make a genuine difference in how the pickup handles each scenario. The truck remained stable and forgiving, absorbing every corner and woop and drop with confidence.

Who is the new 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor For?

The 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor is for the performance-oriented driving enthusiast—those who can’t help but look for the apex and exit point of every turn and jockey through traffic for pole position at the next light on the way to the grocery store. As a mid-size truck, it provides a reasonable payload and towing capacity. It’s large enough to carry all of your gear but small and agile enough to find multiple line options on the trail. Build yours here on the Ford website.

$55,470 | ford.com

Ranger Raptor Seating

Read more: Ford Maverick Tremor :: Review

Images: Ford Motor Co., Brian McVickers

Our No Compromise Clause: We do not accept advertorial content or allow advertising to influence our coverage, and our contributors are guaranteed editorial independence. Overland International may earn a small commission from affiliate links included in this article. We appreciate your support.

A Chicago native, Brian has lived in the United States and the Caribbean while traveling as much as possible throughout the world. An accomplished racing and ocean sailor, overlander, and general adventurer, Brian has accumulated over 45,000 nautical miles and well over 100,000 statute miles through his adventures and expeditions spanning from the deserts to the remote Arctic. His happy places are on the water, or in the mountains skiing, mountain biking, and fly fishing with his good friends and family. He has spent the last 27 years involved in the outdoor, mountain sports, automotive, and travel industries with magazines, newspapers, web, television, podcast, video, ad agencies, and storytelling.