“Okay, so see, what happened was, just for fun, I dumped a quart of steroids into the gas tank one night and when I went out to the garage the next morning it looked like this!”
That line got huge laughs from a cadre of “good ole boys” when I pulled up at a barn sale (the rural equivalent of a garage sale) on my way to do some off-roading in the Sierra Nevadas.
Thing is though, that isn’t so very far from the truth.
Fitting it out with competition-level desert runner hardware, Ford’s Performance team “swole” out the standard Bronco something fierce. And, in the process, they created the world’s first Ultra4 Racing-inspired series production SUV—the 2022 Bronco Raptor. Now in its second year of production, the 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor remains in a class of its own.
Commanding a fully boxed high-strength steel frame, Bronco Raptor enjoys an upgraded suspension system, with repositioned shock towers and extreme duty Fox shock absorbers to increase its wheel travel over that of the base Bronco models. The skid plate you see under the Raptor’s chin is part of an armoring system providing protection for the engine, the transmission and the transfer case.
A B-pillar cross bar and C-pillar reinforcement give the Raptor in excess of 50% more torsional rigidity than the already tough standard Bronco. Meanwhile, removable roof panels and doors allow for the ultimate in open-air motoring. The detail oriented among you will note the exterior rear view mirrors are mounted near the base of the windshield so they can remain in place when the doors are removed.
The Bronco Raptor’s ultra-aggressive look, when compared to the standard models, is accomplished in part with unique front and rear quarter panels, fenders, fender flares and door appliques. Rock rails, removable running boards and a nearly 10-inch wide stance also contribute to its countenance.
“My” Raptor was the luxuriously outfitted version with perforated blue Alcantara upholstery for the Raptor-specific heavily bolstered seats. Trimmed in leather and accented with what Ford Performance calls “Code Orange” stitching, they were quite handsome. My Raptor’s seatbelts were of a matching hue. The flooring was carpeted, while a rubberized material is the standard offering.
The thick-rimmed sculpted steering wheel was wrapped in supple leather and featured a pair of magnesium shift paddles. A rack atop the dash was perfectly suited to holding smartphones, as well as the obligatory GoPro cameras you’ll need to document the incredible feats of derring-do Raptor encourages. A power port for those devices was placed there as well.
The HVAC vents, cargo nets in the doors and the Bronco logo on the instrument panel were also rendered in Code orange, as was the drive mode selection dial. The push-button ignition switch glowed orange as well. Subtle carbon fiber accents adorned the grab handles, steering wheel bezel and the shift lever’s handle.
Capable of delivering 6-second zero to 60 times, a twin-turbocharged version of Ford’s 3.0-liter V-6 endows the Bronco Raptor with 418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. Output is fed into the drivetrain through a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Selectable drive modes referred to as G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) offer the driver seven different settings to adapt powertrain response to the terrain encountered. There are also four different exhaust modes to alter the aural signature of the Raptor. Front and rear differentials can be locked, and the sway bars can be decoupled at the touch of a button.
The Raptor’s axles are borrowed from the Bronco desert runner racing truck. Track width is increased by just under 9 inches over the standard model and ground clearance is just over 13 inches. Raptor’s 37-inch tires, mounted on 17-inch beadlock wheels, are reputed to be the largest tires ever fitted to a series production SUV in America.
Fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg in the city, 16 on the highway and 15 overall, which matched my experience precisely. Raptor is also capable of towing 4,500 pounds, which is 1,000 more than standard Bronco models can accomplish.
Safety and Technology
Hinting at the duality of its nature, my Raptor’s audio system was a 10-speaker configuration from one of the foremost names in audiophile-grade gear, Bang & Olufsen. A host of auxiliary toggles support the addition of winches, additional lighting and any other electrically operated device you might deem necessary.
A 12-inch touchscreen provides entree to Ford’s Sync4 infotainment system and displays the output of the 360-degree camera system. The front mounted camera can be configured to stay on when the Raptor is in one of its off-road modes to help the driver read the terrain and position the front wheels to deal with obstacles.
Lane departure warning and lane keep assist are standard, as is forward-collision warning and automated braking. Smart cruise control is offered as an option.
Scaling “Mount Raptor” to get inside can be something of a daunting task for those of shorter stature. Similarly, getting out can feel like base jumping. The running boards do help, but there’s no mistaking the altitude advantage you enjoy when seated at the Raptor’s controls.
Its look says this Bronco is an absolutely brilliant off-road machine, and the Raptor is more than capable of cashing every check its image writes. Simply put, the Bronco’s a climbing, crawling, jumping, slogging and fording abilities are truly awe inspiring.
Of course, one expects it to be capable of all of that.
What’s unexpected is the way the Raptor behaves on pavement.
I anticipated a loud, ungainly and stiff driving experience and I was way wrong. The Raptor goes around curves at speed with next to zero body roll and more grip than it has any right to possess. It is also highly stable at highway speeds and offers a surprisingly compliant ride in any situation.
Regardless of the nature of the roads you encounter on your way to the desert, or the mountains, or the forest, the 2023 Bronco Raptor proves swift, certain and — fun.
2023 Ford Bronco Raptor Specifications
|Dimensions||L: 191 inches/W: 86.9 inches/H: 77.8 inches/Wheelbase: 116.5 inches|
|Powertrain||3.0-liter EcoBoost 6-cylinder engine ; 10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||15 mpg city/16 mpg highway/15 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $83,580 plus $1,795 destination and handling; As tested: N/A|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
On the other hand, as civilized as Raptor presents itself to be in routine driving, it’s important to remember this is an extremely specialized automobile.
In other words, trying to live with a Bronco Raptor as your daily driver would be a frustrating experience. Its girth alone makes finding a parking space in the city an exercise in patience. Climbing in and hopping out of it on a daily basis would get tiresome rather quickly as well. In other words, while it would work as an “only” car, you (and the Raptor) would be much happier if you brought it out just to play, then put it away until the next time.
And, in all fairness, that is exactly what this version of the Bronco was designed to do. The 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor will get you to the trail without beating you up, and then master any terrain you encounter once you get there.
In fact, it makes getting there part of the fun too. Essentially, the Raptor-ized Bronco is exactly what would result if a group of hardcore off-roaders got together, brainstormed their ultimate wish list — and proceeded to build it.
Which, by the way, is exactly what the folks at Ford Performance did.
2023 Ford Bronco Raptor — Frequently Asked Questions
Will the Bronco Raptor hold its value?
Raptor is likely to retain its value quite well. It’s incredibly capable, offered in limited supply and demand for it is strong.
Is Bronco Raptor bigger than the standard Bronco?
At 191 inches long, 86.9 inches wide, and 77.8 inches tall, Raptor’s dimensions exceed those of the standard Bronco, which measures 189.4 inches in length, 75.9 inches in width, and 73 inches in height.
Can a Ford Bronco Raptor fly?
Well, sort of. Bronco Raptor is designed specifically to accommodate high-speed driving in an off-road environment and the jumps that are innate to that undertaking.