2022 Ford Bronco Raptor, All you want to know & watch about a Great Car
2022 Ford Bronco Raptor First Drive: All Hail the Queen
Can Ford’s off-road upstart Braptor put the competition in check?
You play chess? Good, because then you know the most powerful piece on the board, the one with all the moves, is the queen—not the king. This admittedly forced chess metaphor serves another purpose. Since Ford resuscitated the Bronco, Dearborn and Jeep are now locked in a fierce battle for off-road SUV supremacy. Between the various trims on offer, we almost have enough “pieces” to field a chess game; according to each model’s website at the time of this writing, buyers have eight Broncos and 12 Wranglers to choose from.
With the launch of the new 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor, not only has FoMoCo significantly expanded the Raptor family, it’s also officially rolled out its biggest weapon to date in this fight. We’ve admired and loved the F-150 Raptor since its debut nearly 15 years ago. Does the Raptor formula work on an SUV? Or, sticking with chess, are we talking about a new queen? Keep reading.
What Makes A Braptor?
Ford changed many things in going from Bronco to Braptor—yes, I insist on calling it Braptor, the best nickname since “Fiata. “ The most important of these changes just might be the 3.0-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 found under the new, air-extractor-equipped hood. Compared to the 2.7-liter version found in the regular Bronco, power rises from 330 hp (or 315 hp here in California with our lousy 91-octane gas) to 418, and torque goes from 415 lb-ft (410 in the Golden State) to 440 lb-ft.
Ford squeezed more power out of the 3.0-liter, which is also found in the Explorer ST and Platinum, by reducing induction and exhaust losses, as well as by fitting larger turbochargers. The 10-speed transmission has been reprogrammed for Bronco Raptor duty, and the transfer case has been beefed up.
The heavy lifting from an engineering point of view, however, involved the suspension. Like the pickup truck Raptor, the SUV version has been significantly widened—mostly at the tires—to the tune of nearly 10 inches (!) each front and rear. That’s nuts. To achieve that sort of girth, new shock towers were fitted all around, as well as wide, Braptor-specific control arms.
The new front axle is a Dana 44 AdvanTEK, and there’s a big ol’ live Dana 50 Heavy Duty AdvanTEK out back. Raptors have always come with a set of trick Fox internal bypass shocks. Ford calls this system HOSS 4.0, and in addition to enabling 13.0 inches of travel in the front and 14.0 inches of articulation in the rear, the suspension uses height sensors to adjust the damping 500 times per second.
The Braptor also comes with massive 37-inch BF Goodrich KO2 tires. Those are 2 inches larger than you get with the standard Bronco’s Sasquatch package. As such, the ground clearance rises by 1.6 inches to an impressive 13.1 inches. But people often mistake ground clearance for off-road capability. It’s not. What is? Approach, breakover, and departure angles, and these are where the Braptor is off the charts.
The approach angle is a whopping 47.2 degrees. Breakover is 30.8 degrees (that’s great), and the departure angle is impressive at 40.5 degrees. The Braptor can ford more than three feet of water, and the engineers were even able to increase towing capacity by 1,000 pounds to 4,500.
Perhaps the most shocking number is this: 85.7 inches. That’s how wide the Bronco Raptor is. A Hummer H1, the military truck, is 86.5 inches wide. Less than an inch difference! However, unlike the F-150 Raptor, Ford didn’t widen the Braptor’s body. Instead, it just fit massive fender flares nearly 5 inches wider than those found on a normal Bronco. Instagram seems to hate these huge flares with a burning passion.
I think they look fine—overall, I like the Braptor’s appearance—but I should point out that accurately placing either front wheel anywhere is tricky. Why? Well, you can see the edges of the Braptor’s front fender, and it has trail sights that rise off the hood—but each wheel sticks out an additional 4.9 inches from there. Not the end of the world, but just be aware.
Braptor Versus Bronco
If I were more of a conspiracy theorist, I might tell you that the Braptor is an emergency refresh of the worst parts of the freshly launched regular Bronco. For example, the mainstream Bronco’s three front-seat grab handles feel cheap and flimsy. However, the Braptor’s grabbies have been Raptorized—meaning the cheap parts are now wrapped in thick, tactical rubber and feel much stouter.
The same is true for the top of the formerly flimsy dash. Here’s another difference: At 80 mph, I could have a normal, inside-voice conversation with Renz, our photographer. This was totally not the case with the five other Broncos I’ve driven, four of which supposedly had the quiet roof panels. (One was a soft top.) We know the removable, Webasto-supplied hard roofs were plagued with issues from the start. Life is much quieter in the Braptor.
Speaking of the roof, just under it lie Braptor-specific B- and C-pillar beams called the B-bow and C-bow. The B-bow is made from aluminum, and the C-bow is crafted of carbon composite. They’re essentially crossmembers between the roll cage. Together the two pieces increase the body-in-white’s torsional rigidity by an incredible 50 percent. That’s great on the one hand, but on the other it says Ford knows the regular Bronco’s structure leaves a lot to be desired.
Can you retrofit your Bronco with these stiffening bows from the Braptor? You can order one, but not both. I might even be inclined to say the 3.0-liter V-6 is a tacit admission that the failure-prone, forum-fodder 2.7-liter EcoBoost wasn’t the right “big” engine for the Bronco in the first place. Just speculating here, your honor.
That 3.0-liter has some grunt to it. If you’re not in Sport mode, the 10-speed transmission is all too happy to run up the gears, even under heavy throttle. If you are in Sport mode, then the 418 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque puts the Braptor back on its haunches (thanks to the squishy, long-travel suspension) and the 10-speed holds the closely spaced gears longer.
The transmission even aggressively downshifts itself in Sport, which is something you usually don’t see outside of Porsche or Ferrari dual-clutch gearboxes. Big thumbs-up to Ford Performance for this mode’s calibration. I’d personally like quicker upshifts when using the paddles, but as my wife often points out, come on, no one uses the paddles. The ride is much improved over a regular Bronco, too.
I was certainly impressed by how well the Bronco Raptor took to be driven quickly. Except for Jeep’s magnificent Wrangler 392 Rubicon, I’ve never had any fun driving a ladder-frame, convertible, doors-come-off type of vehicle. Yet here we are. I did preface the above by saying, “mostly,” for two reasons. One, if you’re trying to hustle the Braptor through tight corners, it doesn’t work. I think the oversize 37-inch tires are too big for that sort of thing. Large, sweeping corners? The Braptor hustles and is great fun to drive.
Also, amazingly, even at more than 80 mph, there’s no thrum from the tires. Bad stuff? It weighs a ton—nearly three of them, in fact. Ford’s saying 5,731 pounds, way up from the 4,828 pound mid-grade V-6 Bronco we weighed. As a result, the brakes—which are lifted directly from the F-150 Raptor—aren’t quite up to canyon snuff.
But hey, trail-braking nearly 6,000 pounds of SUV down to an apex is a big ask and, well, not really this particular vehicle’s milieu. Case in point, the lovely Eruption Green Metallic example I drove from Palm Springs to Idyllwild and back developed squeaky front brakes after an hour of hard driving.
Speaking of hard driving, the computer showed me 11.8 mpg at the end of the trip, and this was after about 15 miles of freeway cruising. It was 11.6 mpg when we came off the mountain. That’s terrible.
In its native off-road environment, in the dirt, the Bronco Raptor is superlative. There was one point where I turned to a colleague from a rival publication and asked, “Can you think of another production vehicle that could do that?” That was in reference to a section of severe rock crawling that’s in fact part of the King of the Hammers race course.
I can’t stress the word “severe” enough. Like, there was one waterfall obstacle (in this case “waterfall” refers to a near vertical rock face) that I was certain was a dead end, and there was no way the Braptor could climb it. Sixty seconds later, I was shaking my head in disbelief.
It looked impossible, as did the obstacle just after it. “Maybe a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Xtreme Recon. Maybe,” my colleague said. I agreed. Maybe, but also maybe not. Mercedes G-Wagens just don’t have the approach angle needed. A Chevy Colorado ZR2 could also probably do the deed, but you’d flatten its tailpipe.
Our Broncos didn’t make it through the Hammers sections (I should say this Hammers section, as we ran another, easier one) unmolested. Ford had us drive up to the more difficult section in one group of Bronco Raptors and run the gnarly section in another. Why? The second set had the running boards and bumper caps/foglights removed. And the beadlock-capable wheels had the beadlock ring installed.
I bashed the hell out of my Core Orange Braptor’s aluminum skidplate, as well as the locator brackets for the rear-end links. And that is what rock-crawling is all about. I’d go so far as to say if the undercarriage of your Braptor isn’t all chewed up, you probably bought more vehicle than you need.
The Bronco Raptor didn’t just excel on the extreme stuff. It exhibited a full 360 degrees of off-road excellence. Important example: I remain shocked at how poorly the regular Bronco feels when driving down a simple dirt path. There’s a bumpiness and a vibration present that frankly doesn’t make any sense.
Obviously, the Fox shocks with their near-constant revalving helps things, but I also think the 50 percent stiffer body pays massive dividends in the Braptor. The off-road ride quality is on par with the on-road. Impressive. And should you feel like hitting 70 mph on dirt—which I did—this SUV loves it.
The high-speed dirt runs were performed in the Braptor’s new Baja mode, part of the Bronco family’s on-the-nose G.O.A.T. modes. The most notable thing about Baja mode is that it keeps the throttle open and the wastegates closed, effectively (or as effectively as possible) eliminating turbo lag.
Pity that Sport mode doesn’t get this feature. The worst thing about Baja mode is its effect on the Braptor’s variable exhaust. Allow me to speak truth to cacophony here: Unless it’s Italian, no twin-turbo V-6 is worth listening to. Thankfully, there’s an exhaust mode button on the steering wheel, so you can always turn down the racket and put it in Quiet. Also worth noting is the brakes work wonderfully in the dirt. Crazy, right?
Props to Ford and its partner Driven Events for coming up with such a comprehensive off-road route. In addition to the slick rock/boulder section described above, we ran light dirt trails and covered whoops, dunes, loose rocks, small rocks, and even an autocross set up on a dry lakebed. Plus, we used part of the dirt racetrack that the Driven people use to train for high-speed desert-running. Except for mud and deep water (California desert, baby), we experienced it all in the Bronco Raptor.
The Braptor jumps pretty good, too. And I have to tell you, these Fords did it all exceptionally well. These SUVs simply possess massive off-road capability. Save for a Unimog, I’m thinking this is now the most capable production vehicle you can buy, something I said about the OG Raptor back in 2007. Talk about full circle.
Why So Good?
How can the Bronco Raptor be so good, whereas the regular Bronco is about 90 percent as good as a comparable Wrangler? Two words: Ford Performance. What’s so special about Ford Performance? Well, I talked to quite a few engineers at this launch, and to a person their previous project before the Braptor was the Shelby GT500.
Not coincidentally, I don’t think very much of the current-generation Ford Mustang, but I’ll go to my grave telling people about how I watched a GT500 keep up with a Ferrari F8 Tributo. And the dude that was driving the F8 is quick! That’s a long-winded way of saying that Ford Performance (née SVT) is Ford’s GT division, its AMG. Its people work magic.
So, How Much?
This brings up price. The Braptor starts life at $70,095, and two of the three I drove had enough options to push the price to $75,955. You simply have to get the cool digital graphics, yeah? Both configurations are more than double the base price of the absolute cheapest Bronco you could buy, which starts at $32,395. That said, the base Bronco doesn’t interest me in the slightest, whereas I might be captain of Team Braptor.
Looking at the competition, a relatively underpowered 285 hp V-6 Wrangler Rubicon with the Xtreme Recon package is just over $55K, whereas the awesome but pricey Wrangler 392 starts at more than $80K—and that’s before you factor in the Xtreme Recon kit.
To put more of a point on it, $75K gets you a Land Rover Defender with nowhere near the capability or about half a Mercedes G550. True, the Ram TRX can be had for as little as $80,695 (should you find a friendly dealer), but most I’ve seen are packed with options, especially the $10,295 Level 2 Equipment Group. Also, while the TRX is amazing, its massive size means it can’t do what the Braptor can. What about the F-150 Raptor? Those begin at $71,700, though if you want to add 37-inch tires like the Braptor, that adds $10,005.
You read that right. But again, like the TRX, the F-150 Raptor’s size diminishes its capability when compared to the Bronco Raptor. The pesky Chevy Colorado ZR2, particularly the $51,395 Bison version, might be able to hang with the Ford over crazy rocks. Emphasis on “might,” if its foot-longer wheelbase didn’t hang it up.
Ford brought the wood with the new 2022 Bronco Raptor, aka the Braptor. I’m not going out on much of a limb when I say, looking at the entire package, the Bronco Raptor is likely the most capable off-road vehicle on sale today from a dealership. (A future comparison test with its rivals to determine off-road supremacy will make the final call.)
Going back to the tortured chess metaphor, the 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor puts the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon in check. General Motors, for whatever reason, has chosen to ignore this lucrative segment entirely and is stuck playing checkers against itself. How Jeep will respond to Ford’s latest move will no doubt be both wonderful and fascinating. Until then, all hail the queen.
|2022 Ford Bronco Raptor Specifications|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/418-hp/440-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,750 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||191.0 x 85.7x 77.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||15/16/15 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||300 miles|
|ON SALE||August 2022|