(Motor Authority) — You don’t use a sledgehammer to drive in a picture hook. You don’t swat a fly with Edward’s scissorhands. And you certainly don’t make a bundt cake in a springform pan. You, an enthusiastic driver, need the right tool for the job. Especially when you’re a hundred miles from Los Angeles, in blistering triple-digit heat, specifically to cake your innards in dust and flip the work-week grimace into a wide grin.
Enter the 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor. Like the F-150 Raptor, it’s lightly contained chaos, a size-large container of whoop-ass available retail for the street, no after-modding needed.
It’s purpose-built for high-speed, off-road rampages. To fit the part, it wears the oddly tiered look that all bro-dozers share—it’s like a smaller vehicle drove up into the middle of a much bigger car and parked there. It’s so big, it doesn’t fit in the Bronco factory without some modifications.
But that’s just the start: the Bronco Raptor stuffs a 418-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with 440 lb-ft of torque under its vented fiberglass hood and ships its output to all four wheels through a 10-speed paddle-shifted automatic transmission. A performance dual-exhaust system with differing runner lengths comes with an electronic valve system that can damp exhaust noise for quieter driving, or let the Raptor rip.
It’s been through a few rounds of anabolic add-ons. The four-wheel-drive system is shared with other Broncos, but the Sasquatch package’s 2-speed transfer case comes here with a 3.06 4Lo ratio for a 67.7:1 crawl ratio. A bigger driveshaft sends power to a Dana 50 rear axle; a Dana 44 axle slings things up front. All around, thicker half-shafts (from 5mm to 9mm) stiffen the Bronco Raptor’s ability to withstand impacts from its aerial acts—more on that in a bit. All told, the Raptor’s track ends up 8.6 inches wider than a stock Bronco’s—and it can tow up to 4,500 lb thanks to a specific Raptor Tow/Haul mode and additional space under the body that permits a stouter hitch.
Elsewhere down under, the Bronco Raptor adapts the F-150 Raptor suspension, shocks, hubs, brakes, and exhaust. It retunes the other Raptor’s Fox 3.1 internal bypass semi-active dampers for its specific weight and traction needs. Its 17-inch wheels (Beadlock-capable wheels will be available) come wrapped in 37-inch BFGoodrich K02 all-terrain tires that bolt to an M14 pattern like the F-150 rather than the standard Bronco’s M12 pattern. In all, the Braptor sports 13.1 inches of ground clearance, 1.6 inches more than a Sasquatch Bronco on 35-inch tires, with 13 inches of front suspension travel and 14.0 inches at the rear. A bolstered frame with a carbon-composite brace across the roof’s B-pillars increases torsional stiffness by 50%.
Bronco Raptor: King of the Hammers
Ideally, I’d take a single-use tool like a Bronco Raptor to the home of the off-road gods: the King of the Hammers course in California’s Johnson Valley. King of the Hammers cooks up world-class off-road racing with open races for spectators and a classic Coachella Valley festival atmosphere. Think Burning Man plus Mad Max, and triple the potential for dehydration.
We line up for the morning’s low-speed rock crawl initiation, and with a disconnected front sway bar—one of a passel of buttons on the Bronco Raptor dash—we clamber over a spine of rocks that probably mark an ancient volcano’s dying sputters. “Avenge me, break some A-arms, and slice some tires,” it may have said if volcanoes could talk.
With a helmet strapped to my head, in full Rick Moranis “Ghostbusters” homage, I begin carefully picking my way up the rock path. The Raptor’s pretty black donuts pass within a hair of a legion of sharp rocks, gliding by with just a credit card’s worth of space.
The wide-beam Bronco can get a little slimmer by unbuckling its add-ons. The flares and fenders bolt on and off, though they require special tools instead of using fasteners like standard Broncos. Each Bronco Raptor comes with a specific tool kit to remove the fenders and flares for extreme off-roading; the same kit provides the tool to remove the six bolts holding the running boards, which hide standard rock rails.
Trotter has jokes. He becomes the MST3K to my off-roading adventure when he cautions us about a big rock ahead. No sooner than he says, “it’s a little tire kicker, when you find it you’ll know,” my ribs and my kidneys decide to hook up as they matched on Tinder. I land hard in a rock pocket and for a moment, swear I’ve coughed up a chunk of the spleen.
“Marty found it,” Trotter deadpans. Now I know when that foot-plus of rear-end travel’s used up.
To keep the rest of my spleen intact, I rummage through memory to find old horseback riding skills. I post up and let the Bronco handle the path with equal parts speed and prowess. It clangs and clips along, while its Fox shocks duel between sag and compression. I could learn something from these shocks at my age—but try as I might,
Pump up the jams
After a water break, our Bronco busters step up to be fitted with full helmets and HANS devices. We’ll be driving a high-speed course and for a grand finale, jumping the Bronco Raptor into the air, if briefly. I lived in Georgia, and I know how to “Dukes of Hazzard” this bit, I tell myself. Or so I think.
I make the mistake of sending a picture home of me in the setup, which I describe as a cross-your-heart death preventer. “Are you on the road or in the air? And HOW fast???” There’s not a diacritical mark my husband doesn’t adore.
“It’s off-road racing and jumping,” I answer. “So, both?”
Before long, we’re miles off the trodden dirt track, on a deeply rutted path that’s coated in silt. It billows off the rear tires like wildfires as I skim through an autocross course meant to train for the big time coming up shortly. I stab at the gas and provoke the Raptor into loop-de-looping figure-eights. It doesn’t take much to get it angry. Waves of dust blot out the view for everyone hundreds of feet around. The Braptor loves to spin, as the constant buzz of its turbo V-6 broadcasts a midrange snarl that sounds like it’s sampled from murder hornets.
I take that skill to a long course, where the replaceable rock guards and wide-view LED marker lights make the case for themselves. First I scrabble behind a lead-follow instructor who races through a backdrop that probably doubled for Tatooine at some point in “Star Wars” reshoots, pounding and bounding and rounding through turns like Dr. Seuss’ musical bicycle without the who-clatters and who-claps. Chasing a bright-orange truck shouldn’t be tough, but wind-blown dust throws up a wall ahead of me as the SUV hammers over buckboard and washboard, really, any kind of board. Now I know what a milkshake feels like. Those LED lights are the only thing between me and rear-ending the Braptor ahead.
Then, for some inexplicable reason, they loose us on the off-road course alone, one at a time. I yank the Raptor out of the pit area—it’s a literal pit, a dry lakebed a mile from what passes for passable bathrooms—by posting up on the gas pedal, and immediately, the dun-covered cones and pink ribbons that try to mark the course turn into a dust devil. Silver skeletons of sagebrush sail past my side view; the instructor’s trail of dust is gone and so am I, careening through a few mild turns, cranking the Raptor up to 75 mph plus to see what it can do, aware for a bright moment that I’m on my own, save for the dust cloud I kick skyward.
The only reinforcements out here are the Raptor’s aluminum front skid plate and steel modular bumper, and I call on them right away. What do you call it when you go off-off-road? I do that. I hit the wall of a rut and pop out like a weasel, sliding at a 30-degree angle up the bank and then over that picturesque sagebrush. The Raptor snubs it off with its massive 37-inch tires, drops back into the dugout trail, and I scorch whatever earth can still be scorched until I arrive at a welcome sight: a spotter who sets me up for a leap into the air.
The jump’s easy on the pedals, but sits big on my brain. How’s this thing going to react when it falls back to earth, all 4,500 lb of it? I take faith in the instructor’s directions and push it to 40, 45, then 50 mph before I angle left then drift up to 65 mph before the road rises to meet me. I take off—and then for a brief second, I’m floating high enough for a barbell to pass under the tires before I drop back onto the 108-degree hellscape.
Those big donuts cushion my fall, and the Bronco Raptor lands like it’s on pillows. Donuts? Pillows? It’s the most outrageous machine this side of Homer Simpson’s Canyonero—only here it’s me that’s animated. I can’t stop chattering about the Raptor’s exhilarating portfolio of stunts. It’s capable, outrageously so. The 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor can do all the things you’d normally only do to rental cars and ATVs. If the job is off-road lunacy and weekend thrill-driving, it’s the perfect tool.