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After spending a week with a two-door Bronco Wildtrak last year, we came away from the experience convinced that Ford had achieved a balance between off-road capability and on-road manners that Jeep has never really been able to nail down, even with hugely charismatic offerings like the Wrangler Rubicon 392. Although the Wildtrak wasn’t without its compromises, the combination of clever engineering, modern tech, and surprisingly functional retro-futuristic design yielded a truck that’s hugely capable in the dirt while also remaining easy to live with everywhere else.
The Bronco Raptor is 2.6 inches taller and more than half a foot wider than a Bronco Wildtrak. The 37-inch all-terrain tires add to its imposing aesthetic, but it’s worth noting that the full-sized spare on the swing gate – as well as the third brake light mounted above it – do compromise visibility out the rear window.
Wildtrak models are outfitted with the Bronco’s off-road-focused Sasquatch package as well as a gutsy twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 as-standard. It’s a potent combination, and to be honest, we had a hard time finding situations both on-road and off where it felt like the Wildtrak needed more capability than it already had to offer. But with desert-storming icons like the F-150 Raptor helping to define Ford Performance in the modern era, we knew it was just a matter of time before we’d see an even brawnier version of the SUV.
Accordingly, the Bronco becomes the second truck sold in the U.S. to receive the Raptor treatment. Taller, wider, and more powerful, the Bronco Raptor essentially picks up where the Wildtrak left off, adding even more off-road capability and righteous Tonka truck-style looks as well as more standard equipment and creature comforts. But there’s also more cost to go along with it – the base MSRP for the Bronco Raptor is $68,500, and with options like forged wheels, premium audio, and leather seats, our tester rang up $80,190 with destination fees. That makes this rig more than $24,000 costlier than that well-appointed Wildtrak.
So, is the Raptor worth the price premium? With a week to spend on the roads of Los Angeles and out on the trails of Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, we endeavored to find out.
While the Wildtrak has abundant curb appeal thanks to its wide stance and chunky off-road rubber, the Raptor takes things several steps further. Available exclusively in four-door configuration, the Raptor is 6.4 inches wider than the Wildtrak and a massive 9.8 inches wider than a base Bronco. At 85.7 inches in total width (with the mirrors folded), it’s so wide that three additional amber lights had to be installed in the grille – as well as one in each side mirror – in order to meet regulations. The federal mandate was originally intended for commercial vehicles, but it now also applies to beasts like the Ram 1500 TRX, the Ford F-150 Raptor, and this seriously beefed-up Bronco.
The Bronco Raptor also looms large thanks in part to the 17-inch wheels and 37-inch BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrain tires that it borrows from the F-150 Raptor, and with 13.1 inches of ground clearance, it boasts a significant 4.8-inch advantage over a base Bronco. Combined with the huge flares, skid plates, and the power dome hood, the Bronco Raptor has a ton of visual presence and turns heads wherever it goes, but the look is just one aspect of a larger story about form and function.
This rolling chassis shows off the Raptor’s structural reinforcements (blue) as well as its unique suspension components (yellow).
To take its off-road prowess above and beyond already-capable offerings like the Bronco Wildtrak and Bronco Badlands, Ford engineers outfitted the Bronco’s boxed steel frame with reinforced shock towers as well as unique control arms that provide 13 inches of travel up front and 14 inches at the rear. That new hardware – along with new jounce bumpers, strengthened axles and tie rod ends, and new Fox Live Valve adaptive shocks – comprise the Raptor’s new HOSS 4.0 (High-performance Off-road Stability Suspension) system. And while the Raptor maintains the Bronco platform’s standard solid rear axle and independent front suspension configuration, the latter is now equipped with an upgraded Dana 44 unit while the former is outfitted with a heavy-duty Dana 50.
Under that coat of mud hides a new 3.0-liter twin turbocharged V6 that churns out 418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque.
Under the hood is a new, model-exclusive 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that cranks out 418 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque on premium fuel. Like the Wildtrak, it’s paired ten-speed automatic transmission as well as the 3.06 low-range ratio and 67.7:1 crawl ratio from the Sasquatch package. When properly equipped, the Bronco Raptor is capable of towing up to 4500 pounds – a half-ton increase over the standard model.
While changes in the cabin are less dramatic, there are still a few key features that allow the Raptor to stand out in the Bronco lineup. Along with an array of orange accents and a smattering of carbon fiber trim, the Raptor scores a customizable 12-inch digital gauge cluster as well as bespoke steering wheel buttons for things like suspension stiffness, exhaust volume, and toggling back and forth between the current drive mode and a custom MyMode preset. Steering wheel-mounted shift paddles are also exclusive to the Raptor, while equipment like the 12-inch infotainment display – which is optional in other Bronco trims – comes standard here.
Even when parked the Bronco Raptor is a sight to behold. While it’s not particularly long even in its four-door configuration, its width and height give it a bold presence that few factory-produced vehicles can match.
While the sound of the new 3.0-liter V6 is pretty similar to the 2.7-liter in the Wildtrak, the active exhaust adds a twist to the proceedings. It offers four modes in all – Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Baja – and while the first two modes keep things relatively low key, the latter two deliver the same distinctive brap as the F-150 Raptor that we tested last year. We also noticed that while the Wildtrak subtly piped in simulated V8 sounds at or near-wide open throttle, the Bronco Raptor doesn’t seem to do this. The additional sound would likely be drowned out by this louder exhaust system anyway, so that makes sense, but it also reminded us that we ultimately prefer the sound of a V8 over the sound of a V6 regardless of whether it’s synthesized or the real deal, so we left it in the mellower settings most of the time anyway.
While the new engine outguns the Wildtrak’s 2.7-liter V6 by 88 horsepower, torque is up by a less-dramatic figure of 25 lb-ft In a big, heavy SUV like this, the low-end torque is what’s creating the shove you feel as you’re merging onto the freeway or going up a rocky hill, and combined with the heavier four-door configuration and additional rotating mass from the big 37-inch tires, the difference in output is pretty negligible in practice. But we also never felt like the Wildtrak was lacking for grunt, so the fact that the Raptor can deliver similar response in spite of the additional heft on board is ultimately a win.
Although the cabin layout isn’t dramatically different from other Bronco models, the Raptor’s orange accents and carbon fiber trim do add a bit of visual flair. The steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and the bespoke buttons for suspension, exhaust, and steering settings, as well as the MyMode toggle button, are also welcome, functional additions.
Out on the street it’s the suspension changes that are more immediately noticeable. Around town the ride quality is substantially better than the Wildtrak thanks to the Raptor’s adaptive dampers, while switching over to Sport mode corralled body roll significantly and made the big Bronco surprisingly easy to hustle down some twisty roads.
On the highway the Raptor proved a bit more wayward than the Wildtrak, though – a difference we mainly attribute to the bigger off-road tires – and the wide stance of the truck triggered the lane-keeping assistance feature so often that we ended up disabling it. Even so, it still tracked straighter and required fewer steering corrections than the aforementioned Wrangler thanks to the Bronco’s more conventional rack and pinion steering system.
Our tester was outfitted with Equipment Group 374A, which is essentially the Lux Package found on other Bronco trims (minus the equipment that comes standard in the Raptor trim) and that includes adaptive cruise control. The system works well enough to be useful in moderate traffic, but the fact that it still lacks a stop and go feature is a bit of a bummer when you’re stuck in the typical Los Angeles freeway crawl, as the system disables itself at speeds under 18 mph or so. Here’s hoping that gets addressed in the refresh that’s expected for the 2024 model year. But given its focus, it should come as no surprise that the Bronco Raptor is at its best where the road ends.
– Like the F-150 Raptor, the Bronco Raptor also gets a model-specific grille. Thanks to its increased ride height, the top-dog Bronco has a maximum fording depth of 37 inches. That’s a 3.5-inch increase over other Broncos models that are equipped with the Sasquatch package, and a 5.5-inch advantage over those without it.
After a few days of steady rain, the off-road park had plenty of mud for us to sling around while we went in search of our next hill to climb or trail to conquer. The route we took through the park this time sent us through some of most challenging sections that we’ve ever encountered there, part of which included an especially steep descent with several big shelfs that made us grateful for the 13.1 inches of ground clearance. The Raptor dispatched all of it without a hint of protest or struggle.
We spent most of our time in the Raptor’s general-purpose Off-Road driving mode, but when we wanted instant response when climbing over a steep section or maintaining speed through a technical trail, we found that the Raptor’s retuned Baja mode was particularly useful. While the shift paddles make it easy to keep the engine on boil regardless of circumstance or drive mode, Baja mode dutifully kept the transmission in the lowest gear possible for the situation on its own, which in turn kept the turbo V6 on boost for instant response whenever we needed it. For the slower, more technical sections, we opted to switch over to low range and locked the differentials to give the Raptor additional mechanical leverage, but most of the time it felt like overkill because of the amount of suspension travel available and the impressive grip offered by the BFGs.
There’s no question that the Bronco Raptor is an incredibly capable off-roader, but discerning exactly where the Wildtrak’s capability ends and the Raptor’s begins is a tricky proposition. The beefed-up look of the Raptor certainly adds a sense of occasion to things, and the adaptive suspension noticeably improves the driving experience both on-road and off, but the engine isn’t really a game changer, and out on the trails it seems like the sheer width of this thing is really its biggest limitation. Regardless, the Bronco Raptor is a hugely impressive machine not just because of how well it does out in the dirt, but also because of how well it does everywhere else.