With off-roading becoming one of the most popular automotive trends of the decade, automakers are stepping up to fill some rather big boots. Ford revived its burly Bronco last year to compete with the likes of the Jeep Wrangler, and while it has some nifty party tricks for the trail, the Wrangler Rubicon holds the crown when traveling off the beaten path. But that may soon change.
New for 2022 is the Ford Bronco Raptor. Its name might be an amalgamation of two animal-themed vehicles—Ford’s bucking Bronco SUV and its line of rowdy Raptor performance trucks—but its purpose couldn’t be more clear: a worthy contender to the off-road throne, and a new nemesis for the Wrangler Rubicon.
The goal of the new Bronco Raptor is high-speed off-roading, according to Ford, which is apparent from the powerful twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 stuffed under the hood.
This particular engine is unique to the Raptor variant of the Bronco, as other trims in the nameplate are offered with either the less powerful 2.3-liter inline-four cylinder or 2.7-liter V6 engines. Ford says this configuration will produce more than 400 horsepower (85 more than its 2.7-liter), though the final numbers are still being worked out.
The addition of a new power plant also means that the Bronco’s terrain management system is in for overhaul. The Bronco already offers settings called “GOAT Modes” to quite literally “Go Over Any Type of Terrain.” These settings tweak computer-adjustable parameters like throttle response, shift points, and traction control in order to maximize grip when driving in conditions other than dry pavement. The new 3.0-liter engine adds on a so-called “Baja Mode” as a nod to the high-speed desert runs for which Ford has designed the Bronco Raptor.
Baja Mode also borrows a feature straight from the Ford GT race car to seriously crank up the performance. Called “anti-lag,” the feature keeps the Bronco’s onboard turbos spinning so as to minimize any loss in boost pressure that typically happens when letting off the throttle.
In a traditional race car, anti-lag works by adjusting the engine’s timing, which is where spark and fuel ignite in relation to the rotation of the crankshaft. This method often results in heightened wear on engine components, but produces a symphony of crackles and pops on race tracks and rally courses. Because the Bronco is road-going, Ford decided to take a more reliable method of reducing turbo lag and stretched the technology used from the Ford GT and other members of the Raptor family of vehicles to the Bronco.
When in Baja mode, the Bronco will not close its throttle body when the driver takes their foot off of the accelerator pedal. Instead, it forces the butterfly valve wide-open while shutting off fuel and spark, allowing the turbochargers’ compressor wheels to maintain rotational speed and have less lag when stepping back onto the throttle. This type of performance driving aid is ideal for cornering, or in the Bronco Raptor’s case, maintaining contact with the ground over bumps at high speeds.
A new engine isn’t the only thing that Ford gave the Bronco Raptor to help it on the dunes. The truck’s four-wheel-drive system has been upgraded with a higher capacity clutch and further reduced crawl gear to make climbing over obstacles even easier. To make the Bronco smooth on any sort of terrain, Ford’s engineers also worked with Fox Racing to equip the truck with a high-performance off-road suspension capable of intelligently adjusting the suspension’s preload based on real-time and predictive driving data.
Parking a Bronco Raptor next to its regular Bronco brethren doesn’t make it difficult to pick out the new vehicle, thanks to its aggressive stance. The truck’s total track width has increased 8.6 inches with oversized fenders and massive 37-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, making it carve through rough terrain even easier. And to beat the heat on the sand during its runs at highway speeds, a high-flow grille design now sporting the Ford name now sits up front.
If a go-fast, sand-hopping Raptor isn’t your can of worms, don’t forget the regular Bronco, which debuted in new form in 2021. The open-top SUV is proficient at rock crawling on its own, especially with a high ground clearance, independent suspension, and some cool tricks like a front sway bar disconnect and Trail Turn Assist. Oh, and it’s plenty capable on the road too.
Orders for the capable Bronco Raptor start in March with a price tag of $69,995 (more than $6,000 cheaper than the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon it looks to displace), and existing Bronco reservation holders will be permitted to upgrade to the Raptor. Early buyers will begin taking deliveries of their new toys beginning this summer.