2023 Best Performance Ute: Ford Ranger Raptor

Keen on a dual-cab ute that can work hard and play even harder? These are the best options for utes with some added spice

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Given Australia’s love of dual-cab utes, and our obvious passion for performance cars, you might think dealerships would be overflowing with hardcore, performance-focused utes.

And they are, to a certain extent. Nissan, for example, has the rugged and heavily enhanced Navara Pro-4X. Toyota has the Hilux Rogue, and performance specialist Walkinshaw has dipped its toe into the market with the Triton Xtreme.

Now, there are newer and more sporting contenders like the HiLux GR Sport and Ford Ranger Wildtrak X, which have both just gone on sale. The ‘rally inspired’ GR Sport Hilux brings a more powerful turbo diesel (power and torque are up 15kW/50Nm), tweaked suspension, and tougher exterior styling with flared quarter panels.

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The off-road-focused Wildtrak X offers buyers an improved 4X4 system, wider tracks, lifted suspension, and position-sensitive Bilstein dampers.

None of these options, however, are what you’d strictly call a performance ute. At least... not if your measure of a fast ute is based on dearly departed homegrown heroes like the HSV Maloo and Ford Falcon F6 Typhoon

Throw that kind of performance lens over the vast and sprawling dual-cab segment and you’ll return only two proper contenders: the Ford Ranger Raptor and the RAM TRX 1500.

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Getting right to it

Between 'T-Rex' and the Raptor, it’s the Ford that claims top honours as the best performance ute on sale.

It’s not only significantly cheaper than the RAM ($86,790 for the Raptor plays $209,250 for the TRX – ouch!) but it’s a better fit size-wise for our ‘best dual-cab’ coverage, given the muscly TRX is a full-size pick-up that plays in the class above (where'd you find an F-150 Raptor, if in the US).

So in some ways, it’s a win-by-default for the Ford Ranger Raptor, but that doesn’t diminish its appeal. Now in its second generation, this latest Ranger Raptor went on sale late in 2022, and it’s a very different beast to what came before.

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Where the original was powered by a smaller 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre diesel and featured softer Fox shocks, the new Raptor has morphed into a far more serious and steely-eyed machine.

Power has almost doubled courtesy of a big new 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol that churns out 292kW/583Nm. That’s enough grunt to lend the 2.5-tonne Raptor the kind of acceleration you get from most hot hatches.

Against the clock, we’ve timed the Raptor at 6.1 seconds to 100km/h, which is proper rapid for such a large vehicle. There’s plenty of exhaust noise to enjoy now, too, thanks to a switchable twin-exit exhaust system that includes a Baja mode which mostly bypasses the mufflers.

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The original Raptor’s pillowy suspension has also been overhauled, with Ford moving to a more sophisticated Fox shock that, while just as capable off-road, is far better tied-down.

The trade-off is the loss of the first-gen Raptor’s serene ride (it almost felt like it was on a gimbal, so adept was the suspension at filtering out lumps and bumps), but the benefit is greater agility, connection and tauter body control.

Throw in meatier steering that’s also more tactile and engaging, and a more immediate brake pedal, and it’s clear the second-gen Raptor sits in a class of its own for proper performance dual-cabs. Is it a surprise that more brands haven’t built a genuine Raptor rival?

Given the Ford’s popularity, it does seem a missed opportunity. But the upshot is that if you’re in the market for a proper performance dual-cab that’s hugely capable at high-speed off-roading, yet is still comfortable enough to drive every day, then your choice is clear.

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🥇 Ford Ranger Raptor: 8.9/10

Things we like

  • Engine and gearbox package is superb
  • Amazing suspension performance on- and off-road
  • So much fun to drive – a real enthusiast vehicle

Not so much...

  • Nearly $100k for a ute is steep
  • Fuel consumption – it likes a drink
  • No bonnet gas struts in engine bay

Ram 1500 TRX: 8.6/10

Things we like

  • Monstrous HEMI V8
  • High-end suspension
  • Presence

Not so much...

  • High price and low warranty
  • Extremely thirsty
  • Interior foibles

Ford Ranger RaptorRAM 1500 TRX
Safety, value and features8.58.5
Comfort and space98
Engine and gearbox99.5
Ride and handling98.5

Visit our Best Utes page to find the right ute for you.


Ford Ranger RaptorRAM 1500 TRX
Engine3.0L V66.2L supercharged V8
Max power292kW523kW
Max torque583Nm882Nm
Transmission10-speed automatic8-speed automatic
4x4 systemFull-time 4x4Full-time, dual-range 4x4
Construction5-door ute on ladder chassis5-door ute on ladder chassis
Suspension (front)struts, double A-arms, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll barIFS, coil springs, BlackHawk e2 shocks
Suspension (rear)Watts link, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll barLive axle, 5-link, coil springs, BlackHawk e2 shocks
Kerb weight2674kg3033kg
Towing capacity2500kg3500kg
Fuel tank capacity80L125L
ADR fuel claim11.5L/100km19.6L/100km
On test fuel use19L/100km28.9L/100km
Departure angle27.0 degrees23.5 degrees
Rampover angle24.0 degrees21.9 degrees
Approach angle32.0 degrees30.2 degrees
Wading depth800mm813mm
Ground clearance296mm295mm
Featured equipment build


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