2022 Ford Bronco Raptor: The best Bronco yet

Just one problem: It's totally sold out

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — The most surprising thing about the Ford Bronco Raptor isn’t its prodigious off-road performance.

That was no surprise to me, given the Raptor badge and the Bronco pedigree, that the new 2022 Bronco Raptor would excel at ripping across the Nevada desert at highway speeds. It was deceptively simple to conquer alarmingly steep rock crawl trails and equally easy to bomb down a rutted track and to almost, but not quite, get myself into trouble by kicking the rear end loose in a corner at close to 60 mph.

The Bronco Raptor is 9.8 inches wider than the standard Bronco and fitted with massive 37-inch BFGoodrich KO2 off-road tires, an upgraded suspension, better brakes, and a 418-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine borrowed from the Explorer and retooled by Ford Performance. The Raptorized Bronco has the hardware to go wheel-to-wheel with any off-roader around. The Jeep Wrangler 392 is the biggest competitor, and though the pricing is similar, the Raptor surpasses it in everything from tire size to suspension tech. I’m excited to see what the competition does for the next-gen Wrangler.

No, the most surprising thing about this beast is how good it was on the pavement. This is an excellent thing because, while everyone who buys one wants to pretend that they’ll be conquering King of the Hammers next year, most of them will likely never see anything more exciting than a leaf-strewn driveway or a sand-swept beachside parking lot. This isn’t a knock on the Raptor. It has the truck holy trinity: great looks, performance, and sound.

Better than it has any right to be.

I took the Bronco Raptor up through the San Jacinto Mountains outside Palm Springs and was astonished at how well it handled. It would have been impressive for a dedicated sports car, never mind a top-heavy off-roader. Kick it over to Sport using the bright orange G.O.A.T. Mode selector (Goes Over Any type of Terrain), and the cleverly engineered, adjustable FOX shocks keep the Raptor utterly flat in the corners. You’d expect the big tires would give it some body roll, but no. It just took everything I threw at it and asked for more. To be sure, you aren’t going to win the Pikes Peak Hillclimb, but the Bronco Raptor is a far better performer on-road than it has any right to be.

Everything about this rig is a cheat button. Want to go tooling around like you’re in a sports car? Drop it into Sport. Want to get off the beaten path and explore the wilderness with a grin and a giggle? You want Off-Road mode. Rock Crawl is for crawling over rocks, and if you want to go all-out, you’ve got Baja mode for all your bombing-across-the-desert-in-style-and-comfort needs.

You don’t necessarily need to know precisely what the locking differentials do or the difference between 4-High and 4-Low to go Jeepin’ with your Rubicon-owning buddies. If you need it, the Bronco Raptor can take excellent care of you and make sure you get to your destination and back home safely and comfortably. If you want to adjust everything manually, you can, but just dropping it into Rock Crawl or Baja was good enough for me.

It’s so good at everything it does that it earns a rare distinction as a vehicle I was deeply disappointed to give back at the end of my time with it. I drive many different cars, and returning one to the automaker isn’t usually a big deal: thanks for letting me test out your new ride; my review is on the way. But the Raptor was different.

Starting at just under $70,000 and rising to around $80,000 with all the correct option boxes checked (if a single Bronco Raptor is sold in the base configuration, I’ll be shocked), the big SUV isn’t cheap. It’s also basically impossible to get. The entire 2022 run is being reserved for existing Bronco reservation holders, and, though Ford isn’t saying this, I suspect the whole 2023 run as well. This makes me feel a bit better since even if I had the cash, I still wouldn’t be able to get one, so I’m only missing out so much.

The only downside, other than its sheer unavailability, is the atrocious rear visibility. Thanks to an additional brace to improve torsional rigidity and the massive spare tire hanging on the rear door, the view out the back rivals a Lamborghini Huracan for ineffectiveness. But, like with a supercar, you won’t care because you’ll be too busy giggling and grinning to look anywhere other than straight ahead at the world you’re about to conquer.

About Jordan Golson 181 Articles
Jordan Golson is North State Journal's automotive reporter. He covers cars - both foreign and domestic - from around the globe.