Driven: 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor Is More Fun Than Driving A Sports Car

Test Drive / Comments

It's the best road-legal off-road vehicle you can buy right now - but should you?

Since the Ford Bronco Raptor arrived as a 2022 model, we've used it to run parts of King Of The Hammers, do some intensive rock crawling, get high-speed desert running tuition, and we've jumped it several times. We already know through experience just how ridiculously capable it is on several types of surfaces, and the only off-road discipline we hadn't experienced with it was in the mud. Before we even start here, it's worth saying that the Bronco Raptor (or Braptor if you prefer) is the most capable performance off-road vehicle on the market, even with the F-150 Raptor in the mix, in our opinion.

What we haven't done until now is live with the Bronco Raptor for a week. And that's important because even if you buy an off-roader just to off-road, they nearly always spend more time on pavement getting to interesting places than they do tackling off-road adventures. There are also some off-road considerations to take note of as it's the best performance off-roader out there, but not necessarily the right one for everyday use.

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Why Is The Bronco Raptor So Special?

Simply put, the Bronco Raptor is a hardcore off-road supercar. It's a road-legal race truck that houses all the conveniences and utility of the regular Bronco SUV. Under the hood is a 418-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 engine attached to a phenomenal 4x4 drivetrain and housed in a strengthened chassis. The most impressive part of the Bronco Raptor, though, is its adjustable suspension system developed with FOX. This is the level of engineering that created a suspension system that can deal with high-speed runs across the desert at the highest level, yet it also gives the articulation and low-speed control needed for extreme rock crawling - it's a marvel.

On top of that, every aspect of the Bronco Raptor works together harmoniously to deal with just about anything that could be thrown at it. Jumps are landed with a pillowy softness that you have to experience to believe, while it will go through stretches of rocks that all but the most hardcore Jeeps would turn back from.

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As A Daily Driver

Whether the Bronco Raptor would work for you is down to location. If busy parking lots are a regular part of your life, we quickly learned that the extra width is an issue, as is not being able to see the big fender flares that sit almost flush with the edge of the tires. The excellent 360-degree camera system with a birds-eye view is useful, and the rear camera is necessary as the spare tire blocks most of the view out of the back window. On the road, cars following close disappear from all the mirrors, and you won't even notice the more aggressive tailgaters out there.

On the freeway, things get a bit noisy in the cabin, likely due to the fact you can remove the roof and doors relatively simply. To do so is surprisingly easy, but you'll need two people to lift off the back part.

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Off-Road: Only One Issue

The only restriction we've been able to find with the Bronco off-road is its width. Make a wrong turn, as we did in the Anza Borrego desert canyons, and you can find yourself having to do a lot of backing up. Backing up with limited visibility is a challenge - until you remember the camera system, which isn't the best we've come across for an off-roader, but it covers all the angles you need to extract yourself from tricky spots.

Getting into serious rock territory with a car this wide can be tricky, even with cameras. These don't negate the need for a spotter, but no camera system does. Yet. Out the front, visibility is great, but you do need to remember the wheels and fenders stick out quite a bit.

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Most of our experience with the Bronco at higher speeds has been on harder ground, so we headed to Anza Borrega for the long, soft sand and silty wash trails. Airing the tires down would have been the smart thing to do, but out there, if you feel traction going away, it's easy enough to put a wheel on the hard mud to find grip. The advanced G.O.A.T (Goes Over Any Terrain) modes on the Bronco Raptor are Mud/Ruts, Rock Crawl, and Baja.

For the higher speed fun, we hit Baja and listened to the exhaust move into "Off-Road Only" mode and entered the twisty wash trails. With the diffs set to deal with the sand, confidence comes quickly at speed, but it becomes about mechanical grip slowing down for super-tight second-gear kinks in sandy trails. Even without airing down the 37-inch all-terrain tires but keeping the momentum and power consistent, the Braptor just carved through like a sports car on a canyon road.

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Is It Right For You?

This year, we gave our CarBuzz Off-Road Warrior Award to the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. The inevitable comment section question was, "What about the Bronco Raptor?" The answer is three or four-fold. This year, the Bronco Raptor isn't new or refreshed, but even if it was refreshed, the award would still have gone to Colorado ZR2 for its brilliant off-road focus, designed and priced for enthusiasts. The fact of the matter with the Ford is that most people won't be taking the Bronco Raptor off-road at high speeds, which is really its main draw. If you have access to the desert, never venture into tight areas, and have $86,580 to spend (2024 pricing puts the Bronco Raptor closer to $90k), then it's an amazing vehicle. For everyone else, it's too wide and too expensive.

Now, let's answer the crazy question in our review title: Is the Ford Bronco Raptor more fun than a sportscar - say, a Porsche 911? It can be. But that's if it's used to its full potential, which means spending less time in a garage or parking lot, and more in its natural habitat - and, like Porsche 911s, most won't.

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In Conclusion: It's A Beast

It's no exaggeration to say Ford has come up with an off-road supercar with the Bronco Raptor. It's the Corvette of off-roaders in that it has incredible performance but manages to have a price tag that is relatively attainable. That attainability might be when the kids have left home and the pension fund is healthy, but it's not ridiculously priced for what it is. You might only need a Colorado ZR2, though.

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