Australia lays claim to inventing the ute, a car that can go to church on Sunday and the farmer’s market on Monday.
Over the decades the Australian-made ute evolved into a lifestyle vehicle for many before eventually fading into extinction along with local manufacturing. At the same time imported models like the Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton increased in popularity.
They too have evolved from workhorses to play things and as a result the once humble ute has turned into a premium-priced status symbol. No two vehicles better exemplify that than the Ford Ranger Raptor and the Ram 1500 Laramie.
They have brought American brashness to the pick-up fight and while they are ultimately very different propositions they are each unquestionably two vehicles that make a statement.
Both still have clear Australian links though, as the Ranger Raptor was largely developed by the R&D team based in Australia and the Ram is built in the US before being converted from left-hand drive by American Special Vehicles in Melbourne.
Aside from the obvious American connection these two may not seem like natural rivals at first, but with the Ford priced from $74,990 and the Ram from $99,950 both will be competing for a similar audience of well-heeled ute lovers.竞彩总进球算法
Obviously they go about attracting those buyers in a very different way - the Raptor with its off-road prowess and the Ram with its size and muscle car attitude.
Both make a bold statement on the road. The Raptor features wider guards than the standard Ranger with big ‘FORD’ lettering in the new-look front grille. The 1500 may be the smallest member of the Ram family but it’s an imposing vehicle with its huge chrome nose and shiney 20-inch wheels.
Like the original F-150 Raptor the Ranger Raptor has been specifically tuned for high-speed off-road driving. That means its gets a wider track, desert-busting Fox Racing shock absorbers and 17-inch alloy wheels with chunky BF Goodrich tyres.
Despite the hefty price tags neither of these vehicles get any modern active safety systems such as autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring or active cruise control. Given the expense and the reality that these can and will be used as family transport it's a disappointing omission.
Picking a winner in terms of value is hard but the edge goes to the Ford for its cheaper starting price and excellent execution of the Raptor off-road theme.
Do you want style or space?
While based on a commercial ute, Ford has managed to add some pizzazz to the Raptor with the addition of a new sports steering with red centre marking, blue stitching throughout the cabin and new seats trimmed in ‘technical suede’ that looks and feels appropriate.
It also offers good room for a family with a respectable rear seat that could easily accommodate three smaller kids or two bigger ones.
The Ram, on the other hand, will comfortably carry five adults in its more spacious cabin.
The trump card of the 1500 is its size and that extends to the cabin as much as anywhere else. There’s heaps of room wherever you need it - even the centre console box is massive and it’s big enough to fit a shopping bag.
Getting into both is a bit of challenge due to their increased ride heights but thankfully both come equipped with sidesteps that make it easier to climb aboard.
What lets the Ram down is the quality of the cabin, especially the materials which look and feel cheap. That’s not unexpected given the known quantity from Chrysler Group products. But it must be said the local conversion by ASV is superbly executed with no obvious sign it wasn’t originally built this way - that is, aside from the gear selector surround not lining up with its neighbouring trim.
While not as big, the superior quality of the Ford gives it the edge in this department.
Under the bonnet
Once again these two American-inspired load-luggers take divergent paths. Ford has, somewhat controversially, opted for a smaller 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine while Ram has stuck with a good old-fashioned 5.7-litre Hemi V8.
Not surprisingly the Hemi offers more punch, pumping out 291kW of power and 556Nm of torque, but the Raptor still manages 157kW and 500Nm, which is more than the 3.2-litre five-pot offered in other Ranger variants.
The Ford’s engine is actually an all-new twin-turbo unit that was developed specifically with the Ranger in mind, and it’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission to help extract the best from it.
On some levels it works great, revving with more freedom than than the 3.2-litre five-cylinder, and offering more power and torque. But given the Raptor is part of the Ford Performance range it fails to offer the shove-you-back-in-you-seat you expect.
The Ram, meanwhile, has no trouble doing that. The big V8 makes an excellent noise as it builds speed quicker than you’d reasonably expect from such a big truck. For those feeling the loss of V8-powered, locally-made utes the Ram 1500 fills that hole in its own unique way.
Of course, more performance means more fuel consumption and the Ram is rated at 9.9-litres per 100km, which is optimistic given the combination of big V8 and big ute. The Ford is rated at 8.2L/100km, which is more realistically achievable, at least when driven on sealed roads.
For its pure performance advantage, and more loveable character, the Ram wins this round.
On the road
The Ranger Raptor was designed around a specific goal - high-speed off-road driving - inspired by the famous Baja 1000 off-road race. The 1500 Laramie is more of an all-rounder, combining its comfortable and spacious cabin with the ability to still do hard work.
Ford has created a ute unlike any other currently on sale in Australia, prioritising off-road speed rather than the slow-speed, rugged driving typically associated with these types of utes. Rather than fjording down rivers in low range like a Ranger XLT, the Ranger Raptor blasts through them.
It has a variety of drive mode settings, including one called Baja which is specifically tuned to allow for some slip angle when really pushing on loose surfaces. The new suspension, especially the Fox Racing shocks, gives the Raptor abilities no rival can match - it can jump, slide and take a pounding across almost any surface.
Crucially this off-road prowess doesn’t hurt its sealed road ride, in fact it enhances it. The Raptor rides with a comfort and sophistication that no other dual-cab ute can match, soaking up bumps rather than jiggling across them like its peers. It also steers more faithfully than any of its brethren, accurate and well weighted, instead of vague and numb.
The Ram can’t compete with the Ford off-road; it’s a capable four-wheel drive ute but it’s simply not designed to race along dirt tracks like the Raptor.
Instead it offers a more pampering experience for the driver. Like the Ford it has above-average ride comfort for a ute and thanks to its length it feels stable and solid on the road. This is a ute you can soak up long distances in comfort.
For something so big it certainly doesn’t handle like a truck, in fact it’s surprising how quickly you adapt to how big the 1500 is and get comfortable behind the wheel.
Both are nice utes to drive and have road presences few can compete with but its combination of on- and off-road abilities give the Ford the points here.
The Ford may shine off-road but where the Ram comes into its own is towing.
Rated to haul 4.5-tonnes, the 1500 Laramie has a 1000kg advantage on the typical one-tonne ute, but because Ford has sacrificed capability in search of better performance the Raptor can only tow 2500kg.
Neither of these two, however, can claim to be a true ‘one-tonne’ ute as they have much smaller payloads. Ram rates the 1500 Laramie to handle 885kg in its tray while the Ranger Raptor can carry to just 738kg (well down on the Ranger Wildtrak that manages 950kg).
These two are predominantly about image and performance but when buying a ute you should expect some practical benefits. In this department the Ram has the advantage - and that’s before you begin exploring its extensive range of options that include lockable ‘RamBox’ that can be integrated into the tray.
These are two very different takes on the modern lifestlye ute, and, as such, will appeal to different folk for different reasons.
The Ram has a real American muscle car vibe that brings with it a sense of effortless performance and the throbbing emotional appeal of a V8 soundtrack, along with a hugely spacious cabin and greater towing capacity.
But the Ford is tougher when it comes to off-road performance, is more economical and has a cheaper price tag, which gives it a narrow but deserving victory.
2018 Ford Ranger Raptor price and specifications
Price: From $74,990 plus on-road costs
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel
Power: 157kW at 3750rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1750-2000rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Fuel use: 8.2L/100km
2018 Ram 1500 Laramie price and specifications
Price: From $99,950 plus on-road costs
Engine: 5.7-litre V8 petrol
Power: 291kW at 5600rpm
Torque: 556Nm at 3950rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
Fuel use: From 9.9L/100km