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Two of the most capable dual-cab utes in Australia – which one is the best off-road though?
While both have an effective off-road traction control system, the HiLux has one that is much more proficient and smooth. Despite having tyres with much less grip, the HiLux did show off its electronic wizardry by hardly spinning wheels on rutted climbs and wombat holes.
Score: HiLux 1 – Raptor 0
In this situation, the Raptor wins hands-down. Both have the locking rear differential, but the biggest difference is that when you engage it, the HiLux will disable traction control across the whole vehicle. That means while your rear is locked, your front end is now entirely open. Cue wheelspin.
On the other hand, the Ranger leaves traction control on to limit front end wheelspin. What’s more, you can operate the rear locker in high-range 4WD, which is handy for flexibility. In the HiLux, it’s only limited to low-range operation. It’s not a deal breaker, but definitely worth noting.
Score: HiLux 1 – Raptor 1
The Ranger Raptor, on paper, has greater listed clearance, but both vehicles have an ignominious listing for ground clearance: 283mm for the Raptor and 251mm for the HiLux. I’ll save you getting the tape measures out, they are both wrong.
Because both vehicles are IFS, their underbody is largely similar. But where the Raptor has a chunky 33-inch tyre, the HiLux has a much more tame 31-inch tyre. This gives the Ranger the edge in this regard, along with better approach, ramp-over and departure angles. But when you hit, at least the HiLux has steel…
Score: HiLux 1 – Raptor 2
We mentioned tyres, so it’s worth talking about now. And there’s one clear winner. One looks great, while the other looks like it skipped leg day too many times. Raptor wins by a country mile: 33-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain, with a strong LT carcass to prevent punctures while off-roading. The Lux makes do with some rather uninspiring HT tyres, that still managed to scramble through obstacles somehow. Not unscathed I might add though, with the front drivers side tyre sustaining a rather nasty vertical split in the sidewall rendering it useless. A set of slightly larger LT tyres in either an all-terrain or mud-terrain tread pattern would be the first thing we’d fit to the HiLux. Like, the very first thing.
Score: HiLux 1 – Raptor 3
This is another country-mile winner, but for the other side. Although, the Raptor does get decent side steps and SMC panels, which are an improvement over a Ranger. But for a 4WD, it’s very hard to go past steel. I’ve got steel on the front, sides and rear of my own 4X4 for good reason.
Score: HiLux 2 – Raptor 3
Both diesels are mostly good, refined and quite efficient. Where the HiLux has an extra 800cc to draw upon in terms of capacity, the Raptor uses an extra turbocharger, in a sequential setup to make more power and torque. Regardless, the Raptor’s driveline does feel a little underdone, especially when compared to the rest of the car. The fact that my 2.5-tonne, 15-year-old Range Rover is faster is pretty disappointing. Both have part-time 4X4 and low range, but the Raptor has an extra four ratios (10-speed vs six-speed). We’re going to call this a draw, because neither is a clear winner.
Score: HiLux 2 – Raptor 3
The Raptor boasts Fox 46.6mm dampers with internal bypass, coils and disc brakes all-round, tuned specifically for off-road performance. In comparison, the HiLux feels like it’s being driven by Fred Flintstone. The leaf springs flex really well off-road, but lack a bit of refinement on-road. The Raptor’s coilover rear end, high-end suspension and wider overall track makes it great on-road and off-road. It’s super impressive.
Score: HiLux 2 – Raptor 4
Believe it or not, the Raptor actually has a slightly higher payload than the Rugged X. Neither are high (758kg vs. 748kg), but at least the HiLux is sporting some decent bar work from the get-go. A snorkel, off-road recovery points front-and-rear, and winch compatibility all add up to a good base to build upon for travelling Australia. We managed to get the Raptor’s air filter slightly wet while punching through some deep water, which means it needs a snorkel or water bra (or both).
Score: HiLux 3 – Raptor 4
$63,690 versus $74,990. The Rugged X is a $6950 jump over the SR5 HiLux. For that money, you’re getting the bolt-on accessories: bull bar, light bar, recovery points, sliders, rear bar and load-rated sports bar. And compared to the aftermarket, it’s reasonably good value. The Raptor is an $11,000 jump over a comparable Ranger Wildtrak, which nets you a very different vehicle overall. Coilovers and discs replace leaves and drums on the rear, which bolts up to a reworked and reinforced chassis. The big wheel track increase means lots of parts are modified, including aluminium control arms, steering, axles and body panels. Plus, you score awesome tyres. You do lose some safety gear, compared to a Wildtrak, if you care. We’re going to call this a draw, as well.
Score: HiLux 3 – Raptor 4
Three years and 100,000 kilometres for the HiLux is soundly beaten by the five years and unlimited kilometre coverage offered by Ford. Your mileage may vary, according to the dealership and kind of treatment you get. Don’t let them knock you back for non-dealership servicing, off-road use or aftermarket gear. Stick to your guns!
Score: HiLux 3 – Raptor 5
When you’re comparing a ‘normal’ Ranger with a ‘normal’ HiLux, it’s a much more straightforward comparison. Both models are fighting for exactly the same patch of grass, and go about it in slightly different ways. The Rugged X and the Raptor are both indicators of where this ute market is heading: premium, performance-oriented utes that are shirking their vestige of simple and honest working vehicles.
Where the Raptor has gone is serious suspension performance and bigger off-road rubber, making it a much more potent performer off-road. Aside from lacking a few ponies, the Raptor is a package that works very nicely overall. The amount of effort that goes into making something like this work cannot be underestimated, and is something Ford’s Aussie R&D team should be very proud of.
The HiLux, on the other hand, is more about the bar work and clearance improvements. The recovery points are exquisite, as are the rock sliders. It’s a good base to build upon as a touring 4X4, needing only a canopy, some electrics and better rubber before hitting the road. While the Raptor has won the count, both are awesome. For 4X4 touring, the Raptor will work, but the HiLux will do it better. But in every other sense, the Raptor is a better overall 4X4.