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Review: The Hennessey VelociRaptor Ranger Is the Midsize Raptor Ford Won’t Bring Here (Yet)

It’s also quicker than a regular F-150 Raptor.

Still holding out for the tasty looking Ford Ranger Raptor to make it Stateside? Tough luck—you're likely going to have to wait at least a year before you can park that pint-sized Baja-basher in your driveway. Well, that is if you absolutely, positively have to go through official FoMoCo channels; if you lack patience and have some extra coin laying around, Hennessey Performance will turn your existing brand-new Ford Ranger into an off-road rig worthy of the wasteland and give it a name that out-machos even Ford's Raptor. Welcome the Hennessey VelociRaptor.

Even we can hardly wait that long for a souped-up Ranger, so we had a black-on-black-on-black VelociRaptor dropped off at our office for a week-or-so of high-riding fun. It certainly looks the part, especially glowering over the workaday crossovers and hatchbacks in our parking lot. Heck, even the local Tacoma TRD Pro wilted next to the hyper-aggressive Hennessey. This visual one-two punch is thanks to a conglomeration of dirt-ready components, starting with a "Stage 1" four-inch lift kit that includes a complete coil-over suspension from Icon Vehicle Dynamics. Eighteen-inch Method wheels with ultra-meaty BF Goodrich KM2 tires fill the extra space, topped by fender flares above all four wheel wells.

For maximum tacti-cool, the front and rear bumpers are replaced with extraordinarily heavy metal bumpers that feel as though they could stave off small artillery fire, let alone errant rockslides blocking the trail. If said hypothetical rockslide occurs at night don't fret; the front bumper is chock-full of ultra-bright LED floodlights to sear the retinas of anything within range. Of course, there's also the requisite sprinkling of "Hennessey" and "VelociRaptor" badging around the exterior and interior, along with an interior plaque denoting this as a special edition.

This wouldn't be a true Hennessey product without some extra rocket fuel under the front hood, so you'll be pleased to learn the standard Ranger 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder is poked and prodded with an ECU upgrade and cat-back exhaust. Sounds pretty tame, but as we've seen before in the Focus RS, that 2.3-liter is a potent little engine, and it seems that all it takes is a few clever lines of code to add some serious power.

In the VelociRaptor, 360 hp and a mighty 440 lb-ft of torque is on-hand, a sizable upgrade from the standard 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. We've never found the regular Ranger lacking for power, but we'd always like additional juice in our off-road specials, a memo apparently lost on the competing Chevrolet Colorado ZR2—the diesel four-cylinder and naturally aspirated V-6 powertrain in Chevy's trail weapon are identical to those in the standard workaday Colorado and Canyon.

The stock 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission carries over as well, shifting power to either the rear or all four wheels depending on what trim you pick to convert to VelociRaptor spec. Since this should be used primarily in a rough-and-tumble environment, we'd suggest starting with a Ranger equipped with four-wheel drive. According to the modification list, it doesn't appear Hennessey did anything to the 4x4 system or terrain management programs, so aside from the massively improved ground clearance and beefy off-road tires, expect the same power transfer and split as the standard Ranger FX4.

With all this chit-chat about hitting the desert whoops and ripping down some backwoods fire trails, we'd love to regale you with our off-road exploits in the VelociRaptor, but the timing of our drive didn't allow for a day in the dirt. So, our experience is strictly how Raptor Jr. handles the mean streets of Los Angeles.

No complaints here. Surprisingly, a mid-sized truck is an ideal vehicle for general LA commuting, provided you don't have to spend much time in the tight and crowded downtown area. Most of the roads surrounding LA are full of weird dips, drainage ditches, and craggy potholes, and most entries into parking lots are aggressively pitched to the point where you'll scrape in anything remotely performance-oriented. A truck crashes through the rough stuff with abandon, and the VelociRaptor made the more aggressive craters even more stress-free.

Ride quality is much improved over the jelly-legged regular Ranger, though handling takes a moderate hit thanks to both the knobby tires and damper setup. It's a tall, narrow truck and drives like it, but it's not so compromised that it's beyond what we would expect from a similarly outfitted Ranger or Colorado—ZR2 not included. As far as we've experienced, no other off-road vehicle turns quite as flat or neutral as the Chevy on city streets, thanks entirely to the otherworldly Multimatic DSSV spool-valve shocks.

It's certainly faster than most anything else with a truck bed, midsize or otherwise. Thanks to the power boost, Hennessey claims both a 4.9 second 0-60 mph sprint and enough get-up-and-go to out-drag a stock '19 F-150 Raptor in a straight line. To all the current F-150 Raptor owners who now feel inadequate after reading that, I'm sure Hennessey would be more than happy to rectify your lack of firepower with a simple phone call and signed check.

Running day-to-day commutes and errands, that power makes the top-heavy Ranger VelociRaptor alarmingly quick. Hennessey doesn't touch the stock brakes, and with all that extra meat on the tires, good luck out-braking that GTI you just dusted off the line. Still, if you're feeling a bit anti-social, not much else outside of an LAPD cruiser clears a path through traffic quite like the murdered-out VelociRaptor.

Really, the only real downside we found with the Hennessey is the 10-speed transmission. In all driving scenarios, a smooth 1-2-3 shift was nigh on impossible, unless we forced the transmission into manual shift mode and held the revs nearly to redline. Normal throttle operation is rewarded with a swift kick to the spine, and makes for a jarring experience if you're not absolutely caning it. Hennessey claims nothing is out of the ordinary and passes the buck to Ford, asserting this is how most bone-stock Rangers drive. Our experience with all manner of new Rangers says otherwise, but we're not holding Hennessey completely at fault here.

Even with all the extra power, the transmission should be able to handle it, considering this is a variant of the same slushbox found in the full-size Raptor and Mustang Shelby GT500. We reckon this relatively high-mileage press loaner has lived a hard life, as this was allegedly the only Ranger VelociRaptor in existence at the time of our drive, and we're guessing the bulk of drivers who previously slid behind the wheel treated the truck with about as much respect as a Porta-Potty. Also, this likely was the same truck much of the development work went into  when the whole package was initially put together, so we'd have to drive a minty customer-supplied example before passing judgement. In other words, go drive one for yourself—your mileage may vary.

What isn't in dispute is the price tag of this monster. You'll need to scrape together $65,000 to beat Ford to the Ranger Raptor punch, and that's if Hennessey sources the truck itself. Bring an existing Ranger into the Sealy, Texas shop, and it'll require $19,950 to undergo the conversion. Of course, all of this is before you start looking at suspension and appearance options, a list of upgrades that no-doubt adds a few extra thousand to the price tag. All this is quite the pretty penny to pay, especially since a no-frills 2020 F-150 Raptor stickers in at just over $54,000, and the less-powerful but just-as-capable Colorado ZR2 starts at around $42,000. Better yet, be patient, and we'd be surprised if the official Ranger Raptor arrives here wearing a tag marked at anything over $50,000 in just a few years' time.

Still, this isn't a "bad buy." As far as we can tell, there isn't a cheaper way to get this kind of performance in this size of truck, and certainly it's the most affordable way to slide into a bonafide Hennessy VelociRaptor, which for some enthusiasts is more important than owning a factory-fresh Raptor of any ilk. A word of warning: if you do happen to VelociRaptor-ize a Ranger, you'll only be king-of-the-hill for a year or so until Hennessey gets his big-block, quad-turbo mitts on the official Ranger Raptor somewhere around 2021. When the time comes, guess you'll have to upgrade.

Hennessey VelociRaptor Ranger Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $65,000
ENGINE 2.3L DOHC turbocharged I4; 360 hp, 440 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic
LAYOUT Two- or four-door, four- or five-passenger pickup truck
EPA MILEAGE N/A
L x W x H N/A
WHEELBASE 126.8 in
WEIGHT N/A
0-60 MPH
4.9 sec
TOP SPEED
N/A