LEBEC, California – There is a long wash that runs through the heart of Hungry Valley Off Road Park, about 160 km north of Los Angeles. It is not exactly the "Ensenada Wash" in Baja, but the deep sand, the big rocks and tracks are a challenge for every 4×4, testing its travel, chassis stiffness, ground clearance and, of course, traction. With its Terrain Management System in Sand mode and its electronic rear differential locked, the Hennessey VelociRaptor Ranger 2019 sprints through the rugged terrain with an impressive clip, demonstrating the possibilities of its modified suspension and extra large tires.
At 35 mph, his ride is surprisingly smooth, even over the larger tracks and rocks. I drove through this faster in a factory stock of Raptor, which has more spring travel, but the VelociRaptor Ranger smashes through faster than the standard Ford Ranger FX4 that was tested here a few months ago. As we all know, Ford refuses to sell the Raptor version of its medium-sized Ranger in the United States, so Hennessey Performance in Houston has built its own version that increases the power, ride height and posture of the pickup. The production is limited to just 500 units. According to the cheap-looking plaque on his dashboard, this truck is numero uno.
John Hennessey has been working in the tuning business since 1991. About 10 years ago he even created his own supercar, the Venom GT, but he is probably best known for his manic Dodge Vipers. He built his first in 1992, the Venom 500, and Hennessey Performance was active. Big-power Vipers, eventually with 1,000 hp and top speeds higher than 210 mph, remained the company's bread and butter for the next 15 years. Nowadays the extensive menu with machines varies from McLarens with 1,000 hp to Camaro & # 39; s with monster engine, Corvettes and Hellcats and Demons.
Oh yes, and trucks. Today, about 50 percent of Hennessey's activities consist of trucks, from the extensive VelociRaptor Ford Raptors line, which includes a V8 switch and a 6×6 with two rear axles, to a 1,000-horsepower Hellcat-powered Jeep Gladiator, appropriately called the Maximus . Hennessey Performance is a good place to spend your lottery winnings.
With 360 hp and a price tag around $ 65,000, the VelociRaptor Ranger is the least powerful and cheapest model of the company. The changes to this Ranger Lariat crew add $ 19,950 to the truck's price tag, about $ 44,000.
The core of the package is a software tuning that increases the boost, the only adjustment of the engine. Hennessey says it increases the output of the 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo engine by 90 hp. The torque is also sharp, from 310 pounds to 440 lb-ft at 3,800 rpm. Hennessey also plays with the melody of the 10-speed automatic transmission, and the partial gas acceleration to the second and third gear is getting harder now. To increase the sound, a resonator was removed from the exhaust system of the truck and the nasal babble of the inline four can be heard for half a block. Apparently, future trucks will receive a full system from Borla. Hopefully it sounds better.
The result is a pretty fast truck. Although it does not have the stones to run its 33-inch high BF Goodrich Mud Terrains of 285 / 70R18, it will smoke a V6-powered Chevy Colorado ZR2. Hennessey says it does 0.90 km / h in 4.9 seconds and travels the quarter mile in 13.9 seconds at 101 km / h. That is just as fast as the 450 hp Raptor and is about 2 full seconds better than a standard Ranger.
However, the fuel consumption is a serious blow. It was an average of 18.5 mpg on the highway during our test, well below the 26 mpg EPA estimate of the stock Ranger. This radically reduces the reach of the truck to less than 300 miles, thereby limiting the land capacity. Hennessey's ECU reset also seemed to disable the truck's fuel-saving start / stop function.
The VelociRaptor Ranger feels small, light and agile in the city and on faster fire roads. The steering is fast and responsive. Just like Chevy's ZR2, it fits on paths that are too narrow for the larger Raptor and it is much easier to park in the mall. Hennessey also improved the Ranger's suspension by adding 2-inch diameter aluminum shocks from Icon Vehicle Dynamics, along with new front springs and sturdy aluminum A-arms. Icon says the A-arms are equipped with its unique high angle ball joint, it is called a Delta Joint. It says it combines the durability of a ball joint with the performance characteristics of a traditional uniball, and they increase the suspension by a further 10 percent for a total increase of 35 percent over inventory.
The ride height is 4 centimeters higher, but the rear springs and aggressive bumps of urethane are standard and the rear suspension of the Ranger is still fairly limited. Large collisions, both on the road and on the road, are absorbed by the front suspension with the soft, cushion-like operation of a trophy truck, but they send a shock through the rear suspension hard enough to get you in the safety belt.
The large side walls of the BFG improve the ride of the trucks. It is not jerky on the highway and it is stable at speeds of more than 90 km / h. Although you can feel their tread on the asphalt through the handlebars and the seat, they don't hum so badly on most surfaces. Still, a set of BFG & # 39; s All-Terrain T / As might be a better choice.
Hennessey did not offer soil clearance figures, so I crawled under the truck with a tape measure. The front dam of a standard Ranger is only 11 centimeters above the ground and there is 9.25 centimeters below the front skid plate. This truck, which carries Fab Force steel front and rear bumpers, has 20.25 inch front bumper space and there is 14 inch under the aluminum skid plate. At the rear, the clearance of the Ranger interval is 1.5 inches to 10.5 inches.
Although Ford has done a good job of placing the important pieces high under the truck and mounting skidplates to protect the power steering and the gas tank, Hennessey should consider adding some armor around the transmission pan. It is made of plastic. It would also be good to see some rock sliders, such as you on Chevy & # 39; s ZR2, to protect the chassis of the truck. The Chevy also has a locking differential at the front, allowing it to climb over terrain that holds this Ranger in its tracks.
Hennessy adds hefty mudguards, which look fantastic, although the front tires are fully locked when you press the suspension, even on a driveway. The badging, Method's bead-lock wheels, the Raptor-style grille, enough LEDs to illuminate Yankee Stadium, and a three-year / 36,000-mile warranty are also included in the package.
With its rear differential locked and large torque output, few trucks are as much fun as the Hennessey Ranger on a dusty dirt road. You can slide it around like a rally car, throw it into long, wide corners and drive away with the throttle and arms full of opposite locks. It is also a head turner, with an attitude and intensity that is lacking in the factory competition. That said, like most tuner machines, it is hard to justify Hennessey's price.
Even if you start with a cheaper Ranger XLT FX4, which saves you around $ 8,000, the price of the Hennessey will still buy a Raptor with a few tasty options. And a ZR2 Bison gives you around $ 7,000 change. Even if you add a lift and a set of 33 & # 39; s, you are far ahead. A Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is also cheaper and it can go to places that the others simply cannot.
This is probably the reason why Ford is resisting the Ranger Raptor in this market. To make sense, it should cost much less than an F-150 Raptor, which has a base price of around $ 53,000. With a loaded Ranger Lariat equipped with the FX4 Off-Road package (it adds the lockable rear differential) at around $ 45,000, that's probably not possible, which is probably why other tuners don't offer hot-rodded Rangers. Not Roush. Not Saleen.
In short, if you want a faster and more capable version of the Ford Ranger, and you want one with a warranty, then the Hennessey VelociRaptor Ranger is really your only option. If you write that check, you get a nice truck.