33 critical questions with the 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor

Sam Smith

It was a Wednesday in winter. The man had driven no other modern Bronco. He shared that fact in a meeting.

“Drive it anyway,” the editor said. “Tell us what you think.”

“Don’t have much context? Jumped a portal-axle Mercedes at another job, have tested dozens of Jeeps, tried an old Bronco once. Just never a current one.”

“Gotta start somewhere,” the editor shrugged.

“With an $87,000 Baja freight train?”


“Is the base four-cylinder even any good?”

“Just tell us what you think.”

A moment passed. 

“Alright,” he said. “I have questions.”



2022 Ford Bronco Raptor
A partial Bronco family photo, 2022. Left to right: Bronco Everglades, Bronco Raptor, Bronco Wildtrak. In background: mountains, cowering. Ford

What rough beast is this? 

The 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor. A 418-hp, 5700-pound shoebox factory-modified to more effectively utilize, among other things, 37-inch BFGoodrich KO2s and four internally bypassed and electronically adjustable Fox live-valve shocks.

This is the ordinary Bronco evolved extreme—taller, wider, faster. Large fender flares. The suspension has been strengthened and retuned front and rear. The rear axle is an electronically locking Dana 50 (M235), larger and stronger than the base Bronco’s open Dana 44. All in service of off-road hoots and hollers and something like the bare-dirt dream of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, where high-speed off-road racing was essentially born.

The Bronco Raptor was introduced for the 2022 model year. The model was then more than $17,000 cheaper but has since received multiple price hikes. Our test vehicle, a ’23, came on loan from Ford. My kids dubbed it Dinosaur Truck. The internet just calls it “Braptor.” 

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor
Our test truck in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. In far background, far below: my children, asking their mother why Daddy drove over the sidewalk and the garbage cans and also the roof of the house on his way out of the driveway. (“Because he could, my darlings,” she said.)

Ooh, I get it! Bronco Raptor plus brap!

A broad-ranging term of wide acceptance. Believed to have been invented thousands of years ago, when the earth was a harsh wilderness, humanity was primordial and raw, and we needed a word for the mating call of a rutting dirtbike.


It’s a good name.

I can’t help reading it as “B-Raptor.” Like B-Real, from Cypress Hill. Also known as Dr. Greenthumb, aka Louis Mario Freese. A giant of 1990s hip-hop.

Which means, I suppose, it would be appropriate to refer to the Ford as “Louis,” or “Doctor.”

This FAQ-as-writing style of yours is admittedly just an excuse to talk to yourself, but trust me here: No one will call it “B-Raptor.”

Not with that attitude, they won’t. Spread the word!

Pack it up / pack it in / let me begin / I came to win / battle Bronc / that’s a sin?


Plus . . . dinosaur?

The “Raptor” part is a Ford sub-brand. The name was first used on a high-performance F-150 engineered for desert running—long, fast shots over unpaved and unimproved terrain.

Thirteen years later, Ford still offers a new F-150 Raptor. The first Ranger Raptor was unveiled only this month. The Braptor launched in 2022.

Raptors are said to be spectacular in the desert. People also use them for low-speed off-road work, aka rock crawling. No personal experience here on either front. Either way, everyone takes them jumping.

A 2022 Braptor, crawling, fender flares and rear articulation on full display. Ford

Cool. Why did they build it?



No, really.

No, really!

Ford Bronco Raptor off some sweet jumps
“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” —Alexis de Tocqueville Google

Oh. Car people do that stuff all the time, eh?

Uh, no. Not really. 

Ford is a business, so the Braptor was likely built for reasons of brand image and profit.


Do car people want to jump things?

That’s a matter of opinion. Far as I can tell, you either love seeing cars and trucks airborne at full commit, or you are less fun than an empty box of soup.

Using jump ability to sell new trucks is like using drift ability to sell new cars: The act looks great on camera and can indicate a certain fitness for purpose. It can also be dangerous in the wrong hands or environment and is rarely useful in sanctioned competition.

The Ford looks Tonka. Toy truck. Is it?

Welcome to the mandatory fact-dump segment of our broadcast! Consider the following, then judge for yourself:

The styling is best described as “form follows function follows What if you brought home a live zoo animal and parked that sucker next to the mailbox?” The bodywork resembles an ordinary construction brick that got insulted at the local beach when a bully kicked sand in its face, then spent six months at the gym pumping up in order to Get Even. (The term “brick” is not a knock here. Mobile masonry can be quite attractive.)

If the Braptor gained three-sixteenths of an inch in height, it would be 6.5 feet tall. 

If the Braptor lost 6.1 inches of width, it would be exactly as wide as it is high.

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor R
And if your narrator lost multiple inches of width, he would no longer complain about how all his old pants “keep shrinking in the wash.” Sam Smith

Ford says the Bronco Raptor weighs 5733 pounds. That figure is light for a large SUV or an African forest elephant, par for a modern compact truck, and—lest we lose sight of the mass at stake here—around 500 pounds more than a 2023 Mercedes-Maybach S580. Which is, you may remember, a five-passenger German hyperluxury sedan with acres of sound deadening, massaging front and rear seats, and enough mass to dent Wyoming.

The Braptor will tow 4500 pounds. Which is not much, in tow ratings, but also not nothing. The base Bronco will itself tow 3500, while the current F-150 Raptor can lug 8200. (Also: An entire base Bronco four-door weighs around 4500 pounds.)

Tonka isn’t the question, really. The question is whether you are the sort of person who might survey the standard B-Ronco range and find every other model on offer simply not enough. 

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor_Wildtrak_02
“Do not talk to me or my shamefully diminutive son ever again.” Ford

You just made a Ronco infomercial reference. In 2023. What is wrong with you?

I bear no shame, merely abiding respect for the man who gifted the world the Veg-O-Matic, the Chop-O-Matic, the Dial-O-Matic, the Miracle Broom, the Cookie Machine, Mr. Microphone, and the Ronco Pocket Fisherman.

The joy I take in this image is—unlike the last time I tried singing without the aid of a Mr. Microphone—not a joke. Ronco / via RP Facebook Fan Page

Moving on. The engine in that Bronco?

Ford’s 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6: two turbochargers, an iron block, aluminum heads, 418 hp at 5750 rpm and 440 lb-ft at 2750 rpm. 

Those numbers are respectable for the displacement and warranty involved, but mass is mass. Even with the quick-thinking ten-speed automatic and its relatively close stack of gear ratios, that 3.0-liter never knocks your socks off. Call it quick but not surprising. The transmission puts in valiant work, shifting quickly and intuitively and staying mostly out of the way. Midrange torque is a strength.

Automatic? Don’t people buy off-roaders for a sense of control?

Lesser Broncos offer an optional manual, but not this one.



If you find that fact depressing, consider the choices at hand for every time you strap in: Three settings for steering weight and feedback. Four calibrations for the electronically adjustable shocks. An electronically disconnectable front anti-roll bar. Four exhaust modes. A transfer case that allows for high-range four-wheel-drive, low-range four-wheel-drive, and rear-wheel drive. Plus locking differentials front and rear.

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor
Sam Smith


Impeccable rhetoric. You’re right, there is a downside. The steering wheel alone wears 21 buttons, not including the two shift paddles or the truck’s horn. There’s cruise control, the lane-departure system, radar-cruise following distance, those steering and shock buttons, dash menu controls, stereo controls . . . 

I could not help wondering if a simpler approach wouldn’t have been a better fit. Broncos can be had with rubberized floors. The doors were purposely designed to be unbolted and removed in minutes. Some parts of the Braptor feel like a simple tool. Others just remind you of a ten-year-old laptop.

Where does one even start with those settings?

If you’re a normal person? In normal driving? You ignore them. You take that large “G.O.A.T.” chassis-mode knob on the console and leave it in . . . Normal.


Har har. 

No, really!

The G.O.A.T. knob, common across the Bronco line, cycles through various presets for chassis and driveline—Baja, Normal, Off-Road, Rock Crawl, Slippery, Sport, and Tow/Haul. 

“Baja” is unique to the Raptor. Logistical concerns sadly limited our testing to pavement, where normal mode was never insufficient. Sport gave sharper turn-in and greater body control but noticeably reduced grip and comfort in all but the smoothest environments.

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor exhaust and differential
Rear axle, Panhard rod, R-badged diff cover, exhaust in a place you would very much put it if that axle were designed to very much move. Sam Smith

Tell me about that adjustable exhaust: DOES THIS MOTHER GET LOUD?

Not quite. Those four settings change the sound a little. The most you get is a slight deepening of the engine’s grumble at light throttle.

Turbocharged V-6s are not known for their sound, and this one is no exception—a gurgle-bark under load, emphasis on the tenor, too often quiet and reedy.

We are talking here about a rig that resembles nothing so much as the id of a third-grade boy. With looks like that, the factory exhaust should be funky but knowing. Moody but calculated. Like Gil Scott-Heron, in other words.

Gil scott-heron jazz album cover
The revolution will not be overmuffled. Flying Dutchman / Ace Records


Eh, it’s probably irrelevant. Smith’s Automotive Theory #4309: Ninety-nine percent of the people who buy a car with adjustable anything never touch the adjustments. Or even know what they do.


Those adjustments do something, though?

Usually. The question is always whether the something is useful.

Take the Braptor’s electronic power steering. In normal mode, it is nicely weighted but has little to say. Attempting to decide between the system’s two other calibrations is like being asked if you want your McDonald’s hamburger hot or cold: The differences are undeniably real, but the meat isn’t substantially improved either way, so just take what they give you and don’t think about it.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor_15
A Ford engineer, yesterday, on his way to—allow me to craft this phrase for a family-friendly website—the domicile of your immediate maternal progenitor. Ford

Please tell me it’s fast.

Car and Driver saw 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and a 14.4-second quarter-mile at 94 mph. A quick think on those figures would suggest the Raptor to be relatively quick at low speed but hampered by drag higher up, and it is. Any Bronco is an aerodynamic brick wall, but this one is a brick wall with more sail area—tires, vents, flares, fillips—than the HMS Surprise.

(That reference was intentionally obscure. The movie is great; the book is the same idea with less Russell Crowe.)

Master and Commander movie
“A Jeep frigate, you say? Have the men aim for his locking hubs and fire ’til the breeches melt.” 20th Century Fox

Mid-fives to 60 mph is nothing to sneeze at, but the Ford doesn’t always feel fast. That hangs mostly on the size of the road, how close the trees get to the door mirrors. Proximity to solid objects makes you extremely aware of the mass at stake. Dense traffic can be like tootling through Wal-Mart in an Abrams tank.

It is rare to recall dreams. One of the few I can remember came several years ago and for some reason involved my riding a large pontoon boat over a clifftop waterfall. As the thing sailed off the edge, unslowed by God or physics, my being flooded with a sense of immense and thrilling inertia. 

Not a feeling of speed. More like, How Did This Apartment Building Learn to Fly?

Two-lane Braptor hustle is like that. And fun.

So . . . avoid corners.

Nah. There’s nothing spooky here, just the grip of a 1970s Corvette a smartly tuned suspension that feels simpler than it is. 

Imagine how a softly sprung but exceptionally dialed desert cannon might behave on the road. The only exceptions to that image come from those Fox shocks. They are a magic carpet of valving and reaction, seemingly unflappable. Bone-stock and road-legal vehicles, especially trucks, do not generally offer damping of this caliber.

Quick cornering suggests Hannibal, wartime, combat on saddled elephants: Speed is fine so long as you make the right choices at the right time. And know how to make the animal listen.

Yeah, that’s about right. (Why did I run this particular image so large? Wouldn’t you, given half a chance? Dumbo war is best pachyderm war.) Giuseppe Rava / Public Domain

I feel like more numbers would help here.

Thirteen inches of wheel travel up front, 14 inches in the rear. Next to the off-roadiest of lesser Bronco trims (Badlands), that’s a gain of more than four inches and more than three, front and rear, respectively. 

The dash touchscreen is 12 inches long. Its UI design is mostly unfrustrating.

Remember that 14-second quarter-mile? A selection of historic vehicles with similar abilities: 

1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4: 14.5 @ 100 mph

1990 Chevrolet Corvette Z51: 14.5 @ 96 mph

1996 BMW M3: 14.3 @ 97 mph

Make of that context what you will. Make also what you will of the Braptor’s lack of direct competition. The closest new-car analogue is the 470-hp Jeep Wrangler 392: 4.0 seconds to 60 mph, 12.9 seconds at 104 mph.

Say what with the Wrangler now?

If you want something like a Braptor but don’t want a Braptor, that’s what you buy. No one but Jeep makes anything even close.


How different is the Jeep?

The two machines are similar on the surface but gapped in execution. The Jeep feels dialed mostly for low-speed off-roading and unpaved knocking around. It also wears a solid front axle to the Bronco’s independent front; for better or worse, the 392 is less refined in ride and handling and feels less digitally managed.

Not engineered as a Baja runner, then, but the same basic vibe. Chiefly, the Jeep’s hardware wasn’t optimized for fast travel on an unknown and loose surface. It’s not a creature of high shock-piston speeds or hooty jumps.

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor
Sam Smith

So many new trucks are now aimed at Baja, or at least pretend to be. What’s that actually like?

Once, I crewed for a friend during the Baja 1000. After the car broke a few hundred miles in, we spent the rest of the week drinking cheap beer in a sleepy little village on the Sea of Cortez.

Baja is a uniquely torturous and magnetic environment. Picture California minus 90 percent of the people and with only a handful of roads. The rigs that can survive and thrive in Baja racing are unquestionably potent. Statistically speaking, however, almost no one who buys a Braptor will go there.


Why buy one, then?

An intense love for the purpose-built object? A desire for detachable doors and interior panels with a glut of exposed Torx fasteners? You like a complex vehicle in the drag of a simple one? You miss the days when performance cars felt talkative and special at low speed?

Climbing into a seat that feels ten feet high and then using those marvelous shocks to bobble down to the Buy-n-Save: admittedly ridiculous. And yet it is also fun, because the machine cannot be operated with indifference—it needs you there. It behaves like nothing else, seems deeply of itself.

Why would Ford build something like this?

Who knows? Why does anyone do anything? Profit? Brand identity? A desire to properly equip for traffic America’s vast population of South Beach deadlifters?

Jurassic Park ford explorer dinosaur
Gratuitous shot of a giant flightless bird about to bound around a Ford and eat some stuff, just in case my kids ever see this. (Scene from Jurassic Park, Universal Pictures, 1993.) Getty Images

Is it wrong, wanting to commute in what is basically a detuned race truck?

You do you. We are at an interesting moment in the history of the performance automobile. Trucks and trucklike cars are prime; sales figures suggest the public at large doesn’t give a tinker’s dang about sports cars, fast hatchbacks, or sport sedans. Some wonder if automotive enthusiasm is dying.

Those people are wrong. Far as I can tell, we’ve simply grown bored with being bored at the wheel. With cars that feel like a dead fish below the legal limit. For ages, making a vehicle faster and more capable was virtually guaranteed to bring other positive results, from safety to stability to involvement. But we long ago crossed the tipping point.

If this business has taught me anything, it’s that compelling engineering and imperfection often go hand in hand. Perfect is only fun with things like bowling and math. A 5700-pound sand rig that bounds through traffic like a cartoon dinosaur is imperfect by default.

Do other people care?

They went out of their way to say hi, for what it’s worth. A middle-aged mom in a green Bronco four-door yelled across traffic one morning. (“How long you had it?”) When I stopped at the airport to retrieve a visiting friend, a woman ran over from the arrivals sidewalk, phone out and smiling: “That’s that Raptor! Haven’t seen one yet! Mind if I take a picture?”

You drive press-fleet cars for a living, you see that occasionally. Mostly with Mustangs, Corvettes, Camaros. The household names.

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor front door
Sam Smith

What would you change?

The exhaust note. Transmission take-up from an inclined stop can be awkward and herky-jerky. A simpler and more analog cockpit would be nice. Maybe if Ford toned down the disco cosmetics a bit?

The red flashes and fillips spattered around the interior are quite—what’s the word?—Hulkamania. But that’s just me. At the risk of coining a top-five, all-time, desert-island pun: Beauty is in the eye of the key-holder.




That about covers it. I’ve read your stuff before—this is the point for the trite closing thoughts, right? The real friends were the KO2s we aired down along the way or something? 

In the end, we travel not to know where we have been, but to return home and have a pretty good idea of which Ford dealers believe in market-adjusted pricing. Diff-lock like no one’s watching! Remote-reservoir like you’ve never been hurt! May the Raptor rise up to meet you!

Live. Laugh. Love leaping through the desert.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor_16

Cute. What’s the real takeaway?

Well, nobody buys a machine like this for practical reasons. A Bronco Raptor is the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed inverse of rational. It is also a reminder that so many of our choices hinge on how the result makes us feel. Which sounds trite, yes, but is ultimately tied less to fleeting emotion and more to the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

And sometimes, those stories are simply HELLO I AM CAVEMAN FORD-BRAIN AND I LIKE JUMPING S***.

You drive one of these things for even a few minutes, you want those lines needlepointed on a pillow. Probably under an image like this. Sam Smith

B-Raptor: A nice piece, if a bit much for most people. Imagine, though, if there was a detuned version? If Ford told a team of engineers to chop the price in half and dial back from full exotic-supertruck-aggro?

The result would be simpler, right? More workaday approachable? Have roots in the past but feel modern in all the right ways? An involving experience where stats like horsepower or 0–60 time aren’t the entire story?

Happily, that’s basically the ordinary Bronco, which sells like crazy. Who knew?

(Answer: Everyone except me, apparently.)




2023 Ford Bronco Raptor

MSRP: $87,875 / $94,395* (base / as-tested, est.)

Highs: Utterly ridiculous. Marvelous shocks. Suggests the freedom and dynamic instability of a 1970s off-roader without living in the past or being dynamically unstable. Will likely hold value. Makes every jaunt to the store feel like crossing the Alps with Hannibal. Nothing like it on the market.

Lows: Can’t be had with a manual gearbox. An EPA fuel-economy rating of 15/16 mpg, city/highway. Feels larger than it is. Optional 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo** is underwhelming. You may not live in or near a desert.

Takeaway: You don’t need an $85,000 Baja freight train. But you just might want one.


*includes Lux Package ($3050), raptor graphic ($1075), leather-trimmed/vinyl seats ($2495), mandatory destination charge ($1795)

**included with Lux Package

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    Ford is a total mess right not. They are designing many vehicles with tons of gimmicks and they are not really good at what the customers really do.

    The Full size Raptor was made to run deserts and jump The Bronco the same thing when most off roader is driving trails and or climbing rocks. Rock are everywhere deserts are only a few places.

    They really needed to make this more in tune with what Jeep does. Even Chevy on the ZR2 engineered it to climb and rock crawl.

    The gimmicks like the like the tractor braking is not much good unless you are really on soft dirt. The build quality has been poor. Just slam the back door of the average model and hear the ting. I am not sure if this has been corrected yet.

    I am not a Jeep fan but I drove the Bronco and the Jeep back to back on trails and the Jeep was the clear winner. I really look for ways to hate jeeps after driving a CJ5 that rotted away our from under me. But if I had to choose here the Jeep would be the vehicle.

    Fords greatest strength is their marketing right now. they could sell snow to an Alaskan. I think that is the politically correct way to put it now. They can really hype up stuff in the media but the build quality and issues are telling the truth.

    Their electric cars were made to be a big deal but neither are their future products as they are just one off models and they can even get them to market. The Mach e has many engineering issues. Just read about the wiring and how they put too much harness in the vehicle.

    The Bronco has had rood and other issues that have held things up for a while. The Maverick is low quality but you get what you pay for today. They claim sold out but the plant could build more they are just limiting production. The Bronco Sport sales are tanking because people are finding it is not as good as the other models.

    I am concerned about Ford. They have high debts and low stock prices. They need a large amount of cash to move their EV program forward and have laid off many to pay for it. Many Engineers they need.

    I do not want to see Ford fail as we can not afford to lose another automaker in this country.

    Ford had better get much better leadership and get things in gear as we are entering a time that is going to be difficult on all automakers. Poor economy, high prices and forced EV program spending is a formula that can ding a strong company.

    I agree 110% that’s why I sold my new F150 Crew cab 4×4 with only 13862kms on it, It was a piece of junk !!
    Lesson learned.

    Why did i even read this. The only redeeming thing about this was the photo of that sailing ship and the painting of the elephants. The rest of the article including some of Hagerty,s writers emanated from the end of the alimentary tracts of said elephants.

    I see ‘em broken down on “Matt’s Off-Road Recovery” quite a bit. Have they painted a rainbow on these yet?

    It’s a cool vehicle but I don’t trust the EcoBurst motors from doing their thing after the warranty is up.

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