I’ve written for Motorcycle trend for a dozen years and writing professionally about cars since 2005. I couldn’t even guess how many vehicles I’ve reviewed during that time, but it’s thousands. But before I drove the Ford Bronco Raptor, also known as ‘Braptor’, if you asked me to name the most impressive off-roader on the market today, I would have said without much hesitation: MT‘s long run Ram 1500 TRX. Well, if we were talking about worldwide, I would have said a Unimog U5000. My point stands though, as our former Truck of the Year winner and current long-term stablemate is simply monstrous in the dirt. The year it won our Golden Calipers, I vividly remember putting it through a frame-twist obstacle I’ve probably done with 40 other trucks and SUVs. The TRX didn’t even lift a wheel. It was as if the huge hurdle wasn’t there. After that day in the mud, we concluded that the TRX’s 702-horsepower supercharged V-8 was the least interesting thing about it.
A few other examples to reinforce the TRX’s dirt bonafide. One time I went off road with Jethro Bovingdon in a TRX he had for Top Gear America. The truck was so capable on rocks that we didn’t even worry about getting the lines right. It was about everything. Didn’t matter what. We happened to be with three other serious off-roaders (Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Land Rover Defender and a Lexus GX), and each of them not only had us paying attention, but sometimes even struggling. Not the TRX. It is famous, or perhaps it is currently infamous, that we broke our TRX for the long haul by taking it on a 7,700-mile off-road expedition with a pair of Rivians. The TRX never missed a beat and went almost everywhere the thinner R1Ts did. Again, despite the size, I always said that Ram built the ultimate off-road ready machine. But then I was driving that damn Bronco Raptor.
Is the Ford actually more capable? Boy, the real way to settle that would be to take both vehicles to somewhere like Johnson Valley (where Ford chose to launch the beefed-up Bronco) and see which is which. And I’m sure we will. But until then (and yes, this is largely academic), allow me to try and put together a virtual comparison test.
Really fast riding on dirt
This one is really hard! Both vehicles are spiritual descendants of the original Baja gangster, the Ford F-150 Raptor. One of Ford’s great innovations with the F-150 Raptor was its ultra-long suspension travel, both front and rear. On the Ram, the mega-complicated, variable-speed, electronically controlled, remote reservoir, piggyback Bilstein Blackhawk E2 dampers provide 13 inches of travel in the front and 14 inches in the rear. On the Bronco Raptor? The less complicated Fox internal bypass dampers provide… 13 inches of travel in the front, 14 inches in the rear. Ram fans will note that the HOSS 4.0 dampers are actually 13.9-inch (353mm) versus the Ram’s actually 14.0-inch (355mm) shocks. We say draw.
Massive suspension travel helps you when you’re going fast over dirt, of course, but so does the stability you get from having a widened vehicle. Have you ever wondered why trophy trucks are so wide? To keep them upright when they hit the whoops at 100 mph. Both all-terrain vehicles are laughably wide. The Bronco Raptor is stretched nearly 10 inches to a width of 85.7 inches. A Hummer H1 – you know, the military Humvee – is 86.5 inches wide. I’d say the Ford is comically wide if the TRX wasn’t an additional 2.3 inches wider. Dang, son.
So what really goes better fast over unpaved terrain? I should nod the Aries. The Ford is good and goes well enough in a straight line, but when it comes to actually turning the wheel, it follows the stability prowess of the Ram, which acts like it’s on the pavement while on a dirt road.
A wide-open desert is one thing, but the ability to crawl across a trail is another. This is a case of smaller being better overall, and not just smaller dimensionally. Weight also plays a big role here. We know that the Ram is over 2 inches wider than the Bronco Raptor, which admittedly isn’t much. It’s also just over 2 inches taller, which doesn’t really impact either. However, the 1500 TRX is significantly longer than the Ford. We are talking about 1.5 meters here. That extra length will severely limit the large ram’s ability to crawl through a forest.
We saw this play out several times across the Trans-America Trail, with the slightly smaller Rivian R1Ts (16 inches shorter, 6 inches narrower) able to get more spaces than the big Ram. Trees, it turns out, are hard. On a wide, open trail, I think the Ram and Ford off-roaders would fight for a tie, but on anything with trees or lots of boulders, the advantage goes to the Ford. Of course, if the Bronco Raptor came as a two-door, it would be even more nimble, but shortening the wheelbase would reduce its stability at high speeds.
Weight is especially crucial if you find yourself driving through sand, mud or snow. The heavier the machine, the deeper it sinks. We have yet to weigh the Bronco, but it looks like it’s half a ton lighter than the TRX at 6,760 pounds. Again, Ford has the advantage.
I’ve jumped both, though I’ll say the “jump” Ford set up for us at the launch of the Bronco Raptor was about as pathetic as jumps. Yes, all four wheels lifted off the ground, but barely. The TRX, on the other hand, is part airship. The laws of physics and logic are violated when such a colossus takes off, but (strangely enough) this is what the truck was designed for. While Ford increased the stiffness of the Bronco Raptor by 50 percent compared to the standard Bronco, I just can’t see how vehicles with removable doors and removable roofs are as good as a truck for jumping. Advantage: Aries.
Rocks, big ones
One of the most important factors in dealing with rock crawling is the angles. Many people mistakenly assume that you only need ground clearance to drive over the rocks, but that’s not the case; your vehicle needs the ability not to hit things in the first place.
The Ram is pretty good, with an approach of 30.2 degrees, a departure of 23.5 degrees, and a breakout angle of 21.9 degrees. To give you some context, a Subaru Outback Wilderness has an approach angle of 20 degrees, a departure angle of 23.6 degrees, and a transfer angle of 21.2 degrees, while a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (the four-door) has an approach angle of 41.4 degrees. degrees, 20.3 degrees. -degree departure and 25.0 degree overshoot angles. The Brapper? Take a seat.
The Ford Bronco Raptor has a 47.2-degree approach angle, a ridiculous 40.5-degree departure angle, and a massive 30.8-degree break-over angle. All three are among the best in the industry. Part of this is due to the standard 37-inch BF Goodrich KO2 tires, but it’s also due to Ford’s excellent work. With the sole exception of a Unimog U5000, I’ve never driven another production vehicle so capable on rocks. If I may be annoying and quote myself, “There was one waterfall obstacle (in this case, ‘waterfall’ refers to a nearly vertical rock face) that I was certain was a dead end, and there was no way the Braptor could climb it Sixty seconds later I shook my head in disbelief. It seemed impossible.” Could the TRX have driven up that waterfall? Short answer, no. Long answer, yes, but the front bumper would no longer be recognizable.
I think it is important to emphasize that this “comparison” is a thought exercise and to emphasize that we are talking about extreme scenarios here. First, most off-roaders can’t drive that fast in mud. I mean they can, but they lack the control that either one demonstrates. Second, the ride quality on pretty much everything else (with the exception of Ford F-150 Raptors, Jeep Gladiator Mojaves and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2s) would fall to waste. Both the TRX and Braptor are designed to handle it. But again, what they’re assuming is a bizarre assignment. Who needs to go 80 mph in dirt?
I’m scoring this one like a boxing match. Both fighters score a lot of virtual points, but in the end the fight comes down to a split decision. Two reasonable people might choose one, while a third might very well go for the other. In this case, the Bronco Raptor wins.