It is not often you get to drive new vehicles from rival manufacturers on a back-to-back basis, so we were extremely fortunate to experience both the new Ford Ranger Raptor 2.0 Bi-turbo, Double Cab, 4×4, A/T and the latest from the Nissan stable, the Navara 2.3D Stealth, Double Cab, 4×4, A/T. It proved to be a difficult comparison as these are very different vehicles.
Frieda: We all know about Hemel-en-Aarde’s reputation as fine wine country but who could guess that there is much more agricultural magic in the stretch of farmland adjacent to Hermanus? Trips in the Ford Raptor and Nissan Stealth focused on the scope of farming activity from the dizzy vantage provided by the high clearance of the vehicles.
John: Both employ turbo diesel engines and automatic transmissions, the Raptor boasting a twin-turbo set-up for the new 2.0 litre 4 cylinder developing 157 kW @ 3 750 r/min and 500 Nm of torque between 1 500 and 2 000 r/min. The Stealth employs a 2.3 litre turbocharged 4 cylinder engine offering 140 kW at 3 750 with torque of 450 Nm between 1 500 and 2 500 r/min.
The Raptor uses a 10-speed automatic transmission from the Ford F150, the Stealth employs a 7-speed automatic transmission.
The interior of both signifies they are top of the range models. The Stealth is pretty much standard Navara LE with all the bells and whistles you would expect from Nissan.
The Raptor is similarly standard Ranger but with some distinctive changes. A Ford sports steering wheel with a red centerline and magnesium paddle shifts complement the sports style seating, providing the support you will need in this one. Another change is the analogue-style tachometer replacing the vertical digital unit of its siblings.
Stealth and Raptor both use coil over rear suspension systems, rather than conventional leaf springs.
So far the vehicles are pretty well-matched but a look at the body styling and differences become very apparent.
The Nissan Stealth is very much a Navara in the metal with no changes to body styling. Variations are mainly cosmetic with the grille, front bumper side mirrors and side steps and the black 18 inch alloy wheels all featuring the distinctive black and orange trim plus Stealth decals.
But this is where the similarity between the two ends. The Raptor is far from a standard Ranger.
Frieda: On first sight, the Raptor looked rapturously huge and my thoughts drifted to the number of wine boxes that could be loaded into this omnivorous space. Or the number of people for a tour of the lesser frequented roads of the Cape Whale Coast.
John: The huge Ford badge dominates the front grille, magnesium alloy side steps and very large flared wheel arches plus the increased height and width over its donor indicates there is a big difference between Stealth and Raptor.
Whereas Stealth is a customized special edition of the Navara LE, the Raptor is a highly-developed performance vehicle.
Frieda: But then, this vehicle is not about looks. It’s about performance. This is the type of vehicle that has men reciting stats and talking in code. While the admiration is causing their eyes to blur, it provides a gap for us women to take the keys, go off, park on whichever curb you find and not hold back with the loading of shopping or passengers. There will always be space for more.
John: Ford has selected a strengthened chassis, front and rear track increased by 150mm, 285/70 R17 BF Goodrich tyres specifically designed for the Raptor, a high-performance braking system and a set of interesting dampers completes the package. Sourced from Fox Racing these dampers are capable of absorbing huge stress loads and recover rapidly when grounding after a very big jump. There is also a 2.3mm thick metal frontal guard to protect the vital components below the engine bay if it all goes wrong.
Our test route was from Hermanus Ford and Hermanus Nissan to the R320 through the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley onto private gravel roads traversing the foothills of the Babylonstoren mountain range.
Frieda: We headed off in the direction of Hemel-en-Aarde as there are so many options to test the Raptor’s grit. I realised that there is quite a productive gateway between Hermanus and Caledon. Bosman Hermanus is a farm with one of the few vine nurseries in the southern hemisphere. When you consider any bottle of wine for enjoyment, chances are that the rootstock was grown right here in our own valley. From a tasting room close to De Bos Dam the vine garden is visible and one of two hiking trails on the Bosman property will take you past the cultivation vineyards.
John: The first impression of the Raptor was the excellent stability on tarred roads, no sign of that jittery steering feel at higher speeds so often found in off-road vehicles. Comfort level was good but it was the gravel that was to be the true test.
With a selection of driving modes available, Normal and Sport for on-road, and off-road options of Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock and Baja, the last proving interesting.
Named after the famous Mexican Baja Desert Rally, this mode demonstrates the Raptor’s ability to the maximum. When selected, the throttle, transmission and steering response is enhanced and the Raptor is ready to tackle unbelievably high-speed off-road driving. This mode also allows you to set both stability and traction control to suit the driver’s requirements.
This is no ordinary off-roader. It is unique in so many ways. Apart from the normal off-road ability, the Raptor demonstrated an awesome level of grip and, on more open gravel roads, the true abilities of this vehicle will surprise many and make most passengers close their eyes in disbelief. It’s a real off-road racer.
Frieda: The dirt road leading to Tesselaarsdal posed no challenge to the Raptor. This road was part of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike trails and just the thought made me thirsty. At the Tesselaarsdal turnoff, we were in free-range country. This is home to the Solitaire free-roaming chickens. It was time for a coffee stop. We followed the signs until the quaint stoep of De Postkantoor Café came in sight. No shortage of bygone authenticity at the little oasis that was established in 1891. A nostalgic venue with views of the valley and mountains. Good for refuelling our spirited appetites. Just enough country vibes to tempt additional exploration before we continued to the R326 that would ultimately lead to Stanford.
John: Time for the Navara Stealth to face the pre-planned route. The Stealth was no different to the standard Navara LE and, like the Raptor, provided good ride quality on both tarred roads and gravel. With 229mm of ground clearance, it traversed our course with ease and did not require the use of its full 4×4 mode, low range or differential lock, although I engaged them on occasion to experience the transmission’s ability.
Frieda: The Goatly family have been farming at Tolbos farm since 1995. The farm produces apples and pears. Thanks to the micro-climate apples are available for harvesting all year round. As with Hemel-en-Aarde vineyards, the cool sea breeze, warm days and cold nights enhance the development and character of the fruit. The apples are enjoyed across the globe but mostly in the UK and Asia.
John: The power steering is well-weighted and was a real benefit when parking in town. With the tightest turning circle in its class, it soon becomes clear that this is a great all-rounder. The towing and load capability are further bonuses for the Stealth as it carries a load of one ton and tows up to 3.5 tons. This is where the Stealth scores over the Raptor that sacrifices carrying capacity for performance. The load mass of the Ford is reduced from 1050 kg to 600 kg and the towing mass drops from 3.5 to 2.5 tons.
Frieda: You don’t feel the size of the Tolbos Farm as there are many aspects and lookouts but you can certainly come to the conclusion that a Stealth would be pretty useful, if needed in an emergency, to cart all the fruit from the orchards.
Making our way back, Stanford Manor Restaurant on Stanford Valley Guest Farm was in easy reach and it was time to reward the Stealth with a break while we humans opted for contemporary country cooking and a taste of the local wines. Difficult as it was, we resisted the call for a comfortable stayover in one of the 19 whitewashed, self-catering cottages on the farm and proceeded to complete our tour with only one more stop at Klein River Cheese Farm for their famous Gruberg. Hermanus was calling and we heeded the call to go home and not spare the horsepower.
John: You may ask why we had less to say about the Stealth? That’s a simple one. The Navara-based vehicle is a well-proven package, an extremely competent all-rounder.
If you are looking for a vehicle of this genre then the Stealth has to be a great choice and the price difference must play a significant role in such a decision.
However, if you are looking for a very special performance bakkie, I doubt whether there is anything available in South Africa that is capable of matching the Raptor. I agree, it is a niche market, but it truly is a unique Ford.
Making your decision regarding these two must come down to “Horses for Courses”.
Ford Ranger Raptor2.0 Bi-turbo, Double Cab, 4×4, A/T R803 300
Price includes a 4-year/120 00km comprehensive warranty, 5 years/unlimited km corrosion warranty, 3-year roadside assistance and a 6 year/90 000km service plan.
Nissan Navara 2.3D Stealth Double Cab, 4×4, A/T. R659 900
Price includes a 6-year/150 00km warranty, 5 years/unlimited km corrosion warranty, 3-year roadside assistance and a 3-year/90 000km service plan.