The Compact Off-Road Truck Wars are Starting

When Ford launched the F-150 Raptor a dozen years ago, it was a surprise. At the time nobody was really asking for a monster full-sized truck that could blast through the desert and jump. Yes. Jump. Now, Ford is bringing the same sort of tech to make a compact off-road truck, the Ranger Raptor.

Chevy must have had some inkling that Ford may bring a Ranger Raptor to the U.S. Chevy launched the Colorado ZR2 off-road package in 2018. It’s the ultimate Chevy Colorado off-road package, underpinned by magic Multimatic shocks.

The Ranger Raptor will be all-new for 2023 in the U.S. The original Raptor is big. It’s so big the NHTSA mandates special marker lights on the grille. The Ranger, though, is a lot smaller. It will be based on the new-for-2023 Ford Ranger that will offer a new EcoBoost V6.

The Ranger Raptor brings some cool features

The Ranger Raptor will bring some heat to the compact off-road truck world.
A European-spec Ranger Raptor | Ford

The American specs haven’t been fully announced yet, but the European specs have. If Ford keeps it the same, the Ranger Raptor will have a new twin-turbo 3-liter EcoBoost V6 with 284 horsepower. It’s coming straight from the factory with locking front and rear differentials, with a low-speed transfer case.

The truck will have anti-lag technology. What does that do? It should keep the turbochargers spinning for a few seconds if the driver takes her foot off the gas. That means instant power, no matter what. The technology should make the turbo motor act more like a naturally-aspirated engine.

The Raptor’s magic is in the suspension

The Ranger Raptor is available in Europe, and expected in the U.S. in 2023.
Ford Ranger Raptor | Ford

The big news with the Ranger Raptor will be the suspension. While the Colorado ZR2 will have the fancy Multimatic shocks, the Raptor should have Fox brand shocks that will have an internal bypass. The F-150 Raptor has similar shocks, but that’s not a compact off-road truck. The shocks don’t just have a longer travel, but a quicker rebound. Quick rebound rates allow the truck to scoot over washboard deserts at a good clip.

RELATED: How Much Does the 2023 Ford Ranger Raptor Cost?

The ZR2 has some tricks up its sleeve, too

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
2022 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is a competitive compact off-road truck.

The basics on the Colorado aren’t impressive. But, with options, it can be. Scroll to the third page of the Colorado order form, and you can now select the ZR2 option. The ZR2 option form lists to engines, the 3.6-liter V6 that makes 308 horsepower, or the 2.8-liter diesel. The V6 raises the price to $45,395 while the diesel is the premium engine and raises the price to $49,065. Once you decide on a motor, you can pick from a variety of special packages, including the Bison or the Dusk.

ZR2 has the Multimatic shocks

The ZR2 Colorado is a killer compact off-road truck.
Colorado ZR2 | Chevrolet

But what really makes the ZR2 special is its suspension. The ZR2 has everything the ZR1 has, and then the Multimatic DSSV Damping System to make it a compact off-road truck. The Multimatic shocks are the go-to special sauce that General Motors uses to turn make regular vehicles sparkle. It adds them to the AT4 packages on the full-size GMC trucks. It adds them to Camaros and Corvettes, too. The same system is on the new AT4 version of the GMC Canyon.

The ZR2 package also gives the truck an off-road lift, a unique hood, 17-inch tires, as well as power leather seats.