“Where would you go with the Ranger Raptor?” My answer was not long in coming: “To the snowy mountains of Bosnia-Herzegovina!” This in December 2022 in Kitzbühel, when I tested this legendary off-roader from Ford in a quarry.
Just under two months later, I was able to set off from Germany in the third-generation beast heading south-east. The journey into the untouched nature of the heart-shaped young European country takes 1080 kilometers. Let’s see how the Raptor copes with the wild beauty.
He masters the drive on the highway better than expected. Under the hood is a 3-liter twin-turbo V6 petrol engine with an output of 292 hp. With an additional torque of 491 Nm, this makes it the most powerful Ford Ranger ever seen in Europe. Well, he will have to prove that over the next few days.
Powerful and yet so economical
The drive on the highway is unspectacular. It is extremely comfortable for an off-roader. The only thing that’s a bit tedious is making calls via the hands-free system: “What’s that noise in the background? As if you were sitting next to a waterfall!” I explain to my colleague where I am. “Well, that’s probably a minus point for the vehicle,” he replies with a laugh. No, it is not! This rather emphasizes its adventurous character. I deliberately don’t drive a limousine!
Consumption is also pleasing. My range with a full tank of gas is about 550 kilometers on the highway.
Winter wonderland on arrival
I’m also incredibly lucky with the weather! When I arrive, the temperature is -10 degrees Celsius and it has snowed heavily. Faruk is looking forward to the tour like a snow king. He has been my tour guide for years and knows the most hidden corners of the wonderful mountains of Bosnia-Herzegovina. “We have several meters of snow and it’s brutally cold!” His welcome sounds very promising.
As on the drive up to here, my Ford Ranger Raptor in the eye-catching color Code Orange is admired. I had rather expected the opposite in our climes, where a powerful and large gasoline engine tends to trigger a defense mechanism. But the Raptor is different. It’s not just the incredible design that attracts people – be it at rest stops or gas stations. It is what he stands for. The dream of experiencing freedom and adventure with him! Even the customs officer at the Austrian-German border stops me. Not to check my documents: “Is this the new Ranger Raptor? It doesn’t even exist yet!” I explain to him where we are going. “So, is it any good?” “Sure!” “Next time we’ll drive it over this little house and then we’ll make a video of it! It’ll be a hit!” He laughs as he wishes me a good trip and lots of fun.
Off to the outdoor picnic!
I pick up my tour guide Faruk, who has promised me unforgettable hard core off-road excursions. The driving performance is also excellent in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. Good overview, which also makes it easy to pass through the mostly narrow side streets. “We’re going on a picnic today!” I don’t quite understand. My fingers freeze after just a few seconds in the open air and at the top of Mount Trebevic, our destination for today, the temperature this morning was minus 20 degrees Celsius. The road to the turn-off to the top of the mountain has been cleared of snow. And from the junction? Faruk is excited. Not yet, because I don’t know what to expect. The narrow alley is covered with heavy snow. Only two tracks indicate that a car was here before us: “That was the off-roader that brought the employees up.”
Not all off-road is the same
The Winter Olympics were held here in 1984 and the remains of the bobsleigh run can still be admired today. However, we don’t take this tourist route, but the “side street”, which promises plenty of adventure. I switch to 4L. The Raptor, with its wide all-terrain tires, is a mess and doesn’t really want to move forward. I have to engage the differential lock. And then it slowly digs its way ahead at a speed of 4 km/h. It keeps sliding back and forth because the snow cover is too high. I am tense. Although I have off-road experience in the desert sand – snow is also new territory for me! The difference is enormous. It’s more strenuous and you need a lot of patience … A lot of patience!
Faruk gets out and leads me. Again and again I have to reverse and dig my track again. The numerous bends in particular are a challenge. After two hours we reach the desired platform, which of course has not been used by anyone. Faruk rubs her hands together! It’s going to be fun in the snow! He navigates me back and forth, carefully pushing the masses of snow so that we get the perfect position for our outdoor picnic. The sun is now at its highest point. The sub-zero temperatures are bearable thanks to the sun’s rays. I open the fixed aluminum roof and Faruk unfolds the camping chairs we brought with us. The snow is up to my knees as I climb into the pickup. A breathtaking view over the city from a height of 1500 meters rewards my efforts.
What do you mean by ‘no animals in sight’?
We sip fruit juices and eat delicious Bosnian salted croissants. The drone’s camera shows our position from a bird’s eye view. Nothing but the snow-covered forests and the bright orange Raptor. Noises from the city do not reach us. Only the chirping of the birds and rustling of the trees can be heard. We stay until shortly before sunset as we want to catch the main road before dark. There are many animals in the mountains here, such as wolves, but also bears that have already woken up. We, or at least I, do not want to disturb them.
The way back is easy, as our trail has solidified. It takes less than half an hour to reach the main road. When I get home, I feel like I’ve been skiing for hours!
The sky is overcast the next morning. Today we are going on a snow hike with the Ranger Raptor in the Bjelasnica and Romanija mountains. I want to see the falconry that has saved the last autochthonous Bosnian gray falcons. The falconer asks about our car: “You won’t be able to reach me without a proper off-roader.” Faruk and I smile.
The 4H mode takes you up the mountain. When we turn off to his mountain village, the same situation as yesterday. What luck! No cleared roads! The falcon is already waiting for us. It watches us proudly and majestically as it flaps its wings. I can get close to him, even if he’s not wearing a cap.
The last of their kind
He is used to humans: “Due to certain pesticides, they were unable to reproduce and almost became extinct. We were able to get them banned.” Kaled became a falconer a few years ago because of his love of nature and the mountains. This hobby has taken him to the mountains, where he is currently setting up his falconry as an educational center for schools and interested parties. I wade through the deep snow and admire the country’s falcons, which are still allowed to fly here thanks to Kaled and his club colleagues. They also poach to increase the population again. He is optimistic about the future, as he tells me in conversation.
Oops, there’s a ditch
We now continue to the region known as Romanija. The road to our next destination is partly paved, but the slowly setting sun means that ice is on the horizon. It goes up and down. “There’s a patch of ice up ahead. You’d better accelerate a little more to get to the top,” Faruk explains to me. I do as I am told. As it goes down the slope on the right-hand side, I tend to keep to the left. When I accelerate, the Raptor veers sharply to the left and I can feel its left flank sinking downwards. And then there is no more forward motion. “Oops, I completely forgot to tell you that there’s a canal on the left-hand side of the road.” Faruk grins at me.
I’m definitely stuck, the Raptor is in an absolutely lateral position. We try out all modes. The tires are spinning thanks to the ice on the road. And both right-hand tires are on it. “Then we’ll just have to put on snow chains.” Faruk puts them on professionally. His joy comes to an abrupt end. The raptor sheds the chain like a pest. All right, we’ll just have to dig it out. The snow is heavy. It’s also getting darker and more sinister. Now you begin to feel and hear the life of wild beauty. It rustles in the forest. “We’re being watched,” laughs Faruk.
After about half an hour, a new attempt is made to free the raptor. Switch on 4L and differential mode to slowly dig your way forward. Behind us, close to the left rear tire, is a manhole, which of course has no cover. The Raptor slowly digs its way forward, but it still doesn’t want to hit the road. However, we are now some distance away from the rear canal hole. We try it in reverse gear. And indeed! As if nothing had happened, the rear tire lifts onto the road without any problems and we drive out of the snow trap in a liquid state.
Stargazing at minus 12 degrees Celsius
By now it is pitch dark. But the weather is kind to us. The sky is cloudless and we have a clear view of the starry sky. The whole universe seems to communicate with us. The snow crystals glow and the only light is cast by our headlamps. Pure winter wonderland. We drive through the clearing. Faruk asks me to stop in the outback: “Stargazing time!” He removes the aluminum cover. We dress warmly and lie down on the pickup. Silence. Not even a rustle can be heard. We just lie there and watch the stars. The Milky Way is also wonderfully visible. We forget space and time and simply exist in harmony with Mother Nature and the universe. I don’t know how long we sat there like that. Only hunger drove us on towards home. But it was difficult to return to this world. The ride with the Ranger Raptor and the joy of the following day made the return easier.
The next day greets us with sunshine. Jasminko, a friend of Faruk’s, is traveling with us today. He is originally from central Bosnia and will take us to Mount Vlasic. It is also one of the most famous ski resorts in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It’s a good 90 kilometers along the main road from Sarajevo. And today is going to be beastly too. “I’m going to take you to a horse farm that rescues the indigenous Bosnian mountain horses,” Faruk explains. I am fascinated and sad at the same time. The flora and fauna in this country is so rich and unique. However, it is slowly being destroyed due to climate change.
Bosnian horses with Mongolian genes
But thanks to a few people, hope is not completely lost. Like the Bekic couple from Vienna, who saved the breed by purchasing the last Bosnian mountain horses from the 127-year-old Borike stud farm in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These have a family tree that goes back up to eight generations. What also makes this horse breed valuable is that it has been scientifically proven to carry the genes of the Przewalski’s wild horse, also known as the Asian or Mongolian wild horse, and is therefore considered one of the last wild species of its kind.
They are not fazed by the Ranger Raptor. Lift your head curiously to see what’s happening and then continue grazing. They are small but strong in stature and their brown fur is very dense. They don’t run away when we approach them, but they are still shy. They only like to come to Faruk because he has salt with him. I can look at them up close. They actually resemble their ancestors from Asia. It is reassuring to know that they can now live here in peace, protected by their greatest enemy: man.
Sarajevo or Travnik – where do they taste better?
Our winter off-road adventure is coming to an end. “To celebrate, we’re going for a traditional meal in Travnik!” Jasmin is delighted. I have often heard that the best cevapi are not to be found in Sarajevo, their place of origin, but in Travnik, a small historically rich town in central Bosnia. We head to the traditional Hari restaurant in the old town. It’s already dark. A stream of people runs in one direction. All roads lead to Hari here.
I actually eat a maximum of five of the meat rolls. Ten pieces are ordered here in a whole flatbread. My protests are ignored. Faruk and Jasmin can hardly wait for my reaction after my first bite. Well, the difference is unlikely to be that big. I was wrong. The taste is different … very different! Variant Travnik is the absolute winner and hard to beat! “Sorry guys, there will be no leftover cevape from me today!” I eat the whole portion with relish.
Tomorrow we will be heading back to Germany. My big Ranger Raptor shines through the night again. A gentle giant whose serious strength also shines through on the outside thanks to its striking lighting design. Isn’t it said that the eyes are the gateway to the soul? And what are the eyes on the Raptors? Exactly. What I have seen over the last few days has inspired me again and again! Would I choose the Ford Ranger Raptor again for an off-road adventure? Well, my mind is already on another extraordinary trip with him!
Thanks to Ford Germany, whose help made this road trip possible!
Find out more about Ranger Raptor here.