Editor’s note: Yesterday, we published a review of the same truck written by Alex Kalogiannis, a freelance automotive journalist who contributes to Autosavant periodically. You can find more of Alex’s work at his own site, AutoKinesis. Meanwhile, Autosavant was able to secure its own Raptor for review, which Roger tackles below.
The Ford Raptor is the best truck in its class, and it got that way by being the only truck in its class. It was designed, in FoMoCo’s words, to be “versatile enough to take on the most challenging desert adventures, as well as the everyday commute.” Mission accomplished, I’d say. The Raptor, which sells for a starting price of $38,000, barely $3000 more than the F-150 FX4 (my loaded test truck had a sticker of $46K), can cross desert terrain at speeds of up to 100 mph, with no on-road penalty in terms of ride comfort and maneuverability; no other 4X4 comes close. I know all this from watching test videos. Not having a desert handy, I didn’t drive my test truck quite that fast off-road, but I did manage 45 mph up a pretty rough mountain trail, the deceptively named Serenity Drive, off the spectacular Devil’s Backbone pass, about 25 mi. SW of Austin. Some of the hill’s steeper gradients approach a 60-deg. angle, with plenty of rockfalls to negotiate. I’ve driven all my test 4X4s there, mostly Jeeps, all perfectly competent, of course, but able only to creep upward at low speeds. Not the amazing Raptor. With 4-wheel-high engaged in “Off-Road Mode,” it leaped ahead, cushioning the hollows and smoothing out the bumps.
And, back on the highway in 2WD mode, it settled into a Lexus-serene ride with nary a squeak or rattle, while affording a commanding view ahead to the horizon or down onto the bald spots of Ford Explorer and Dodge Ram drivers. The seating position is so high–only buses and semis ride higher–that when I was going a little too fast on the highway I briefly had the slightly woozy illusion that I was at the controls of a B-29 or Lancaster, flying just above the ground, like the bomber crew in The Dam Busters. But the wooziness passed, and I soon recovered my (entirely illusory) sense of being in supreme command, one of the beneficial side effects of driving this thing.
Ford’s Special Vehicle Team, or SVT, who gave us such classics as the Ford GT and the Mustang Cobra–not to mention this truck’s ancestor, the F-150 Lightning–rendered this magical toy for all the eternal teenage boys out there. (The bright-red SVT logo is all over the truck, inside and out, just in case you forget whodunit.) The team took the extended-cab version of the perennially top selling F-150 with the 5.5-ft. cargo bed and screwed on a redesigned suspension and a different body design from the A-pillars forward, result: a bravura, high-riding muscle machine 8 in. wider than the standard F-150, wide enough in fact for it to be required by the DOT to have running lights front and rear, like a dually pickup, or an ocean liner. A wider track also means fat tires: 35-in. LT315/70R17s, and greater suspension travel, thanks to a set of Fox Racing Shox originally designed for Iraq- and Afghanistan-bound US Army Humvees and British Army Supacats (a kind of Humvee). The Raptor gets its considerable get-up-and-go from a 310-hp 5.4-liter V8 that churns out a most impressive 365 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm (320 hp/390 lb-ft with E85 fuel); a silken, if sometimes overly eager, six-speed automatic is the only transmission. But a new 6.2-liter V8 that Ford claims produces around 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque has recently become available; I’d love a date with that one.
Still, believe me, the Raptor’s standard 5.4, possessing as it does a shorter final-drive ratio than does any other F-150, is potent enough, especially considering it’s hauling nearly 5700 lbs. of truck. A State Trooper happened upon me going 80+ mph when I thought I was trundling along at a lower velocity. It made me wish for a slightly less conspicuous vehicle than the molten-orange monster with striped Jungle graphics and towering black wheel arches I was driving at the time. The truck also comes in white, black, and navy blue; I’d take the below-the-radar blue. (Fortunately, Smokey had business elsewhere.)
As mentioned, the Raptor rides smoothly and well on pavement. It accelerates fast, if not dramatically; I calculated a tick under 8 seconds for a dry-pavement 0-60 run. Power is more than adequate for normal situations, and even for a few abnormal ones, like climbing a 60-deg. gradient, or towing 6000 lbs. (the Raptor comes with Trailer Sway Control and a special “tow-haul” mode for the transmission). Body motions are well under control, even on curvy back roads, where the huge tires supply good grip. The Raptor had the same brake upgrades as its 2010 F-150 brethren but it boasts a bigger ABS pump for going down long hillsides off-road. In normal driving, it stops on a dime. Indeed, I found the brakes a little too grabby at first, but once you get the hang of applying the appropriate foot pressure, they do the job well every time, with no signs of fade.
Inside, once you’ve managed to heave yourself on board, the truck is downright refined. Wind noise, even at speed, is remarkably muted, as is tire noise. As previously mentioned, visibility is outstanding, so much so that it’s a strong, sober argument for buying this truck: visibility=safety. All your usual F-150 storage hideaways, such as the capacious center console bin, are scattered about. Plastic dominates, but it’s subtle and well designed. The front bucket seats, both with power adjustment, are extremely comfortable, like two leather armchairs in a gentleman’s club, and the cabin is airy and spacious. Even the rear bench seat, despite limited legroom–this is the SuperCab, remember, not the Crew Cab–is fine for short trips, or longer ones for short folks or kids; access to the back is easy, via the rear-hinged (“suicide”) rear doors. Several interior features are unique to the Raptor: its thick, grippy leather-wrapped steering wheel, with an orange “on-center” tab on top to keep you oriented amid the dunes of Baja; the rear electronic locking differential (ELD) knob, functional in both two- and four-wheel-drive modes; four auxiliary switches on the center console, pre-wired for aftermarket accessories such as your hog-hunting roof lights, boat winches, etc. Nearby are the buttons for the hill descent control (enabling slow brake-free crawls down steep slopes) and Off-Road Mode, which aligns the various transmission and suspension functions when the blacktop ends. Traction control, stability control, and rollover protection are all standard, as are the usual array of airbags. Raptors also come standard with the much-touted Ford SYNC communications and entertainment system based, apparently, on the Microsoft Auto platform–and holding very little interest for me. I never use a cell phone except in emergencies, and for entertainment I’m quite content with my CD collection. The Raptor has a 6-CD changer; that’s enough.
Fuel consumption is, shall we say, robust. EPA numbers are 14 in city, 18 on the highway, average 15. My estimate, based on what remained after a week’s commuting and off-roading, is slightly higher than that: say an average of 17, maybe because I’m so addicted to cruise control whenever possible on the highway. It’s not great, but on the other hand the beast has a 26-gal. fuel tank, sufficient for a range of nearly 400 miles. Were I to acquire a Raptor, with my daily 70-mile commute I’d need to fill up on only the weekends. And on the weekends I’d head for the hills, where this beauty comes into its own.