On the Road Review: Ford F-150 Raptor Supercab

This is the new Raptor, Ford’s interpretation of a muscle truck for the desert, the dirt. No one else builds anything like the Raptor. The Raptor, like its menacing name (plunderer, bird of prey), stands in a field of one.

But boy, it doesn’t stand for long. This baby can fly!

A high-performance off-road truck might seem like an oxymoron, yet this truck has been just as much a halo vehicle for Ford as Hellcat is for Dodge or Corvette is for Chevy. Heads snapped around as drivers viewed the distinctive signature grille lights, now augmented by brilliant LED headlamps, while the wide-body stance (6 inches wider than a stock F-150) surely shows off the Cross-Fit tuned body of the Raptor. Add hood vents, bold Raptor decals, plus even wider wheel flares and muscular BF Goodrich off-road tires on blacked-out 17-inch rims attached to a long-travel suspension boosted by multiple Fox shocks, and this is a very uncommon Ford.

This is the Tonka truck for big boys. Big boys with big wallets.

The 2017 Raptor is an entirely different animal from the previous editions powered by thundering, gas guzzling V-8 engines. The new Raptor uses a twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 engine — the same base motor as Ford’s iconic GT supercar ($400,000) — which makes 450 hp and a stupendous 510 pound/feet of peak torque here, running through a brand new 10-speed automatic transmission jointly developed with GM. Redline is a relatively low 6,200-rpms, which is OK, because the final drive ratio is a tall 4.10-to-1, so there is ample low-end power. And mid-range power. And top-end surge.

Minus the aural excitement provided by the former V-8 engines, the new Raptor makes a decidedly low-key thrum under the whip that creates false impressions. Pay no heed to the big sweeping speedometer needle, and you’ll be shocked how fast this big truck accelerates to a pace that guarantees unwanted attention. With more horsepower than a Mustang GT V-8, this 5,700-pound aluminum-bodied brute will leap from 0-60 mph in only five seconds. Normal, sport, comfort mode — it doesn’t matter; the hardware will even shift into four-wheel drive automatically if that helps you accelerate faster.

Transfer this extroverted power to the dirt. Add over 13 inches of suspension travel, massive 14-inch brake rotors, plus multiple selectable traction modes (with electronic locking diffs), and this truck runs through or over whatever is in its way before you can blink. Skid plates and tow hooks are included, yet this truck churns up so much dirt it feels like it can literally fly over normal obstacles.

Seemingly designed for the Western state deserts, the Raptor also can be outfitted with a plethora of on-road driving aids and comfort pieces — options that balloon the $49,520 base price to over $64,000 on our Shadow Black SuperCab. Standard fare includes a split-folding rear seat with the 160-degree opening rear doors, overhead upfitter switches, trailer sway control and tow package, the best aluminum running boards in the business, dynamic hitch assist lighting and camera, one-touch power windows, electric-shift 4X4, reverse-sensing system, selectable drive modes, curve control, hill start assist, hill descent assist and much more.

Options include blind-spot monitoring with trailer assist, 360-degree camera system, electronic climate controls, Sync 3 with navigation and Sirius, power-sliding rear window, Pro-trailer back-up assist, integrated trailer brake assist, remote start system, Sony audio with voice assist, auto start/stop, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and steering assist, spray on bedliner with LED bed lighting and locking anchor points, tailgate step, plus heated seating. EPA mileage estimates: 15/18/16 mpg. Realized economy — 14.5 mpg with premium fuel required for peak performance.

Several features highlighted Ford’s push to maintain an edge over its rivals. The side-mounted mirror lamps were great; they illuminate a wide area ahead and to the side of the truck — but only when stationary. It would be good to have the same illumination with the trailer back-up system — that is still unique to Ford. The available operational and traction/performance menus on the instrument screen define how far technology has leapt in support of this truck’s capabilities, while the keyless ignition, myriad upfitter switches and the general competence of the 10-speed automatic further support the contention that Ford is ahead of its rivals.

And then you squeeze the throttle, again. The push in your back is a constant reminder that this is an unusual truck. And then you think, this is a V-6 — with twin turbos. Wow.

The only thing that could make this truck better — an independent rear suspension to eliminate the solid-axle kick that remains on broken surfaces. Otherwise, this ferocious Raptor is the Big-Dog demon for the dirt, a pickup truck unlike anything else on the planet.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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