Ever since Ford introduced the first Raptor in 2009, everyone thought that while it was really cool, it would never sell that well. I mean, who would want an F150 that was wider, taller, got worse fuel mileage and wore knobby off-road tires? Well, when you put it that way, a whole lot of people. And sales reflected it, with people snapping up as many as Ford would produce. With demand high, the company kept on refining the original concept, which included parts normally reserved for specialized racing trucks.
With the rollout in 2015 of the all-new aluminum-bodied Ford F-150, for the first time in six years there was no longer a Raptor available. Drawing rave reviews, the newest generation of F150 seemed like the perfect platform for a rebirth of the exciting Raptor – and now it’s finally here. Fans of V8 engines might be disappointed to find the Ecoboost V6 in the front, but honestly this engine is flat-out incredible. While the original Raptor had the thundering 6.2-liter as its top-range power plant, this newest version uses Ford’s newest twin turbo 3.5-liter V6.
At 450hp, this engine proves that a pair of turbos really can take the place of a pair of extra pistons. The power rating almost feels low given how fast this truck accelerates, no doubt aided by the new 10-speed automatic transmission. Yes, you did read that correctly – 10-speeds. While that may seem like overkill, what it means is that the engine can really be kept right in the meat of the power band no matter what speed you’re going. Seamlessly smooth shifts when you’re cruising give way to extremely crisp gear changes when you get after it.
The interior of the Raptor is a slightly sportier version of the already class-topping F-150’s interior. Sport seats have more bolsters to hold you in, and the materials are a bit more athletic. Ford’s Sync 3 system is optional, giving you a nice touchscreen command center. Our test vehicle was the extended cab versions, not the crew cab, and honestly unless you’re hauling passengers around all the time, this is the one to go with.
Everything sounds great so far, but what about the big question – is it still just as good off-road? Well, not quite – it’s even better! Using a lighter engine means the truck isn’t quite as nose heavy as the previous Raptor, and the Fox shocks (a well-known maker of off-road racing shocks) soak up even the most rutted trail. In fact, this suspension is so good you could probably just go enter an off-road race and place fairly well without doing a single modification. The ground clearance is substantial, as are the beefy aluminum skid plates.
We took it through its paces at the Badlands Off-Road Park in Indiana, and the Raptor soaked up everything we could throw at it. While this truck is better suited to going at high speed over bumpy terrain, it’s a competent climber as well. We took on some steep dunes, and the soft climbs were easy work. Where the Raptor really came into its own was on the rutted transit roads between obstacles. You could clip along at 50+ mph where other 4×4’s had to creep along. This truck is so good at soaking up the bumps on the run that it can make anyone feel like an off-road racer.
Maybe even more impressive, however, was the ride home from the park. Looking down and seeing triple-digit speeds was a common occurrence – and without even trying. If you get one of these, I suggest using the cruise control! It’s so incredibly smooth and quiet on the highway, an amazing accomplishment given the off-road capability. The BFGoodrich tires deserve some of the credit, as the road noise for such an aggressive tire is basically nonexistent. They are the perfect match for this incredible multi-tasking truck.
It would be easy to look at the Raptor and think that it would only be good off-road. But this truly is a truck you could use every day, and also veer off the road whenever you want and leave everything else in your dust. Starting at $49k, and easily reaching into the upper $60k range with lots of options, this is not a bargain truck. But there is simply nothing like it on the road, and most certainly nothing like it off-road too.
By Jason Saini
Special thanks to Ford Motor Company for providing the 2017 Ford Raptor for review.