- High-performance pickups have become increasingly popular as truck sales have boomed.
- We tested examples from Ford and Chevy, the kings of the truck world.
- The specialised Ford F-150 Raptor came out on top.
The good old crosstown-Detroit Ford-Chevy rivalry plays out in many vehicles, from everyday sedans to powerhouse muscle cars like the Mustang and the Camaro.
Lately, as pickup trucks have boomed in popularity, another battleground has emerged: high-performance rides with a bed in the back.
We were shocked and awed last year by the greatness of the Ford F-150 Raptor. Early this year, we borrowed a 2018 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ with a Z71 package – the closest thing Chevy has to a Raptor fighter.
Would it be a fair fight? Let’s find out.
First up, the mighty Raptor! Based on the F-150 full-size pickup, the Raptor is part of the Ford Performance division.
As tested, the Raptor was a not-inexpensive $US62,500.
But I thought it was worth it when I reviewed the machine last year.
“A high-performance Ford pickup has been around in one form or another since the early 1990s,” I wrote.
“The Raptor is the latest iteration, and its reputation thoroughly precedes it. I knew what I was getting into. But that didn’t make climbing up into the cab and slipping behind the wheel any less exciting. This pickup ain’t cheap. But performance comes at a price, and in this case, it’s worth it.”
That’s right — a pickup truck is of the same Ford Performance family as the Shelby GT350 Mustang and …
… the Ford GT supercar.
The Raptor is an intimidating presence anywhere. But it definitely shook up my quiet suburban neighbourhood.
The bed was plenty large in my test truck. Sadly, I didn’t to use it to haul anything more serious than some camping gear.
The bed was lined for extra durability. The Raptor is a versatile truck, but it isn’t really pitched to customers who are going to put logs, lumber, dirt, bricks, and rocks back here – think mountain bikes, motocross machines, and other outdoorsy, active-lifestyle stuff.
There’s Raptor badging on the liftgate.
Our SuperCab Raptor had “suicide doors” and a relatively comfortable interior, with some sporty touches.
The cabin is big. You can get five adults in without too much trouble. The interior of our tester was covered in luxurious black leather.
The center console is based on the F-150’s and provides ample storage, with of course a few cupholders and charging ports.
The Raptor is an amped-up-looking truck in “ingot silver.” A 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 engine is under the hood, cranking out 450 horsepower with 510 pound-feet of torque.
The zero-to-60 speed is just over six seconds – and the SuperCab Raptor can still tow 6,000 pounds!
Fuel economy is not a strong point: 15 miles per gallon city/18 highway/16 combined. Performance comes at a price, folks.
Some seriously large offroading tires, backed up by equally serious shocks.
I took the Raptor on two long trips about about 100 miles each way. And yes, I did have to gas up.
The Raptor features Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I like Sync 3 — it’s the best infotainment system Ford has produced. Everything from audio to navigation and Bluetooth pairing is simple.
You also have the usual Bluetooth connectivity, with USB and AUX ports as well as actual 110-volt plugs for all your charging needs.
Sync 3 has emerged in the past year as a superb infotainment system. It operates along the same simplified lines as the Chevy MyLink system, which we’ll look at in a bit. In all the recent Fords I’ve tested, it has performed very well.
This is the kind of thing you’re supposed to do with the Raptor. I didn’t, but I did dream about tearing across some unimproved terrain at sports-car speeds.
Now on to the demonic Z71. This pickup is an amped-up version of the Silverado 1500 truck.
The Z71 as tested was cheaper than the Raptor, at about $US58,000.
I didn’t post an independent review, mainly because Chevy will roll out a new Silverado this year and with it a new Z71. In fact, when Chevy revealed the new pickup late last year, it was in Z71 kit.
That vehicle won’t go on sale until later this year – so for now, if you want a Chevy to do battle with a Ford in this subsegment, the current Z71 is your baby.
The Z71 designation, by the way, isn’t a stand-alone name like Raptor, but rather a performance package added to certain Silverado 1500 trim levels.
Of course, a Raptor is really an F-150 Raptor, an F-150 with upgrades. But for obvious reasons, the Raptor name pops and has become a shorthand for the pickup.
The Silverado has always competed head-to-head with the Ford F-150 for the American pickup-truck crown.
The Silverado shares a platform with the GMC Sierra.
The Z71 has a column shifter, one of several antiquated features.
As with the Raptor, I didn’t get to make much use of the bed. Also, it was wintry weather when I conducted my test, so there was no way to keep the snow out.
The Silverado’s bed was also lined for durability. Silverado owners who upgrade to the Z71 package will be connecting the dots on a high-performance lifestyle, much like Raptor owners.
That said, the Silverado struck me as being closer than the Raptor to a work truck – not that close, but with adequate striking distance to give me the impression that the high-performance 1500 may be able to engage in more humble activities, if called upon, than the thoroughbred Raptor.
The Silverado Z71 interior was a bit more purposeful than the Raptor’s. Note the workmanlike column-shifter on the steering rack.
Our jet-black-interior Chevy test truck had a bigger cab than the Raptor, as well as traditional rear doors, making it the better choice for those who want to use the Silverado Z71 as a family vehicle.
How’s this for old-school?
You fire up the Z71 with a key of ignition!
The 5.3-litre V8 engine in the Silverado Z71 makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, routing the power to the four-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed transmission.
OK, so the Raptor obviously takes this round, even though the Chevy’s “hot red” paint job was something special.
The Silverado gives up 100 horsepower to the Ford. Still, the zero-to-60 mph dash is respectable for a big pickup, at about seven seconds.
Fuel economy isn’t going to be great with a vehicle like this, but 15 mpg city/20 highway/17 combined isn’t terrible.
The Silverado with the big V8 can also tow more than the Raptor. But in fairness, the Raptor isn’t optimised for towing – other F-150s outdo the Silverado on this front.
The back seat of the Z71 is relatively roomy and comfortable.
The infotainment system is Chevy’s MyLink, running on an 8-inch touchscreen. We’ve been big fans of this system on numerous vehicles from General Motors brands.
Chevy had a lead on Ford with infotainment, thanks to OnStar and 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity. But Ford’s Sync 3 has closed the gap.
MyLink is still easier to the use than Sync 3, though not by much. And both systems provide the usual features, including navigation, Bluetooth device pairing, and USB options. Our Silverado tester also came with Sirius XM radio and a sweet-sounding Bose premium audio upgrade.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available.
The gauges and cluster in the Z71, as well as the steering-wheel setup, will be familiar to anyone who’s slipped into a Chevy in the past few years.
And the winner is: the Raptor!
The Raptor is the most intense version of the new aluminium-bodied F-150, with an engine based on technology that Ford has been using in race cars. It’s the gnarliest pickup on the block because it wants to be – and because Ford designed it to be a cut above.
The Raptor stands out in a crowd, without question.
But the Silverado Z71 has its virtues.
A beefy, old-school engine and a little less high-performance, but probably better pickup-truck versatility than the specialised Raptor.
In the end, it was kind of not a fair fight, but a new Silverado will arrive in 2019, so stay tuned for a rematch.
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