Ford has a Performance division that does exactly what you’d expect from a performance decision: create go-fast vehicles, ranging from the Fiesta ST at about $US21,000 to the ultra-exclusive $US400,000-plus GT supercar.
In the mix, remarkably, is a pickup truck: the Raptor.
Makes sense. Ford Performance also sells stonkingly outfitted Mustangs, so why take a pass on kitting out what is the company’s bestselling vehicle, the F-150 pickup?
The Raptor is anything but an F-150 with a few exotics bells and whistles. It’s an F-150 that goes to 11 and then goes some more. It’s a pickup for adrenaline junkies, and I’ve always been curious about it, so when Ford said I could borrow a $US62,500 test vehicle, I said, “Heck yeah!”
Mind you, I wasn’t going to be tackling sand dunes or rock-strewn trails with this loaner Raptor. So I had to devise different criteria. I already knew the Raptor could handle the worst. But how would it do in the suburbs?
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The Raptor is an amped-up-looking truck. Bold, brash, and ready to bust out. There's a 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 engine under the hood, cranking out 450 horsepower with 510 pound-feet of torque. This pickup can tow 8,000 lbs.
The F-150 is Ford's bestselling vehicle -- and the bestselling vehicle in the US for four decades. Ford revamped it recently to make use of more lightweight aluminium. The Raptor is what happens when the F-150 goes high performance.
It's still a pickup, however. Plenty of room back there for mountain bikes, dirt bikes, or just a lot of dirt or a small mountain. The tailgate, by the way, is powered.
Also BIG shocks. The Raptor was designed for high-performance off-roading, stuff like doing 0-60 mph in a Ford-estimated 5.3 seconds -- over dirt, rocks, and sand. For what it's worth, this thing tips the scales at almost three tons.
The shocks are specially designed FOX racing spec. They allow the front and rear suspensions to move up and down down more than a foot, according to Ford. That's enough to manage serious off-road punishment.
Jump inside? Note the holes in the step -- they prevent mud and dirt from sticking and provide some additional traction.
The cabin is huge. You can get five adults in without too much trouble. The rear doors are 'suicide' style, and the interior of our tester was covered in luxurious black leather.
A lot going on with the steering wheel, in terms of controlling vehicle functions. And if you look behind the wheel there are paddle shifters! And they're -- you guessed it -- BIG. They actually reminded me of the paddles on a Ferrari.
The F-150 has a large center stack and console, and this carries over to the Raptor. To be honest, those cupholders seem sort of modest in the grand scheme of things
The Raptor features Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also have the usual Bluetooth connectivity, with USB and AUX ports, as well as actual 110V plugs for all your charging needs.
The F-150 is, of course, a fine and dandy pickup truck, and in its revamped, aluminumized form, I enjoyed it. Millions of buyers also like the Great American Truck.
The Raptor is a whole other ball game. There's no way I could test it out under proper conditions, by busting around some seriously challenging unimproved roads or taking on Moab. So I went for a different tack: I drove it 200 miles round trip to Upstate New York. Twice.
Yes, that's completely boring, I know, and a poor use of the Raptor's considerable capabilities. But the truth is that a lot of Raptor owners aren't going to bust rocks and deserts, so I thought the test was fair.
The truck was, surprisingly, a perfectly comfortable cruiser. Just looking at the massive, deeply treaded tires, you'd think that wouldn't be possible, but in fact, all that travel in the shocks give the Raptor a reasonably smooth ride, even thought that's 100% not what it wants to be doing. Throw in some pleasing tunes from both SiriusXM radio and the iPhone library, as well as a bit of streaming via Bluetooth and USB, and you have yourself a pleasant drive.
Obviously, with that powerful, torque-y motor, if you want to get on it a bit, the Raptor delivers. It's fun to pour on the power with a Ford Super Duty pickup, asking its huge diesel engine to give you the freight-train effect. With the Raptor, the experience is rather more like punching it in a Mustang, and no one is going to come away from a Raptor drive unimpressed by the Ford EcoBoost V6 turbo under the hood. The 10-speed transmission is snappy in manual mode and full auto alike.
The fuel economy isn't terribly good, but you don't buy this truck to save on gas: 15 city/18 highway/16 combined is all you're gonna get. Such is life with the beastliest pickup in all the land. And auto start/stop system can lend an assist on this score, and the Raptor does boast a 26-gallon tank.
Beyond this, you have the deep and varied options list that's available on Ford's trucks, everything from shift-on-the-fly 4x4 to some useful off-roading features, including a special hill descent mode. Back on the highway, there's Ford's excellent adaptive cruise control, and while the seats are sporty, they aren't overdone. Ford continues to have, in my opinion, the best seats in the business.
A high-performance Ford pickup has been around in one form or another since the early 1990s. 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.
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