Designed for rugged off-road Baja desert racing, sand dune jumping and hard-core off-roading, the ultra-rugged 2017 Ford Raptor is not your ordinary F-150 pickup. No siree Bob. And what’s amazing about this hunk of machinery, it qualifies as a daily driver for commuting, towing a boat, camper or utility trailer, and because of the latter three traits, it has a special attribute that we’ll cover.
Although new for 2017, Raptor has quickly garnered Pickup Truck of the Year by FOUR-WHEELER and Popular Mechanics magazines, Best Pickup for 2017 by Cars.com. and AutoGuide.com. And here’s why.
Powered by 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that puts out a whopping 450-hp and 510 lb/ft of torque, this couples to a new 10-speed automatic transmission that with Raptors nearly 500-pound weight reduction (due to its aluminum components), allows Raptor to fly like a raptor bird-of-prey. And does so over terrain not fit for the meek.
This powertrain garners EPA mileage estimates of 15 city, 18-highway mpg (with start/stop technology) and was independently 0-60 mph tested at a quick (for a truck) 5 seconds. The 3.5L replaces the former 6.2-liter V8 that had 39 less horsepower, 76 lb/ft less torque and its EPA mileage was rated at 12/16 mpg. Who needs a V8 with a nasty V6 like this? And despite having two less cylinders, the new lighter weight Raptor can still tow an appreciable 6,000 pounds.
So much for brute power. But that’s not the complete story.
For off-road prowess, Raptor gets an electronic locking rear differential whereby the rear wheels can be locked to work in tandem for when the going gets really tough. It should not, however, be driven locked on dry pavement or if the vehicle’s speed is above 20 mph.
Then there’s the 4WD system that allows the typical 2H, 4H and 4L gearing by turning a dial. Pull the dial outward and the truck now has 4WD Auto or in essence, AWD mode.
This system works in concert with Raptor’s Terrain Management System (TMS) consisting of five modes of Normal, Weather, Mud/Sand, Baja and Rock Crawl. The latter two may need some definition: Baja gives a 4H locked transfer case with unique trans shift points and engine controls with anti-lag technology for maximum performance and response. Rock Crawl is 4L gearing with locked differential and a gear reduction (2:64:1) to provide a 50:1 crawl ratio for maneuvering over large rocks.
Raptor’s steering effort can also be selected with three modes of Normal, Sport (for higher effort and more feedback) and Comfort (that lightens the steering effort).
Hang on, we’re not done.
Raptor’s height was raised two inches and that comes with special 3-inch diameter Fox racing shocks. This allows a suspension travel of 13.9 inches in the front and 13.9 in back. They’re designed with a top, mid and bottom compression range and at their extreme, prevents bottoming out on potholes or unseen off-road ditches and ruts while providing a smooth SUV-type highway ride.
And all of these were optimized to work with the TMS. As a result, there’s 11 inches of ground clearance, 32 inches of fording depth, an approach angle of 30.2 degrees, departure angle of 23.1 and a breakover angle of 22.9. And for when encountering these acute angles, skid plates protect the underpinnings.
Raptor is offered in SuperCab and SuperCrew. The latter provides four full doors whereas the SuperCab tested, had two full doors and two half doors that can only be opened when the front doors are open.
Raptor’s tall stance requires a 17-inch step onto superb non-slip running boards, or a 25-inch step directly into the cabin. Once in, you’re treated to a spacious interior adorned with two-tone perforated leather seats and burly accoutrements that reflect the trucks’ ruggedness.
An 8-inch display with Wi-Fi capability serves the audio, navigation, apps, HVAC controls and 360-degree camera system offering dual views that can also be switched to a frontal view. The latter is helpful because of the Raptors’ high wide hood and when going off-road in that it allows the driver to judge whether the trucks’ extra width (86.3 inches) can slip damage-free through boulders or trees.
As mentioned in my opening paragraph, Raptor has a nifty automatic trailer parking system. A Trailer Backup knob on the dash is Fords’ Pro Trailer Backup Assist system. If you tow a trailer and can’t get the knack for backing it into a spot, this system does it for you. Merely turn the dash knob in the direction you want the trailer to go and the system will take over the steering to get it there.
Since the SuperCab has half-doors, the 60/40 split folding back seat is short on legroom but headroom is very ample. And with the 60 portion flipped up against the bulkhead, there’s a small bin for small item storage.
Raptors’ tailgate is nifty in that it can be automatically lowered remotely via the keyfob, or manually at a mere touch of a pressure sensitive button under the gate handle. And it gradually lowers as it has a built-in damper. The tailgate also had Fords’ unique pull-out-step-and-handle system that makes climbing into the truck bed much easier.
Despite its size, the ride on 33-inch high, BF Goodrich 17-inch knobby tires, is quite civil. There is tire hum on highways but that’s to be expected from these deep lug mud/snow grabbers. And with its wide stance, handling is planted and roll control better than some sports cars.
Now all this machinery doesn’t come cheap. Loaded with a long list of standard features, the only extra-cost options were for Raptor Equipment Group ($9,345) that included the Pro Trailer Backup system, 360 camera, LED outside mirror spotlights, 4:10 front axle, power sliding rear window and much more; Tailgate Step ($375); Raptor Technology package ($1,950); sprayed in bedliner ($495) and delivery ($1,195) brought the base price of $48,325 to (ouch) $61,685.
To handle any sticker shock, Raptor comes through with a top five-star overall government vehicle safety rating, five for driver/passenger frontal crash, five for front/rear seat side crash, and four for rollover. All commendable scores.
As said, Raptor is not for everyone and goes way beyond your typical 4WD pickup. But if you want a truck with these capabilities, you’ll find it in Raptor.