The Borrego desert in the southeast corner of California is a storied local among American off-roaders and that’s where I first had a chance to get behind the wheel of Ford’s new Raptor. And while that was a decent shake-down for this truck, I also spent a week beating it through the bush in Northern Ontario.
|1. The SVT Raptor is powered by a 5.4L V8 with 320-hp and 390 ft-lbs of torque, although a 6.2L engine will be offered with 400 horsepower and 400 ft-lbs of torque.
2. Among other things, the Raptor gets flared fenders, Fox shocks and 35-inch BF Goodrich tires.
3. The drive system features 2WD, 4WD HI and 4WD LO with an electronic rear differential and a special low-gear off-road mode.
4. Pricing starts at $38,995 ($48,299 CAD).
Based on the F-150, this truck is a factory version of what many enthusiasts have built themselves with aftermarket parts – an off-road racer. But it’s not just a platform with bolt-on shocks and oversized tires; its body has been massaged and contoured into a unique shape with a unique rounded nose and recessed headlights. The Raptor’s wheel arches are pronounced and lipped with plastic mud guards – a practical design feature as the stance of the Raptor is 7-inches wider than a stock F-150. The same is true for the rear haunches of the truck that bulge over the tires and then sweep around to a solid brick-like tailgate.
So, with special suspension, a new body and purpose-built powertrain this SVT (Special Vehicle Team) creation gives the Raptor a high-performance off-road capability while still keeping it street-legal and decent to drive on pavement.
The Raptor comes in one body style only – Super Cab with a 5 ½-foot bed. This combination gives the truck the right look while maintaining a shorter wheelbase that is vital for getting it over rough terrain. Power is provided by the standard 5.4-liter 3-valve V8 that makes 320 hp at 5000 rpm and 390 ft-lbs of torque at 3500 rpm. Coupled to the new six-speed automatic transmission this combination has ample power to move the 5,900 lb truck on-road as well as off. Fuel economy figures for the 5.4-liter Raptor are rated at 14-mpg city, 18-mpg highway, but that’s mostly irrelevant as we have to think anyone buying such a purose-built truck has low fuel economy expectations.
But, for those who must have more; later this year a 6.2-liter V8 will be offered that will up the power to a nice and even 400-hp with 400 ft-lbs of torque.
Pricing for the Raptor (with the 5.4-liter V8) will start at $38,995 ($48,299 CAD). There’s no word on what the 6.2-liter upgrade will add to the price.
But aside from power, what really makes the Raptor unique is the suspension setup. Fox Engineering teamed up with Ford to develop the special shocks that would spring the 17-inch wheels and 35-inch BF Goodrich tires. These massive twin reservoir shocks give the tires unprecedented travel – a trait that makes desert racing possible.
The drive system features 2WD, 4WD HI and 4WD LO with an electronic rear differential locker will stay engaged at any speed. An Off-Road mode will also re-calibrate engine modulation, transmission shift points and lock out traction and sway controls. Add to these drive systems specially cast high pressure aluminum suspension parts, a fully boxed steel frame and full skid plates – and you have a truck that can run across desert trails at 70 mph, taking potholes, dips, dives and three-foot drop-offs in stride.
Of course, that’s what Ford says. So if you’re skeptical, have a look at last year’s Baja 1000 (the Super bowl of North American off-road races) results, where a pre-production Raptor came in third in the highly modified class – that means competing against hand-build race trucks.
OFF-ROAD SUSPENSION ALSO LIVABLE FOR STREET USE
Where the Raptor differs from those Baja trucks though is that it feels at home on pavement, is quiet with decent steering feel and offers all the comfy interior amenities that you might want. So while it drives normal in town I spent most of my time getting it dirty.
Luckily I had rain during my test week and the most telling bit of testing I did was on a highway that was under construction. I came across about a five-mile stretch where the asphalt had been torn up and the constant traffic, combined with the rain, had turned the roadbed into horrible washboard. Some cars I followed were barely moving and the pickups passing them were only going about 30 mph. The Raptor passed everyone at 60 mph. The suspension soaked up the rebound effect of the washboard and the steering stayed on course. Most importantly, I felt next to nothing inside the truck.
As the Raptor is aimed primarily at male buyers it comes in primary colors like white and black with a two-tone black/orange interior design that probably has the most panache when paired with the molten orange and tuxedo black exterior paintjob. Plush front leather bucket seats are split by a main consol with silver carbon fiber-like accents. It also features an integrated brake controller in the dash, a tow/haul mode and anti-sway technology that compliments the standard Class III hitch.
The 2010 SVT Raptor is a purpose built truck and one that more than fulfills its purpose. It’s an off-road monster, yet it does not inflict the on-road pain that many aftermarket builds do. And (at the risk of sounding sappy) it’s beautiful. The Ford SVT guys have a winner on their hands.