I know exactly where the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor was born. I have traversed the exact same course that Ford’s development engineers spent countless hours on thrashing the off-road pickup in an effort to fine tune it.
And I can guarantee you, there isn’t even a little bit of snow.
The Raptor was born in the desert, with one thing in mind: high-speed off-roading, the kind you see in the Baja 500 or the Dakar Rally.
But this truck is offered for sale all across the United States and Canada, where cold, wintery weather is a sad reality. And why should they have to miss out on the epic fun the Raptor offers just because they live where it snows?
It was on a frozen ice race course in Quebec, Canada, where the Raptor’s biggest flaws were exposed, and also where its strengths were solidified. Read on to see the things I learned while ripping through the snow on a bitter, cold day.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Despite its size, the Raptor is still controllable. Drifting around corners on ice is really a delicate balance, especially during long drifts, and the Raptor’s controls are all set up nicely to perform the balancing act between gas and steering.
Throttle response is immediate when the truck is in Sport or Baja mode, making the pedal on the right sensitive to small tweaks, while with the steering weighting cranked up in Sport mode, the truck offers quick reactions to small inputs, allowing for precise control. For a vehicle so big – and the Raptor certainly feels big around you – it still feels light on its feet and ready to react.
When not sliding sideways around corners, the story is the same, with the direct link between the steering and front wheels giving the driver a great sense for the exact wheel placement.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Review
10-Speeds of Excellence
Ford’s new 10-speed has been nothing but excellent in all the situations I’ve had it in, and with the Raptor, it makes a strong case for adding ratios. Power is immediate in first, which is able to be geared quite low at 4.69:1, getting torque to the ground right away.
As it climbs through the gears in Baja mode, each gear is held right until redline, which means that we barely used half of this transmission’s options while on the track. Shifts are immediate and smooth, and although the transmission certainly is busy, it’s hard to notice how much it is doing.
Put in normal mode, the 10-speed brings fuel economy to the forefront with near constant upshifts, always trying to keep the rpms low. What is most impressive is the non-sequential shifts, allowing the gearbox to jump from 10th down to fifth with little hesitation, providing the proverbial best-of-both-worlds experience: fuel economy when cruising and quick access to power when you need it.
Tires are a Letdown
Easily the biggest letdown of the Raptor in the snow is the standard BFGoodrich T/A KO2 tires. Like the truck, these tires are best suited for crashing around in the desert. Despite their snowflake rating, the KO2’s don’t offer the best grip in the white stuff.
Taking off is made less worrisome by the truck’s four-wheel drive system, but stopping doesn’t bring the kind of bite that you feel with a set of dedicated winter tires. On the winter race course, the tires made sure we were going sideways around every corner, and while it wouldn’t be hard to do so with a nice set of winter tires, the lack of grip from these KO2 was to past the point of being comfortable.
The KO2s work great as a set of three season tires, and crawling over the sand, rocks and scrub brush of California or Arizona they provide solid grip and durability.
But for the harsh winter, Raptor owners who plan on driving in the snow would be smart to invest in a set of proper winter tires.
Interior is Winter Comfort Ready
Heated seats and a heated steering wheel can both be had in the Raptor, a savior on cold winter mornings as you wait for heat to come into the cabin. Interior comfort overall is great in the truck, one of the Raptor’s hidden features. The comfort is courtesy of nicely bolstered seats that are good enough to hold passengers in place, though not so aggressive that they become uncomfortable, a trait that other Ford Performance vehicles like the Focus RS exhibit.
Besides the seats, a Comfort setting for the steering allows for a nice light wheel while all that rock-eating suspension travel provides a cushy ride rolling down the highway.
Of course, the Raptor can be locked into four-wheel drive, but the new dual-mode transfer case also allows the truck to use clutch-driven on-demand all-wheel drive, allowing the truck to cruise in two-wheel drive until slip is detected. And best of all, the setup reacts quickly, which means that Raptors in the snow can stay as efficient as possible until the need for four-wheel drive is presented. Nailing the throttle from a standstill on the white stuff while the truck is in ‘4A’ mode exhibits little wheel spin, and even with the not-so-great tires, the Raptor re-routes power quickly and takes off.
Discuss this story at our Ford Raptor Forum