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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Updates the Original High-Speed Dune-Jumper

Ford promises more capability for its off-road icon; more powerful Raptor R shows up next year.

Ford took the wraps off its latest F-150 Raptor Wednesday morning. The third generation of the desert-running pickup evolves the formula it debuted over a decade ago, bringing in a new suspension, 37-inch tires, more connectivity, and the mobile generator feature found in the regular F-150. Oh, and did we mention a higher-powered Raptor R is coming next year?

Yes, that means this Raptor is still running a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. Ford wouldn’t talk horsepower at the launch, but we’d be shocked if it doesn’t at least match last year’s 450 total. Same goes with torque, which means at least 510 lb-ft of twist. The compression ratio is up to 10.5:1 (from 10.0:1), with a more robust cooling system to boot. Curiously, Ford is instead touting a different figure: 500 miles (805 km), as in the Raptor’s estimated range with its 36-gallon tank. There’s a new active-valve exhaust too, featuring a “trombone loop” for a deeper, more aggressive note. Raptor pilots can pick from four levels: Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Baja.

Needless to say, if buyers are looking for a straight-up Ram TRX fighter, they’ll need to wait for the R, which will likely pack a similarly monstrous V8. But the regular Raptor will hardly be tardy, and it will be lighter, both on the scales and on your wallet.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Review: First Drive

Ford was much more forthcoming about the Raptor’s suspension upgrades. A five-link rear suspension features longer trailing arms, a Panhard rod, and massive 24-inch (610 mm) springs—just slightly larger than the 23.6-inch coils in the TRX. Ford has once again used Fox internal bypass shocks, more specifically the latest version of the Georgia-based company’s Live Valve tech. The shocks feature position-sensitive damping, and are capable of changing damping rates at a whopping 500 times per second.

With the standard 35-inch tires, the Raptor features a full foot of ground clearance (305 mm), plus 14 inches (355 mm) of wheel travel at the front axle, and 15 inches (381 mm) in the rear. For those playing the numbers game, those are all more than the TRX; just 0.2 inches (5 mm) for the ground clearance, and an extra inch (25 mm) of travel at either axle. Ford will also offer Raptor buyers the option of specially-designed 37-inch BFGoodrich tires. These big boys bump ground clearance up to 13.1 inches (332 mm).

Approach, departure, and breakover angles sit at 31, 23.9, and 22.7 degrees, respectively, for the 35-inch tire option. The 37s post 33.1 degrees of approach angle, 24.9 for departure, and a 24.4-degree breakover.

Buyers will be able to spec the Pro Power Onboard system, which offers 2 kW of power to run tools or camp equipment.

Inside, the Raptor benefits from the same goodness as the rest of the new-for-2021 F-150 lineup. Two 12.0-inch displays are standard: one as the instrument panel, and the other as the central display. There are Raptor-specific graphics for the screen behind the wheel, because of course. The latest version of SYNC 4 powers the whole setup, allowing for over-the-air (OTA) updates down the line. FordPass is also standard, allowing owners to use an app to lock and unlock their Raptor, remotely access features, check fuel level, and more. Voice control, real-time mapping, and wireless smartphone mirroring are all standard, while an 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system is optional.

Ford’s Terrain Management System returns for third-gen Raptor duty, with the selectable mode stable now numbering seven: Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl. Further bolstering the Raptor’s off-road prowess is standard Trail Control, which lets drivers select a max speed, with the truck handling throttle and brakes. A 1-Pedal Drive mode applies the brakes more as the driver lifts off the throttle. Finally, a 360-degree camera offers a real-time overlay of the F-150’s front tires for tougher trails—and it has its own dedicated hard button for quick access.

You’ll find aluminum trim peppered throughout the Raptor’s interior, including the door cards, center console, instrument panel, and paddle shifters. Buyers can also swap it for carbon fiber for all but the latter. The leather-wrapped steering wheel retains the red centerline, though.

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As for the exterior, well, it’s about what you’d expect of a dino-fied 14th-gen F-150. It’s very broad, with the width-indicator lights tucked in the grille once more. The hood features vents inspired by the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, including functioning heat extractor. Ford says the wheel arches emulate “the windswept look of dust billowing off the top of the tires at high speed.” A wider front skid plate sits below the front bumper, with optional Rigid foglights nestled within the steel bumper. Three different 17-inch wheels are available, two of which offer beadlock capability.

Production of the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor will begin in later summer, at the company’s Dearborn Truck Plant. Pricing and more detailed trim breakdowns should arrive before that—and hopefully, more info on that Raptor R. Bring on the dino wars.

Discuss this story at our Ford F-150 Forum.

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