2017 Ford F-150 Raptor: AutoGuide.com Truck of the Year Contender

A Desert Champion

Pickups are big business in the auto industry and there are plenty of new entries on the scene in 2017. While each of these trucks has its pros and cons, we’re here to tell you which of these redesigns resulted in the best product overall.  

To decide which truck is the best new product of the year, AutoGuide.com gathered together five of the most significantly revised 2017 pickups to evaluate each over three days of testing. Judging of these workhorses was done in the high desert of California, and among the cacti and creosote bushes, we pushed each truck with a trailer tow test, desert off-roading, and plenty of empty highway miles.

This year, our contenders are the Ford F-250, Ford F-150 Raptor, Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, Nissan Titan, and Honda Ridgeline. We will release a new video on each contender every day leading up to Friday, Feb. 17, when we will announce our winner. Of course, each truck has its strengths and weaknesses, but we are here to find the truck that is truly special and has risen above its predecessor the furthest.

Here’s the lowdown on our fifth contender, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor.


2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Ford went all out with the new 2017 Raptor, not just upgrading the suspension and calling it a day.

This truck is the complete package, including a high-output 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, sent through an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission. To make this engine crank out all that juice, Ford has installed more aggressive turbo compressors, cast stainless steel manifolds and even oil-cooled pistons.

Even the body is unique to the Raptor, with a track that has been widened by six inches, new bumpers for better approach and departure angles, underbody shielding and of course the aluminum body used on the standard truck, helping the Raptor drop about 500 pounds.

Sitting underneath the Raptor and still the true heroes in this equation are a new set of 44 percent larger Fox internal bypass shock absorbers, offering a total of 13 inches of front-suspension travel and 13.9 inches at the back.

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So all of that sounds great in theory, but how does it translate in practice?

Well, first of all, this new Raptor is fast with all of those ponies pulling it up to speed in a hurry. There is a detectable lag from the engine when you punch it, and the old 6.2-liter V8 had that instant torque hit, but once the turbos kick in, there is nothing stopping this force of nature. Better still, switch the truck into Sport or Baja mode and the rpm stays high, keeping the turbos spooled and the power instantly accessible.

The new 10-speed transmission also has a lot to do with it, shifting seamlessly and quickly to deliver maximum power or decent fuel economy while cruising. Never did the transmission seem to hunt for gears, grabbing the necessary ratio each time. While cruising at 65 mph, a full throttle request is met with a jump down to fifth that is immediate.

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During our testing, we hooked 4,000 pounds to the back of our Raptor SuperCab, which is rated to pull 8,000 pounds. With the weight on the back, the squishy suspension is noticeable, and the Raptor’s floaty feeling is amplified. It’s never to the point of feeling dangerous or unsafe, but it’s enough to constantly remind you of the weight behind you. Same goes for unladen on-road driving; the truck retains some squishy sensation, though overall it’s very little to give up in on-road driving dynamics when you consider what this truck can do off-road.

Switch it into Baja mode and the Raptor becomes a wild animal, ripping through the sand with little concern. The stability control system loosens its belt and allows you to have some real fun with the truck, sliding it around soft corners with ease. Best of all, running at high speeds through the desert (we’re talking 70-80 mph) the suspension absorbs everything underneath it. Even by the final day of testing, we would wince when running through a set of whoops or over big sand berms, and the big crunch we thought was inevitable never came.

The steering wheel itself works great when running at speed thanks to a groove around its entire back, which makes a comfortable hand hold. Feeling from the wheel is also communicative and the on-center feeling is heavy enough for precise control, though it’s not too jumpy in your hands.

And adding a cherry to the top of this Raptor cake is the price. Starting at just under $50,000, this truck feels like a performance bargain. Dressed up like our truck with a number of creature comforts, the price tag grows closer to $63,000. But at its base, you’re still getting the most capable desert runner you can buy straight from the factory. If you ask me, I would take the Raptor over a Mustang GT350 any day of the week.

Spending just one day in the Raptor off road and it’s clear that this truck is something truly special. But is it enough to be named Truck of the Year? Keep following the series to find out.