Unparalleled performance

Off-road truck with city clout: Ford F-150 SVT Raptor still awaits a challenger


News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley
News_Sept12_FordRaptor
Photo by Kevin McCauley

Question: Does the raptor mess around?
Answer: NO.

That about sums up the do-anything, go-anywhere, get-out-of-its-way Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. Ford's super-capable and ultra-quick pickup invented a niche that has seen exactly zero imitators attempt to take its crown since launching in 2009. It sort of makes you think that building a vehicle like this is a difficult undertaking.

In an automotove world, innovation tends to happen through small details and incremental steps. So the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor was a revelation when it landed on the scene in 2009 — a purpose-built truck made for blasting through rough-terrain at high speed. And it's seen improvements almost every year since it launched.

SVT is the team of go-fast guys behind the popular SVT Mustangs (GT500, Boss 302). Rather than making a fast F-150 for the street, they looked to the direction the tuner market was heading, and built an F-150 for a decidedly different purpose: High-speed offroad driving and racing, just about the most punishing conditions a production vehicle can face.

No company has made a production vehicle like this before, and so far no other company has had the guts to produce anything that competes with it.

What's surprising about the Raptor is how well it gets on in everyday use. It's just as driveable and comfortable as a normal F-150, despite it's hardcore focus. The ride is smooth (and, naturally, unfazed by the poorest of urban roads) and powertrain is effortless, which makes it good around town and even better on the highway.

Inside, the Raptor is predictably rugged and utilitarian, with the same clean, linear design of the regular F-150. Buyers coming from luxury vehicles or F-150 Platinums may find it to be a bit cheaper feeling than its $46,870 price (SuperCrew base price) suggests.

As with all F-150s in the SuperCrew configuration, the rear seating accomodations are vast and offer acres of legroom.

The Raptor's towering height, at over 6.5 feet tall, gives it tremendous visibility over just about anything else on the road short of an 18-wheeler — and that includes other pickups. The height, plus 411 horsepower, can make you feel like "king of the road" on the freeway, and 80 mph feels like a leisurely 45 mph. Try to stay out of trouble.

The grippy multi-function steering wheel has a high-contrast red center mark at 12:00 — a feature normally found on race cars, to allow the driver to find dead center easily and at a glance.

The racing-proven FOX Racing shock absorbers with external reservoirs mean serious business. Not only do they provide long suspension travel, but the extra fluid makes them more resistent to overheating.

The F-150 SVT Raptor has a electronic locking rear differential, as well as Torsen front differntial that was new for 2012.

The Raptor has a 5.5 foot bed, which is still large enough to do a lot of damage at Ikea.

Nowadays just about every production car can be had with a backup camera, but the Raptor now can be had with a front camera. Designed to help see exactly where your tires are positioned on the trail, the system is accessed in Offroad Mode and only at speeds under 15 mph.

The SVT designers completely reworked the front end of the F-150 and adapted the styling to fit the Raptor's extra 7 inches of width. It's so wide in fact that additional lights had to be added to fit with federal regulations. And the design team was able to get away with doing something few Ford vehicles have done before — ditching the blue oval logo on the front entirely.

While it's not much to look at, the 6.2-liter V8 delivers 411 horsepower and 434 lb. -ft. of torque. And despite the considerable 6,200 lb curb weight, this motor still provides impressive power delivery. Fuel economy is less impressive: We observed just under 13 MPG combined.

Some features, such as Hill Descent Control, were developed for the Raptor and have since trickled down to the normal F-150 models.

Chunky SVT-tuned BF Goodrich 35" LT315/70R17 tires offer a good compromise of off-road traction and on-road comfort.

Are these offroad features something you'll use all the time? Maybe not, but maybe — it's impossible to dismiss. Ford didn't expect so many buyers to purchase such a niche vehicle, but people are buying them and using them for what they were designed for, in newly-formed Raptor clubs and off-road speed events popping up across the country.

There's a distinct appeal here and one that, right now, only Ford's SVT F-150 Raptor can satisfy.

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