The first-generation Raptor was a street-driving desert racer that ran away with sales success far beyond what even Ford expected. Now, the all-new 2017 Raptor has been upgraded in nearly every significant way.

It starts with the new F-150’s aluminum body but has been engineered with stronger versions of all the critical parts underneath because of the pickup’s dual personality as both an around-town driver and a race truck. It gets more power, better fuel economy and a collection of technology and engineering upgrades. The 2017 F-150 Raptor is available in two body styles but only with a short bed. The SuperCab starts at $49,520, and the SuperCrew begins at $51,310.

Under the hood is a re-engineered version of Ford’s 3.5-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 that produces 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque (increases of 39 and 76, respectively), yet fuel economy goes up 23 percent to 15/18 mpg city/highway.

Mated to Ford’s all-new 10-speed transmission, the updated setup has auto start/stop and is mated to a new two-mode transfer case that brings AWD or 4WD, with gearing for 4×4 High and 4×4 Low. New is a six-mode Terrain Management System with a “Baja” mode for desert racing.

Our test ride took us from urban San Diego to the Anza Borrego desert. We drove the SuperCrew on the pavement, and we were impressed by the boosted power and new transmission, plus its improved ride comfort, ergonomics and visibility.

Three electric power-assisted steering modes are new: Normal for everyday driving optimizes fuel economy; Sport is for higher effort and more torque feedback; and Comfort is for easier maneuvering.

During the slow-speed, off-road portion of the drive, we tested the SuperCab’s new Rock Crawl mode over a rock-strewn track punctuated by an extreme climb, where the new gear ratios and the engineering of this setting motivated it safely up and downhill. Upgrades that add proficiency in mud and rocks are its increased ride height; improved angles of approach, break-over and departure; and a new front differential that brings added grunt.

We also drove on a high-speed course along tracks that included an assortment of off-road terrain. Desert racing is what made the previous-generation truck stand out from the crowd; the new model raises the bar. We tried out the new Baja mode and appreciated its on-tap power, straight-line braking and aggressive new BFG tires that enhance traction.

The new luxury-level pickup shares its cab with the newly upgraded F-150 and Super Duty, but is all new from the A-pillar forward. Highlights include a new hood and fender vents, running boards, exposed mechanicals, true dual exhaust pipes, redesigned front and rear bumpers, signature LED grille lights, a dropped belt line and a new stamped aluminum front skid plate.

Inside, the race-inspired cockpit has bolstered seating for five accented with signature Raptor logos. The contoured steering wheel is fitted with magnesium paddle shifters; aftermarket auxiliary switches are mounted overhead for easy reach. Technology features include Ford’s Sync 3 connectivity system, large LED screens in the center stack and instrument cluster and a 360-degree camera system with a split-view display.