Raptor: Ford F-150 specializes in off-road capability

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The all-new Ford F-150 Raptor (SuperCab model pictured) features an available Torsen front differential that increases off-road grip significantly for the front end of the truck and allows it to pull itself over obstacles and up steep grades – even when traction is split between the front tires.

The 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor is engineered and upgraded to be a capable off-road initiator of fun tricks and aggressive driving treats. The F-150 stock is no slouch, but if you are going to name your off-roader ‘Raptor’ you had better make sure it lives up to the image.

Thankfully, this new Raptor does it all.

I have heard it described as a sports car for the full-size pickup segment – and that description definitely fits. Early in 2017, an all-new, mostly stock pre-production Raptor finished the Baja Race in less than 36 hours – the maximum time allowed. Keep in mind, that was pretty much a stock Raptor.

The new version is still the speedster with the off-road chops, but for most of the time, it is a pickup truck that carries stuff on the pavement and around town.

The massive black grille is a formidable sight in person and I can only imagine what it might look like in one’s rearview mirror. This pickup is more than seven feet wide and the hood is raised up above most sedans. That’s instant attention-getting clout.

Two versions are available: the SuperCab, which is more than 18 feet long; and the SuperCrew, a foot longer. Both have four doors and room for five, but the tested SuperCab has rear doors hinged at the back so it looks something like a coupe. The SuperCrew has four conventional doors.

The SuperCab has good head room, but limited knee room and even tighter space in the middle because of intrusion by the center console. Up front, the seats are comfortable, but I found a real need for more bolstering given the ride characteristics of any big pickup. Speaking of anchoring to the seat, if I was off-road, I might want to upgrade my 3-point belt. The standard one does not look as if it would be beefy enough.

At 5,696 pounds, the Raptor is lithe by any means. Its niche is traveling at high speeds over potholed desert, accelerating over and not spending a moment to explore the typography like a Wrangler might.

This article can only speak to pushing the Raptor across the pavement, which is what a vast majority will do most of the time. It’s a really great experience.

Power & Push

Powered by one of Ford’s EcoBoost (turbo) engines, the Raptor shows off with a 450-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that provides a massive 510 lb.-ft. of torque. It is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. Of note is that the Raptor’s V6 has 39 more horsepower and 76 more lb.-ft. of torque than the previous generation V8.

Four drive setups, two-wheel high, four-wheel automatic, four-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive low, are augmented by six selectable modes: Normal, Sport, Weather, Mud/Sand, Baja, and Rock/Crawl. Normal and Sport use two-wheel drive, Weather switches to all-wheel drive, and Mud/Sand, Baja, and Rock/Crawl use four-wheel drive in high and low ranges.

In the Normal setting, I found my tester’ ride to be a bit unsettling (even on nice pavement). The transmission is smooth, but switch to the Sport mode and the ride gets real tight and throttle response/shifts get jagged and abrupt. Impressive is the only way to describe the feeling of launching from 0-60 mph in 5 seconds in a vehicle so immense.

Big pickup truck prices have managed to make it into luxury-car territory. My tested SuperCab had a starting price of $50,980 and, with a long list of options, landed at $63,145.

Admittedly, you get something special for your dollars, whether it’s the visual ‘wow’ or the performance pop. The exhaust note is as distinct as the aesthetic impact. I felt the equipment was equal to many premium vehicle cabins, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, navigation, infotainment, dual-zone climate control, power tilt-and telescoping steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and automated backing with a trailer.

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