2018 Ford F-150 Raptor: Forceful Off-Roader Pickup

By Frank A. Aukofer, September 9th, 2017

You could describe the 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor as the sports car of full-size pickup trucks if your idea of sports is leaping and slamming around a trackless desert. This is a unique vehicle, purpose-built for off-road challenges like the Baja 1000, an 855-mile off-road race in Mexico's Baja California peninsula. Early in 2017, an all-new, mostly stock pre-production Raptor finished the race in less than a minute under 36 hours -- the maximum time allowed.

The new version, minus a couple of ad hoc tweaks, is better. But unless you're the sort who can spend most of your waking hours burning fuel and popping tires while traversing the outback, the Raptor is still a pickup truck to haul stuff and be driven on boulevards and freeways.

No question, the Raptor is one menacing machine. Pull up behind a nervous driver and they'll get bug-eyed looking at the massive black grille in the rearview mirror. This truck is more than 7 feet wide and the hood is taller than most sedans.

strong>Two versions are available: the SuperCab, which is 18 feet 4 inches 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.

As expected, the SuperCab's rear-seat accommodations are less friendly, with plenty of head room but limited knee room in the outboard seating positions and nearly impossible kneecap space in the middle because of intrusion by the center console.

Up front, the seats are coved, supportive, and comfortable with decent bolstering. Even with the generous headroom, the question is how one keeps the torso hobbled in serious off-roading. The standard three-point seatbelts don't look as if they could cut it; figure on using racing harnesses.

Because of its size and weight -- 5,696 pounds -- the Raptor is not an off-roader in the sense of a Jeep Wrangler or Land Rover Defender. It is too big. Its forte is traveling at high speeds over potholed desert.

With that, it delivers a load of excitement on the public roads. Start with the grunt. It is powered by one of Ford's EcoBoost engines, which is the manufacturer's way of saying it is turbocharged. In this high-output installation, it is a 450-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 turbo that delivers a massive 510 lb.-ft. of torque (twisting force).

When the second-generation Raptor bowed as a 2017 model, that engine replaced the original-and-revered 6.2-liter V-8. But few will miss it because the new V-6 has 39 more horsepower and 76 more lb.-ft. of torque. Moreover, its engine and dual exhausts emit sounds that have sex appeal to an enthusiast's ears despite the shortage of two cylinders.

The power gets its way to the massive all-terrain tires via a 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. 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, the ride -- even on relatively decent roads -- is jiggly and unsettling. But the transmission shifts fairly smoothly. Switch to the Sport mode and the ride tightens up but the throttle response and shifts become abrupt and jerky.

In either one, a determined punch on the accelerator pedal unleashes all that horsepower and torque. Even with a slight bit of turbo lag, the big Raptor can nail 60 mph in about 5 seconds.

Not surprisingly, none of this comes cheap. Big pickup trucks have intruded into luxury-car price territory. The tested SuperCab had a starting price of $50,980 and, with a long list of options, topped out at $63,145.

Equipment rivals that of luxury cars, 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.

Specifications

Base price $50,980 (as tested: $63,145)
Curb weight 5,696 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type High-output turbocharged EcoBoost V-6
Epa mileage rating 15 mpg city, 18 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 36 gal.
Horsepower (net) 450 at 5000 rpm
Overall length 220.0 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 510 at 3500 rpm
Transmission 10-speed
Vehicle type 5-passenger 4x4 full-size pickup

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