Let’s set the record straight: Ford’s gargantuan F-150 Raptor is big and mean and snarls at anything in its way. With its muscular haunches and massive grille, it’ll scare the daylights out of anyone who peers into their rear-view mirror.
And, with its steel-reinforced frame, jacked-up suspension and beefy all-terrain tires, it’s an animal off-road. It can crawl over boulders, dive over desert dunes at highway speeds and plow its way through sloshy mud, deep ruts and gravel.
But who’ll be doing any of that this week? Where’s that sand dune when you need it? Fortunately, for most, the 2017 Raptor is shockingly well-behaved on pavement, too, and a kick to drive. The 5,700-pound beast is astonishingly fast, surging to 60 mph in a sports car-like 5.3 seconds. And, it has a features list worthy of a luxury vehicle.
Returning after a two-year hiatus, the Raptor is a leaner machine, shedding some 500 pounds thanks to an aluminum body. But it’s still a mean machine: A new high-output, twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine is actually more powerful than the last generation’s 6.2-liter V-8, churning up 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque.
Going full-throttle is a blast as the 10-speed transmission ticks through the gears – you can count them on the instrument panel – while Raptor leaves a rumbling song through dual exhausts. The transmission is a little jerky around town but manual shifters offer an alternative.
Ride quality is surprisingly good on the asphalt, absorbing bumps and dips around town and offering a quiet, comfortable highway drive, too. Don’t be scared off by the beefy all-terrain BF Goodrich KO2 tires, designed exclusively for the Raptor’s off-road escapades. They’re quiet and smooth enough on the road, too.
In fact, folks using the Raptor every day for commutes, construction work or boat towing will find this giant is quite civilized, even luxurious by truck standards. It features a power tailgate and also offers a step that comes out from below it for easier access to the cargo bed. The step even has a fold-up railing for safety – even grandma could get up there.
Raptor has blind-spot monitoring for not only the truck but a trailer, too. And, here’s a pampering feature: With the turn of a knob on the dash, the truck can back a boat trailer down the ramp all by itself.
Inside, seats are firm and well bolstered, can be trimmed in leather, and are heated and cooled. The dash is broad but controls are within easy reach, some contained on Raptor’s exclusive center console.
And Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system offers voice-activated navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as part of a $9,345 luxury package. A technology package ($1,950) includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision prevention and lane-keep assist. Other options include exterior graphics and interior accent packages.
As accommodating as the Raptor is, it has its weaknesses. With a seven-foot-wide body, it’s challenging on narrow city streets and in parking lots, though a 360-degree camera helps with tricky maneuvers. The new-for-2017 full-size SuperCrew version – nearly a foot longer – makes matters even worse. Another weakness, perhaps predictably, concerns the fuel economy: Expect 15 mpg around town, just 18 on the highway.
Make no mistake: Raptor is built for, and most appreciated, off the road. A new all-terrain system offers six modes to optimize driving dynamics for harsh conditions. Among them are Street, Mud, Sand and one called Baja for extreme desert-racing.
Ford installed new Fox Racing shocks for 2017 and a new 4-wheel-drive system, too. A Torsen front differential transfers torque to the stable wheel before the slippage occurs, Ford says, to provide stronger grip to the front end during a climb. Huge skid plates protect the undercarriage.
No question, the Raptor is tough and capable and without a single foe, really. Try and find another truck with this kind of brawn, speed and comfort. And, if you do plan to leave the roadway and head for the dunes, Ford offers a free Raptor Assault Program out West with every truck. Hotel and airfare, however, are on you.