Ford Needs to Expand Its Performance F-150 Options

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2017 F-150 Raptor

Raptor is awesome, but there is a market for a street truck and more V8 performance.

For years now, go-fast -truck fans have been praying for a modern rebirth of the Ford F-150 SVT Lightning. Ford fans want to see a short bed, short cab truck that feeds gobs of V8 power to the rear wheels, but since the last SVT Lightning was built for the 2004 model year, the only factory-built performance package has been the Raptor.

Demand for More Performance Trucks

The Raptor is an amazing machine and the newest version is one of the quickest, fastest, most powerful and most capable trucks sold in the United States, but there is still a large market of prospective buyers who want a V8-powered street truck. These truck fans don’t see the need for the most advanced four-wheel-drive system in the half-ton segment or dampers with industry-leading travel because they don’t race around in the dirt.

These buyers don’t want the added cost and weight of the off-road performance bits, as in many cases, the people who want a high performance street truck won’t even be driving it in the snow – so they really only need rear-wheel-drive. After all, the features and capabilities of the Raptor are only worth the cost if the driver can use them, so for the people who want a fast truck to drive on the streets of Southern California, Miami or in summers in Detroit – the Raptor doesn’t make sense.

2017 F-150 Raptor in the Dirt

That is where the demand for a proper street truck comes into play and in addition to the change to rear-drive, this F-150 street truck would draw in buyers if the engineers replaced the high output 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with the 5.0-liter V8. In fact, Ford would make a great many people happy if they began offering a version of the Raptor with the V8 – even if it offers less power than the twin turbo V6.

V8 Raptor

The current Ford F-150 Raptor is unrivaled as the most powerful and most capable half-ton truck sold in the USA, with 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque making this one big, quick truck. With the help of the advanced all-wheel-drive system and the 10-speed automatic transmission, the EcoBoost-powered Raptor will beat any factory-built truck that dares to line up and when people ask Ford about a V8 Raptor, Ford representatives are quick to point out the performance abilities of the 3.5-liter high output V6.

2011 F-150 Raptor

However, it is no secret that in the long run, a 5.0-liter V8 has more power potential than the EcoBoost while also offering the sound and power delivery that many high performance truck owners prefer. The EcoBoost packs big power and the output quickly grows with a little more boost, but thanks to the aftermarket development for the 5.0-liter V8 in the Mustang GT, a V8-powered Raptor would offer more big-power potential.

In addition to offering more power when heavily-modified, a V8 with 800 horsepower tends to be more responsive than an 800-horsepower twin turbo V6 and regardless of performance – the sound of a blown V8 is hard to rival in the world of high performance vehicles.

2015 Mustang V8

The current Raptor is selling like hotcakes with the 450-horsepower EcoBoost, but introducing a 5.0-liter V8 option would appeal to even more buyers in the performance truck community. Even if nothing but the engine changed on this alternative Raptor drivetrain package, a V8-powered off-road performance-minded F-150 would draw in even more buyers to America’s bestselling truck.

A Modern Lightning

Based on Ford’s love affair with the EcoBoost engines, it seems unlikely that the current Raptor will soon be offered with a V8 engine and it will keep on selling very well. Those shoppers who want the performance of the Raptor will eventually look past the lack of a V8 because the EcoBoost really is a great engine and it makes the Raptor an incredible off-road performance truck.

2004 F-150 Lightning

At the same time, while someone who would prefer a V8 Raptor doesn’t really have to compromise with the EcoBoost, someone who wants an on-road performance truck isn’t likely to opt for the Raptor. For someone who is looking for a modern-day variant of the 2004 SVT Lightning, the current Raptor just doesn’t make sense. The fact that it is only available in SuperCar or SuperCrew form with four-wheel-drive means that the Raptor is far bigger and heavier than the Lightning. The Raptor might be as quick as the last Lightning, but there is no way to get Lightning-like driving dynamics from a high-riding off-road truck.

2014 F-150 Tremor

Ford previously offered a sort of “Lightning Light”’ with the F-150 Tremor. This package featured the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, rear-wheel-drive and aggressive rear gearing in a short cab, short bed pickup. That truck showed that Ford was aware of the demand for a small, sporty half-ton pickup, but that truck lacked the type of performance that the community wanted. Fortunately, with the high-output EcoBoost in the Raptor, Ford has the perfect engine for a modern Lightning in the EcoBoost family.

Imagine a new Ford F-150 with the short cab, short bed, rear-wheel-drive and the flared body panels from the Raptor. Since the beefy off-road wheels and tires wouldn’t make sense, this truck could come with a set of 22-inch rollers wrapped in high performance rubber, with the flared Raptor body allowing for a nice, wide tire at all four corners. Fit the 450-horsepower EcoBoost under the hood with the 10-speed transmission and Ford would have the greatest on-road performance truck to date. A V8 engine would have broader appeal and greater power potential, but a rear-drive Raptor drivetrain in a lightweight F-150 would make for an awesome performance truck.

2004 F-150 Lightning Burnout

The parts are there and the demand is there – now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the Motor Company will eventually give in and offer up the next generation of the Lightning – even if it doesn’t have a V8.

Patrick Rall is a regular contributor to LS1Tech and JK Forum, among other auto sites.

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