Ford Trucks Review: New F-150 Raptor Thrills. Period.

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Ford F-150 Raptor

Ford’s 2017 F-150 Raptor Proves You Can Actually Build On a Great Idea

How do you test a pickup being touted as the most “badass” truck on the planet?

Well, for starters, you must find a fitting off-road spot to get a real feel for its capabilities. This is after you’ve sifted through all the glossy photos prior to getting your hands on the thing.

Luckily, the Midwest has a few deserted sprawls of land that provide a good mix of both flat surfaces and rugged terrain. As a result, these are areas where you can unleash a truck like the Raptor and get a true feel for its off-road capabilities.

Now, keep this in mind: Nothing can truly prepare you for the experience of sitting behind the wheel of the new 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor!

Nothing, but that’s the point.

Ford F-150 Raptor

Living the Experience

It’s hard not to find yourself resorting back to those Ford promo clips (which I mentioned earlier) when preparing to take the wheel of the Raptor. This is something which you quickly learn really isn’t that far off from the real thing.

For fear of this review coming off like a straight advertisement for the truck, I’ll reserve my final wrap until the end. First thing’s first. But know this, for anyone who has had a chance to drive the first-generation Ford Raptor, introduced as a 2010 model, this is an entirely different beast.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a 2012 Raptor during my recent test drive. And the comparison is night and day. As a result, it says a lot given how impressive the first-generation is when it comes to off-road capabilities.

Every performance element of the Raptor has been reengineered for 2017, aimed at upping the ante on the pickup’s off-road capabilities. Ford started with a much stiffer frame for the high-strength, military-grade aluminum body. That makes the new Raptor the strongest of any truck in Ford’s current F-150 line-up. And you can sense it in how more rock-solid the truck feels on and off road, especially compared to the first-gen.

Ford Raptor

Zeroing in on the Details

The 2017 F-150 Raptor is also six inches wider than the standard truck, which enhances its off-road capabilities substantially. In addition, one of the biggest thrill factors that comes with driving the Raptor — namely, barreling it over piles of dirt and rock at insane speeds — lies in the pickup’s suspension system.

The high-performance pickup comes standard with new FOX Racing Shox. These intricate and expensive components feature a custom internal tech system to adjust to changing terrain. They work to damp and stiffen suspension travel when going across rough terrain, which prevents the truck from bottoming out.

The rear shock canisters on the F-150 Raptor have been beefed up from two-and-a-half to three inches in diameter. The shocks also feature more suspension travel than the current Raptor, which measures out to 11.2 inches at the front and 12 inches at the rear.

Ford Raptor

Drive It How You Like It

Built to double as an everyday truck, the Raptor features six preset driving modes. The driver can select various settings depending on need or desired thrill factor. The modes include “Normal,” for those mundane trips to the store. “Street,” which unleashes a little more of the Raptor’s high-performance traits. “Weather,” for rain, snow and icy conditions. “Mud and Sand,” whjich is self-explanatory. “Baja,” for high-speed desert runs. Lastly, a “Rock” mode, for low-speed rock crawling.

Most of my time in the Raptor was spent in “Street,” “Baja” and “Mud and Sand” modes. Although, it quickly becomes apparent when driving the new Raptor that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of terrain it can’t conquer.

The thing that impresses you most when driving the Raptor is how controlled and balanced the pickup is, especially when plowing around and across mounds of dirt and sand. I guess if I had to sum up the experience, you could liken it to wheeling something like a new Mustang GT350 — one that’s been totally transformed into a pickup to be a lot more ballsy off-road than on.

Ford

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

There has, however, been some rumbling in die-hard enthusiast circles over the fact that the new Raptor is equipped with Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and not the 6.2-liter V8. But it’s really a moot point.

The fact that the 2017 model is up to 500 pounds lighter than the previous model (depending on the configuration) makes it even quicker than the V8 model. And let’s face it 450 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque is more than enough power.

Cosmetically, the Raptor sports a more chiseled look than its predecessor, which gives the pickup a more aggressive look, especially when coupled with features like its dropped beltline, dual rear exhaust and blacked-out headlamps.

Ford

Cost Is Relative

Price-wise, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor isn’t all that practical. That is, unless your day job calls for barreling across sand dunes at speeds of up to 106 miles per hour. I’m looking at you, Ken Block! The base sticker for the new model is $49,520 for the SuperCab. But our model, which featured a number of top-of-the-line options and exterior graphics, capped out at $64,400.

Then again, you wouldn’t expect hot thrills like this to come cheap in a car, so why would they in a pickup?

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Marcus Amick is a longtime auto journalist who contributes to JK Forum and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other auto sites.

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