2017 Ford Raptor Makes Its Texas Debut at the Houston Rodeo

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Dinosaurs are real – and their lives are in the hands of Ford. The company reincarnated them for the 2010 model year with its F-150 Raptor. Instead of being killed off by a cataclysmic event, they’re being allowed to live on with their owners by their merciful creator. Those steel-bodied beasts will eventually be joined by their more advanced descendants as the Blue Oval leaps across the timeline of evolution and releases its even more ferocious 2017 Raptor into the world.

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Ford brought the broad-shouldered, big-footed creature to the NRG Center for the 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. (It also showed up with a custom-wrapped 2015 F-150 to donate to the Texas chapter of the Future Farmers of America.) Amid hundreds of human beings in jeans and cowboy hats perusing stands stocked with Western-themed jewelry for sale and waiting in discouragingly long lines for breakfast tacos, and steers being judged for the quality of their genetics and grooming, the 2017 Raptor was a rare breed in more ways than one. According to Nik Ciccone, part of Ford’s communications team, the specimen currently on display at the rodeo is the only one in existence. However, the Raptor population will grow. Doug Scott, Ford’s truck group marketing manager, said, “We’re going to do … a higher volume with this Raptor than we did with the current one, but not … markedly higher.”

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The performance of the 2017 Raptor should be noticeably greater, though. The current 411-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 will be replaced with a 450-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. Torque will climb as well.

Although Scott said numerous Ford customers have asked the automaker why it didn’t put an EB engine in the outgoing Raptor, he did acknowledge that he and the Blue Oval will have to win over “dyed-in-the-wool V8 customers.” The fact that Ford has sold more than 600,000 EcoBoost-equipped F-150s in the past four years suggests that it’s possible for such people to be convinced that eight cylinders aren’t necessarily always more than six. Ford’s dated six-speed automatic will die off and be succeeded by a more efficient 10-speed gearbox, which will also be used in regular 2017 F-150s.

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Like those, the 2017 Raptors will have aluminum skin. They’ll be leaner, more efficient hunters and devourers of trails thanks to the resulting 500-pound weight loss. Their bone structures will be stronger because Ford will up-gauge and increase the rigidity of the Raptors’ frames to survive the jumps, rocks, and obstacles through which adventurous owners of the beasts will ride them.

Extensive off-road conditioning in Borrego Springs, CA has led to the 2017 Raptor’s FOX racing shocks growing to three inches in diameter. The trucks will be better able to climb over boulders, logs, and other impediments thrown in their way by an environment that thought it had killed off the dinosaurs millennia ago with two more inches of suspension travel front and rear (Scott said the existing version of the Raptor has 11 and 12 inches, respectively). Approach and departure angles will also go up.

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Such improvements proved challenging to engineers – not the execution of them but the conversion of them into what Scott called “a product that the average person is going to be able to control.” They’ll have to handle more power, less weight, and greater suspension travel when blasting across the desert at 70 or even 100 miles per hour.

Scott imagines the United States Border Patrol, which I have no doubt is familiar with fast driving through rough conditions, will be interested in the 2017 Raptor as it already uses the first-generation model. Fire departments across the country have turned the current Raptors into service animals out of a need to be able to get across difficult terrain to put out blazes in remote areas.

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Customers have certainly been hot for the 2010-2014 Raptors. Scott said the manufacturer has never offered incentives on them and has never had more than a 20-day supply of them on dealer lots. That’s not bad for a thirsty niche vehicle when you consider that the regular all-new F-150 only stays in inventory for 18 days. Perhaps what’s more remarkable is that some Raptor owners have traded their trucks in for as much as they paid for them originally.

In the middle of next year, you’ll be able to decrease your local dinosaur hatchery’s dealer’s supply of 2017 Raptors. You won’t have to go to a special location, either. Scott said if a dealership has been able to sell the existing truck, it’ll be able to sell the future version of it.

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Derek Shiekhi contributes to a variety of Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including J-K Forum , Jaguar Forums, and 5 Series. He's also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association.

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