2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
– Monster offroader
– Cabin space and features
– Great engine-gearbox combo
– Pricey with options
– As big as a cabin
– Not the best daily driver
The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor broke into the offroading scene in late 2009 as the ultimate high-speed desert runner. While it had a lot less power in its first iteration (starting off with just a 310 hp 5.4-litre V8 from the Expedition), it eventually gained a 411 hp 6.2-litre V8. There is now a new Raptor in town, dropping the SVT moniker, dropping the V8 and even dropping the curb weight, while promising to be the best high-speed offroader ever.
The new Raptor, based on the latest aluminium-bodied F-150, has shed more than 200 kilos over the previous model, while still retaining the wide-fendered, black-trimmed look, complete with orange marker lights and “FORD” spelled out on the grille. The height has increased by about 50mm, partly due to the upsized custom-engineered Fox shocks and unique BFGoodrich “Baja” offroad tyres. The bedside graphics have been toned down now, while the bonnet gets some black decals alongside the massive vents. And the bespoke bumpers are thinner, so there’s less stuff to damage when you’re overdoing it on the dunes.
Inside, it’s mostly standard F-150 fare, with a black ambience, mostly hard-plastic parts broken up by padded soft-touch areas on the dash and along the upper door panels, which is a massive upgrade from the previous model. There are slivers of optional carbon-fibre on the doors for the sake of it, while the black seats can be had with optional colour accents.
Stepping into the truck is made easy with large side steps. The cabin is overly massive in four-door SuperCrew form. In fact, there’s too much space for a vehicle that just seats five. There is a shorter SuperCab version available with tighter rear seats and rear-hinged rear half-doors.
Up front, the seating position can be daunting as you float high above the ground, but can’t really see the immediate ground beyond the bonnet. The “leather” seats in our top-spec tester features subtle orange accents and well-bolstered front seats. The SuperCrew’s rear legroom is limo-like, while headroom is immense. There’s lots of storage spaces, including door pockets and deep cubbies, as well as a space under the rear seats. The rear seat-bottoms can even flip up so you can have more space for valuable cargo that you don’t want to leave in the open bed out back. The floor has washable rubber mats all-round.
The cargo bed out back can carry all the contents of a studio flat, with a built-in bedliner, a soft-opening tailgate with remote locking, and an optional cargo-divider/bed-extender. But our tester was missing Ford’s optional integrated pull-out step with a grab handle that hides away when not in use. And we city-slickers would prefer a bed-cover option as well, to be able to use the bed as a boot.
In terms of available tech, the Ford F-150 has all its rivals beat. The F-150 can be had with a new 8-inch LCD screen in the gauge cluster which includes apps involving everything from fuel economy to towing tips, and the ability to create a customised home screen for owners to access their most frequently-used apps in one place. Additionally, the new SYNC 3 system with an 8-inch multimedia touchscreen is quick and responsive, for use with the CD/MP3/USB/Bluetooth-capable stereo and automatic climate-control features, among several other functions. Many features can also be run on just voice-control alone, such as changing radio stations or calling phone contacts, although we were always more comfortable with the physical knobs and buttons below the screen and on the cluttered steering wheel.
Further available features include such luxuries as heated/cooled front seats, panoramic sunroof, cabin mood lighting, a 360-degree camera system for an overhead view, automatic steering for parallel-parking, LED headlights and taillights, blind-spot monitoring, LED spotlights on the sideview mirrors, and an LED-lit cargo bed. There is also a row of auxiliary toggle-switches on the ceiling, making it easy to cleanly hook up additional spotlights or fridges and such.
Many lament the fact that Ford has dropped the Raptor’s V8 in favour of a 3.5-litre turbo V6. That’s because they haven’t driven the new Raptor. In GCC-spec guise, the motor doesn’t seem much more powerful than the old one, with 415 hp at 6000 rpm and 678 Nm of torque at 3750 rpm.
But it’s the power delivery that makes the difference. A dollop of kick comes from the lowest revs itself, helped along by a ridiculous 10-speed automatic that actually works beautifully when it comes to selecting gears smoothly, even capable of dropping from 10th to 6th directly when needed. Combine that with a lighter curb weight, and the new Raptor feels scary-powerful on city streets, even though our overall 0-100 kph time of 7.4 seconds in May afternoon weather suggests it’s no quicker than a (relatively smaller) Nissan Patrol LE.
Don’t expect to save any fuel though, as we got a figure of 23.6 litres/100 km in a mix of driving conditions, including offroading. Also, V8 lovers will likely detest the new engine note, which sounds like a grunty V6 on acceleration. You also have to get used to the occasional feeling of slurred downshifts, likely happening when the truck is skipping gears as we mentioned earlier.
Sitting high on your pedestal seat while driving the Raptor quickly can feel a bit disconcerting initially, but you get used to it quickly once you get your head around the fact that it’s not taking up two lanes on the highway. And it does fit in most parking spaces width-wise (but not length-wise, like most full-size pickups). It also just about fits in the underground parking lots at malls, but the flexible antenna will hit those “2.1-metre height restriction” signs at the entrance.
The Raptor handles pretty decently, although we feel the older model was a bit more taut in the corners. Maybe it’s a side-effect of being even more capable on the dunes. Still, the steering is lightly weighted with minimal feedback (and with driver-selectable firmness settings) and the metal paddle-shifters are responsive, while the brakes do their job well enough with progressive pedal feel, so it’s fairly predictable to drive.
The floatiness in the ride doesn’t make the Raptor particularly comfortable though, as it constantly feels bumpy even on smooth pavement, likely due to the offroad tyres. The irony is that is that if you come across a big speed-bump or a deep pothole, the Raptor deals with it smoother than any other 4×4. And other than some tyre rumble, other noises are reasonably subdued. The turning circle is a bit wide, but it just about makes it around on most U-turns if you plan for it.
Of course, to truly enjoy this truck, you have to take it to the desert and set it free. Due to time constraints, we didn’t bother deflating the tyres on our pre-Ramadan run. And interestingly enough, it didn’t slow down the Raptor one bit. It just floated over soft sand without any inkling of getting stuck.
On some of the steeper climbs, we had to feed it a bit more power, but it probably wouldn’t have needed that extra throttle if we did deflate the 315/70 tyres on those optional 17-inch beadlock wheels.
And on the minor dunes and flatter sandy areas, we could drive it quicker than any other stock 4×4. The Raptor floats over bumpy terrain, it’s tail wagging with the sudden intentional steering inputs, adding to the fun. The rear had a tendency to jitter loudly since the bed was unladen, but it did not interrupt the fun in any way.
The Raptor has a long list of electronically-selected driving modes to choose from in its Terrain Management System that will choose two-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive for you with terrain-specific powertrain calibrations to optimise performance in the chosen driving condition, such as ‘sand’, ‘mud’ or even ‘baja’. But we didn’t use any of them. We simply selected 4-high using the physical knob, turned off the ESP, and off we went.
Indeed, the Raptor is easily the most capable dune-basher you can buy right now, straight out of the showroom without requiring any modifications. It’s rather expensive with all the options ticked liked in our test car, but apparently you can order a stripped-down version for a lot less dough. We’d say stick to the basics.
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