Driven: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Written by Lee Bailie on .

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If ever there was a vehicle that seems perfectly suited to an end of days scenario – like a zombie apocalypse – it is the Ford F-150 Raptor.

Built for the most foreboding terrain one can imagine, Ford’s jacked-up, Mad Max-style, ready-for-Baja offroader returns to the lineup all-new after a three-year hiatus.

For 2017, Ford has completely remade the Raptor from soup to nuts. The new truck is now part of the current F-150 family in terms of design, all-aluminum body construction and powertrain.

Now a part of Ford Performance, the in-house tuning arm of the company also responsible for the Focus RS, Mustang Shelby GT 350 and GT supercar, the Raptor’s performance profile has been completely overhauled, beginning with the powertrain.

The 6.2-litre V8 (411 hp / 434 lb-ft.) and six-speed automatic of the previous generation has been jettisoned in favour of a high-output version of the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 (450 hp / 510 lb-ft.) mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Compared to the 3.5 found in the regular F-150, the unit in the Raptor features piston-cooling oil jets, higher boost twin turbochargers that deliver an increase of 85 hp and 50 lb-ft. of torque. For improved efficiency and emissions, the Raptor 3.5 utilizes both port and direct fuel injection.

The engine also has a beefed-up crankshaft and bearing, and a two-piece oil pan to improve performance and reduce NVH (noise / vibration / harshness). A new turbo design with an electric actuated waste gate for more accurate boost control, along with a variable displacement oil pump and Raptor-specific air-charge cooling system with dual 100-watt fans are also present.

The 10-speed automatic transmission – a first for Ford and the segment – is designed to maximize shift points for optimal engine power, torque and efficiency. A high-speed one-way clutch allows for better coasting and non-sequential shifts, while a trailer / tow mode reprograms shift points and adds engine braking. The 10-speed also features a compact design, checking in at just 25 mm longer than a conventional six-speed autobox.

The Raptor also receives an all-new transfer case featuring a four-wheel-drive, torque-on-demand system with Terrain Management. The clutch-based 4WD / AWD system offers a variable torque split between the front and rear wheels, along with locking 4x4 high and low settings.

The Terrain Management System has six driver-selectable driving modes, with the following terrain modes: Normal (2-high), Weather (AWD), Mud and Sand (4-high – locked rear differential), Baja (4-high – locked transfer case with unique transmission shift pattern), Rock Crawl (4-low – locked rear differential and gear reduction (2.64:1) for a 50:1 crawl ratio). The Raptor’s electric steering is also adjustable, with normal, sport and comfort modes available.

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The truck comes with one box length (5.5 foot) and two cabs, the standard SuperCab, and the optional SuperCrew ($2,000). The latter comes with four, full-size, front-hinged doors.

Dimensionally, the Raptor rides on a slightly longer wheelbase (25 mm) than a regular F-150 4x4, yet is virtually the same length (1 mm shorter). It has the same standard mirror width, is slightly taller (34 mm), with a much wider track (161 mm front / 153 mm rear) and, not surprisingly, higher ground clearance (52 mm).

From a design perspective, the Raptor is an off-road truck, and Ford has taken every opportunity to play up its aggressive, ready-for-anything nature with looks that are anything but subtle.

A massive front grille with FORD in huge letters stretch across a front fascia that has large front air intakes, silver skid plating and exposed tow hooks.

Boxy, bold lines define the Raptor’s look, to a much greater degree than they did on its predecessor – curved lines appear sparingly, but only in places (wheel arches) where straight ones might look a little out of place.

Details like a vented hood, large round dual exhaust pipes, optional graphics packages (pricing listed below) and giant FORD tailgate badge, make the Raptor – like my lightning blue tester – look like one mean hombre.

And that’s fine if you’re rambling about in sparsely populated areas on old logging roads or dirt trails, or if you happen to be traversing rocky terrain in the Mojave desert.

It’s a totally different story, however, when you attempt to tackle the confines of the urban jungle in such a large and wide vehicle, as I did when I spent a week driving one recently.

Before I dig into some of the downsides, let's talk about the good.

When equipped with a SuperCrew cab, the Raptor offers a cavernous amount of interior space, and can easily accommodate five adults. The 10-way adjustable heated and cooled leather seats, along with a tilting and telescoping steering column makes finding a comfortable driving position dead simple, and the high seating position gives a commanding view of the road.

The Raptor’s interior offers many of the same amenities and logical design ethic found in other F-150s, like easy to find and use hard switches and knobs for the stereo and climate controls, a straightforward instrument cluster layout and ample amounts of useful storage.

Other benefits include fixed running boards and grab handles located on the inside of both A-pillars which make entry and exit easier. Don’t get me wrong – getting into the Raptor does require more effort than getting into a regular passenger car or SUV, but Ford’s efforts here have improved the process.

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The other element that impressed was the Raptor’s drivetrain. The high-output 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 offers impressive off the line acceleration thanks to a relatively flat torque curve (3,500 rpm peak), which gives the Raptor lots of useable power in the middle of the rev range. That, combined with so much torque on demand, makes passing a breeze.

The 10-speed automatic also acquits itself well, although with 10 gears to play with it shifts more frequently in an effort to better match gear position to torque output. Another benefit of having extra cogs is better fuel economy, and the new Raptor is about 23 percent more fuel efficient than the previous model.

That's not due to the transmission alone-- the 3.5 EcoBoost V6 is also more efficient that the 6.2L V8 it replaces. And the 10 speeds aren't just there for marketing purposes-- during my week of driving the upper gears were used frequently.

Lastly, the Raptor is a blast to drive off-road. I spent a Saturday afternoon on an unassumed road (the best kind!) in the country north of my home that really put the truck through its paces.

It’s an ideal test road that runs for a few kilometres with a surface that changes from dirt to gravel and finally to mud near the end, with some standing water thrown in for good measure.

The Raptor’s suspension, which features FOX shocks and 13 / 13.9-inches (front / rear) of travel working in conjunction with BFGoodrich KO2 tires mounted on 17-inch forged wheels with bead-lock rims, made short work of the road and its surface changes.

The ride got a bit jittery, thanks to deep ruts and pockmarks, but at no point did the Raptor struggle for grip or get thrown off course – it tracked straight and true, while getting covered in mud.

Now, having mentioned its strong suits, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few of the minuses.

First, the Raptor is well-equipped, but it’s relatively expensive. The only model that carries a bigger price tag in the F-150 lineup is the super-luxe Limited.

Secondly, while the EcoBoost V6 is more fuel efficient than the V8 in the previous model, the Raptor remains a pretty thirsty vehicle. During my week with it, I spent just over $136 in gas and that was without driving it all that much. That said, my tester is equipped with a 136-litre tank so fill ups could be fewer and further between depending on driving habits.

Lastly, as I alluded to previously, the Raptor is a large and wide vehicle that can be challenging to park and maneuver, particularly on tight city streets. Put simply, most roads and mall parking spaces (and parking garages) weren’t designed for vehicles as big as the Raptor.

In short, the Raptor is a great-looking vehicle that’s a lot of fun to drive, especially after the pavement ends, but it’s cost, thirsty engine and big footprint makes it somewhat impractical as a daily driver.

Unless of course, you live where there aren’t any paved roads… and zombies roam the countryside.

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SPECIFICATIONS2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $69,899 / $89,839 (incl. $1,700 destination)
FINAL ASSEMBLY:
Dearborn, Michigan
ENGINE:
3.5L turbocharged V6
HORSEPOWER:
450 @ 5,000 rpm
TORQUE: 
510 lb-ft. @ 3,500 rpm
CURB WEIGHT:
2,506 kg
CONFIGURATION:
front engine, 4-wheel drive

TRANSMISSION: 10-speed automatic
MAX TOWING: 3,628 kg
MAX PAYLOAD:
544 kg
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.):
15.6 / 13.2 / 14.5
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM):
36 / 60,000
ALTERNATIVES:
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Midnight Edition, GMC Sierra All Terrain X, Nissan Titan Pro-4X, Ram Rebel, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

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Options

Equipment Group 802A ($7,900)
- 360-degree camera with split-view display
- 8-inch LCD productivity screen in instrument cluster
- advanced security pack
- ambient lighting
- BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert
- Power-folding, power glass sideview mirrors with heat, with turn signal, memory, driver’s side auto-dimming feature, high-intensity LED security approach lights, and LED side-mirror spot lights with body-colour skull caps
- dual-zone electronic automatic temperature
- heated rear seats
- heated steering wheel
- 10-way heated / cooled power driver and passenger seats with power lumbar and driver’s side memory
- inflatable rear safety belts (SuperCrew only)
- integrated trailer brake controller
- intelligent access with push-button start
- power tilt / telescoping steering column memory
- pro trailer backup assist
- remote tailgate release with LED tailgate light
- Sony audio system w/ 10 speakers
- SYNC connect
- universal garage door opener
- voice-activated navigation system

Raptor Technology Package ($2,500)
- automatic high-beams with rain-sensing windshield wipers
- lane-keeping system
- adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation system

Accessories and / or Stand Alone Options

Twin-panel moonroof ($1,750)
Exterior graphics package ($1,350)
Hood graphics package ($1,150)
Interior carbon fibre package ($1,250)
Tailgate step ($400)
17-inch forged aluminum wheels ($1,390)
Spray-in bed liner ($550)


Total – $18,240

Photography by Lee Bailie

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