2009 Ford F-150

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First Drive Review: 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2014.

With flamboyant, seven-foot-wide bodywork plastered with "digital mud"; an industry-first, long-travel suspension; and a résumé that includes a third-in-class finish at the Baja 1000, Ford's 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor is about as subtle as the feeling one gets sitting on a cactus. Naked. That a street-legal, 6000-pound pickup designed to traverse the open desert at 100 mph even made it past Dearborn's byzantine and conservative product-review board is a miracle in itself. But after a grueling and secretive development period — during which Ford's marketing department was heard talking of driving the truck "right up Toyota's ass" — it did. And we can confirm after some thrilling seat time near California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that the Raptor is one of the most formidable off-road production vehicles ever built.

No Comparisons
Ever-greater performance vehicles come out all the time. And with each iteration, we usually can sum up their placement on our automotive totem pole by referencing how much quicker they are than this, or how they grip the road better than that. But there are no formal benchmarks for the Raptor; this is way beyond Rovers, Hummers, and Unimogs.

A track widened seven inches over that of a normal F-150, with reinforced underpinnings suspended by unique front coil springs and rear leaf springs, is what gives the Raptor its impressive front and rear suspension articulation of 11.2 and 12.1 inches, respectively. Cool details abound the chassis, too, particularly the "SVT" stampings on the aluminum control arms. But the magic lies in the massive three-stage, internal-bypass shocks from Fox Racing. Commonly found in purpose-built racing trucks and pre-runners, these high-end units compress progressively, with a firm initial stage for good body control and softer second and third stages that allow maximum wheel travel at high speeds off-road.

On the highway, the Raptor feels much like the softer-sprung, four-wheel-drive F-150 on which it's based, with the shocks keeping the body from flopping about during transitions. Get the Raptor in its element, though, and it gobbles up rough terrain like a Ferrari tackling a chicane. Traversing a winding desert wash with large rocks, undulations, and two-foot-tall whoops, we frequently reached highway speeds with little drama. Ford's more experienced pilots regularly hit the truck's 100-mph speed governor over the same section. That the company's own press photos show the truck launching all four wheels several feet in the air speaks to what the Raptor was built for. We of course had to try, more than once, and almost succeeded — albeit by accident — in clearing a two-lane fire road at what felt like 50 mph. The landing was a little rough, but the truck rarely bottomed out during our drive, and we never wished for a neck brace or kidney belt.

More Than Just Fancy Shocks
If the Raptor's added width and trick dampers are its foundation, its myriad electronic and drivetrain upgrades make up the total package. At each corner are beefed-up disc brakes (13.8 inches in front, 13.7 in the rear) surrounded by 17-inch alloy wheels and SVT-specific, 35-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. Differentials with 4.10:1 gears help turn the hefty rolling stock, and the rear axle sports an electronic locker that can spool both wheels together for maximum traction. Ford's two-stage electronic stability-control system sports a special off-road mode that raises the threshold for yaw and anti-lock-brake intervention, sharpens throttle response, remaps the six-speed automatic to hold gears longer, and allows the locking diff to stay activated up to the vehicle's top speed. A new hill-descent-control system is included and worked great to limit our speed while crawling down steep slopes lined with jagged rocks and deep holes.

All this hardware makes for very high handling limits off-road, and we quickly learned that owners will need to build up the skill — and bravado — to make the most of it. Because of the inherent nature of the bypass shocks, the Raptor actually seemed to ride smoother the faster we hit obstacles. Hold back or stab the brakes, and the front end would compress violently over whoops. Even more exhilarating was the high-speed stability afforded by the wider track. With the off-road electronics, the wheels can be locked up initially for better braking on loose ground while also permitting gratuitous, Scandinavian-flick rally turns at speeds that would send normal trucks into barrel rolls. A Land Rover-esque off-road driving school might not be a bad idea here, Ford.

Still an F-150 Underneath
Yet second only to its prowess off-road, the Raptor's most surprising attribute is that it performs much like a regular F-150 everywhere else. Sure, it's a couple inches taller (you notice that behind the wheel) and nearly one foot wider (not really noticeable), but on the pavement it's quiet, composed, and about as well behaved as one could expect from such a dirt-oriented setup. Braking performance felt respectable, and the extra cushion in the suspension made for a compliant ride with less of the rear-axle hop common to unladen pickups. Road noise and tire roar also weren't bad, owing mostly to the softer compound employed in the special BFG rubber.

Inside is a mostly standard F-150 cabin, which is a pretty pleasant place to start. Nicely bolstered sport seats kept us supported and comfortable, and the contoured steering wheel felt great when sending commands to the revised steering rack. Other touches include white-faced SVT gauges and new console-mounted controls for the off-road electronics and auxiliary power switches. Optional Molten Orange seat inserts and trim help brighten the mostly dark interior, but we could live without the center-console appliqué, which looks like a cheap sticker from the local auto parts store. Even without the huge "F-O-R-D" spelled out across the new grille, the Raptor is instantly recognizable as an F-150, albeit one with ultra-aggressive proportions and an imposing stance. There are plenty of cool details here, too, including skid plates galore, functional heat extractors on the hood and fenders, beefy hydroformed bumpers, and LED marker lights in the grille and on the flared wheel arches. Available colors are limited to orange, black, blue, and white.

Wait for the Boss
Our only real complaint with the Raptor is the 310-hp, 5.4-liter V-8 that comes with the $38,995 base price. Feeling woefully overtaxed by the vehicle's mass and large tires, it strains to move the truck up hills and out of corners with any verve. The six-speed automatic helps, and the issue isn't as bad in the dirt, where the suspension allows you to build and keep momentum. But we frequently had the throttle mashed to the floor just to get moving at a normal pace. Fortunately, a new Boss 6.2-liter V-8 will be available early next year, packing about 400 hp and adding $3000 to the sticker. Other major options include a luxury package (power heated mirrors and front seats, dual-zone climate control, an upgraded stereo, and adjustable pedals), a sunroof, navigation, and the aforementioned body graphics.

Although a fully loaded Raptor should top out near $50,000, the package seems like a bargain, considering it is still every-day drivable, can tow 6000 pounds, and carries a factory warranty. And then there's the off-road performance, which would require at least $20,000 in modifications on top of an F-150 FX4 ($36,065 base) to match. Ford says its Dearborn truck plant will be able to turn out up to 5000 or so Raptors annually and that there will be plenty of performance accessories available in the near future. As it is, the Raptor is the most unique SVT-engineered vehicle next to the 550-hp Ford GT supercar, and that's saying something. Maybe it's time we define a new category of vehicle: the supertruck.

Performance Data

PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 8.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.8 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 100 mph

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 14/18 mpg

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BB06 - 8/23/2014 8:37:52 AM