For decades the light truck market has seen a barrage of OEM off-road nameplates, all claiming to increase the truck's off-highway performance. For the most part these off-road packages offered little more than aftermarket shocks, a skidplate or two, and a set of all-terrain tires. For some that mild upgrade may be ample, but for the true wheeling enthusiast it is simply not enough. So when Ford's SVT engineers sought to design a fresh and extremely capable off-road version of the F-150, a new sticker kit just wasn't going to cut it.
For those of you not familiar with SVT, they are the Ford engineering masterminds responsible for the track-ready GT, F-150 Lighting, and ferocious 540hp GT-400 Mustang. Starting off with the already successful and robust F-150 platform, the SVT engineers created the Raptor. More than just a lightly modified F-150, the Raptor offers cutting-edge performance, engineering, and design unlike any other 1/2-ton truck ever to hit the market.
One of the most obvious markings of the Raptor is its bold styling. It stands 7 inches wider than the factory F-150, and the new frontend and flared fender openings give the truck an incredibly clean prerunner look. What's substantial about the truck's design is that the styling is built around function. SVT teamed up with Fox Racing Shocks for the ultimate in suspension damping. The Raptor is equipped with an industry-exclusive internal triple-bypass shock setup at all four corners. Couple this with a completely redesigned long travel suspension, a selectable rear locker, and 35-inch SVT spec BFG A-Ts and you have the makings of one of the most incredible off-road trucks to roll off the factory floor.
So how does this "born in Baja" F-150 drive? Incredible. It's hard to believe that a fullsize truck with over 11 inches of usable travel can handle like a sports car. And while we didn't have any Mustangs to pair it against for our curvy on-road evaluation, the Raptor's 86-inch-wide stance allowed the truck to stay firmly planted in the corners and remain smooth over the highway passes.
Powered by a healthy 5.4L V-8 feeding a six-speed auto, the Raptor has more than enough muscle to scoot the extended-cab shortbed everywhere we pointed it.
To find out where the Raptor really shines, we headed out to Borrego Springs, a desert in Southern California. Using a 22-mile off-road loop, we blasted over massive whoops and hung the truck sideways through high-speed corners, all while experiencing the freedom that is the Hail Mary of electronic release, the off-road mode button.
Testing the truck in 2WD, four-wheel high, and low, we pushed the pickup through more than just fast paced desert conditions. While we are not sure that this pickup could replace your rock buggy, it does hold its own on the trail. For those new to the off-road world, the hill descent mode and multiple stages of electronic nanny deletion will allow you to safely progress as you become a more experienced wheeler. We are excited about the release of the more powerful 6.2L version, which is scheduled to hit show rooms early in 2010, but we feel that Ford really hit a homerun with the new SVT Raptor.
By the time you read this there will likely be a Raptor sitting at your local dealership. And while we're not saying that everyone should run out and buy one, if you are in the market for a new half-ton truck and live the "work hard, play hard" lifestyle then the new SVT Raptor just might be the truck you've been waiting for.
2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Base Price: $38,995
Engine: 5.4L Triton V-8, 320 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Transfer Case: Borg Warner 4406, electronic shift
Axles: Independent high-pinion front, 9 3/4-inch rear, with electronic locker, 4.10 gears
Brakes: 13.8-in. vented disc front, 13.7 vented disc rear
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion with SVT tie rods
Front: SVT coil-strut long-travel suspension (11.2 inches), Fox internal triple-bypass shock, SVT coils, SVT Jounce bump-stops.
Rear: SVT leaf springs, SVT Jounce bumpstops, Fox internal triple-bypass shocks
Tires & Wheels: 315/70R17 BFG A-Ts (SVT spec) on 17-inch SVT Raptor wheels
Dimensions (in): 86.3 wide (excluding mirrors), 133 wheelbase
Weights & Capacities (lbs): 5,863 curb; 1,020 payload; 6,000 trailer tow