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2010 4x4 Of The Year Winner Wrapup - Ford SVT Raptor

Posted in Project Vehicles on November 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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2010 4x4 Of The Year Winner Wrapup - Ford SVT Raptor
Photographers: 4WOR Staff

When we first set our eyes on the new Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, we suspected it would be one heck of a truck. And when we finally snagged one for our 2010 4x4 of the Year test, it confirmed our suspicions (Feb. ’10). Lucky for us, it also won that year’s test, which allowed us to get a vehicle we could thrash on over the course of a year. After 15,000-odd miles of commuting, towing, exploring, camping, trail riding, and true thrashing, the Raptor has fulfilled our hopes of an all around prerun truck direct from the factory. We are sad to see it leave and go down the road.

The Raptor was introduced as a factory prerunner, a vehicle that right out of the box could hang with the Baja-bred homebuilts that many people use for an occasional thrash in the desert and others use for full-on competition testing. In fact the Raptor has been entered into true desert competitions and has come home a winner many times. But for us, those dreams of glory are relegated to the back burner as we go about the regular life of magazine guys. Fortunately, that means using the truck as it was intended—as well as a bit of over-the-top testing.

The ’10 Ford Raptor is a heavily modified F-150 equipped with the 320-horse 5.4L V-8 engine, 6R80 six-speed auto tranny, and BorgWarner 44-19 transfer case with a 2.64 low range and what seems like a million different electronically controlled off-road settings. Happily, the main claims to fame are the wider track 4.10-geared axles with long-travel shocks and an electric locker in the rear.

Towing isn’t what the Raptor was made for, but it does it with aplomb. Because of the off-road features, we even towed the backroads and trails to find dirt and mud, because we could. Having confidence in a 4x4 makes us go beyond the pale. We averaged 9-10 mpg while towing, but that was at 70-80 mph. The integrated brake controller is a nice feature.

With the 35-inch BFGoodrich-spec All-Terrain wrapped around 17-inch rims, the potent package turns heads wherever it goes. And goes it does! It has the ability to cross rough terrain at speed, handle jumps and whoops, and still crawl like a mad dog when slow-going is required. We never found a situation from sand and snow to mud, rocks, and dirt that the Raptor couldn’t handle. Of course, we always want bigger tires, a larger engine, more suspension, deeper gears, and dancing girls in the bed, but for a factory offering the Raptor reigns supreme.

Regardless of the load rating, the Raptor hauled whatever we needed. The sag in the rear is a bit more than a conventional 1⁄2-ton, but it’s to be expected for a truck that can soak up the whoops off-road while hauling tail. Loaded or empty, the Raptor is controllable, usable, and downright fun. What other truck can you jump and know it’s made to handle it?

As with any vehicle, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the negatives as well. Did we mention that it is wide? Full-on wide? You get used to it on the road, but tight trails and freeway construction zones at speed can get dicey. Being softly sprung for optimum performance means the load capacity isn’t like a bigger truck, but even overloaded it handles whatever it is tasked to do. It is big, red, fast, and loud, but we only got one ticket the entire year. The integrated display screen, which controls the radio, backup camera, HVAC, nav system, and who knows what else, is overly complicated and not quickly usable. In regard to distracted driving, it’s easier to talk on the phone, text, eat dinner, and read a paper than use this console while driving. Small buttons and a touch screen just don’t cut it in a vehicle, especially one used off-road or at night. If you are sitting still in a parking lot it works fine, but don’t try to make it work while driving.

Rated EPA mileage is 14-18, and we got everything and more. Loaded and towing was around 10, and daily driving was 15. But our commute sucks gas from 25 to 80 mph for a solid hour, so it is expected. For testing, we drove like old men asleep and got 19 mpg! Of course, going so slow made us feel old, but 60 mph actually works. We had to do our towing mileage test at 3 a.m. to avoid death glares, but that netted us a healthy 12 mpg as well.

Overall, we will miss our big red Raptor (even though it’s called fiery orange or some such rot.) We pushed it beyond its design limits and it never let us down. Our only wish would be more torque, which is satisfied by the new 6.2L engine, and four real doors, also available on the ’11 models.

We found an amazing amount of room behind the front seats. In fact, sometimes there are places for people to sit! Loading up the interior for camping and exploring means we have an empty bed for treasures or what have you. The clamshell doors of the Raptor are annoying in parking lots and daily life but fine in wide-open spaces.

We wonder where Ford will take the concept next time in the off-road arena. Maybe a retro Baby Bronco? If the automakers keeps to the proper design parameters like they did with the Raptor, we think they’d have a hit.

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