Since the mass production of Henry Ford’s Model T over 110 years ago, America’s relationship with the automobile has covered every emotion possible while also enhancing human mobility all over the world. Bar stool patrons can debate which development more changed the world — the car or the computer — but let there be no doubt about how the car improved the world’s inhabitants’ access to other places, without restrictions.
Along the path to progress, every iteration imaginable of the automobile has been developed. Early brass luxury cars, oversize station wagons, tiny commuter cars and rocket ship-like performance cars have filled the various niches that could capitalize on sales, and profits. Exploiting the primal wants and basic needs of fellow humans, aided by ever-increasing marketing strategies that plumbed our emotional depths, the automobile industry has shaped our societies in immeasurable ways.
Yet one niche of driving has largely been neglected by the mass-production auto industry — high-performance pickup trucks. Since the 1960s, Americans have been running long-distance desert races in Mexico and the Southwest portions of the nation, using hopped-up standard issue trucks and SUVs and Jeeps to accomplish almost barbarian pursuits in places where no humans rarely visit, let alone live.
And despite the apparent allure of a high-powered, high-performance truck that can swoop across the desert with high ground clearance aided by a long-travel suspension that erases dirt moguls and gopher holes, yet still drive with equal parts comfort and luxury while on pavement, there remains but one full-sized pickup truck to capture this market — the Ford F-series Raptor.
Oh sure, naysayers can state that the Toyota Tacoma can do some of what the big Ford can do, and Chevy now has a ZR2 Colorado that can do much of what the Raptor can do, but there truly is no other truck available at your local car dealer that can do everything that the Raptor can do.
Since most blokes who revel in a truck like this Raptor — giant off-road tires, reservoir-charged-gas shocks, heavy-duty skid plates and tow hooks, wide fender flares and simply the best running boards in the business — are certainly not introverted characters. Ford recognizes that persona and equips the Raptor with a twin-turbo Ecoboost 3.5-liter V-6 engine making 450 horsepower. Add 510 pound/feet of peak torque running through a new 10-speed automatic transmission (jointly developed with GM) and the 5,700-pound Raptor will reconfigure your perceptions of speed and power.
Quick? Oh yeah. Quick enough to break the big-lug tires loose at 25 mph if you bury your foot in the firewall while passing that out-of-state Prius. Smooth? It’s that too, plus quiet while cruising. Yet while the Raptor lacks the menacing roar of a big-block V-8, the turbo-motor delivers impressive acceleration in the dirt or on the road while being able to occasionally pass a gas station without needing more fuel — a claim that previous Raptors would be hard-pressed to make. Realized economy during the Raptor’s visit exceeded 16 mpg — right in the middle of the EPA rankings of 15/18 mpg.
Wider than a regular F-series by 6 inches — and it looks it from the front — the Raptor provides all of the interior amenities of a regular F-150: heated and cooled seating, trailer-backing assist program, forward braking alarm and assist, Sync3, 360-degree camera system, parking assist programs, plus numerous traction/drive modes with all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive selections in the electric transfer case. The seats are all-day comfortable, visibility is very good, and little touches like the venting rear power window, the LED bed-lamps, plus the 170-degree rear door openings on the extended cab model, lend more FUNctionality to a vehicle that seems to define the very word.
Since most owners will rarely exploit the Raptor’s impressive off-roading capabilities, one wonders how well does it work on the street. Very, very well. Nimble, adroit, almost polished in every maneuver, the Raptor shows how serious the Ford team was about making a well-rounded truck that has become the benchmark for a class — of one. Any automaker that feels it needs to compete here, needs to be on their A-plus game.
Raptor pricing starts at $51,080 including destination fee. All in as shown, our Shadow Black Supercab (crew cabs are also available) stickered for $64,420. Think of the Raptor as the companion vehicle to your GT350R or SRT Hellcat, a distinctive truck that few will measure up to, but all will envy.