Ford created the desert racing-inspired F-150 Raptor in 2009, assuring it could not only conquer rough terrain, but also jump and catch air.
The rambunctious all-terrain pickup has continued to evolve over the years and the latest iteration features an all-new five-link rear suspension, Fox internal bypass shocks and a fully boxed steel frame with a high-strength aluminium and composite body. In addition, the Raptor is offered for the first time with a choice of 35-inch or 37-inch tyres (the latter are the largest offered on a production light-duty pickup truck).
Whereas the original 2009 SVT Raptor had V8 power under the bonnet, the second-generation vehicle switched to Ford’s 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 in 2017, and the new model retains this power plant. Eking out 456 horsepower at 5,000 revolutions per minute and 691Nm at 3,500rpm, the twin-turbocharged six-pot spears the 2.6-tonne Raptor from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in under six seconds and it’ll dispatch the quarter-mile in 14 seconds, so it’s clearly no slug.
Hooked up to the V6 is Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission. Although generally smooth and seamless in its operation, the auto can occasionally get caught out by sudden throttle applications, with the result being a moment or two of indecision, followed by a mule kick to the spine as it slams back to a lower gear. However, you soon learn what not to do to avoid triggering this, so it’s not by any means a deal breaker.
The first thing you'll notice about the F-150 Raptor is how nimble and agile it feels for such a gargantuan contraption. Measuring almost six metres bumper to bumper and 2.2 metres across the bows, the XXL Ford comes across as bulky and cumbersome, but it’s somehow able to hide its girth remarkably well.
That said, it feels every bit its size when you’re looking to deposit it in a shopping mall car park with spaces conceived with sedans, hatchbacks and run-of-the-mill SUVs in mind. Even slotting the big Ford into parallel parking spots can be a bit tedious.
But off-roading prowess is what most buyers are likely to be most interested in and the Raptor doesn’t disappoint. The big breakthrough in the Raptor’s latest avatar is its all-new five-link rear suspension and Fox racing shocks, designed to deliver more control and greater confidence over rough terrain at high speeds.
All good in theory, but we’re here to tell you all this stuff actually works out in the real world. Out in the dunes, the F-150 Raptor soaks up rough terrain with impressive serenity and the big truck glides across most obstacles and surface irregularities without breaking its stride. Our test vehicle was equipped with the standard 35-inch tyres (rather than the optional 37 inch ones), but even these were able to generate enough bite and traction to comfortably tame medium-sized dunes.
Can you get it beached? Sure you can. Carry insufficient momentum through a patch of ultra-soft sand and your progress will come to a grinding halt, as we discovered first-hand. Even engaging the rear diff lock wasn’t enough for the vehicle to extricate itself, so a snatch recovery was needed.
However, anyone with a modicum of off-roading chops will find the Raptor a willing and capable all-terrain motor that’s able to cover cross-country distances with remarkable assurance and rapidity.
The cabin layout is neat and functional, with the 12-inch infotainment screen making it relatively easy to navigate through the various menus. Kit levels are generous, as available features include an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 18-speaker B&O sound system, leather front seats, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control and single-zone climate control. The centre console houses a slide-out worktable, as well as a wireless phone charging receptacle and 12V DC and 120V AC sockets.
All in all, the F-150 Raptor is a surprisingly refined and easy-to-live-with full-size, go-faster pickup truck. It might lack the Herculean grunt of the monstrous RAM 1500 TRX, but it’s every bit as capable and desirable.