Review and photos by
Russell Purcell, CanadianDriver.com
The Ford F-150 Raptor carries the F-150 designation for marketing purposes, as well as for the fact that it is a half-ton pick-up. However, the similarities pretty well end there as the truck shares very few components with its F-150 stable mates. If you approach this monster from the front you are immediately struck by its width and aggressive stance. In fact, the Raptor is 18 cm (7 in.) wider than a standard full-size pick-up, moving it into a category that requires it to sport marker lights at each corner (and in the grille) which add to the aggressive look. The distinctive grille is a black-out design, dominated by what has to be the largest Ford emblem ever employed on a consumer vehicle.
An aerodynamically optimized front bumper sits close to the body, and features outboard openings to help direct air flow to the engine compartment and front suspension. There are also functional hood and side air-extractor vents to help this monster breathe, a necessity in the rugged environments where the Raptor was designed to both work and play.
A massive front skid-plate peeks out from the truck’s chin as both a styling element and functional armour – it offers protection to the engine, drivetrain and suspension components.
Heavy-duty running boards run the length of the four-door cabin to make ingress and egress a little easier. With 35-inch tires as standard equipment, even tall individuals will find these no-slip steps invaluable. They also provide the truck with protection from debris and rocks kicked up by the tires as there are no mud flaps. Wide fender flares also offer protection to the truck’s paint and body, while at the same time emphasize the Raptor’s burly stance.
The short cargo box is rated for 1,000 pounds, and can be accessed via the flip down tailgate (engineered for single hand operation) complete with Ford’s innovative integrated step and handle.
The truck is available in Molten Orange, Tuxedo Black, Blue Flame and Oxford White, and the unique graphics package (called “digital mud”) featured on my test truck is no doubt going to be a popular option.
Once you climb into the driver’s seat you are faced with a wide-rimmed, leather-wrapped steering wheel that proved very comfortable and allowed for very precise driver inputs during off-road driving. As outward visibility is hampered due to the width and height of this truck, especially when navigating a narrow trail or mountain pass, the design team fitted a red leather strip to the crown of the steering wheel which helps the driver know when the Raptor’s wheels are pointed straight. I must admit that this little touch proved invaluable during my time with the truck.
The dash and console are well designed and all gauges and switchgear fall readily to both hand and eye. An auxiliary switchboard comprised of four pre-wired switches has been incorporated into the dash to make adding accessories such as off-road lights and winches a breeze. Ford Racing Accessories offers a selection of light systems and light bars that have been designed for this truck.
Seating is for five adults, and as the truck is extra wide, the passenger compartment proved very spacious. As rugged as the Raptor is, it was nice to see the contrast of the luxurious leather seating and the obvious quality of the fit-and-finish throughout the cabin. Lots of grab handles are available for when the going gets bumpy, and storage cubbies seemed to be everywhere. Heavy rubber floor liners will keep dirty boots from making too much of a mess, and over-sized weather stripping does an excellent job of keeping dirt, dust and water out as well.
The first wave of Raptors feature a 5.4-litre V8 delivering 320-horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque to the ground, but the second wave comes fitted with a new 6.2-litre unit bringing 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque to the party. My test unit featured the former engine and proved a strong performer under all conditions, but I know that with this type of vehicle many buyers will wait until the bigger engine rolls onto the lot as in a truck of this size and capability, having access to healthy power reserves is a big plus.
The electronic locking differential effectively delivers power and torque to all wheels, and Ford claims you can run with it locked at speeds up to 162 km/h (100 mph).
When you venture off-road, the driver can select Off-Road mode. This system electronically alters throttle maps, shift curves, brake settings and bias, as well as the stability control system, all in an effort to maximize its effectiveness off-road.
The Raptor is Ford’s first product to incorporate Hill Descent Control which allows the vehicle to descend a 30 to 40-degree hill with ease. The driver merely sets the speed to his comfort level-between two and 20 mph – point the vehicle downhill and steer. The system will handle gas and braking inputs. I tried this system in sand, loose soil, mud, rock and snow, and it worked seemingly effortlessly.
Ford designed this truck to meet the needs of the hardcore off-road user and as such, the engineering team had to make sure that it was as durable and reliable as they could make it. A 1,000 mile test course was setup in the California desert for product testing, and it included all types of terrain. It was here that the trucks were run hard, components were stressed, and problems were solved before it was determined that the trucks were in fact tough enough to wear the SVT (Special Vehicle Team) designation. I should point out that Ford entered a Raptor with only minor modifications (required for safety equipment and the stresses of racing) in the Baja 1000 where it successfully finished on its first try.
While the Raptor is not designed to be a rock crawler, it is prepared to clamber over rocky surfaces, outcrops or small boulder fields. The heavy-duty system of skid plates will protect the drivetrain from all but the biggest hits, but for careful, low-speed journeys through rocky terrain the Raptor proved a climber.
The Raptor features longer tie-rods and special half-shafts to allow for increased travel and more articulation. Triple bypass shocks engineered by Fox Racing give the Raptor 28 cm (11 in.) of travel up front. Partnered with the 22-cm (9 in.) sidewall of the tire, the Raptor is able to travel up and over most obstacles with ease.
The Raptor’s BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A’s seemed to perform well during rock-strewn climbs as the tread pattern and rubber compound seemed to grip smooth rock surfaces with aplomb, and scramble over loose scree and stones without any skipping or drama.
But while the Raptor’s forte is no doubt desert environments, the truck seemed to relish playing in the slick mud that comprises the famed mud-flats at Stave Lake, in Mission, B.C. Power was delivered to the ground in a linear fashion and the stock BFG tires exhibited little wheel spin even when the tread was packed with the heavy, clay-like mud common to the lake bed. I am sure that many buyers will swap these tires out and select their own favourites based on what they plan to do with this truck, but the All-Terrain T/A is a good four-season fitment and proved quiet when on the pavement, which in reality, is where most Raptors will spend the majority of their time.
The veteran off-roaders I encountered during my time at Stave Lake were blown away by the capabilities exhibited by the Raptor, and none of them could believe that it was in fact a stock production vehicle.
I also explored some of the upper forest maintenance roads that are accessed off Sylvester Road in Mission, B.C. My test period with the Raptor fell during the spring, and weather conditions in this part of British Columbia can change in short notice. As the Raptor climbed the road the tires grabbed the loose gravel and the shocks made short work of the deep wash-out trenches that help keep these roads intact during the harsh winter season. I had completed this same test loop in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and a Hummer H3 recently, and while both vehicles managed to tackle the trenches with ease, I did have to approach them at an angle and at a very slow speed. In the Raptor I could drive straight through them and basically maintain a constant speed as the suspension absorbed the shock of the wheel entering the trough and to be honest, the truck remained so stable and drama-free that instead of avoiding obstacles I started looking for more.
As I continued to climb I encountered snow. Now snow in this region is akin to cement as it is super saturated with water and very heavy. The Raptor powered through the white blanket with ease and virtually no wheel slippage at first, even in two-wheel-drive. However, once the tread was packed with dense snow it was evident that the All-Terrain T/A’s had met their match. In effect, they were starting to slide under braking, much like skis, so I knew it was time to descend.
Shifting into four-wheel drive, I was able to navigate around a tight clearing and reorient myself for the trip back down the mountain. I activated Hill Descent Control for the steep sections, and must admit that this system works as advertised. I merely had to steer as the electronics controlled the vehicle’s movement down the trail by applying throttle and braking inputs as required. Only minor wheel slippage was detected but the stability control system was quick to react.
I doubt that the light powder snow common to many regions of Canada would pose a problem to the stock tires, but here on the West Coast, you might need to carry chains or select a more specialized tire should heavy snow plague your route of travel.
I didn’t get a chance to tackle the type of dunes that this truck would be faced with while running at Baja, but the light sand surface I did run in was no match for the Raptor. The depth of the sand was no more than a few inches, so there was no need to air down the tires or worry about getting stuck. However, I was impressed with the trucks ability to cut through the loose surface and deliver consistent levels of traction as I pushed heavily on the accelerator pedal. The ABS brakes (while in the special Off-Road calibration) hauled the Raptor’s big wheels and tires down to a controlled stop without any lock-up, skidding or skating over the sandy surface. The last vehicle I brought here liked to plough deep ruts when asked to perform the same tests. This truck proved nicely balanced and predictable.
What makes the Raptor so special is that it performs like a dedicated tool when you venture off-road. The transmission up-shifts are delayed when in Off-Road Mode allowing you to proceed at a steady pace and maintain your momentum until you clear an obstacle, slippery patch or mud hole. I also found the brake and accelerator pedals to be very precise, as was the feedback delivered through the steering wheel.
While many might see a vehicle like the Raptor as a weekend toy for that special segment of consumers looking for all-terrain adventure, it proved to be just as nimble and effective when operated as everyday transportation on paved surfaces. I will admit that the body tends to wobble like a bobble head doll (due to the springy chassis) under hard acceleration and during aggressive braking, but you quickly regain your confidence once you realize that that same suspension is keeping you firmly planted to the pavement.
The biggest revelation is that the Raptor is a performance bargain. It would be near impossible to transform a standard pick-up into a vehicle as capable as the Raptor for anything less than twice the money, and it wouldn’t come with the benefit of a full factory warranty.
Pricing: 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Base price: $50,299
Options: $300 (tailgate step)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $52,099
Crash test results
Russell Purcell is a freelance automotive writer and photographer for CanadianDriver, CanadianRacing.com and RPM Motoring Monthly, the latter for which he held the position of editor from 2000-2003. He is also a well-established motor sport photographer whose work has been featured in a number of magazines and websites around the world, as well as in a several calendars. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC)