It's a bird, it's a plane . . . it's the boulder-decimating new Raptor!
In one of his last shows as the cocky, right-wing-mocking talking head on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert made a gleeful, deliciously prescient point about Americans’ short attention spans for cheap gas: “Fuel is cheap this week? Give me a five-year lease on a rolling cargo ship with the aerodynamics of a cinder block!” The statement may have been sarcastic, but there couldn’t be a better climate into which Ford could introduce its second-generation F-150 Raptor.
Hulking on its off-road suspension, widened fenders, and meaty 35-inch tires, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is just as outrageously polar bear–mocking and lane-deflowering as its groundbreaking forebear, only now it swills cheap hooch. Not that such a detail matters; since being introduced in 2010, the roughly $50,000 Raptor has had buyers lining up even through the late stages of economic recession and four-buck-per-gallon gas. Naturally, we love the thing. Who wouldn’t, given its huge power, ability to bomb across craggy terrain at 100 mph, and bad-ass visuals?
Built Eco Tough
Happily, Ford stuck to the script for the new model—almost. There has been some paraphrasing in the engine bay, where, instead of the old truck’s 411-hp 6.2-liter V-8, sits a new twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine with direct fuel injection. While it shares a displacement figure with the larger of the two EcoBoost V-6s available in the regular F-150, the Raptor’s mill features a new aluminum block and upgraded internals, revised heads, and tweaked fuel-delivery equipment. Final output figures weren’t available at the time of this writing, but we’re told to count on 450 to 500 horsepower and more torque than the current V-8’s 434 lb-ft. As for fuel-economy estimates, Ford is likely to trumpet efficiency gains on account of the turbocharged engine, but horrible, ignorable fuel economy is part of the Raptor’s charm. We’ll file preliminary EPA estimates under “we don’t care.”
Of course, four-wheel drive will be standard, and the Raptor’s setup now includes a terrain-response function that optimizes the truck for varied surfaces such as snow, rocks, and more. Feeding the transfer case is Ford’s first application of its all-new 10-speed automatic transmission.
You Can’t Crush This Beer Can
The new powertrain is bolted to an equally new frame that, while derived from the 2015 F-150’s steel unit, is substantially upgraded to better handle the abuse doled out by full-throttle (sweet) jumps, huge rocks, and whatever else a Raptor can subjugate to its will. Two wheelbases and cab configurations will be offered: a 133-inch-wheelbase, extended-cab SuperCab and a 145-inch, four-door SuperCrew. Following in the F-150’s footsteps, the high-performance truck also switches to aluminum bodywork, shedding a claimed 500 or so pounds in the process. A composite hood and front fenders further reduce mass.
Ford’s stylists somehow managed to massage these fancy new materials in such a way as to imbue the Raptor’s rippling body with even more muscle. The slight upkick to the rear quarter-panels lends the tail a bad-ass stadium-truck look, and the grille once again boasts giant “Ford” lettering and federally mandated marker lights on account of the truck’s width. Colossal Ford lettering also makes it onto the Raptor’s tailgate, and there are vents on each front fender and another one on the hood, in addition to LED accent lighting everywhere.
The most important elements of all, however, are sheltered by the Raptor’s blistered fenders. Those would be the Fox Racing shocks, coil-sprung aluminum front control arms, and the leaf-sprung solid rear axle. To improve on the old Raptor’s impressive suspension travel—11.2 inches in front and 12.1 inches in the rear—Ford upped the Fox shocks’ diameters from 2.5 inches to 3.0. The units still feature internal bypasses that take the edge off of quick, hard impacts. Skid plates in front help protect against meet-and-greets with desert rubble, and shallower front and rear bumpers improve the truck’s approach and departure angles. New 17-inch aluminum wheels are wrapped in BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 tires that practically scream out for raised white lettering.
It Knows It Can Fly
Amazingly, another carry-over feature of the 2017 F-150 Raptor is its near complete lack of competition. Dodge offers the 1500-based Ram Runner, but it is available only in kit form through the Mopar catalog. General Motors never picked up the phone when Ford came calling in 2010, and it hasn’t since. Some credit is due to the Ford SVT engineers—who now toil under the Ford Performance banner, hence the absence of “SVT” in the new Raptor’s name—that designed such a product that worked nearly as well on the street as it did in the Baja.
Having sampled several iterations of the new F-150, we can report that the weight loss afforded by the switch to aluminum construction is palpable from behind the wheel. Yet for all that, this Raptor version is the one we’ve been waiting for. With the base price expected to stay around the $50,000 mark, it will continue to be within reach of anyone with desert-runner fantasies. So, yeah, Mr. Colbert? You can sign us up for one of these babies.