RAPTOR ATTACK

WHO IS IT FOR?

WORDS AND PICS MATT SCOTT

HE FORD F-150 Raptor is an everyday pick-up truck turned desert racing machine.

Initially launched in 2010 on the previous generation chassis, we havenít seen a Raptor since 2014. The all-new 2017 model is based on the significantly lighter, current-generation aluminium F-150. Itís up on performance, equipped with improved and virtually unmatched suspension, and itís stuffed with enough technology for you to pretend youíre running the Baja 1000.

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WHO IS IT FOR?

THE 2017 Raptor is one of the worldís most capable off-road vehicles, coming with factoryengineered options that would cost thousands to match with aftermarket parts.

For example, it would cost tens-of-thousands of dollars to make a new 4Runner or Tacoma match the 2017 Raptorís stock level of performance, just in the suspension department.

We wonít even get into the calamity-inducing power under the Raptorís hood, and then thereís the fact that this goes down the highway without a single squeak, rattle, or worry Ė all with a warranty.

It also plays daily-driver duty better than most other off-road vehicles weíve driven, with the advanced suspension giving it a high-end ride, and the fuel-efficient, all-new aluminium 3.5-litre EcoBoost returning acceptable fuelusage figures Ė Ford rates it at 15L/100km.

For a vehicle fitted with 35-inch tyres and a lift, that is an impressive figure. Itíll tow your trailers with ease and ensure that, no matter if the roads are snowed shut, youíll get there.

DESIGN

IT MIGHT be based on a production F-150, but the Raptor features more than 400 changes from the standard truck. Ford didnít cut corners, even being so specific as to re-route all of the brake and ABS lines thanks to the increased wheel travel and the dual exhaust. The new model has a tweaked frame to allow for more suspension travel.

Itís available in two different configurations, SuperCab and SuperCrew, both offering four doors, with only the latter having a dedicated door for the rear passengers. Most will opt for the SuperCrew and its longer wheelbase, though the SuperCabís 3409mm wheelbase will be more agile off-road while still offering room for the occasional passenger.

While both share the same driveline, the SuperCrew, with its 3708mm wheelbase, can tow up to 3629kg, 2000kg more than its smaller variant.

Payload with either model isnít terribly impressive, at 454kg (SuperCab) and 544kg (SuperCrew).

The 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine, putting out 331kW and 691Nm, shares nothing with the previous-gen engine, except that theyíre both 3.5 litres and a V6. Fordís done a great job with this motor; it is responsive and has almost no perceivable turbo-lag. Itís also lighter than the cast-iron brick it replaces.

When paired with the allnew 10-speed transmission,

this engine becomes savage.

Itíll skip gears when needed to keep it calm around town, but once it enters Sport mode it becomes fierce and aggressive.

Ten gears seems preposterous, but itís one of the reasons the Raptor is always in the power band and ready to attack.

Three-inch diameter, ninestage, internal bypass shocks from Fox Racing ensure the Raptor is turned into something more than a mere pick-up truck. When combined with the healthy amount of power it has, this is the closest driving experience you can get to a Baja racer. It is six inches wider than the standard truck, about the same as the previous model, but its wheel travel has increased to an immense 330mm in the front and 353mm in the rear.

Both variants are offered with a 1676mm bed, and if you need more space, a bed extender is available.

USING IT

THE high-speed test course at Fordís Borrego Springs off-road test centre was mostcertainly designed to show off the strengths of the vehicle, but it gave us the opportunity to see what happens when the truck gets pushed a little bit too far. While the truck is capable, itís also forgiving and easy to correct, something the Ford engineers worked hard to achieve. Big brakes allow you to slow down rapidly, and phenomenal suspension soaks up your mistakes with ease.

The Terrain Management System isnít groundbreaking, but compared to other complex systems itís relatively straightforward. Thereís a Sport mode for the street, along with a Weather setting that engages all-wheel drive for pavement use and optimises the AdvanceTrac system and throttle response to ensure you donít end up in a ditch.

The real winner here is the Raptorís Baja Mode, in essence a Sport mode for off-road. It engages four-wheel drive highrange and locks the Raptorís clutch-controlled centre diff.

It allows you to dissect terrain at your own will at any speed, ensuring the Raptorís engine is loaded in the right gear and ready to fire. Need to lift the front end for some incoming whoops? The throttle is right there, without delay.

Once you get out of the wide-open expanses of the desert, things get a bit tight for the wide Raptor. Ford took us on their Ďrock crawlingí test loop, consisting of a few steep climbs and a bunch of rugged terrain. It performed admirably on the technical sections, showing off the much-improved traction control systems which controlled wheelspin effectively. But this isnít the vehicle for those intending to spend their time on technical trails; its wheelbase is still too long and itís still too wide.

It also seems that until the Raptor acquires some speed its suspension doesnít really wake up.

The Ford Raptor has 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2s (available on bead-lock wheels), well-tuned Fox suspension with added clearance, skid plates, and front and rear recovery points tied into the frame.

Aside from some auxiliary lighting, I honestly donít know what else to change.

Should you buy one?

STARTING at US$49,520 itís quite good value, but youíre looking at upwards of $150,000 to get a RHD one here. Youíd have to spend tens-ofthousands of dollars on aftermarket performance parts to bring its closest competition into the same realm.

For what it is, the Raptor gets decent fuel economy, has respectable road manners, and has unmatched off-road performance. People think itís just an F-150 with a different grille and some shocks they can add themselves Ė it isnít.