There has never been, and probably will never be, another truck like the SVT-fettled F-150 Raptor. Think about it; sport trucks, as a whole, don’t have very long shelf lives. GMC’s Typhoon and Syclone twins were on sale a mere three years. Ford built two generations of the SVT Lightning before pulling the plug, and Dodge even made a go with the Viper-powered SRT10 Ram. With the possible exception of the F-150 variants, the sports truck as a whole has struggled to find wide-ranging acceptance.
Part of the issue, we think, has to do with the focus of these trucks. Aimed at on-road performance, they lacked the utility of a traditional pickup (due to their sporty tires and suspensions) while being outrun and outhandled by equal or lower-priced performance cars. Automobiles are governed by the laws of physics, and a truck-based performance vehicle is never going to have the same potential as a car-based performance vehicle.
The Raptor works because it doesn’t try to beat cars at their own game. It is a truck, first and foremost.
Where previous sports trucks featured sticky tires the Raptor maintains traction with four, 35-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/As, which are mounted to no-nonsense, 17-inch, bead-locked wheels. The suspension is raised instead of lowered, with a set of Fox Racing shocks providing nearly a foot of suspension travel at any particular corner. It has all the aesthetic friendliness of someone that makes a living in barroom brawls, and it could give a rat’s behind about aerodynamics.
The engine, meanwhile, is a brawny, 6.2-liter V-8 that also motivates the F-150 Platinum. Its 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque is hardly something to sniff at, but when tasked with hauling well over 6000 pounds of badass off-road truck, it’s not that much power. We’d estimate the run to 60 is completed in a leisurely 6.5 seconds. While it’s easy to compare that time to a reasonably priced hot hatch, let’s not forget, the Raptor could probably reel off a 6.5-second 0-60 run on any terrain imaginable.
Times on a clock aside, the Raptor rarely felt flat-footed or slow during our on-road time with it. It got up to speed reasonably well, with the 6.2-liter singing like only a big truck engine can. Low-range punch is where the Raptor’s engine is happiest, eagerly taking off from a standstill. The six-speed automatic delivers power to the road with a surprisingly seamless performance that we don’t normally associate with a pickup.
This is an off-road truck, though. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t take it out onto some rough stuff. What’s remarkable is the Raptor’s ability to shrug off big bumps at speed. In a normal car, traveling down a washboard road at speed is difficult; the steering will jerk around, and the car will follow whatever bumps the tires come across. The Raptor has no such issue. On the muddy, wrecked dirt roads of northern Metro Detroit and at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, the Raptor was totally content to remain arrow straight. It all felt easy. Of course, the ride is choppy, so while the wheel won’t be pulling from side to side, it’s abundantly clear that you’re not driving on silk.
And for the seriously rough bits of trail, the Raptor is well outfitted. A front-mounted camera, off-road mode, locking differential, and of course, a two-speed transfer case are all standard.
The F-150 SVT Raptor’s reboot of the sports truck is refreshing. Realistically, no one needs a Raptor. But Ford’s sales figures make it clear that the truck’s popularity isn’t weakening, even a few years after it roared onto the scene. That makes us optimistic for the future of high-performance trucks. Now, if only Ram and GM would get in on the game.