2017 Ford F-150 Raptor: Review

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Ford F-150

F150 Online heads out to Texas in a 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor to go off-roading and help a friend.

If you’ve ever seen a commercial for a car dealership or a furniture store, you’ve heard the phrase “Christmas in July.” In the context of retail, those words are a way of getting people to feel generous and indulgent with their money well before December.

There’s no such phrase as “Independence Day in June.” Why would there be? The Fourth of July is just a month later. That didn’t stop me from noticing during a June trip from Austin to El Paso, Texas in the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor that even though there weren’t any flags waving, my weekend of visiting my girlfriend’s family and attending a wedding with her had a clear red, white, and blue theme.

Before my $70,595 SuperCrew test truck showed up in front of my apartment, I knew which features it was going to have. It was fitted with the 802A Equipment Group, which added such conveniences as 10-way cooled/ventilated front seats, SYNC 3 and SYNC Connect, an 8-inch touchscreen, a Torsen front differential, a 360-degree camera system, and voice-activated navigation. The Technology Package added the Lane-Keeping System, Lane Departure Warning, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Mitigation — perfect for a 500+ interstate trip each way.

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I also knew all of the improvements Ford Performance made to the Raptor for its second generation. It threw out the old 6.2-liter V8 in favor of a high-output version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 connected to a 10-speed automatic. Horsepower is up to 450; torque has increased to 510 lb-ft. According to Ford, the new Raptor’s aluminum skin has shaved as many as 500 pounds compared to the first-generation Raptor; the 2017 SuperCrew model still has a curb weight of almost 2.5 tons, though. Its FOX shocks have grown to three inches in diameter. Suspension travel is up to 13 inches in the front and 13.9 inches in the rear. Ground clearance has gone up by nearly two inches. The approach, breakover, and departure angles are now 30, 22, and 23 degrees, respectively. A six-mode Terrain Management System adjusts various Raptor settings, such as those for the engine, transmission, brakes, and stability control systems, to enable the truck to drive over surfaces ranging from mud to sand to rocks, and go full Baja race mode across dunes. The torque-on-demand transfer case mixes all-wheel drive with four-wheel drive, distributing torque between the front and rear wheels, and mechanically locking for 4H and 4L.

One thing I didn’t know was how the 2017 Raptor would drive. In fact, I had never been behind the wheel of the first-generation model. It was time to find out. My girlfriend and I got on the road and headed west. Despite being a hardcore off-road pickup, the Raptor had a relaxed highway ride quality. It was so smooth that my girlfriend soon drifted off to sleep. I set the adaptive cruise control to the 80-mph limit and grinned at the sight of the tach registering a relaxed 2,000 rpm. As cool as that was to see, it didn’t distract me from the fact that the Raptor has fuel economy ratings of 15 city, 18 highway, and 16 combined mpg. Good thing it comes with a 36-gallon tank and doesn’t require premium gas.

After hundreds of miles of flat roads through scrub brush and distant buttes, my gal and I arrived at her parents’ house in El Paso. A few days later, I got a chance to take the Raptor out to the Red Sands off-road area.

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Red

I met my friend Paul, a last-generation F-150 FX4 owner, at the entrance to one of the many trails winding through the grainy adult playground. Not wanting to get the pricey monster stuck, I used a button on the steering wheel to put the Raptor into sand mode. Doing that engaged 4H and locked the rear diff. It also dulled the throttle response, keeping me from getting the bespoke BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s dug in too deep too quickly. All I had to do was keep the wheel straight during ascents and descents…and resist the urge to launch the truck over peaks without knowing who or what was on the other side of them.

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Paul and I eventually came to a stop at the beginning of a long straightaway. An idea popped into my head. We were the only two people in the area. There were no families having picnics, no teenagers attempting stunts on ATVs, no kids sliding down the dunes on bright plastic toboggans. All I could see in front of me was open sand…and the opportunity to put the Raptor into Baja mode. Another few pushes of the Terrain Management System button locked the transfer case into 4H, optimized the transmission’s shift schedule, and activated the EcoBoost’s anti-lag feature. After the Raptor hooked up, Paul and I were off, forcing the chaos of the shifting ground beneath us to battle the truck’s electronic control. The Raptor’s software won. Even at over 50 mph, if I felt the back end slip out on me, all I had to do was calmy input a slight steering correction to keep moving in a straight line. My level of nonchalance was only matched by the mania of the Raptor’s turbos. The blue streak in the desert that day wasn’t a mirage. It was a missile on tank treads.

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White

The compulsion to turn the Raptor into a flying dinosaur was even stronger when my girlfriend, her mom, and I went out to the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico a few days earlier. It was one I couldn’t give into for legal reasons because off-roading was strictly forbidden. My fantasies of rocketing across – and through – the seemingly endless pristine mounds of gypsum had to go unlived. The restrictions gave me a chance to focus on the Raptor’s design. Compared to a regular F-150, the Raptor has a six-inch wider track and more muscular fenders (check out the semi-flaresides in the back). If you’re looking for a blue oval, check the steering wheel – the F-O-R-D grille and optional graphics package and tailgate applique tell the world who created this broad-shouldered beast. It was the Lamborghini of pickups wherever I drove it in my truck-loving state. Pickups are a common sight in Texas, one that ceases to register to natives. When you roar through in a Raptor, heads turn, people look at you – whether you want the attention or not.

Foot off the pedals, I let the Raptor slowly roll through the paved paths carved through the fine grit of the monument. The truck was an outlaw walking through a small Western town, capable of disintegrating his peaceful surroundings with his strength and firepower. Its Lightning Blue paint concealed a red-hot mechanical rage that could be unleashed with the twitch of a toe. White Sands was not the place for it, though. The Raptor had no name to make for itself there in the land of silence and the occasional Mennonite family outing, just a dramatic appearance. No, it had to wait until Red Sands, where it came out guns blazing.

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Blue

The main reason my girlfriend and I went to El Paso in the first place was to attend the wedding of our friends Dan and Roxann. A few days before the ceremony, my gal said jokingly, “Maybe the Raptor can be the ‘something blue.'” At the rehearsal dinner, I mentioned her comment to Dan. He’s not even a car guy, but the idea of riding in the Raptor excited him. The morning of the wedding, I used the Raptor as his official escort vehicle from his house to the church. We talked about relationships, both smiling at our thoughts of the wonderful women in our lives. Dan marveled at the Raptor’s appearance and features, such as the 360-degree camera system. Wanting to make his last ride as an unmarried man a memorable one, I threw the Raptor into sport mode and mashed my right foot down, the transmission banging into the next gear. Dan’s laugh was one of excitement and nervousness. He said something to the effect of the Raptor having some pep. I grinned and nodded in agreement. The go matched the show.

There may not be such a thing as “Independence Day in June,” but the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor came just in time to give me a memorable trip out west. The journey also served as a series of tests that evaluated the truck’s comfort, power, and off-road abilities. The Raptor passed all of them with flying colors: red, white, and blue.

Derek Shiekhi contributes to a variety of Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including J-K Forum , Jaguar Forums, and 5 Series. He's also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association.

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