Raptor Goes Off-Road In Style

When Ford’s Special Vehicles Team gets its hands on a vehicle, results have been terrific. The SVT Raptor, an F-150 Supercab on steroids, is a bird of prey, designed originally to hunt down competitors in the heat and sand of the grueling Baja 1000 race. It has been tamed down slightly for regular streets and highways and the Canadian outdoors.

There’s no mistaking a Raptor, especially dressed in orange with “mud splash” graphics. It’s 178 mm wider than the stock F-150 and it’s aggressive-looking. The 35-inch all-terrain tires on the 17-inch wheels increase the overall height of the vehicle by 200.7 mm (about eight inches.)

Instead of roof-mounted clearance lights, Raptor has small grille-mounted LEDs and small LEDs as rear fender markers.

Air extractors on the hood and just under the A-pillars are functional, helping to cool the engine compartment — which houses Ford’s 320-horsepower 5.4-litre V8 engine. Hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission, power gets to all four wheels through an electronically controlled part-time 4WD system.

A tall truck means getting into the box is a bit of a climb, but the test vehicle came with the optional tailgate with built-in step system. It’s a feature that made getting into the box easier than getting into the cabin, even with running boards.

Once inside, visibility is excellent and controls are within easy reach, including optional trailer brake control and a bank of accessory switches — which also houses off-road specific controls to make those off-road excursions a bit easier.

Just above the centre stack is the navigation screen and touch control system for Ford’s Sync entertainment system.

Supercab rear seats require the front doors to be open before the rear doors can be opened. There’s room back there for two medium-size adults to ride comfortably. If you want to carry stuff in the cab, the 60/40 split folding seat cushion can be operated with one hand.

GOOD DRIVABILITY

Flooring the gas pedal is not going to spin those big tires, but the truck gets rolling in a hurry as speed continues to climb. I expected a truck with the ability to handle the Baja desert would be a rigid ride. I was wrong. This is the smoothest off-road 4×4 pickup I’ve driven.

The secret is the SVT suspension. The rear features a special 4.10 axle and unique rear spring setup with triple internal bypass FOX Racing Shox and 12.1 inches of suspension travel.

Up front, unique cast-aluminum control arms provide extra track width for improved stability. Front shocks are the same triple bypass FOX shox that allow variable shock rates based on wheel position for off-and on-road performance. And 11.2 inches of travel.

Handling is precise and predictable. Raptor will fly where you point it. The only downside is that the steering binds a little at a crawl in 4×4 mode — in deep snow at least. If you need to tow, Raptor will tote a 2,722-kg (6,000-pound) trailer and there’s a rear backup camera mounted into the bottom rim of the Ford badge that looks down onto the trailer hitch position.

For the $55,249 price tag, Raptor features options like power moon-roof, graphics package, Sony Navigation Radio, pickup box extender, tailgate step, trailer brake controller, rear view camera and Raptor orange accented interior. And that head-turning look.

Harry Pegg is an automobile writer based in Calgary, Alta.

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