Raptor Shows Ford’s Trucking Talons

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CHATHAM, Mass. – Owls, hawks, even the occasional eagle fill the sky above Cape Cod, but none made the same impression on the Massachusetts peninsula as the orange metallic Raptor I piloted around the region’s highways and byways.

Ford took America’s number-one selling nameplate, the F-150 full-size pickup truck, and applied its performance brush, dropping in a 450-horsepower, 3.5-liter engine, FOX™ Racing Shox shock absorbers, and sport-tuned five-link rear suspension, as well as upscale amenities, extensive technology and advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) to produce this Raptor.

The Raptor appears atop the F-150 range meaning it comes well equipped, but like all variants of the large Ford pickup, there are plenty of options and accessories allowing a customer to specify their unique version.

We sampled a very well equipped one, which like all, begins with the quarter-ton F-150 which was redesigned for the 2021 model year. The pickup combines a fully boxed high-strength steel frame with a high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body for maximum weight savings without sacrificing durability.

Performance starts with the engine

The 3.5L EcoBoost® High-Output V6 engine produces 510 pounds-feet of torque to go with the 450hp from its twin-turbo, 24-valve design. This power, which comes on without any turbo lag or reluctance (including revving up quickly after shutting down via the fuel-saving stop/start technology), is channeled through a 10-speed electronic SelectShift® automatic transmission (which, when placed in sport mode, can either be shifted with the steering-wheel paddle shifters or left to its automatic sport shifting) and then through the shift-on-the-fly 4X4 four-wheel-drive (4WD) system.

The Raptor is performance oriented, with off-road intentions and capabilities, so the 4WD system is as robust as the rest of the truck. It has selectable Drive Modes – Normal, Sport, Tow/Haul, Slippery, Off-Road, Baja, Rock Crawl Open image overlay for Selectable Drive Modes – Normal, Sport, Tow/Haul, Slippery, Off-Road, Baja, Rock Crawl.

In addition, Trail Control™ with Trail 1-Pedal Drive allows easy maneuvering over the most challenging terrain.

The suspension is maximized for this type of operation – independent double-wishbone with coil-over shock and stamped lower control arm in the front and five-link rear suspension with Panhard rod, extra-long trailing arms and 24-inch coil springs. The electronically controlled, sport-tuned FOX Racing Shox help keep things under control front and rear.

The braking system features power-assisted, anti-lock (ABS) management of the four-wheel vented discs (13.8 inches up front, 13.2 in the rear) with dual piston calipers in the front and single in the rear. The parking brake is electronic.

These discs live inside matte black 17×8.5-inch forged aluminum bead-lock capable wheels mounted with LT315/70-R17 (35-inch) BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A® KO2 Tires. And it comes with a full-size matching spare wheel and tire!

Ford’s latest trailer-towing features were incorporated in the truck I drove including the Tow Technology Package which included the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, 360-degree camera, trailer-reverse guidance, trailer-brake controller and Smart Trailer Tow Connector (including BLIS – blind-spot monitoring – with trailer-tow coverage).

This package makes towing a trailer, which in the Raptor can weigh up to 8,200 pounds, relatively easy, even for those who have little or no experience (we did not get a chance to try these features).

All these performance and off-road components might seem like a prescription for a bone-jarring ride, but the F-150 Raptor proved, both in long highway travels, short jaunts through the hills of the Northeast (we took the Raptor on an extended sojourn through New England and the upper Mid-Atlantic region), it proved a quiet (when I switched the customizable exhaust from sport to quiet), comfortable place to be both driver and passenger – more comfortable than many of the SUVs we have driven in the past couple of years.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

The power was always there when I wanted it and fuel economy was what I would have expected. I averaged 17.3 miles per gallon, not bad for a vehicle of this size and capabilities, and better than the federal Environmental Protection Agency ratings 16 overall, 15 city and 18 highway).

Technology and amenities abound for driver and passengers

Ford’s advanced towing systems were not the only features aiding my driving the Raptor. Standard ADAS included a very helpful blind-spot information system with rear cross-traffic alert; pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking (AEB); front-collision warning with dynamic braking (with pedestrian detection); automatic high beams; reverse sensing; the 360-degree camera, and reverse brake assist.

The ADAS makes driving the Raptor more relaxing and the upscale interior amenities ensure this feeling is extended for all passengers in the LARGE SuperCrew four-door cab. Leg room of 43.9-inches front and rear is greater than most SUVs and cars and all seating positions – leather covered — feature heating.

The front seats are infinitely electrically adjustable (ventilated as well as heated) with the driver’s having three-person memory which also includes the power-folding outside mirrors and electrically adjustable steering wheel (heated) and foot pedals. Everyone riding within the Raptor should be able to find just the right seating position regardless of a trip’s length!

Once seated a dual-zone automatic climate control system takes care of the environment while the Ford SYNC®4 infotainment system with connected navigation provides entertainment and information about the truck and the world in which it is operating.

Control for the system, as well as all of the trucks myriad of functions starts with buttons, dials and switches from the driver-side door, across the dash and steering wheel to the console. Supplementing these are both voice activation and the 12-inch touch screen in the upper center of the dash.

The latest SYNC4 means wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as streaming Bluetooth, AM/FM and SiriusXM satellite radio and, in keeping with the Raptor’s loud presence, an 18-speaker B&O (Band & Olufsen) unleashed sound system.

The sum is greater than the parts

As usual, when reviewing a modern full-size pickup, it is virtually impossible to detail all of the features let alone versions available. The Raptor, though, is a specific variant of the F-150 range: 145-inch wheelbase; 6.5-foot bed; SuperCrew cab; 3.5L EcoBoost engine; 4.10 rear-differential.

The Raptor carries a base price of $69,525 and the one I drove, with several major options and destination charges, totaled $82,320.

This is a unique truck and for those who want all an F-150 offers with the best factory engineered performance pieces for on and off road, there is nothing at all like it – on land or in the sky.

Next week TBR Drives the redesigned Mitsubishi Outlander.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.