A Baja King Is Crowned in Romeo, Michigan
We're standing hard on the pedal of the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, hell-bent on unleashing all of the 411 horses its new 6.2-liter V8 engine can generate. But our truck is going more sideways and slantways than frontways. We have no particular issue with this. We like us some drifting.
Thanks to two straight days of thunderstorms, this particular crossed-up hooliganism is taking place in gooey Michigan mud that used to be the substrate of a gently rolling meadow on Ford's proving ground in Romeo, Michigan. Within a few laps, the surface is thoroughly chewed and the liquefied ruts grow ever-more perilous.
Without the 101 extra horsepower this 6.2 delivers relative to the Raptor's baseline 5.4-liter V8, we may well have gotten bogged down on some of the deeper, more treacherous portions of the trail. But instead of hunting for a tow rope, we're laughing uncontrollably, working the new motor vigorously, as the 35-inch-tall BFG All-Terrain tires spit great balls of mud at all who cower in our wake. Within minutes, our 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor resembles an oversize chocolate-brown Chia Pet, complete with grass stubble.
But this isn't Baja or the desert Southwest, the sort of terrain the Raptor's long-travel suspension was born to humiliate. Why are we in Romeo, Michigan, anyway?
Turns out the 6.2-liter, SVT-tuned V8, a $3,000 option, is built just down the road in Ford's Romeo engine plant, and this new engine is the star of this particular Raptor show.
That's a big understatement. At 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque, the SVT 6.2-liter thoroughly eclipses the Windsor-built 5.4's lackluster output by 101 more horses and 69 more lb-ft.
Unlike the 5.4-liter Triton, the new 6.2 is a free-revving over-square engine with a large 4-inch bore and a short 3.8-inch stroke (a 1.1 bore/stroke relationship). The under-square 5.4 uses a bore of 3.6 inches and a 4.8-inch stroke, which works out to a 0.9 bore/stroke ratio.
This greatly enlarged bore diameter requires an increase of the bore spacing, so the 6.2-liter V8's bore centers are some 4.5 inches apart instead of the 3.9-inch spacing found on the Triton V8. That difference alone surely figured into the decision to build them on separate assembly lines.
The 6.2's bore is large enough that two spark plugs per cylinder are needed for smooth and efficient combustion of the fuel charge. But twin spark plugs make three valves a tight squeeze in any combustion chamber, so the 2010 Ford F-150 Raptor's 6.2-liter mill uses a two-valve head, replacing the Triton's pair of smaller intake valves with a single large one.
Aside from cost, SVT engineers tell us the single-overhead-cam design was retained to keep this engine narrow enough to fit into the same engine bays that can accept the 5.4-liter V8. Hmmm. What other Ford vehicles use the 5.4 V8? The mind boggles.
Never mind that now. A single cam, in turn, dictates that the variable cam timing mechanism can only advance or retard the intake and exhaust lobes in lock-step; something Ford calls Dual-Equal variable cam timing.
But the Raptorized version of the 6.2 generates significantly more horsepower (411 vs. 385) and torque (434 vs. 405) than the Super Duty version used in the F-250 and F-350. What gives?
Ford says the SVT Raptor can -- heck, should -- be a bit louder and idle a tad rougher than the workingman's Super Duty. We agree. Your ultimate off-road weapon shouldn't sound like every other pickup out there. So SVT engineers gave theirs a less-restrictive exhaust system and, more importantly, a more radical cam that produces more valve overlap. Some call the result a lumpy idle. All we know is the Raptor sounds powerful.
What's more, the Super-Duty version is optimized to run economically on E85 or regular gasoline, while the Raptor 6.2 is strictly a gas-only machine solely for entertainment purposes. Its stated output comes when it gets drunk on premium unleaded, though with dual knock sensors, it can also run safely on regular 87-octane gas. It'll just lose 10 peak horsepower in the process.
It's worth pointing out that there are no EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 6.2-liter Raptor. It is exempt due to its 6,006-pound curb weight. We anticipate that this SVT-powered machine would return ratings of thirsty city/thirsty highway. Our mud-bog drive loop wasn't giving us an accurate read though. The only fuel-economy claim Ford is making is that the 6.2-liter Raptor will return fuel-efficiency numbers "very close" to those of the 5.4 Raptor, which is also not specifically rated by the EPA. The base model's 14 city/18 highway mpg figures reflect the 5.4-liter V8 in a non-Raptorized F-150. Ford was not required to recertify the Raptor 5.4 because of the model's low volume.
Same as It Ever Was
Of course, the no-nonsense long-travel off-road suspension is what makes the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor fly. We haven't mentioned it yet because nothing has changed. The 6.2-liter mill is merely an option in what would otherwise be the same truck we tested last October.
So you get the same 7-inch-wider track relative to a regular F-150 4x4. There's still 11.2 inches of front suspension travel and 12.1 inches in the rear. Those Fox Racing shocks with their exotic synthetic fluid and the three bypass circuits that progressively increase compression damping as you stroke the suspension toward the bump stops (code for "land a jump") are here, too. And they still impress the hell out of us.
Sync is still standard. You can opt for an integrated trailer-brake controller ($230) or a tailgate step ($375). If you want to spend more, you can get a nav system ($2,430) with a back-up camera. There's still a luxury package ($1,950) with -- among other equally off-roady things -- leather seats that remember where you like to sit. If you have money left, you can still overpay for gaudy orange seat inserts ($395) and questionable exterior graphics ($1,075).
But even the things you'd think might have changed did not. The six-speed transmission and 4.10 differential gears are a direct carryover. Well, the software that controls the shift timing is a little different, and the throttle-response profile in off-road mode is a bit more linear, but that's about as far as it goes.
That's not to say that nothing has changed. At 7,000 pounds, the 6.2 Raptor's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 50 more than the base 5.4 Raptor. But because the 6.2's curb weight is about 100 pounds greater, the payload drops from 980 to 930 pounds.
We Like It Like That
The 6.2-liter SVT Raptor is where the model should have been from Day One. SVT nailed the suspension right out of the gate, but that only served to throw the tepid 5.4-liter V8 into stark relief. After last year's full test we remarked that the Raptor needed about 100 more horsepower (we'd have taken 75, honest). Now that it's got it, the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 6.2 feels just about perfect. Considering what it can do, we're still not blinking at the $41,995 cost of entry, either.
But Ford's not done yet. The company just confirmed the worst-kept Raptor secret: In 2011, a SuperCrew version of the Raptor will be available on a longer 144.5-inch wheelbase. We're not entirely convinced that's a good thing. But at least this 6.2-liter V8 will be its only engine choice. Ford hasn't announced the Raptor SuperCrew price, but expect the starting price to be around $45,000.
Now we're getting ahead of ourselves. Today, with the benefit of the 6.2-liter engine, the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor SuperCab 4x4 is an even more impressive off-road device than it was before. It's safe to say there's nothing else like it with a factory warranty. Sure, it rules the desert, but now we know it's the ultimate Michigan mudslinger.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.