Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
Rugged yet smooth. That's the paradox that best sums up the infinitely capable 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, a truck that's at home in almost any environment. Take it on the highway and it delivers the sort of serene ride that keeps bumps and jolts at a distance. Take it off-road and it scrambles over rough terrain like a puma cub on steroids, energetic enough to clamber up the steepest inclines without missing a beat.
The Raptor is, of course, a Ford F-150 pickup truck that's been sweetened with serious upgrades designed to enhance off-road performance. At the heart of these upgrades is a revised suspension, as racing-type dampers, supple spring rates and a wider track allow this truck to withstand all manner of off-road indignities without ever losing its composure, or, God forbid, bottoming out. The Raptor is truly a purpose-built trail-buster, with the goods to make rock-strewn trails feel as smooth as your driveway.
Hard-core off-road enthusiasts have a couple of other options. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is a nimble billy goat with time-tested appeal, as is the Toyota FJ Cruiser, and there's also the Nissan Titan in trail-focused trim, the PRO-4X. However, neither glides over the rough stuff with as much power and smoothness as the Raptor — and, for that matter, neither is as comfortable on pavement. If you're looking for a versatile off-roader that won't leave your bones rattled, the Raptor shines as a leading choice.
Muscle is an important part of the off-road equation, and this 2010 Ford F-150 Raptor has lots of it. Equipped with a gutsy 6.2-liter V8 good for 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque (the more potent of two available engines), the truck has the brawn to tackle any and all high-speed adventures. Weighing in at about 6,000 pounds, the Raptor's heft is considerable. Nevertheless, power is always abundant on the highway, while off-road the truck ascends daunting gradients with little fuss. Its six-speed automatic transmission provided competent assistance, executing smooth gearchanges.
At the test track, the Raptor sprints from zero to 60 mph from a standstill in 7.2 seconds — a time that bests the Titan (7.7 seconds) and crushes the Wrangler (9.7 seconds). It's also worth noting that the 6.2-liter mill helps our test truck achieve a time that is more than a second quicker than that of the 5.4-liter-equipped Raptor we tested previously (8.4 seconds).
Our Raptor stops from 60 mph in 152 feet; this means that the 6.2-liter's stopping distance exceeds that of the stopping distance we recorded for the 5.4-liter Raptor by almost 20 feet. Our test driver is at a loss to explain the difference, since both trucks appear to be identically equipped, save for their engines.
Ford estimates that once equipped with the 6.2-liter V8, the Raptor will achieve EPA fuel economy of 14 city/18 highway mpg — about the same estimates reported for 5.4-liter models. We put more than 1,900 miles on our test truck, and our observed fuel economy was 13.2 mpg combined. Our observed fuel economy with the 5.4-liter model was slightly better at 14.5 mpg combined.
On pavement, the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor's ride quality is hovercraft-smooth; when perched up in the cabin, you truly feel as if there's a cushion of air separating you from bumps and road imperfections under the tires beneath you. The front seats are huge and supportive, as if they were made by Barcalounger. They're also broad enough to comfortably accommodate even passengers of wider girth.
This truck's SuperCab configuration means the Raptor comes with a rear bench seat accessed via reverse-opening rear doors. Legroom is tight in back; adults will fit in a pinch, but the seat is really best left to kids (for 2011, the Raptor is available as a crew cab, as well). On highways and surface streets, the cabin is quite tranquil, with very little road and wind noise.
The Raptor's cabin is a study in user-friendliness. The center console is somewhat button-heavy, but thankfully the buttons are large, well-spaced and hard to miss. The climate control setup features two knobs that handle temperature on the driver and passenger sides, and a series of rectangular buttons governing functions like fan and mode settings. Audio controls are similarly straightforward, with knobs for volume and tuning, and buttons allowing you to choose presets and music sources.
Controls governing off-road settings are located within easy reach on the dash. Settings include 4H for extra traction in snow and in certain off-road situations and 4L for heavy towing, traveling in deep sand and navigating steep grades. (The truck also offers Hill Descent Control to help manage speed down steep inclines.) There's no shortage of storage space within the cabin. All four doors feature long, fairly deep bins with cupholders that will accommodate tall water bottles. There's also a huge bin located in the center console.
As you get into the Raptor, you'll notice that the truck has a higher step-in height than the standard F-150. The step-in height is significant, and could present a challenge for shorter drivers and passengers. At least there's ample room for entry, because the truck's front and reverse-opening rear doors create a wide gateway to the interior. Once inside, outward visibility is good from most perspectives.
The Raptor is more than 7 inches wider than the standard F-150. We'd expected the width of the truck to be an issue when parking (it was), but we hadn't considered the impact it would have on our off-road itinerary. One venue was nixed because the trails simply weren't wide enough to accommodate the Raptor, and we wound up having to travel a bit farther to find a spot with more spacious trails. If your favorite off-road spots feature trails that are on the narrow side, the Raptor might not be the best choice for you.
Limited legroom in the second row makes a child seat a dicey proposition. A rear-facing child seat fits, but only behind a front seat that's been adjusted for a very short passenger.
Design/Fit and Finish
Its appearance makes it clear that the 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is an off-road bruiser. Its wide stance communicates power, and its unique and very substantial grille helps set it apart from other F-150s. The expensive black graphics package looks a bit too hard to see on this test truck in Tuxedo Black. If you're getting this package, we'd suggest pairing it with a truck in one of the other available colors.
Cabin design is clean and attractive, and materials quality is solid. Build quality on our test truck was tight, with nary a rattle heard even after off-road adventures.
Who should consider this vehicle
Off-road enthusiasts in search of a truck that's versatile enough straight from the factory to function both as a thrill machine on trails and a comfortable daily driver on the street will love the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. However, the truck's width can be prohibitive in crowded cities as well as off the beaten path. If your off-roading venues feature slender trails, you'd be better served by another choice, like the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota FJ Cruiser.
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