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New 2021 Raptor Offers 37-inch Tires, Multilink Rear Suspension, But No V8 ... Yet

The Original Desert Runner Strikes Back Against the Ram TRX

  • 2021 Raptor offers greater clearances than Ram TRX, even before adding the 37-inch tires
  • Multilink rear suspension promises traction, stability and improved ride comfort
  • Raptor R variant coming next year, likely with a V8

Dinosaur Wars! This might sound like a new show on the Discovery channel. But in this particular case we're thinking of the arrival of the new 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor. Based on the redesigned F-150, it's meant to counterattack the hype Ram's built up with its recently introduced 1500 TRX.

The Raptor's not yet offered with a V8 engine to match the 702-horsepower TRX, but it packs an impressive array of suspension upgrades, optional 37-inch tires, and a variety of technology improvements and features also found on the standard F-150. We expect Ford will release it during the summer of 2021 for a starting price of around $60,000.

What's under the hood and why isn't it a V8?

The 2021 Raptor comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. Ford hasn't yet revealed power and torque figures but still calls it a high-output version of that engine. The last-generation Raptor offered 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, and the standard 2021 F-150 is available with a similar V6 that produces 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. So don't be surprised if the 2021 Raptor edges closer to 500 hp.

Ford's also worked to make the exhaust more expressive. Not only are there now driver-adjustable loudness settings (modes include quiet, normal, sport and Baja), but the pipes themselves do a bit of twisting and turning in what Ford calls a "trombone loop" to ensure equal length and improved sound.

Ford hasn't provided fuel economy figures either but says with the standard 36-gallon fuel tank that the Raptor can go over 500 miles in EPA estimates. Using those estimates, the last-gen Raptor could do that with its optional 36-gallon tank, and that truck was rated at 16 mpg combined. So keep your expectations around there.

Now what about the V8? Ford isn't saying anything other than that a Raptor R version will be available next year. Our money is on that one to get more power.

What about off-road stuff? Suspension and gearing?

The 2021 Raptor gets a thorough suspension overhaul compared to the standard F-150 so it can sail over ruts, bumps and air with the durability you'd expect from a desert-racing-inspired truck. It also needs to be drivable every day and do regular truck stuff too, like towing and hauling.

Along with front suspension upgrades, the big addition this year is the switch from a leaf-spring rear suspension to a five-link (or multilink) coil-spring rear suspension with a Panhard rod (or track bar). Ford says the goal of this change was to provide more lateral stabilization to the rear suspension and more traction under acceleration. On all four corners are beefy and electronically controlled Fox adaptive dampers.

Giving the Raptor traction are standard 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. New for 2021, you can also option massive 37-inch tires that provide additional ground clearance. These are also Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires.

If you stick with the 35s, you can upgrade from the standard 17-inch wheels to forged and beadlock capable wheels. The 37s come with forged and beadlock capable wheels, but with a different design. Forged wheels are generally lighter than cast wheels, and a beadlock is a means of mechanically attaching the tire to the rim, so the tire stays fixed in place in challenging off-road terrain.

The transmission is a 10-speed automatic with the same gearing, final drive and low range as the one on the last-gen Raptor. The 2021 Raptor also again comes standard with an electronic-locking rear diff and an optional Torsen torque-sensing limited-slip front differential, which is something you can't get on the Ram TRX.

How does it compare against the Ram TRX?

The Raptor's closest competitor is the Ram TRX, which is similarly focused on off-road dominance and uses a supercharged V8 with 702 hp. But on paper, power output appears to be one of few specs in the Ram's favor.

On the standard 35s, the Raptor's approach (31.0 degrees), breakover (22.7 degrees) and departure angles (23.9 degrees) are slightly higher than the Ram's, as is the Ford's ground clearance. With the 37s, the difference grows more substantially. With the 35s, Ford says front suspension travel is 14 inches and rear travel is 15 inches. That's approximately an inch more than the Ram TRX's wheel travel. With the 37s, the Raptor's figures predictably drop to 13 inches and 14.1 inches.

The Raptor's max towing (8,200 pounds) and hauling (1,400 pounds) capacities also edge out the Ram in such small amounts that it must be intentional — by 100 pounds and 90 pounds, respectively,

What's the technology like?

Building off the 2021 F-150, the Raptor offers many of the same tech features and options available on that truck. That means everything from over-the-air updates for future features and a standard large digital instrument cluster and 12-inch center touchscreen. The graphics are of course dressed up for Raptor duties, but there are new Raptor-specific features too.

You get seven drive modes, including settings for towing, rock crawling and even Baja. Like a sports car, these modes adjust steering, throttle sensitivity, suspension, shift points and so on. There's also an off-road low-speed cruise control too, but the most interesting addition is the Trail One-Pedal Drive feature.

When you're driving at very low speeds and engage the feature, applying pressure on the gas pedal moves forward like normal. But when you lift off the gas, the Raptor applies its brakes to help slow you down. Ford says the goal was to reduce the need to use both feet and pedals when you're on rough terrain that demands that kind of control.

What else? The regular F-150's new Pro Power Onboard feature makes an appearance on the Raptor. It's a robust onboard power generator that can supply up to 2.0 kilowatts of power. And there's a ton of other goodies too, including a powerful exterior camera setup, wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, and standard adaptive drivers aids. The Raptor will even be available with Ford's hands-free driving system, called Active Drive Assist, when it arrives at a later date.

Edmunds says

The 2021 Raptor goes on sale this summer, and we expect pricing to start around $60,000. Competition remains burly from Ram, and we only hope it further escalates the full-size dinosaur, err ... high-performance off-road truck ... wars. Be sure to keep up-to-date on everything F-150 at Edmunds' 2021 Ford F-150 page.