Astonishing high-speed off-road capability, little-to-no on-road performance penalty, impressive off-road electronics, nicely bolstered front seats.
MPG-tuned transmission, widened body limits parking space options.
The 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor currently resides in a class of one, capable of off-road speeds that would demolish most production four-wheelers. Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) has created a new segment by applying the same methodical focus to an off-road performance truck as it did to legendary pavement-bound projects such as the Ford GT. The result is a pickup truck that opens an entirely new aspect of production off-road performance, with little to no sacrifice in pavement capability and daily usefulness.
The Raptor has essentially no competition; the only related vehicles are capable low-speed off-roaders such as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Nissan Titan PRO-4X. While these can provide similar loose-surfaces traction and rock-crawling skills, none provide the high-speed terrain-absorbing abilities of the Raptor.
Built alongside the F-150 at Ford's Dearborn, Michigan, plant, the SVT Raptor starts as a four-wheel-drive extended-cab ("SuperCab") F-150 with a 5.5-foot cargo bed (for 2011, the Raptor is available as a crew cab, as well). Onto the F-150 platform the SVT team grafts a new suspension and new bodywork from the A-pillar forward. The result is a 7-inch-wider wheel track that creates an F-150 8 inches wider than its stablemates. It's so wide, in fact, that DOT regulations require it to sport front and rear running lights (just like a dually pickup).
The wider track allows for larger tires (35-inch LT315/70R17) and more suspension travel, the stroke of which is handled by a set of Fox Racing Shox specifically designed for the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. Key to the Raptor's no-joke off-road prowess, the Louisville Slugger-sized Fox shocks are position-sensitive, internal triple-bypass dampers (an industry first for a production truck), and Ford says the aerospace-sourced oil inside them alone costs more than most aftermarket shocks.
Combined with the reengineered suspension is a complement of electronic traction and stability aids specifically tuned for serious off-roading. The result of these modifications is a from-the-factory truck capable of speeds off-road that you would not believe possible, while retaining nearly every aspect of civilized on-road performance and daily pickup truck utility. These capabilities arrive at a sticker price only about $3,000 above the off-road-focused F-150 FX4.
The 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is powered by the larger of the standard F-150 mills, a 310 horsepower 5.4-liter V8 that twists out 365 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm (320 hp/390 lb-ft with E85 fuel). The sole transmission choice is a six-speed automatic with a tow-haul mode. Available for order in late 2009 for early 2010 delivery will be a new 6.2-liter V8 that Ford promises will produce at least 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, also teamed to the six-speed tranny.
With the 5.4-liter V8 and a shorter final-drive ratio than any other F-150 (4.10), the Raptor's on-road acceleration is entirely adequate, though the automatic is often reluctant to downshift unless fully prodded. This is likely to improve fuel economy, but it means energetic passing often requires several breathy downshifts. With its upgraded engine mounts, the Raptor felt smooth and refined when rolling (already an F-150 strong suit), but with 5,863 pounds to motivate, the 5.4-liter V8 isn't exactly going to flatten you against the seat.
The Raptor gets the same brake upgrades as the rest of the 2010 F-150 lineup (rotors that are 6 percent larger, new front calipers, master cylinder, brake booster and liners) plus a larger ABS pump to help on long off-road descents. Likely helped by the specially tuned BFGoodrich tires, the updated binders hauled the Raptor down from speed without drama and with a firmer pedal and far better feel than we can recall in previous F-150 models.
The redone suspension provides 11.2 inches of travel up front and 12.1 inches out back. Most impressive is the paved-road ride quality, which is on the pleasantly firm side as the shocks' stiff initial travel keeps the leggy suspension's roll and pitch to a minimum. Around town, unless trying to squeeze the Raptor into a narrow parking space, you'd never think you were in anything beyond a well-damped and mildly taller 4x4 F-150.
When the road opens up, body motions are tightly controlled, and in the twisties the Raptor handles impressively for its size, pitching over far less than you'd expect. Much of this can be credited to the wider track and massive shocks, but the tires deserve some props, as they hang on tenaciously and refuse to get noisy when tortured through switchbacks.
Off-road the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is in a league of its own, swallowing knee-high whoops at extralegal speeds, all while refusing to bottom the suspension. Fire roads you once crawled on can be handled at a freeway pace. The off-road suspension pays other on-road benefits, as the worst pavement you could dream up is easily swallowed by the Raptor. Dips and humps in the road that would normally have you wincing for an airborne impact are dissipated without drama in a pillowy squat.
Save for the V8 rumble from the sweet-sounding custom exhaust that penetrates the cabin upon start-up or under full throttle, the Raptor is nearly as serene as any other F-150. Inside, the Raptor retains the standard F-150 SuperCab seating for five and roomy front cabin. The rear bench is comfy enough for short trips or kids (legroom is limited), and access to the rear bench is aided by the reverse-opening rear doors. Wind and especially road noise remain remarkably low considering the off-road tires. The Raptor's additional ride height could make ingress/egress more of an issue depending on your inseam.
Notable interior upgrades from a standard F-150 are a meatier leather-wrapped steering wheel, SVT-specific gauges and a set of heavily bolstered and adjustable leather-trimmed front seats. Those of greater girth might find the seats a tad restrictive compared to the flatter perches in other Ford trucks, but for most people the extra support they provide will be greatly appreciated.
Raptors have a useful orange centering hash mark on the top of the steering wheel (very handy in the sandy stuff), but unless you opt for the Raptor's molten orange interior trim (we'd pass), you'll notice little difference from the F-150's clean and functional controls. Visibility from the driver's chair remains excellent, and the standard storage nooks are here, including the roomy center console bin.
Several dash-mounted switches are unique to the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, including the knob for the rear electronic locking differential (ELD). The Raptor's ELD works in both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive modes (Hi and Lo), and can stay locked up to the Raptor's governed 100-mph top speed.
A set of four auxiliary switches on the center console is pre-wired and fused to the Raptor's power distribution box for easy addition of electrical accessories such as exterior lights and winches. On the same panel are buttons for the highly effective hill descent control (which helps you crawl down steep terrain without having to touch the brakes) and Off-Road Mode, which adjusts the throttle map, shift schedule and even ABS calibration to improve performance when the pavement ends.
To take advantage of the Raptor's 6,000-pound tow rating, Trailer Sway Control and a tranny tow-haul mode are standard. The optional integrated trailer brake controller sits close to the driver's reach on the instrument panel. Ford's lauded Sync is standard, as is Sirius Satellite Radio (subscription required). Optional are upgraded Sony audio, a back-up camera and a navigation system with clear and bright integrated Sirius Travel Link to provide real-time traffic and travel info.
The Raptor is available in four colors: black, Molten Orange, white and blue. The orange interior trim, as well as the splashy exterior graphics are optional. The black exterior trim (including functional hood and quarter-panel vents) disappears on the truck of the same shade, making it the stealth choice. The same dark trim actually makes the appliance-white version a sweet-looking hot-climate choice; orange and blue models will suit off-road extroverts.
The Raptor's wide stance and cast-aluminum 17-inch wheels create a purposeful-looking machine, and fit and finish was easily up to the high standards of the current F-150. Our test units felt well screwed together and were rattle-free on- and off-road, even though the occasional SuperCab cowl shake and driveline quivers remain.
For those who have always wanted to make some time and tracks off-road without resorting to extreme aftermarket alterations, your machine has arrived. No vehicle that has ever rolled out of dealerships with a factory warranty can match the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor's abilities to eat up dirt at speed. If you like to go fast when the pavement stops, here's your truck.
However, given the Raptor's small price bump compared to an FX4 model, creature comforts such as much improved front seats, real functionality as a pickup truck (including useful payload and towing abilities) and remarkably few on-road sacrifices (like parking width), anyone considering a SuperCab F-150 or who lives where dirt roads are prevalent should take a very hard look at the Raptor.