2010 Ford F-150 Expert Review:Autoblog
A scant 30 minutes had passed after taking possession of this 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor until we had all four of its wheels off the ground. We'd have done the deed even sooner, but our destination – a Baja-style test track in the middle of the desert outside Phoenix, Arizona – was, understandably, far enough out of town that no locals would be able to complain of excessive noise or mini dust tornadoes encroaching on their own tracts of brush-filled paradise.
After all, the modern conveniences of day-to-day life just don't mix with such uncivilized activities as seeing how much air you can put between your truck's skid plates and solid ground.
And therein lies the beauty of this particular beast. Since when did such niceties as in-dash navigation with voice-activated SYNC, a leather interior with heated seats, dual-zone climate control and satellite radio count as standard equipment in a truck that was built primarily for 100-mile-per-hour blasts through the desert?
Since late 2009, actually, when FoMoCo unleashed the first version of the F-150 SVT Raptor on an unsuspecting public. Unlike all previous products from Ford's Specialty Vehicle Team, including the F-150-based SVT Lightning, this truck does its best work once the pavement ends and the really nasty stuff begins.
It's no secret that we've loved the Raptor ever since our first experience behind the wheel, and now it's better than ever before. How so? Keep reading to find out.
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips and Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL
Our biggest and perhaps only real complaint with the Raptor when it launched was that its 5.4-liter V8 engine was underpowered for the kind of shenanigans its heavy-duty chassis and beefed-up suspension encouraged. Ford heard our cries for more power, and rectified the situation with a new 6.2-liter V8 that was adapted for Raptor duty after first seeing action in Ford's Super Duty truck line.
Here's the first bit of truly great news: Everything positive that we said about the original Raptor carries over completely intact with the 6.2-powered version. That includes the solidity of the fully boxed ladder frame, which is a full seven inches wider than the standard F-150, as well as the 17-inch wheels with specially-crafted BF Goodrich All Terrain tires.
You'll find knobs inside the Raptor 6.2 to switch between two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high and four-wheel drive low. When the going gets really tough, the tough can get going by locking the rear end and engaging Off Road Mode, which uses electronic wizardry to change throttle and transmission shift maps along with the thresholds of the standard stability, traction and ABS brake controls. Finally, there is a handy-dandy Hill Descent Control function that will keep you from shooting up or down steep inclines too quickly.
And if you do happen to get in over your head despite all the efforts of the truck's hive mind of computer systems, the most important carryover bits and pieces would be those that make up the front and rear suspension. There are 11.2 inches of bump-ingesting travel up front and 12.1 inches at the rear. Damping duties are ably handled by a special set of Fox Racing Shocks that sport triple interior-bypass valving, enabling them to do things like leap tall mountains in a single bound. These suspenders are extraordinarily impressive and all but impossible to find fault with.
Now, let's get back to that Baja test track. We quickly found that you don't just drive a Raptor. You pilot it. The first thing we did after arriving at our not-so-secret testing location was to point the truck's massive front tires in the general direction of the track's largest ramp and bury the accelerator pedal. After that initial successful takeoff and landing, we repeated the deed over and over again... completely in the name of science, of course. Suffice it to say, the process of jumping a three-ton pickup truck never gets old, but we were still curious how the bright orange machine would handle the rest of the track's obstacles.
A couple of laps around the testing circuit proved a handful of points. First, it may indeed be possible to break a Raptor, but you'd need to do something truly stupid to make it happen. We're talking an act so completely without rational thought that it would have to be eligible for a Darwin Award if you didn't make it. A more likely scenario, however, is that you scare yourself into common sense at the first sign of pushing too far into the Raptor's prodigious bag of capabilities.
Second, the biggest obstacle to earning your Raptor Pilot's license is the guts to keep your foot on the throttle in spite of your brain's ever present urgings to maintain control over life and limb.
Third, once you find the elusive switch that shuts down your brain's dogged insistence on self preservation, the Raptor will take on almost anything that Mother Nature has in its arsenal. Vespa-sized boulders, tire-swallowing holes and trenches large enough to halt a blitzkrieg are all dispatched with an air of invincibility. If you find yourself unsure of whether or not an area is passable, it probably just means that you're not going fast enough to jump it. We're actually not joking here – the truck's shocks are designed with multiple levels of damping force, which basically means the biggest of hits are soaked up at least as compliantly as smaller obstacles, and the rebound is much less likely to be jarring when you're moving at a decent speed.
The final off-road tidbit we learned during our visit to the track is that the 6.2-liter engine is a much more willing and able partner than the previous 310-horsepower 5.4-liter Triton V8. Perhaps that goes without saying, but the fact of the matter is that the Raptor easily handles every one of the 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque the new engine is capable of dishing out.
And now it's time for the real revelation the Raptor has been hiding from you all this time: It's an extremely obliging machine when it's time to leave the desert expanses and head back home. What seemed just moments before like something created specifically to jump across the gaping hole of an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland is now a good old Ford F-150 pickup truck... and a luxurious one at that.
Amazingly, the ride is smooth and well controlled while driving on surface streets. Further, the cabin is quiet and cozy enough inside for front-seat passengers to carry on a conversation with those in the back seat without yelling. Steering is reasonably tight considering the giant rubber balloons on which the Raptor rides. The steering feel is a bit too light and quick for our tastes, but it's certainly on par with the rest of its off-road oriented full-size truck competitors.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the Raptor is its dismal fuel economy. We averaged a woeful 13.7 miles per gallon in everyday driving, which included more long slogs on the highway than balls-to-the-wall stretches of off-roading.
It's something of a contradiction in sheetmetal, the F-150 SVT Raptor. On one hand, it's a vehicle bred specifically to tackle the Baja 1000. On the other, it's refined enough to take you and the Mrs. out for a surprise night on the town. Well, that's assuming she doesn't mind being seen in our tester's bright orange paint and matte black graphics package. We'd at least take a pass on the matching interior scheme.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but we thoroughly enjoyed the week we spent with the 2010 Ford Raptor 6.2. All the good stuff we've ever written about the Raptor applies to this newest version, but sadly, our opinion that it needs more power remains.
Clearly, the 6.2-liter V8 is the engine Ford's Raptor should have been blessed with from the very beginning. Naturally, we'll gladly take the extra 101 horses over the previous engine, but in reality we're still left wanting more, and we have to wonder how Ford's more fuel efficient but surprisingly powerful 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 powerplant would feel in this off-road application.
Still, at a base price of $41,995 (a reasonable $3,000 premium over the outgoing 5.4, which is no longer available for 2011), you won't hear us complaining very much at all about the fun-per-dollar quotient of the 6.2-powered Raptor. While a plane ticket might cost less, you won't have more fun flying than on the back of this bird of prey.
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
NOTE: Thanks to Matt Farah from The Smoking Tire for allowing us to photograph his personal 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor for this review. The Raptor in the jump shots was used for the review itself and is identical except for the addition of a graphics package.
Although some of us have an unabashed love for all-things off-road, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor didn't register a huge blip on our collective radar. We figured it would be a performance kit that was much more kit than performance, or an off-road wunderkind that makes life a Hobbesian kind of brutish when used anywhere but the moon. We spent two days in Southern California, one of which in the Raptor's Anza Borrego Desert birthplace, to discover one thing: We were wrong. The Raptor is all that. And a bag of chips. And dessert.
All photos copyright Jonathon Ramsey / Weblogs Inc.
Built at the F-150's production center, the Raptor rides on a chassis seven inches wider than its donor sibling, and according to one SVT fellow, "It just barely fits down the line." But comparing the Raptor to an F-150 is nearly useless. It makes far more sense to look at the Raptor as what an F-150 would be if it were the most intense off-road retail truck imaginable.
A few years ago, some of the gents at SVT decided to try their expertise on a truck that would put their particular brand of oomph on the dirt instead of on the streets. Incredibly, there were other SVT gents who weren't so keen on the idea, thinking an SVT joint is a tarmac performance vehicle, not a... truck. Yet in 2006, Ford marketing data pointed to the ascent of off-road performance as a consideration for people buying pickups, with street performance as the end-all on the decline. Thankfully, for anyone who likes bombing the dirt on four wheels, the first group of gents won. What they've given us is the Raptor, and it is terrific.
The Raptor is a clean-sheet truck. The SVT engineers wrote down what they wanted, then they took other trucks out to benchmark them. Then, according to SVT, they broke all those other trucks and still hadn't experienced anything like what they wanted. So they took their specifications list to outside suppliers, like their axle maker, Fox and BF Goodrich. And those outside suppliers laughed at them. When the SVT engineers didn't laugh, the outside suppliers said "Oh, wait – you're serious?" And then everyone got to work.
The Raptor's bed box is from the F-150, but the rear outer box is unique, as is everything forward of the A-pillar. It rides on a widened version of the F-150 frame, and the suspension points match the F-150, but some tweaks were made to the mounting of a variety of parts, including the shock mounting bolts that were moved to make clearance for the suspension travel. Mounted to those rails are a suite of beefy, highly engineered components: aluminum squeeze-cast control rods, rear axle tube shafts that are thicker and of a higher grade steel than on Super Duty trucks, upgraded hydro-mounts for the engine, microcellular jounce bumpers, high-strength steel for the rear lower shock mounts and more heat shields.
To top it off there's a unique skid plate package and a full-sized spare hanging out back. The spare is black, not grey like the standard wheels, because of the government mandate on non-TPMS-fitted wheels. Outside, the running boards are cast aluminum and coated in a Rhinoliner-like material, and they flex instead of bending irretrievably.
The wheels are 17-inches in diameter, and SVT didn't want to go any bigger because they wanted the tallest possible sidewalls for the 35-inch BF Goodrich All Terrain tires. Those BFGs, while made in the same molds -- and carrying the same tread pattern -- as traditional BFGs, have a unique compound. SVT found that the standard compound didn't work well in mud and snow, which would be a huge obstacle to Midwestern buyers (and the Michigan-based SVT workers themselves), so they worked with BFG and changed the thickness, belt angle, and compound to create a tire that could handle actual seasons and not make a lot of noise while doing it. With all that, the tires are just $200 each to replace.
Inside, it's mammoth. The seats are custom, more highly bolstered to attend to off-road jostling, but the cabin is large enough for a whale pod. The orange trim is unique, and the steering wheel gets an orange center mark to keep you apprised of what's happening up front. There are also auxiliary switches included so you don't have to patch-job them in when you want to add two light bars.
The Raptor only comes in four colors: orange, black, white and blue. The orange-accented interior trim is available as an option on the orange and black exterior-colored versions. Otherwise you get a gray metallic treatment, which we liked just because we're low-key like that, but the orange isn't bad. For the outside, we prefer black. The Raptor is a machine of function, and like most such things, it isn't, to our eyes, a looker. It is cool and awesome and badass and all that – it just isn't the most handsome thing around.
The Raptor rides 9.8 inches high, and because it's seven inches wider, the DOT mandates that it have marker lights. The two out back are red and on the rear fenders; in front the amber array sits atop the grille.
It took about 20 minutes of driving on the roads for us to figure out the urban-route Raptor: it's an F-150. The additional hours we spent behind the wheel on highways, B-roads and serpentine mountainside roads didn't change our minds. With 320 hp and 390 lb-ft from the 5.4-liter, three-valve SOHC engine working through a six-speed transmission, the truck has decent pace. Weighing in at 5,863 pounds, the engine has to put in some effort when you want quick maneuvers, but again, it just feels like a truck.
On the outside, though, it does sound very good. Hit the gas and it roars like a modded truck. On the other hand, inside all you'll get is the sound of a regular F-150.
Of course, that's also meant to be part of the triumph of the Raptor -- it drives like an F-150, not like a desert-eating monster. Even though it's huge inside, from behind the wheel it doesn't feel seven inches wider. Stopping at a 7-11 for coffee, we didn't notice the extra width when pulling in between two cars. The BF Goodrich tires don't roar. The suspension, especially that foot of travel out back, does well on roads – you don't float, nor do you get your brains beaten out by stiffness. On those serpentine roads it understeers pretty quickly if you decide to put it to the test, but again, it's a three-ton truck. There's a bit of bustle out back with an empty bed and rough roads, however the big brakes never cried for mercy and were reassuring at keeping everything under control.
It was the off-road portion of the event where we discovered equal parts praise and lament for the Raptor. The off-road vehicle ecosystem, as with every other, is changing; more vehicles can go more places more easily. The profusion of off-road driving aids means that much of the time, all you need do to tackle a tricky bit of trail is stay alive and steer. What used to require getting out, manually locking hubs, shifting gears and transfer cases, and then paying minute attention to line and throttle is now addressed with the flick of a knob and the common sense to put your coffee back in the cupholder.
Allow us the latitude to compare the Raptor to the Porsche 997. Twenty-five years ago, if you could pilot your 911 in serious anger – heaven forbid it was a turbo – over a snaking bit of road with which you weren't familiar and not end up ass-end forward, you had done something. Now a guy in an automatic 997 could do that same stretch of road faster while making dinner reservations and changing his XM presets and, Gott in Himmel, braking mid-corner. The scale of progress and the ability for Mr. Average to do what were once momentous things is impressive. The loss of that former frightening thrill does make us lament just the teensiest, tiniest bit.
After a day kicking up all kinds of Anza Borrego dust, the Raptor is to those previous modes of high-speed off-road running what the 997 is to the classic 911. What's more, it is to other hardcore off-road trucks what the 997 is to other sports cars. Yes, we said it. And we've spent a week debating and thinking about it. That's our finding.
The Raptor's central function is to travel quickly over the desert, and it does that brilliantly. Our tiny bit of nostalgia for those earlier days resides in the fact that if you haven't ripped through the desert in a truck devoid of aids, like an old Trooper or CJ-5, you'd have little idea of just what you were doing – rather, of just how much the Raptor was doing for you. Point the Raptor, hit the gas. Grab a cool drink at the end of the drive.
All right, so it's not exactly that mindless, but close enough when compared to How it Used to Be in the Olden Days. The Raptor's packing 11.2 inches of travel in front, 12.1 in back. Massive credit for how that travel is used has to go to the engineer at Fox who came up with a set of triple interior-bypass shocks that keep the truck balanced while the wheels do what they need to do. The three-stage shocks get progressively firmer, and also rebound progressively; combined with the generous suspension travel, the shocks have a wide enough window to firm up and release without hitting the proverbial wall of stiffness. The result means that you don't bounce around the way you would expect – you just ride over rough roads, you aren't being pelted. We were told that the oil alone in the Fox shock costs more than another complete shock assembly.
Again, that shock and suspension setup works both ways, which is really what makes it where the Raptor's Wizard of Oz lives. Get a wheel, or all of them, off the ground and they don't just shoot back to the end of their travel. They progressively return. In high-amplitude situations, the wheels aren't being utterly victimized by two forces at once: rapid and extreme rebound crashing up against forceful compression.
The desert doesn't present a single terrain: berms, washboard, silt beds, dunes, rocks, ruts and holes all mix it up together. There are some fantastic vehicles that are very good for a number of those terrains. And to be honest, most trucks out there could cover all the ground we covered. A Wrangler Rubicon would be hideous overkill if you just wanted to cover terra firma. But none of them, at least none that we've been in, could do what the Raptor does as quickly and as comfortably as we did it. Held back so that we wouldn't hurt ourselves, we did whoop-de-doos at 35-40 mph. Given a hot lap with one of the Raptor test drivers, we were doing them at 60-65 mph and above. In Baja you'd want a buggy for that kind of work.
But then you'd be in the hurt when it came to beds of sand and the wide-open stretches. No such word as "hurt" exists for the Raptor. Sand was a laugh. Open stretches were invitations to see how fast your SVT co-pilot would let you go. On that hot lap we did 100 mph more than once. And it was exciting, sure – but it felt about as difficult as drinking tea. That's how good the Raptor is.
And we spent the entire day in two-wheel-drive.
Beyond that there were two features of the truck that stuck out. There are several different settings for the Off-Road Mode that works in conjunction with AdvanceTrac and ABS. You can't turn the ABS off, but there is an off-road setting for the ABS. Press the Off-Road button, and the throttle mapping and transmission programs are recalibrated. Press the AdvanceTrac button after that, and you get an Off-Road Sport mode that tells the Raptor you need some latitude when it comes to wheelspin, sliding and braking. The difference stood out most in the sand, when the truck let you slide around more, yet unlike some other off-road systems we've sampled, it didn't just cut power if it decided you needed help. There are vehicles out there that force you to make a devil's bargain between maintaining a conservative line or getting bogged down in the sand by the supposed driver's aids. The Raptor does not.
The ABS braking is also altered slightly. It relaxes a bit so that when you make a hard stop, the wheels will lock up some and allow sand to build up in front of them, shortening the braking distance.
The other feature we noted was Hill Descent. The same as on the F-150, it offers the kind of control we like. As opposed to a set speed or speeds, you control how fast you go, up to 20 mph. Once you let off the gas the Raptor holds that speed. If you hit the accelerator again, the Raptor holds that new speed. Hit the brake, the Raptor then holds that speed.
Keeping in mind what the Raptor is – an F-150 – it is hard to find anything wrong with it. The most common wish was for more power. That's coming in the form of the SOHC, dual VVT 6.2-liter V8 at the end of this year. The jump to 400 hp and 400 lb-ft (both numbers are estimates for now) will give the Raptor a welcome dose of dig-deep power. Still, the request for more grunt was usually phrased as "It could use more power," or "I'd like the 6.2," but we never heard it put "It needs more power." The 5.4 is better than fine; the 6.2 will be simply better.
We'd also like to see some grab handles over all the windows, including the folks in back. There's a handle on the A-pillar for the passenger, but that's it. The steering wheel, while great to grab, is huge. It's an F-150 wheel, wrapped in two different coverings, and it's fine enough, but we'd fit something a little smaller.
When we asked some SVT folks what they would do if they were going to take the Raptor up a step, the only thing mentioned was installing a limited-slip diff in front. Of course, they're happy with the setup as is, but if you were looking for a modification, that's all anyone in-house could recommend.
The Raptor was designed in and for the Anza Borrego terrain. The truck performed beautifully, but after three years of constant testing over the same courses we drove, the only surprise would be if it didn't do well. We want to get a Raptor in some other desert elements, and in some situations that it wasn't purpose-built for, slow off-road environments like rock crawling and mud. Then we'll see where the Raptor really stands.
Nevertheless, there is one final Raptor feature that inclines us to think that as long as it's at least capable in other environments, there is nothing else that can beat it as a comprehensive vehicle: the price. The 5.4-liter Raptor starts at $38,995, which includes the destination charge. The coming 6.2-liter adds a few grand more at $41,995. If you built up a truck yourself to Raptor specs it would be tough to match those numbers, and then you wouldn't get the expertise of teams of engineers making sure it all works together properly, nor the warranty that comes with it. For $39K you get an F-150 with a 1,000-pound payload capacity and 6,000-pound towing capacity that doubles as a beginner's guide to trophy truck driving – but still acts like an F-150.
The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is so much more than merely Built Ford Tough. It's Built Raptor Good. And for that, we applaud them-and shed a tear and tip a glass to The Good Old Days...
All photos copyright Jonathon Ramsey / Weblogs Inc.
Unless you're a died-in-the-burlap save-the-planet kind of person, you probably think the 2010 Ford SVT Raptor is freakin' cool. There's not a factory truck on the planet that can wing across the desert floor with equal ease, grace and unmitigated speed.
The 2010 Raptor genuinely has no competition In the world of production trucks, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. If you bent the ear of the right Ford engineer, he would admit that the 2010 SVT Raptor was supposed to launch with the 6.2-liter SOHC V8 we're testing today. The aging 310-horsepower 5.4-liter Triton mill included at launch was never the perfect fit for the radical Raptor. Too tame.
From the truck's introduction last Fall, everyone knew the all-new iron-block/aluminum-head 6.2-liter engine would be better. But no one knew how much better until now. Read about our wild test drive (and brief flight) after the ummm... jump.
Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. and Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company invited the press to its Romeo, Michigan proving grounds with the intent to demonstrate that the 2010 SVT Raptor was a more than just an exceptional desert runner (as if that weren't enough). Slogging through narrow, rutted and muddy trails was further proof that the Raptor is plenty comfortable in typical Midwestern off-road environs. Our time at the 3000+ acre site also included the chance to flat-foot the new 6.2-liter V8 to see what 411 horsepower felt like. In a word: good.
But of all the driving we enjoyed, the most entertaining moment was launching the Raptor into the air after completing a high-speed off-road course. One can only imagine the conversations engineers must have had with Ford's legal team to get this event approved.
Engineers: We want the press to drive the Raptor off a ramp so fast that all four wheels leave the ground.
Lawyers: Are you nuts?
Engineers: The truck is designed to be driven that way. We know because we include a large jump at the end of our standard durability loop. Our test trucks have done the cycle thousands of times.
Lawyers: So? It's not the truck we're worried about. We're talking about the press. Half of those guys can't even parallel park. The ones from New York don't even have driver's licenses. You want to let them launch a 6,000-pound truck at some crazy speed? Are you guys nuts?!
Engineers: We'll ride with them.
Lawyers: Okay, you are nuts.
Here's how the experience went down (up?): After exiting a slippery right-hand corner consisting of wet grass and mud, you aimed the truck between two pylons at the top of a gravel ramp. The faster you were going, the higher and farther you'd fly. Following a rainstorm similar to one we've read about in the Bible, a low area just ahead of the ramp was filled with standing water and thick mud. To hit the ramp properly required getting hard on the throttle through the sticky stuff, which did all it could to knock the truck sideways.
Going over the ramp at anything but dead-nuts square virtually assured disaster. Landing on one wheel might cause the Raptor to corkscrew into the ground, instigating an unpleasant, cab-crushing roll.
There would be no blown-out windows today.
With the optional ($3,000) 6.2-liter V8 howling under the Raptor's vented hood, we hit the ramp spot on. The suspension fully compressed and then I heard it ... Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. Or angels. At that very moment, the wheels hung at the end of the suspension's rebound travel, poised to ease the truck's landing. The truck flew about 20 yards before returning to very terra firma. The landing used all of the suspension travel (11.2-inches front, 12.1-inches rear). And then some. This gallery photo reveals a once-flat front skid plate returned from the jump concave.
The lawyers could breath a collective sigh of relief. Nobody died. Not even the guys from New York.
We've already written extensively about the Raptor's new engine, covering its fitment to the 2011 Ford Super Duty, the high-volume truck the engine was really designed for. Important details include the enlarged, two-valve cylinder heads utilizing a twin-plug design for cleaner combustion, variable timing for the single overhead cams (a total delta of 43° to improve power output), and roller rocker followers (reduces friction). Engineers told us that they considered four-valve heads, but that they'd be too large to fit in the existing F-Series engine bay.
The Raptor gets its own version of the 6.2-liter that uses unique cams with identical lobe profiles, but separates the intake and exhaust valve operation with greater overlap for more power. Additionally, the Raptor's V8 gets an electric radiator fan (compared to a crank-driven unit) and a special premium-fuel engine management program with more aggressive fuel and ignition maps.
These changes result in 411 horsepower compared to 385 hp for the Super Duty. Torque increases to 434 pound-feet from 405 lb-ft. Run on regular fuel, the SVT's rate of work drops to 401 hp with no drop in torque. Compared to the standard 5.4-liter V8's 310 hp and 365 lb-ft torque, the 6.2 provides a huge boost. (Some outlets publish 320-hp and 390 lb-ft torque for the 5.4-liter, but this is generated running E85).
Regardless, who doesn't love another 101 horsepower?
Nearly every suspension component was changed to handle the motor's extra grunt. Engineers tweaked spring rates and the action of the internal bypass Fox dampers to make sure there wasn't undue pitch under the truck's increased power. If the old truck was good for 0-60 mph times in the mid-eight second range, the 6.2-liter should do it about a second less.
As with base Raptors, power runs through a six-speed 6R80 gearbox, shift-on-the-fly transfer case, 4.11 gear set and 9 3/4-inch rear axle. Electronic controls give drivers better command of the truck's hardware, including a sport mode for the stability control system and a special off-road setting. Additionally, the rear axle features electric-locking that operates in 2WD, 4WD High, and 4WD Low. Standard hill descent control works in Drive as well as Reverse, providing a fully automatic "speed control" for safely descending steep grades. All electronic nannies can be de-powered, leaving control totally in the hands (and feet) of the pilot.
Twisting the ignition brings forth a recognizable V8 rumble. The change in cams sexes up the rumpa-rumpa of the idle, although curiously, that more aggressive idle is the only clue that there's a mightier engine under the hood. There are no exterior badges, special exhaust pipes or other identifiers. A minor oversight? We think so. And it's not like the Raptor was designed to fly under the radar in the first place.
At wide-open throttle, the idle burble expands to a roar that reminds aging drivers of a sound from yesteryear: secondaries opening on a four-barrel carburetor. The noise confirms that power is getting to the massive 35-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires that feature proprietary construction developed just for the Raptor. On normal roads, the exhaust and induction noises remain subdued, as does the noise from the BFGs. In the cab, occupants remain comfortable in the deeply contoured buckets that provide more bolstering than regular F-150 seats.
Aside from the extra 101 hp, the 6.2-liter Raptor is nearly identical to the base truck dynamically. On road the suspension is soft, floating over the tarmac – regardless of the condition of the surface – and never feels out of control. The steering isn't Porsche 911 precise or tactile, but it gets the job done with a lightness that belies the truck's three-ton mass. To make too much of these nicks misses the point of the Raptor's design intent. The on-road ride is compromised to enable its off-road capabilities, a trade-off some drivers are eager to make.
Engineers told us that the only change they made to the trucks used for the PR event was airing down the tires from 44 psi to 28 psi. The Raptor's tires are certified for highway use at either inflation level, but the low-tire-pressure warning lamp stays on at the lower level to remind the driver to air up when the off-road fun is over.
If the new 6.2-liter V8 exposes anything about the 2010 SVT Raptor, it's that the truck's chassis could probably handle another 100 horsepower. Or 101. At some point during our drive time, even the big engine felt stressed through the thickest mud at speeds that would make Walker Evans or Rod Hall proud. Perhaps the aftermarket will be quick to offer a supercharger for the 6.2? We think yes.
Whether Saleen or some other tuner steps up to the plate, the reality is that anybody considering the $38,020 base Raptor should cough up another $3,000 for the 6.2-liter engine option. It's a must-have feature with no downsides, a fact born out by Ford's recent announcement that the crew cab version of the 2011 Raptor will only be available with the larger engine.
We wonder if the longer-wheelbase truck will fly as well as the extended cab. And we can't wait to find out.
Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. and Ford Motor Company
New Car Test Drive
Comprehensive line of superb pickups.
The Ford F-150 is the best-selling pickup in America. The F-150 lineup offers a plethora of models in dozens of permutations. All are highly capable trucks, even those loaded with luxury features. The F-150 was completely redesigned for 2009. So for 2010, changes are limited to packaging.
Smooth and quiet, the F-150 is comfortable on bumpy streets around town, over rugged terrain such as that found at construction sites, and on the open road. Its steering is nicely waited and requires little correction on the highway making it nice for long cross-country tows. The cabs are comfortable, whether ordered with leather or cloth.
The F-150 lineup runs the gamut from wash-off vinyl flooring and a two-door Regular Cab to leather-lined premium four-door models with as much rear-seat legroom as the front of most luxury sedans: Within those extremes lies something for everyone. Yet even the least-expensive F-150 isn't boring; it leaves room for customization, does the work required and keeps overhead down.
With one of the deepest beds in the segment, the F-150 has generous cargo volume out back and a maximum payload rating of 3,030 pounds. A properly equipped Regular Cab F-150 is rated to tow up to 11,300 pounds; other models max out in the 9,000-pound range. (The Ford Super Duty range of heavy-duty pickups is covered in a separate New Car Test Drive review.)
Three V8 engines are offered. A 248-hp 4.6-liter V8 is standard with four-speed automatic transmission, with EPA ratings of 15/19 mpg City/Highway. Most higher-line trucks come with a three-valve-per-cylinder version of the 4.6-liter rated at 292 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission that gets improved highway mileage, achieving an EPA-estimated 15/21 mpg.
A 5.4-liter flex-fuel V8 is the largest offered and comes with the six-speed automatic. It is rated at 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet on gasoline (EPA 14/20 mpg) and 320 horsepower and 390 pound-feet on E85 with mileage dropped to 10/14 mpg. Four axle ratios are offered to maximize work and efficiency.
The 2010 F-150 King Ranch and Platinum models feature second-row heated seats, a power sliding rear window with defroster, and a Sony six-disc in-dash CD changer. The MyKey programmable vehicle key is standard on all models except the base XL trim level. Two-wheel-drive models with the 4.6-liter three-valve-per-cylinder engine have EPA fuel economy ratings of 15/21 mpg City/Highway.
Counting all the trim levels, cargo-bed lengths, cab sizes, and powertrains, the Ford F-150 comes in dozens of configurations, so it's easier to define which setups you can not get: No two-wheel-drive FX4 trim level, no luxury trim Regular Cab, no short-bed Regular Cab, and no long-bed SuperCrew. Everything else is split amongst five wheelbases, three cab sizes, three bed lengths (one of which is available in two styles), three engines, seven trim levels, and rear- or four-wheel drive.
Regular Cabs are offered in standard bed (about 6.5 feet) and long bed (about 8 feet) XL, STX, or XLT grades; the standard bed is also available in a Flareside style that harkens back to original pickup trucks where there was a side step ahead of the rear wheels. SuperCab trucks add higher FX4 and Lariat trim levels, and a short-bed option (about 5.5 feet) on all but XL models. The Flareside bed can not be combined with XL or Lariat SuperCabs. A long-bed SuperCab is available only with the heavy-duty 5.4-liter package. The SuperCrew F-150, available with either the short or standard bed, drops the STX grade and adds King Ranch and Platinum derivatives.
The F-150 XL ($21,380) is a standard bed, Regular Cab two-wheel drive. It comes with 17-inch steel wheels, black bumper/grille/mirrors, and vinyl upholstery and floor covering. XL includes air conditioning, split front bench (and rear on four-door cabs), locking tailgate, tilt steering wheel, stability control, capless fuel filler and a stereo radio.
STX (from $24,405) models add body-color bumpers over a black grille, CD player, and cloth seats with driver lumbar. More equipment is available, including 18-inch wheels, Sirius radio, SYNC, cruise control, fog lamps and power mirrors.
XLT (from $25,575) adds chrome for bumpers and trim, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, automatic headlamps, carpeting, cruise control, power windows and locks, better cloth upholstery and, on longer cabs, the three-valve 4.6-liter V8 and six-speed automatic transmission. All manner of options are available on the XLT, including three sizes of wheels, tailgate step, cargo management and towing equipment.
FX4 (from $35,090) comes with a black grille and body-colored bumpers, trim and mirrors. Electric-shift 4WD is standard, as are fog lamps, a locking differential, towing package, 18-inch wheels, sporty cloth split bench seat (power driver on four-doors), Sirius radio, and the 5.4-liter V8/six-speed automatic powertrain. Options include infotainment and 17-inch (for more severe off-road use) or 20-inch wheels. Lariat (from $33,205) is the mainstream luxury F-150 and hence is four-door only. Chrome trim and bumpers highlight monotone paint, and the Lariat adds heated mirrors with signal repeaters and auto-dimming on the driver's and inside, dual-zone climate control, heated power leather seats with driver memory, leather wheel with redundant audio controls, tow package, SYNC, trip computer, and power adjustable pedals. Options include 20-inch wheels, heated/cooled front seats, Sony sound and navigation, trailer brake controller, rear camera and park sensors, and moonroof.
King Ranch (from $40,200) is like a Lariat with a different attitude. It adds two-tone paint and KR badges, unique wheels, mesh chrome grille, Chaparral leather heated and cooled power captain’s chairs with driver memory, running boards, and power folding, heated, signal outside mirrors with chrome caps. Options are essentially limited to a limited-slip differential, alternative axle ratios, 20-inch wheels, Sony sound and navigation systems, moonroof, chrome tube running boards and remote start.
Platinum SuperCrew (from $42,075) gets a unique satin chrome grille and the only one not styled as three sections, body-color bumpers and wheel lip moldings, 20-inch wheels, power-deploy/retract running boards, satin chrome tailgate trim, tuxedo-stitched leather power captain’s chairs, wood grain and brushed aluminum trim, rain-sensing wipers, power folding/heated mirrors, and unique console. Options are limited but you can get 17-inch wheels and all-terrain tires for luxury on the farm.
Ford's SVT division offers the Raptor version, intended for serious off-road use. It will start with the 310-hp 5.4-liter V8 and later get a high-performance engine option, a 6.2-liter V8 of about 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. But it is the long-travel high-performance suspension, wheels and tires that set it apart, and the assertive styling.
The F-150 option list is comprehensive and, although it has been simplified in recent years, it can still resemble the tax code to the uninitiated; there are, for example, three codes for a sliding rear window and five for trailer towing mirrors. Most options are dependent on the model and other options, and many features are standard on more expensive models. In addition, sometimes the prices of the options vary by trim level.
Mechanical options include upgrades to either the three-valve 4.6 engine or the 5.4-liter, alternate axle ratios, limited-slip differential, larger tires and upgraded wheels, electric-shift 4WD, skid plates, towing mirrors, snow plow prep, trailer brake controller, 35-gallon long-bed fuel tank, tailgate step, heavy-duty payload package, and Ford Works systems like an in-dash computer. An engine block heater is available to fleet buyers and standard on Alaska and northern plains-state trucks. Other upgrades include captain's chairs bucket seats with center console, power sliding rear window, rear-view camera, reverse parking sensors, dual-coat or two-tone paint, moonroof, Sirius radio, sound systems, remote start, and navigation.
Safety features that come standard include antilock brakes, stability control (AdvanceTrac RSC), Trailer Sway Control, frontal airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags. Safety-related options include an integrated trailer brake controller, rear-view camera, and reverse park sensors.
The angular lines of the Ford F-150 mean it's easier to clean, easier to park, and gives maximum inside volume for outside space. Some bulge to the hood and large grille openings imply power, as does the higher altitude of 4WD models; many models have big graphics to ensure everyone knows what it is. The F-150 is easily recognized in any trim level by the circular front lights within a rectangular housing, stepped front window ledge, and the tall bed.
The front door edge that allows a lower glass line at the front is stylish but also very useful; it allows a better view of front quarters near the truck and means you can have a good-sized mirror that doesn't limit forward vision because you look over it rather than around it. The view rearward can be aided by extendable towing mirrors, a rear camera, and a power sliding rear window. We found the towing mirrors work very well.
Pillars between the doors (called B-pillars) and the rear hand-hold on the pillar may yield an awkward blind spot for some drivers, but everyone should appreciate the windshield pillars (called A-pillars) shaped to help preserve forward vision. Relatively square shoulders on the hood make it easy to see the edges of the truck, a bonus for tight parking lots, plow operators, and squeezing between trees or rocks en route to outdoor recreation.
The F-150 is a rarity in modern pickups in that it offers two bed designs. The Flareside is shaped to mimic pickups of old, when the box walls were between the wheels and you could stand on the sides for loading. Ironically, the Flareside is more stylish than the Styleside bed. The standard Styleside bed is essentially a box with some character lines in the sheetmetal. It offers more space within than does the Flareside bed.
With all beds you can get a locking tailgate and tie-down points. On many models you also get a bed extender and tailgate step (rated 300 pounds); the tailgate step makes stepping into the bed easier but it makes the tailgate feel heavier than some petite drivers will want to open or close. Some models offer a box-side step rated at 500 pounds; a pop-out, under-bed step behind the cab, but we needed considerable effort to return it and wonder how it will work after grounding on a rocky trail, having mud or snow thrown at it, or in freezing weather. Long bed models may be equipped with a Midbox enclosed storage space at the leading edge of the bed for 26 cubic feet of locked storage area, a great feature for stowing towing equipment and other gear. Refueling is done with Ford's capless filler system so you will never lose another gas cap.
Every F-150 except the Platinum has a horizontal three-bar aspect to the grille and the tailgate styling; the larger grille, stacked headlights and more heavily contoured hood all add to the imposing size, though it isn't as imposing as Dodge's forward-leaning grille setup. On higher-level models the chrome is considerable, and extends to the front tow loops on 4WD.
The FX4 model has plenty of decals and real truck tires if you choose the 17-inch off-road tire option. The chassis on 4WD models doesn't have anything mounted much lower than the frame rails, but if you intend to use four-wheel drive for anything more than snow or muddy roads the skid plate package should be considered.
Ford has all bases covered inside the F-150, with plenty of patterns, textures and finishes, including multiple gauge cluster designs, and the choice of a 40/20/40 split-bench front seat or captain's chairs in many models. On those trucks with a bench seat, the middle passenger should be of a smaller size for both knee clearance and the narrow space between seat and belt brackets.
Mindful that you can't have everything for $21,000, the basic XL is quite respectable and a good value given a single option tab on a bigger pickup can be nearly half the XL's purchase price. Fleet drivers will appreciate that air conditioning is standard and the truck is quieter and smoother, in part due to a standard V8 where Dodge, GM, and Toyota use a V6.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Platinum is like a Lincoln Navigator with a pickup bed. The King Ranch chairs may look like a fine saddle (and require the same maintenance in some climes), but you'll want to ensure the jeans are clean and spurs off before you climb into this cowboy clubhouse.
Virtually everything you might need is either standard or available, and much the same degree of luxury in a more subdued style can be found in Lariats, which follow a more eclectic approach to decor and make one wonder if seven colors and surface textures on a rear door alone might be one or two too many. The speaker grilles on high-line models that look like metal really are (with the three horizontal bar theme molded in), and in some cases the trim is real brushed aluminum. The wood is faux, perhaps to save trees.
The front bench is still split three ways: The center section flips down to reveal a console with storage and cup holders. The console is flat, so you can put a clipboard on top of it and it won't slide off until you stop, start or change direction quickly. Captain's chairs on FX and Lariat models, especially with power adjustment and the optional adjustable pedals, provide good driver positioning for virtually everyone. The seat bottoms may be lacking in thigh support for longer-legged drivers, and the headrests are aggressively tilted forward and may wear on neck muscles unless you have the seatback fairly reclined.
Front and rear-seat room is very good; the rear is a vast, spacious area for three adults with a flat floor all the way across and full roll-down windows. On the down side, it could take a while to cool off in hot conditions, and the floor mats cover only a third of the carpet by our tape measure.
The rear seat cushions lift up to stow vertically, with four grocery bag hooks on the underside of the wider driver-side seat and, if equipped, the subwoofer for the Sony sound system under the right rear seat; rear cabin storage seats-up amounts to nearly 58 cubic feet. With captain's chairs up front there are vents in the back of the center console. There are three tethers and two anchor sets for baby seats, outboard rear headrests raise enough to protect tall passengers, but there is no center rear headrest.
We sampled a couple of Lariats, one with bucket seats and white-stitched black leather, the other a 40/20/40 bench in tan leather; the lighter color interior looked richer, but also busier since it had dual colors for the dashboard where the black truck didn't. Either seat is comfortable, the advantage of the bucket being goodies like heating/cooling on higher trim models. Most of the touch points on Lariat felt good, with a sort of rubberized texture to the door armrests, but there is still plenty of hard plastic in pillar covers and lower doors to ease cleaning.
The cloth upholstery in the STX feels comfortable and durable; in temperature extremes we'd prefer it to the leather on the Lariat. Apart from seat coverings and the steering wheel, the STX doesn't feel overly budget conscious.
All models use the same basic dash layout, with tachometer to left (no marked redline), speedometer to right, and oil pressure, coolant temperature, fuel and transmission fluid temperature lined up between. On lower-level models the gauges are more traditional white-on-black and, on higher-line models, silver faces with dark numbers that light up green and are often easier to read at night than in daylight. The ancillary gauges are quite lethargic so you need to heed warning lights even if a gauge doesn't quite agree.
Trucks with the Sony navigation/audio system have arguably simpler controls than those without it by virtue of the voice command, logical operation and system integration. Trucks without that option aren't bad, but even on the second-lowest-level STX we counted more than 40 white-on-black buttons on the center panel which could require some familiarization. Window switches are all lift-to-close but the power door lock bar is horizontal so if Rover puts his paw on the right part of the switch you can be locked out.
Bench seat models use a column-mounted shift lever, while most bucket seat models use a bigger console shift lever, both with a Tow/Haul mode. Although most trucks are six-speed automatics the shifter offers only D321 positions so you can't always pick the gear you want for towing or inclines. Liberal chrome on the console can produce some distracting glare.
Headlights and pedal adjustment are to the left, four-wheel drive and the integrated trailer brake controller are to the right. Four round omni-directional vents ensure airflow where you want it, front seatbelt anchors are height-adjustable, and our only ergonomic complaint was the lack of a sun visor that covered the length of the side glass.
The Sony navigation/sound system and Ford's SYNC system bring infotainment to a new level, integrating Bluetooth-enabled devices, 911 Assist, Vehicle Health report, Sirius travel link with real-time traffic, weather, 4500 movie theater listings and show times and 120 gas stations with fuel prices. Power points, a USB port and MP3 input jack are in the lower center dash. The Sony 700-watt 5.1 channel sound system provides very good sonic quality, even if the impact didn't feel like 700 watts. It has the usual assortment of graphics nonsense like the oxymoronic-titled audio visualizer, which we could live without.
Pickups without space are pointless and the F-150 won't disappoint. The Regular Cab is roomy enough to fit three adults across and has plenty of space for the miscellaneous debris and detritus that tends to accumulate in trucks. SuperCabs have a full-width back seat best-suited to kids and short rides for bigger adults since legroom is the squeeze point; it's similar in size and intent to the Chevy Silverado or GMC Sierra extended cab or the Titan King Cab. For larger families or routine four-passenger service, the SuperCrew's room and regular back doors will be welcome, with as many as 30 different places to put things.
The Ford F-150 is among the heavier trucks in its class, contributing to a solid feel and none of that empty metal box bang-and-clang that characterized pickups of old. There's an impression of substance and tight construction regardless of the road surface or the model.
What stands out most driving the F-150 is the verve from the six-speed transmission and that it feels so quiet and smooth. Ford attributes much of this to ongoing refinement and the Quiet Steel laminate used in some body panels. Ford notes the F-150 Platinum is quieter inside than a Lexus LX450 at highway speeds and to our ears this is accurate. Granted, the LX450 was last produced 11 years ago and was a genuine four-wheel drive with solid axles at both ends; we believe the current LX570 to be a smoother, quieter and more expensive ride than an F-150 Platinum.
The two-valve, 248-hp 4.6-liter V8 is standard and able to tow a ski boat, utility trailer, small toy box, or a couple of tons of dirt.
The primary reason to upgrade to the three-valve 4.6-liter (from the two-valve 4.6-liter) is because you get more of everything: Despite an extra 44 horsepower and 26 pound-feet of torque it has equal or better EPA fuel economy ratings than the two-valve engine because it comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. This makes the engine work less to accelerate and run slower at highway speeds; 70 mph at 2000 rpm with middling axle ratios.
The 5.4-liter V8 remains the top engine. Its power output is often erroneously reported as 320 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque; those ratings apply to E85 use where EPA Combined rating is 12 mpg. On gasoline, the 5.4-liter makes 310 hp and 365 pound-feet of torque and an EPA Combined rating of 16 mpg. Of all half-ton pickups Ford's 5.4-liter is the least powerful of the upgrade engines, slightly trailing the Nissan Titan and way behind the Dodge Hemi, GM 6-liter or 6.2-liter, and Toyota's 381-hp 5.7-liter. Only a GM with a four-speed automatic might be slower, so if you want a truly fast F-150 you'll have to consider aftermarket upgrades.
Both the four- and six-speed automatics work smoothly, anxious to get into that fuel-saving top gear as soon as possible; engaging Tow/Haul mode will stretch out the shift points and not require a carpet-flattening mash of the pedal to affect a downshift. On long descents or climbs where you might prefer to use fifth-gear instead of sixth you don't get the choice because the shifter offers just D321 positions; other half-ton pickups are superior in this respect.
The F-150 has a fully boxed frame, which is quite stiff and resistant to both bending and twist. The front suspension is a dual ball-joint design pioneered and still used by BMW and found on the Expedition sport-utility, while the rear suspension has long leaf springs and outboard shocks.
The sheer mass of the F-150 combines with that architecture to deliver a very good ride (by pickup standards) and quiet composure. Sure, it will skip on bumpy corners and move around over dry wash scrabble at speed but it doesn't get upset or noisy. The steering is nicely weighted and requires little correction because of good directional stability. Longer wheelbases will still bob or pogo-stick on some expansion joints and expressway surfaces but it never becomes fatiguing.
Brakes get the job done with their ultimate performance based as much on tire choice and weight in the bed as anything else. Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard across the board. The FX4 offers a locking differential option for the best traction, and in many cases the suspension tuning on an FX4 produces the best ride quality over marginal roads and city potholes.
Some of the factors that aid visibility also hinder it. The tall stance of a pickup is good for more distant views but hides things behind the tall tailgate and this is a wide piece of equipment. Extendable towing mirrors include a flat upper element and separately adjustable wide-angle element for a superb view rearward and safe towing but they are big and will be easily smacked off if you forget about them.
The rearview camera is good for the view behind the tall tailgate and on the navigation screen has colored lines to indicate the width of the truck and centerline for hitching a trailer; however, this display is not predictive and does not move the colored lines with the steering wheel so it applies only in straight reversing. Rear park sensors also aid maneuvering in tight quarters, raising the frequency of audible beeps as you move closer. You'll want to turn that off when backing up to a trailer or in other situations, but that involves going through a couple of menus on the information screen, more tedious than the simple defeat buttons used by Toyota and others.
The payload rating for the F-150 models varies from about 1,340 pounds to just over 3,000, but that includes occupants other than the driver. A construction crew of four 200-pounders in a SuperCrew might have just 700 pounds of rated capacity left for tools and materials. The highest gross combined rating (truck, trailer, cargo, passengers) for any F-150 is 17,100 pounds and these pickups are among the heaviest half-tons.
Maximum tow ratings for most F-150 models range from 11,000-11,300 pounds with the 5.4-liter V-8 and 3.73:1 axle ratio that might not be available in the trim or in combination with the wheels you want. These are the highest tow ratings of any half-ton, though we tend to prefer staying below 9,000 pounds as a maximum comfortable trailer weight for light-duty pickups.
The integrated trailer brake controller option is the ideal choice for smooth braking, but only with conventional electric drum trailer brakes; as with the majority of these systems the integrated controller is not certified for electro-hydraulic brakes. As mentioned, the available rear camera helps when hitching up a trailer.
The Ford F-150 delivers a strong combination of style, interior comfort, performance, ride and hauling ability. With multiple choices in trim, drivetrains and body styles, there's an F-150 for every type of pickup owner.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale reported from Los Angeles after his test drive of several F-150 models.
Ford F-150 XL Regular Cab 2WD standard bed ($21,380); STX SuperCab 4WD ($30,150); XLT SuperCab 2WD long bed ($29,295); FX4 SuperCab standard bed ($35,090) Lariat SuperCrew 2WD standard bed ($35,656); King Ranch SuperCrew 4WD short bed ($43,345); Platinum SuperCrew 4WD standard bed ($45,220).
Kansas City, Missouri; Dearborn, Michigan.
Options As Tested
limited-slip rear differential ($300); Sony navigation radio ($2,430); Lariat Plus package ($795); trailer brake controller ($230).
Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat 4x2 short bed ($35,565).
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