2017 Ford F-150 Raptor first drive review: One of a kind on road and off

Sports are great at going fast around corners, but you know what they can’t do? They can’t rip across the desert, they can’t crawl over rocks, and they can’t perform glorious jumps over sand dunes.

You know what can? 

This beast can. It’s the Ford F-150 Raptor, and for 2017 it’s here for a second go-round.

Ford conceived the Raptor as a factory Baja racer. In fact, a stock Raptor recently completed the Baja 1000 and finished third in its class. Then it drove home to Phoenix.

The 2017 Raptor builds upon the very capable first generation pickup with even more features that help it go fast on any terrain.

Under the hood, it switches from a V-8 to a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and output increases to 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. It sends that power to all four wheels via a new 10-speed automatic transmission. The new four-wheel-drive system features a torque-on-demand center differential to send power to the front wheels when needed. It also comes with a new six-mode Terrain Management System with settings for Normal, Street, Weather, Mud/Sand, Baja, and Rock Crawl. A Torsen front differential is also available.

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Power is plentiful. The Raptor can hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, but it doesn’t accelerate like a sports car. The 10-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but it isn’t very responsive in Normal mode. You have to choose Sport mode if you want it to respond to your right foot.

Like the latest F-150, the Raptor has an aluminum body that helps it save up to 500 pounds. It’s offered in five-passenger SuperCab and bigger SuperCrew body styles, both with the 5-foot, 6-inch bed. It all rides on a fully-boxed frame that is the strongest in the F-150 lineup.

On the outside, the looks are far different from other F-150s. See those wide fenders, flares, vents, and jousting armor? It’s there for a reason. Mostly to protect the underbody from the rocks and armadillos you might drive over. It rides on knobby BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires for increased off-road traction.

To handle the rigors of rough terrain, the Raptor gets Fox Racing Shox with internal bypass technology that lets them damp the suspension over road imperfections or when landing after jumps. Suspension travel has also increased almost two inches to 13 inches up front and 13.9 inches in the rear.

How does all that gear work when the pavement ends? We drove it like we were helping El Chapo run from the federales to find out.

We went desert running in the Raptor and and did some low-speed rock crawling. The way that it accelerates in the sand and dirt; the way it shrugs off bumps and ruts and rocks that would take apart your family crossover; and the way that the suspension just settles down after jumps–all make it one of a kind.

We’ve driven supercars on racetracks, but the kind of high-speed off-road driving this truck enables is just as fun.

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The experience isn’t nearly as thrilling on the road. This is a big truck and it’s hard to maneuver in tight spots. The tires can sing on the highway, and there is plenty of lean in corners.

But the Raptor isn’t just about road manners. It’s about go anywhere capability, and doing it quickly. As we learned in the California desert, it accomplishes that mission and then some.

For a starting price just over $49,000 you, too, can have a truck capable of tackling the Baja 1000, then driving you to work. Heck, you can run contraband across the desert if you want to. In our book, one vehicle that can do all that is pretty darn cool.


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