Ride Impression: Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

We test Ford's purpose-built off-road truck

Aug. 26, 2009 By Josh Burns
Ford's 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor is a purpose-built off-road truck from Ford's Special Vehicle Team.

Ford’s 2010 F-150 Special Vehicle Team (SVT) Raptor hasn’t really been a secret in the off-road community. It competed in the Baja 1000 in 2008 (one of our editors actually rode in it during the race), and Ford has advertised the specialty truck at races and industry events for months. Other racers, such as Rob MacCachren, have been competing in a Raptor in select off-road races, such as the recent Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno.

Ford recently invited Off-Road.com out to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California to test-drive the new model right about the same time Raptors were hitting dealership showrooms. Borrego was really the birthplace of the Raptor and ground zero for much of its testing, so it was the perfect location for us to put the specialty off-road F-150 through its paces.

“We spent a lot of time developing our desert durability test so that it’s very close to replicating the Baja 1000,” said Kerry Baldori, SVT chief functional engineer. “Desert testing provided to be a very quick way to learn about the reliability of the truck and it put another level of extreme loads on the engine that our normal durability testing doesn’t cover.”

While the Raptor has been on the off-road community's radar for a while, one the thing that was unclear is the price tag. Everyone I spoke to after the event asked me, 'How much is it?' The answer typically surprises them like it did me. We expected something in the $50,000 range. Considering it’s an off-road version of an F-150 that still comes with a factory warranty, we couldn’t see it being much less. We were wrong.

The starting price for the Ford SVT Raptor is $38,995, which is roughly $2,000 more than a comparably equipped F-150 4x4. The base Raptor’s power plant is the same 5.4-liter V-8 found on other F-150 models (a 6.2-liter version will be available for $3,000 more in 2010), but Raptor is equipped with a unique dual-outlet muffler that gives the truck a nice growl. The 5.4-liter engine is rated to produce 320 horsepower and 390 ft-lb of torque (with a 6000-pound towing rate and 1000-pound payload). Ford tells us the 6.0-liter is rated at 400 horsepower and offers 400 ft-lb of torque.

In terms of hardware, no addition to the Raptor over the standard F-150 is more important than the addition the Fox Racing Shox internal triple-bypass shocks.

“Building a high-performance off-road truck is not about the horsepower – it’s about the suspension – and the F-150 SVT Raptor doesn’t disappoint,” said Jamal Hameedi, Ford SVT chief nameplate engineer. “It’s well beyond what SVT has ever done with one of our vehicles.”

The Fox internal triple-bypass shocks are the key to the Raptor's off-road savvy.

These internal triple-bypass shocks are an industry-first on a production truck, and they are also covered under the factory warranty. The Raptor provides 12.1 inches of usable travel in the rear, while the front offers up to 11.2 inches of travel. The position-sensitive damping of the FOX Shox provides over sevens time the compressive damping force when fully compressed compared to a standard shock.

The appearance and dimension of the Raptor are also a little different compared to the standard F-150. The grill features a unique design with Ford prominently displayed in the design. The front bumper, front fascia and fenders and also new, as are the functional vented hood extractors fenders extractors and skid plates that serves as a step into the vehicle.

 

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To helps its off-road prowess, the SVT Raptor is 8 inches wider than the regular F-150.

The Raptor also has a wide stance, as the track is seven inches wider (and the body 8 inches wider overall) on the Raptor to help accommodate the larger tire-and-wheel packages that’s unique to the Raptor. Speaking of tires, Ford tells us that the SVT Raptor uses SVT-tuned 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires that feature a special tread compound unique to the truck. The 17-inch cast-aluminum wheel is also unique to the Raptor, and off-roaders will be glad to know that a full-sized spare does come with the truck.

The Raptor also comes equipped with a number of off-road-related features, such as its AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, which uses a sensor to detect and measure over and understeer by monitoring the vehicle’s speed, throttle position and steering wheel angle to help applies braking (if needed) to keep the truck on the right path. There are a few towing features as well, just as Trailer Sway Control, Tow Haul Mode, and Integrated Trailer Brake Controller, all of which are pretty self explanatory.

The Ford SVT Raptor also features an electronic locking differential, which locks the left and rear axle shafts together so both turn at the same speed with the same amount of torque. And as Ford notes, “Unlike other trucks on the market, the F-150 SVT Raptor’s differential can stay locked up to its 100-mph top speed.”

Hill Descent Control is a unique feature and is Ford’s first use of the technology. Upon pushing a button, the driver can descend a hill without ever touching the brakes – the vehicle does the work for you. It’s a great function that allows the driver to focus on steering the truck in the right direction.

Off-Road Mode allows the driver to engage a third throttle map and shift schedule for off-road performance, which essentially changes the throttle mapping and adjusts the shift timing of the transmission to meet the demands of off-roading. Off-roaders will also appreciate the pre-wired auxiliary switch board, allowing electrical accessories to be controlled by four pre-wired switches located on the center console next to the shifter.  

Here's a view of the Raptor's front seats (minus navigation). Black interior is the only option.

Off The Road
For our event, we met with Ford in downtown San Diego and then drove out to Anza-Borrego from there in Raptors. Ford paired us up with another journalist, gave us a map that zig-zagged in and out of different routes from San Diego to Borrego, and we were able to test the on-road capabilities of the Raptor along the way. Though it’s an off-road vehicle, the on-road capabilities of the Raptor are important, because Ford knows well that most buyers of this truck will also use it as a daily driver.

Fortunately, the Raptor didn’t disappoint on the road. Despite the wider track of the Raptor and its off-road suspension, the Raptor felt solid on road and didn’t suffer from major body roll in the turns. Ford credits its SVT-tuned sway bar, spring and shocks for much of the on-road drive quality. We were just happy it didn’t float in corners.

Even in the windy roads we took to get to Anza-Borrego the Raptor performed fine on the road.

 

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The Raptor has optional features available such as power seats, moonroof, navigation, etc.

The next morning we woke up early to head out to the desert for what we came for – off-road testing of the Raptor. While developing the Raptor, the SVT testing team (consisting largely of the engineers that helped build the vehicle) set up a roughly 66-mile course to punish each Raptor prototype. Every time they reached a new stage and another prototype vehicle was created, it had to survive 1000 miles on the 66-mile off-road course filled with whoops, sand washes, off-camber turns and constantly changing terrain. Fortunately for the journalists in attendance, we had the chance to charge around 22 miles of this course to test out the Raptor.

Ford sent us off in onto the course with a five-minute gap between each truck. We donned helmets and had an SVT engineer in the passenger seat to guide us through the course – kind of like our own personal rally co-driver calling out turns. This was the moment of truth, where’d we see if all the hype was worth it. Once given the ok, I gunned it and only let off the gas slightly for sharp turns. We found sand wash sections, whoops, sharp right- and left-hand turns and some larger mounds – and none of it slowed down the Raptor. Owning a Tacoma pre-runner myself, I couldn’t help but think of the ride quality of my truck compared to the Ford, but I was very surprised how smooth the ride was. Despite the suspension and all the hub-hub we'd heard for a day, I expected a much bumpier ride, but I was pleasntly surprised at just how well the suspension absorbed every obstacle we found – even the few mounds and ruts I hit going a little too fast.

You never felt out of control in the Raptor. At all times, the Raptor felt solid and in its element. We would've like to feel the difference between the 5.4-liter engine and the 6.2 that wasn't quite ready yet, but the 5.4-liter engine had plenty of power for the riding we did.

We also tested the difference between driving with and without Off-Road Mode (the engine and trans. respond much better for off-road driving when on – it’s not even close), and we locked and unlocked the rear differential to feel the difference in control with and without it. The Raptor seemed to take everything in stride, and the only complaint I had after the ride was not being able to take to the course a second time to make get a faster run in.

After the “desert romp” ride, I jumped into another Raptor to tackle the hill course Ford set up to test the 4x4 capability of the Raptor. We charged a few hills, found some sand to get loose in, and then we had a few good hill climbs followed by downhill descents. The 4X4 capability of the Raptor is great, and we really had no issues to report. But the big test came at the end, where we would descend the big hill that overlooked our the camp. We crawled up the hill, made the tight turn and set our tires straight for the large downhill drop. Before going over the edge, we pressed the Hill Descent Control button and put our feet on the floorboards. Despite the natural reaction to stab at the breaks with our feet, the Hill Descent function does all the work for you, and all the driver has to do is … well, drive. It’s a great function that will come in handy for some drivers, but hard-core off-roaders may not find as much use in the function simply because it makes downhill descent so easy it’s almost cheating. It's a neat feature, though.

The Raptor is a solid truck. Very solid. Ford’s SVT division set out three years ago to produce a truck fully capable of handling the off-road terrain, and we feel it fully achieved this goal. Once we heard the price, we were pretty much sold. Where else can you find a brand new, fully capable off-road truck for under $40,000? Actually, let me rephrase that: Where can you find a brand-new off-road truck with a full factory warranty for under $40,000?

Sure, if you want to deck out the Raptor with the 6.2 engine or upgrade the truck to navigation (which we think is worth it on this truck, and it looks much better esthetically) you’re going to go over $40,000. But still, the Raptor offers great on- and off-road performance at a very fair price. If you’re an off-road enthusiast who wants a truck that can get you to work and play, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is definitely worth checking out.

The Raptor is available in four colors, with Blue Flame Metallic shown above.

2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Available Colors: Blue Flame Metallic, Tuxedo Black Metallic, Molten Orange Metallic Tri-Coat, Oxford White
Base MSRP: $38,995 (including destination and delivery)
6.2-Liter V-8/six speed: $3000
Navigation with Sony Audio (requires Luxury Package): $2430
Luxury Package - $1950
-40/Console/40, 10-way power driver and passenger seats with heat and driver memory
-DATC – dual automatic temperature control
-Sony Audio six-disc CD
-Power/heated/signal/driver-dimming memory side-view mirrors with body-color cap
-Power-adjustable pedals
-Memory System
Graphics Package: $1,075
Rearview Camera System (mirror-based or navigation-based): $450
Integrated Trailer Brake Controller: $230
Power Moonroof w/One-Touch Opening: $995
Tailgate Step: $350
Stowable Bed Extender: $195

 

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