by Gabe Beita Kiser
By the mid-late 2000s, Ford finally realized that although the on-road performance of the F-150 SVT Lightning was incredible, the sports truck's dynamics were handicapped simply by the fact that it was a truck and not a lightweight, low to the ground, unibody chassis coupe. Why not, then, play into the bodystyle's strengths by building a performance pickup that could be taken straight from a dealership to a Baja race without having a single tweak made to it? And thus the F-150 SVT Raptor was born. Its first-generation laid the model's foundation by giving the F-150 the most crucial features needed to turn it into a Raptor: rugged off-road looks, a powerful engine, and most importantly, a suspension system that could take a beating without flinching. And then, just when the F-150's masculinity was coming into question after Ford released its 13th-generation with an aluminum body and a range of downsized and turbocharged engines, the Blue Oval took each of these new ingredients, dropped the "SVT" affix, and somehow made the Raptor exponentially better.
Largely unchanged since inception, 2019 sees a couple of fairly major changes made to the F-150 Raptor, all of which are focused on off-road performance. While the engine goes unchanged, the Fox Racing suspension is upgraded, now with new adaptive dampers and real-time adjustment. Ford has also added Trail Control, acting like cruise control for low-speed off-road action over rugged terrain with speeds ranging from one to 20 mph. Keeping you pegged in place, new Recaro sport seats boast aggressive bolstering and improved support, available with blue Alcantara inserts and accented stitching. 2019 also sees new colors added to the palette, with Ford Performance Blue, Velocity Blue, and Agate Black new for 2019.
In equipping the Ford F-150 with a Raptor badge, there's more than just a range of mechanical upgrades. Styling also gets a rework, with flared fender arches, enhanced hood air extractors, a bold "FORD" grille, and some rough and ready bumpers and skid plates. Headlights are quad beam LED clusters with daytime running lights, while down the length of the F-150 run cast aluminum running boards. The Raptor can be had in two body styles, as either a SuperCab or SuperCrew, both of which feature a 5.5 ft load box. 17-inch cast aluminum wheels are standard, but optionally, 17-inch forged aluminum bead-lock wheels can be equipped.
Available in two cab styles, dimensions differ by a fair margin between the SuperCab and SuperCrew derivatives. The SuperCab is the more compact variant, with a 134.2-inch wheelbase and a 220-inch overall length. Comparably, the SuperCrew is 231.9-inches long with a 146-inch wheelbase. Both measure 78.5-inches tall and 96.8-inches wide including the side mirrors. Approach and departure angles are near on identical at 30.2- and 23.0 (23.1 for the SuperCab) degrees respectively, while the shorter SuperCab has a better breakover angle at 22.9 degrees to the SuperCrew's 21.8 degrees. Ground Clearance is the Raptor's forte, and both derivatives boast 11.5-inches of clearance, a full two inches more than the tallest non-Raptor F-150.
Buyers of the F-150 Raptor have a palette of eight available hues to look forward to, seven of which are available at no extra cost. These include new for 2019 Agate Black, as well as Oxford White from the regular F-150 palette, while more striking hues include Race Red and new for 2019 colors, Velocity Blue and Ford's iconic Performance Blue. The only paint option requiring additional funds in Ruby Red, adding a mere $395 to the overall price.
The F-150 Raptor was an early pioneer of the performance full-size truck, and the latest generation is no different. While some may mourn the replacement of the old V8 with a bi-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine - shared with the Ford GT - power outputs of 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque go some way towards easing the pain. With Raptor-specific four-wheel drive tuning, 0-60 mph arrives in just over 5.5 seconds, which is a little slower than the F-150 Limited equipped with the same engine. But everyone knows the F-150 Raptor's pièce de résistance is its suspension, not just the engine, and the systems combine to give ample pulling power with a rated towing capacity of 8,000 pounds. Of course, off-road, the Raptor provides performance few can match, and it'll take on Baja-style off-road courses better and faster than just about any road-going truck in existence.
At the heart of the F-150 Raptor lies Ford's GT-sourced 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, residing in its high output tune of 450 hp and 510 lb-ft. This makes it more powerful than the old 6.2-liter V8 housed in the old Raptor. Power is directed to all corners through a ten-speed automatic transmission.
As overused as the word is, the only way to describe the Raptor's powertrain is to call it "epic." When the mind hears the phrase "turbocharged," one starts to think about all the ways to compensate for a powertrain that needs auxiliary helpers to make its horsepower figures. But a few minutes of driving the Raptor is all it takes to realize that its twin-turbo V6 needs none of those techniques. Plant a foot firmly on the throttle and the Raptor is off the line, spewing a throaty buzz from its dual exhaust that's underwhelming and not at all intimidating. At least the F-150 makes up for it with seamless communication between the engine and ten-speed transmission. The Raptor always seems to be in the right gear and on the rare occasion it's not, the only hint of a shift you get is a tonal change in the buzzy exhaust note. In more tame modes, the Raptor keeps the throttle maps light so that the truck is easy to navigate around town or when a delicate touch is needed while rock crawling. In Sport or Baja modes, however, the turbos seem as if they're awake no matter the speed of the engine's revolutions, which you quickly learn when hitting the gas once more and seeing the nose pull up without hesitation.
To get to the root of what makes the Raptor so great, you have to get its Fox shocks thumping up and down as if they were jogging in place within the wheel wells. That means finding an unpaved trail with long straights, plenty of rocks, uneven surfaces, and if you can swing it, a dozen or so jumps. Thankfully, the Arizona Sonoran Desert where our Raptor drive went down has plenty of that. So after seesawing the steering correctly wheel while heading south on the winding state road 83, relishing the throttle's readiness to tackle steep roads in Sport mode over the city-appropriate Normal mode, we eventually found the perfect trail on which to unleash the Raptor. If you didn't already know, the Raptor is a highly variable truck that can switch up its throttle response, shift timing, and steering stiffness, as well as traction and stability control programs to best suit the surface its on. Mud/Sand, Weather, and Rock Crawl modes are for the type of Terrain a Jeep Wrangler can handle. Baja mode goes a step further. Activate it while a few miles of wrinkled clay-like earth lies ahead, and all it takes is a deep stab of the throttle to get the Raptor up to highway speeds. Paradoxically, the faster you go over bad roads, the smoother the Raptor feels. By the time we hit 80 mph, the Raptor's electronic systems were helping lay the power down in such a way that kept the truck stable while the nine-stage Fox shocks were providing such a soft pillowy ride that the chaos going on at the wheels felt distant.
And then it's there, a three-foot mound of clay arcing steeply towards the sky. It would be insignificant in most other scenarios, but not one in which almost 6,000 pounds of Raptor are rushing its way. You don't feel the Raptor's body load up as the frame squats towards the wheels, but soon after you're in the air, quickly learning what it feels like to be on a roller coaster that has come off its tracks. And then something curious happens. Just as you're expecting to hear a slam as the stray items around the cabin float up to indicate the truck has started its descent, you're laid on the ground softly, as if the Raptor had thruster rockets blasting the ground to cushion the fall. It's addicting enough that it just has to be attempted again. And then again….and again. And by the time you find the paved road again at the end of the day, the Raptor glides back onto it without any hit at the abuse it just underwent. With steering and throttle once again in calmer modes for civilized driving, the engine's buzz burps up a few gears and the Raptor goes back to being a regular truck with a tad too much body roll and an angry outfit.
You don't buy a race car for the fuel economy, and similarly so, you don't buy an F-150 Raptor for that reason either. Still, the numbers are cringeworthy, as EPA estimates peg the F-150 Raptor at consuming 15/18 mpg in city/highway situations, with a combined figure of 16 mpg. To make matters worse, the high output turbocharged engine needs expensive premium unleaded gasoline to run, too. The SuperCrew bags you the best range, with a 36-gallon fuel tank ensuring a range of 576 theoretical miles in mixed conditions, while the SuperCab's 26-gallon tank only enables 416 miles.
Despite how the Raptor followed the F-150's attempts to go green by adopting a lighter aluminum body and a turbocharged engine, this Baja 1000-capable truck only managed an average of 14.4 mpg over the 295.3 miles we drove it. However, the fact its gauge indicated that it could still go another 200 miles until running out of gas shows that the Raptor's range ratings are hardly overstatements and really can last a full day of carving up the dunes.
It may be oozing machismo from the panel gaps outside, but inside, the F-150 Raptor is surprisingly laid back. It's comfortable, even with the new Recaro sport seats upholstered with blue Alcantara inlays. There's an abundance of available features, too, including heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, and a wide array of customization defying the F-150's utilitarian origins. Naturally, the crew cab boasts the greatest interior volume, with cavernous rear seats spacious enough for adults to spread out, but buyers of the extended cab should be wary, as it's a bit of a squeeze for adults. Up front, the Raptor is as spacious as every other F-150, but visibility is limited, if only from the perspective that it's difficult to see where the widened bodywork ends.
Like the rest of Ford's F-150 Crew Cab family, the Raptor SuperCrew has plenty of room to seat five adults and bring them along for a stampede up and down a hill-laden (and in turn, jump-producing) trail. Considering that legroom at the front and rear sits at 43.9 inches and 43.6 inches respectively, hardly any leg space is sacrificed by switching with a rear-seat occupant. The difference between front and rear seat headroom is also small, with the rear seats getting only 0.4 inches less than the front two seats' 40.8 inches of headroom, and that's not even taking into account the visual space that the optional dual-pane panoramic moonroof can add. As with other F-150s, the Raptor's rear seats can be folded up to open up additional storage space.
Roominess, ruggedness, and comfort are three of the Raptor's interior hallmarks, especially when considering the rubber floor mats that make bringing dirty-shoed occupants onboard less of a cringe-worthy moment. And with leather surfaces, climate-controlled seats (even the rear seats can be heated), rugged cast aluminum running boards (which double as shields keeping stray rocks from hitting the paint when racing down a trail), and plenty of technology keeping the interior as comfortable as a modern living room, the Raptor feels like a luxurious cocoon whether it's on or off the road. Our test truck's carbon fiber interior package added what appears to be like fake carbon fiber accents to the interior, and it unintentionally made the cabin feel slightly more tacky and dated than it already does. But the Raptor is not a truck for those who nitpick about an interior that's not-so-modern as it used to be.
Regardless of cab style, the F-150 Raptor is equipped with a 5.5-foot load bed, measuring 67.1 inches long, and 65.2-inches wide at the widest point. But there are only 50.6-inches between the wheel arches. Still, cargo capacity is an impressive 52.8 cubic feet, and maximum payload capacity is a half decent 1,200 lbs. Of course, getting the cargo up there is a little tricky. With the Raptor's raised ground clearance, the open tailgate sits high - 36.4 inches high to be exact, which means heavy objects are difficult to load without assistance.
Interior storage options are inherited from lesser F-150s, making it rather practical. There's a deep center console storage box with a removable tray and a smaller bin ahead of the gear selector. Cupholders are average in size, while door pockets and a glove box are ample but not exceptional.
As the performance halo for the F-150 line-up, the Raptor is impressively equipped as standard. On-road, there are the standard niceties such as push-button start, keyless entry, remote start, a 360-degree camera, a 4G hotspot and available adaptive cruise control, while off-road, Trail Control acts like cruise control for the off-road trails. Additionally, the Raptor can be equipped with heated front seats, ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a heated steering wheel. Driver assistance features are equipped in the guise of blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, pre-collision assist, and curve control.
Like pretty much all Fords, the Raptor has the Blue Oval's latest SYNC 3 infotainment software, which is displayed on the same 8-inch touchscreen that most other F-150s get. The screen is starting to feel small when compared to the Ram's 12-inch unit, and its user interface looks like it could be from an era before smartphones could be unlocked using biometric scanners, but the key advantage it has over many rivals is that is simply works. And more than that, it works well. Commands are registered crisply and the layout is easy to read and follows a logical order. Still, we'd love to see Ford give SYNC 3 a full revamp sooner than later. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are around to help fill in the gaps, while the navigation's quick search capabilities are a great stand-in if you forgot your phone. Bluetooth audio, satellite radio, and our Raptor's B & O sound system were also a match made in heaven once we were off-roading in regions where traditional radio stations no longer come in.
The F-150 is one of the best-selling nameplates across the United States, so naturally, there are likely to be more complaints registered purely based on percentage odds. However, throughout the course of the lifespan of the current generation, problems have become less frequent with ease passing year. There has only been one recall for the 2019 F-150, pertaining to models with engine block heaters that may be permeated by water and other contaminants.
Ford covers the F-150 Raptor with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper to bumper warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, while also covering owners for five-years/60,000-miles with roadside assistance.
Neither the NHTSA or the IIHS has tested the F-150 Raptor for crashworthiness, having only tested the standard F-150. While bespoke suspension and higher ride height may have an effect, the F-150's five-star overall NHTSA rating and generally Good scores from the IIHS should still be relevant to the Raptor derivative.
Like lesser F-150 models, the Raptor boasts six airbags, including dual front, front side, and side curtain airbags. Additional safety features arrive courtesy of ABS brakes and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, while advanced driver assistance features like curve control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and available blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The F-150 Raptor isn't just a good truck, or even a great truck. No, the F-150 Raptor blows past those metrics and ranks as a masterpiece - one of rare vehicles that the car-loving community absolutely has to drive at least once in their lives. Being the sole entrant in a segment of its own creation (the Ram Rebel and Silverado Trail Boss are simply not designed to do what the Raptor can do), Ford could have stayed lazy and made the Raptor merely adequate. It did no such thing. Instead, it gave it all the modern comforts and amenities that a full-size family SUV has, enough towing capacity for weekend warriors to bring their dirt bikes or sand rails along, and an absolutely rabid style of munching up horrible roads where a Wrangler is usually needed, but at speeds that seem unfathomable. And once the revelation is made that Ford stiffened the frame and toughened the suspension so that the Raptor can jump its way to happiness, there's no turning back from loving this truck.
The cheapest model bearing the F-150 Raptor badge is the SuperCab (extended cab) configuration Raptor, which carries a base MSRP of $52,855 excluding options, taxes, licensing, registration, and a hefty $1,595 destination charge. An extra $2,985, or $55,840 all in, the range-topping Raptor is the SuperCrew with the crew cab configuration. Prices are set at a dealership level, however, so bargains can be found if you're willing to shop around.
Since our tester was not picked off the bargain lot, it carries a sticker price of $73,555 including destination. Bumping its price up was a somewhat astonishing $16,120 worth of options. The most expensive was the $9,365 802A package, which makes the Raptor easier to live with using a 360-degree camera, towing helpers like a trailer backup assist and tow monitoring, a 4.10 front axle with a Torsen diff, LED box lighting, and more. Following it was the Raptor technology package, exterior graphics package, tailgate step, carbon fiber package, a set of 17-inch forged aluminum wheels, and more.
Although available in two body styles, there's just one trim in the Raptor line-up, itself part of the broader F-150 range.
The F-150 Raptor features the high output 450 horsepower EcoBoost V6 engine and four-wheel-drive, as well as Fox internal bypass shocks, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels with BF Goodrich all-terrain tires, LED headlights, as well as a number of Raptor-specific styling upgrades. Content-wise, the Raptor boasts keyless access, push-button start, remote engine start, a rearview camera, SYNC 3 infotainment with an eight-inch touchscreen, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, single zone air conditioning, and cruise control.
3.5-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Despite being a relatively all-inclusive halo model for the F-150 range, the Raptor can still be endowed with additional features and packages.
At $3,105 the 801A package equips ten-way power adjustable heated front seats, leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, and a power sliding rear window. Meanwhile, the 802A package adds a 4.10 front axle with a Torsen differential, as well as heated front seats with ten-way power adjustment and memory, a 360-degree camera, and a B&O Play premium audio system.
The Raptor Technology package equips driver aids like lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, auto high beams, and adaptive cruise control for $1,695, while a $2,395 Interior Color Accent Package equips the ten-way power adjustable Recaro seats with heating and ventilation, aluminum dash panels, carbon fiber trimming, and Rhapsody Blue Alcantara seating inlays.
Several items are available as standalone options, like the 4.10 front axle with a Torsen differential for $500 or a twin-panel power moonroof for $1,495.
Since the Raptor is a truck that can pull off many tasks and do so marvelously, our ideal spec would cut no corners. It would be a SuperCab variant with all of the goodies our test truck had loaded on, sans the carbon fiber interior package. The only option to add, just for kicks and because it really does look good, is the dual pane panoramic moonroof. Yes, that makes our ideal Raptor an expensive truck, but its combination of capability and comfort when fully spec'd is hard to find anywhere else in the industry.
The Ram 1500 is one of the F-150's chief rivals, with strong towing ability, impressive payload capacity, and a whole lot of all-American presence. But is it worth considering over a Ford F-150 Raptor? Well, with coil-spring suspension, the Ram is one of the most comfortable pick-ups in the segment, and it boasts an ultra-refined interior, too, vastly outstripping the more utilitarian feel of the F-150. The Ram also has a huge 12.3-inch touchscreen compared to Ford's eight-inch setup. Both boast a high level of specification and high levels of available safety, and on-road, the Ram 1500 would be the outright pick. But if you plan on going off-road, nothing can touch the F-150 Raptor. It's a trophy truck for the road, essentially, meaning it's capable on-road but untouchable off-road, especially with up to 13.9-inches of wheel travel and Fox internal bypass shocks. So it comes down to your needs, if you'll spend most of your time on-road, buy the Ram, but if you've got an adventurous spirit, the Raptor will always come out trumps.
Do you really need a Raptor, or will any of the other F-150s be enough truck for you? Previously, if you wanted the cream of the crop performance-wise, you had to buy a Raptor, but for 2019 the high-performance EcoBoost V6 has been dropped into the Limited-trim F150 too, meaning you get all the performance of the Raptor on-road, plus versatility in the form of various cab styles and bed lengths. The Limited also equips far more luxury, with high-quality leather as well as heated seats, navigation, and a whole lot of standard safety tech. You get a fair bit of off-road capability with 4x4 and a low-range gearbox. But what you don't get is the ground clearance and suspension travel offered by the Raptor, and the Raptor is cheaper than a full-spec F-150. Ultimately, if you're not going off-road every weekend, then you really have no need for a Raptor, but you'll still wish you'd bought one of you drive anything else.