by Jay Traugott
The off-road truck we've all been waiting for is here. Presenting the all-new 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor, the third-generation hardcore factory-built off-roader. Since the original generation debuted for the 2010 model year, rival truck brands have launched Raptor fighters of their own. But it wasn't until very recently when one of them posed a serious threat. Ford has now responded.
The 2021 F-150 Raptor retains its balance of serious off-roading capabilities and daily driving comfort. Like the 14th generation F-150 full-size truck it's based on, it's more feature-packed than its immediate predecessor in several ways, specifically in performance and connectivity. Combining performance hardware with advanced software was the name of the game. Also like the standard F-150, Raptor owners benefit from several convenience tools such as the ability to use the truck as a mobile generator. But the main reason why the Raptor attracts so many buyers is because it can literally go anywhere despite harsh conditions.
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
While at first the 2021 Raptor might resemble its immediate predecessor, Ford says the truck has been completely redesigned. Once again, there's a focus on the truck's width and a "machine-tough look." Some notable design (and functional) elements include the power dome on the hood, blacked-out grille, and LED headlights that stretch from fender to fender. That hood also has a heat extractor and functional side vents, both of which were inspired by the F-22 fighter jet.
The front and rear fender styling take their inspiration from dust blowing off the top of tires moving at high speed. At the back, there are blacked-out taillights and there's an optional tailgate applique to further enhance fender-to-fender width. Off-road fans should take note of the wider front skid plate, front and rear steel bumpers, and the optional Rigid off-road lighting mounted in the front bumper. For the first time ever, Ford has equipped the Raptor with either 35- or 37-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires. Buyers can select from three unique 17-inch wheel designs, two of which are compatible with beadlocks. Only a SuperCrew configuration is available.
The new interior features improved materials and more storage than before. The steering wheel boasts a laser-etched logo and a 12 o'clock red mark, while aluminum shift paddles can be found on the steering column. The standard seats are more supportive and there are optional Recaro bucket seats. More upscale than ever, buyers can now add carbon-fiber trim to the doors, instrument panel, and center console.
The latest SYNC4 infotainment system with cloud-connected navigation is included along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. An 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system is optional. But the most significant new feature comes by way of connectivity. All Raptor trims come standard with over-the-air updates. Owners can utilize the FordPass app on their smartphones to operate various functions remotely, such as controlling the lights.
Under the hood lies the same but upgraded 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 from the previous generation. Surprisingly, Ford has not released output figures though we know it's at least capable of 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy figures also haven't been announced but Ford says the truck will achieve a range of over 500 miles. A 10-speed automatic transmission is connected to a torque-on-demand transfer case. Maximum payload increases by an impressive 200 pounds to 1,400 pounds and towing is up by the same amount, now at 8,200 pounds.
A significant amount of off-road and high-performance hardware returns. The suspension has completely new running gear and the five-link rear suspension is 100 percent unique to the Raptor. New and improved Fox shocks (the largest ever on a factory-spec Raptor) combine with advanced electronic control technology provide better damping adjustability. Sensors automatically adjust damping rates 500 times per second at each wheel. Those new tires provide a departure angle of 24.9 degrees, a 33.1-degree approach angle, and a 24.4-degrees breakover angle.
In order to handle the rigors of off-roading, the Raptor is constructed from a high-strength steel frame and a military-grade aluminum-alloy body.
Details of pricing have yet to be announced but the outgoing Raptor's $53,000 starting price probably won't change dramatically. However, Ford did declare the even more powerful Raptor R will debut next year. What will be under its hood still remains a mystery, but we're seriously hoping Ford will opt for the Mustang Shelby GT500's supercharged "Predator" V8, meaning we're looking at up to 750 horsepower. There's a reason why Ford is doing this and it's called the Ram 1500 TRX.
New for 2020, the TRX is the biggest threat to the Raptor to date. Ford has no choice but to respond. The Raptor R will certainly cost more than the standard Raptor, so expect a figure similar to the TRX's $72,000 MSRP. Another Raptor rival is the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, which is powered by a naturally aspirated V8.
The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor aims to keep ruling its turf and the Raptor R will provide additional backup.