2018 Ford F-150 Raptor Review: The Blue Oval has taken the road less traveled with its new pickup truck… And all the better for it
To be fair, I haven’t spent much time in these high-riding pickups as I’d never seen much point in the job that 99 percent of them do, taking up one and half parking spaces at the shopping mall.
They have a cargo area that’s useful for tradesmen but nothing that a van couldn’t also carry, albeit more securely and out of the weather. So when I was offered the 2018 Ford Raptor for a few days, I was duty bound to experience it and find why there’s so much fuss about this puffed up load lugger.
The Raptor was initially inspired by the famous Baja 1000 desert rally in Tijuana, Mexico and in 2010 was offered as a sports car for the desert. It started out life as a 308bhp, 5.4-llitre V8 which grew to 6.2-litres producing 405bhp in 2011.
However Ford, like most car manufacturers now, is feeling the resentment towards big displacement engines and has been working tirelessly on its EcoBoost family of turbocharged motors from 900cc three-cylinders up to twin-turbo V6s… The team was forced to make a big decision.
Not only to downsize the Raptor’s cubic capacity, but drop two valuable cylinders, killing the V8 and replacing it with the 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6 that’s fitted to our test car.
This is where having not experienced the previous Raptor came in handy as I couldn’t lament the loss of a V8 burble I never experienced. Instead, I could revel in the joys of hearing this lusty V6 spool up and rocket me down the highway.
It sounds better from inside for a good reason because when you bury the right foot, the sound is pumped into the cabin via speakers. Yes, sadly the exhaust note is fake news.
What they’ve done is take the real exhaust tone and run it through a synthesiser to beef it up, which at the time sounds pretty fruity, but when you find out you’ve been cheated, it’s pretty disappointing.
The sad truth is that Ford isn’t the only guilty party as most of them from the BMW M5 to this Raptor are faking it these days.
For a vehicle tipping the scales at 2,700kg, the Raptor is relatively quick at 6.3 seconds to 100km/h and to silence the V8 brigade, it’s also more powerful than the old 6.2, developing 450bhp and 691Nm of torque.
Weight has been kept to a minimum through the use of an aluminium bed and body, which is up to 230kgs lighter than its predecessor, but it continues to use the shorter 1.67m cargo bed so those needing more storage space out back would be advised to stick with the 2.43m bed in the F-150.
Fuel consumption was also a surprise after having covered 400km and not even remotely thinking about driving it gently to save petrol, it returned an average consumption of 15.6L/100kms that included a mix of city/suburban driving with highway miles in rain and of course a bit of fun doing what it was made for, some dune bashing through the soft sands.
The impressive fuel economy was no doubt aided by a 10-speed auto transmission that was optimised for economy, which was proved by the fact that pulling away from the lights at a regular intersection would see it in fifth, shifting into sixth gear before I had even cleared the intersection.
It was smooth enough though to not be noticeable when it needed to downshift at the slightest touch of the throttle for overtaking or hills, before upshifting quickly again in order to keep the fuel consumption low.
It runs through an all-wheel drive system that offers the options of rear-wheel drive only, on-demand all-wheel drive and locked 4×4 with high and low range.
When it came time to go off-road, it was as easy as selecting the terrain on the dial and letting the computers go to work to optimise for that situation.
In our case, this was sand, so flicking the dial across to the mud/sand setting automatically placed the transfer case in 4H and also locked the rear diff. It changed the suspension setting as well as the powerband so the only thing I needed to do was drop the tyre pressures before hitting the dunes.
Unfortunately I didn’t pack an air compressor so I took my chances, gauged the softness of the sand and with some local knowledge picked my way through, I ran the Raptor at full street-tyre pressures.
Honestly, with those giant 35-inch BFGoodrich knobbly tyres and copious amounts of torque, so long as the turbos were kept on the boil, the Raptor was never in the slightest danger of getting stuck.
If I am really serious, then I could have slipped the Raptor into another setting in its Terrain Mode called “Baja” which keeps the turbo spooled up and is designed for fast driving through the sand dunes.
It reduces fishtailing and helps with braking on loose gravel. Consider it like the “track” mode you get in the suspension settings of high-end sports cars, but for sand dunes.
Other modes include Rock and Crawl which shifts it into 4L and keeps the rear hubs locked, while it also features an on-road setting called ‘Weather’ that acts like a Euro all-wheel drive system where it moves power and torque as needed to each wheel in the case of slippery road conditions like rain, ice or snow.
With its Baja-inspired suspension package featuring 3.0-inch Fox coilovers at the front with Fox shocks supporting the leaf springs at the rear, the setup offered 330mm of travel at the front and 353mm out back and so our little sojourn into the desert was almost too easy for Big Blue.
Despite its size being more than 160mm wider than the regular F-150, the Raptor’s towing capacity and payload has been reduced over the standard car because of its race-bred suspension.
Whereas the F150 has a 6,000kg max towing capacity, the Raptor has to make do with 3,630kg for the Super Crew and 2,721kg for the Super Cab model tested. Likewise, the max payload has been cut from 1,485kg on the F-150 to 544kg for the Raptor, which is what you’d expect given the smaller cargo bed out back.
With a massive sunroof, powered leather seats, a chunky leather steering wheel that’s great whether cruising or crawling fitted with paddle shifts for the 10-speed ‘box and the adaptive cruise control, the Raptor feels like a King’s lair inside, sitting high above the traffic. Ambient lighting fills the interior at night, while the optional new 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo pumps out German luxury car-levels of sound quality.
There’s acres of interior space with a wide centre console and a fat transmission handle that looks more like the throttle levers from a 747, which give you the impression of sitting at mission control instead of inside a car.
The overhead panel of dummy switches certainly adds to the setting though; they are a great addition for aftermarket add-ons such as off-road lights, while its Sync 3 infotainment system running through an eight-inch touchscreen is easy to use and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
At the end of it all, I have somehow become a bit of a convert to this street-legal Trophy Truck and finally understand the hype behind this desert warrior.
2018 Ford F-150 Raptor
3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 | 10-speed automatic, all-wheel drive | 450 horsepower and 691Nm of torque | Zero to 100kph in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of N/A | AED215,000