2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Review
By Alex Kalogiannis
The majority of us, if not all who read this, spend a great deal of their day on the endless network of paved highways, back roads, main streets, parkways and parking lots. Regardless of whether or not we’re in the most mundane of family shuttles or in a face-melting speed machine, there is always, at some point, the inescapable sense of confinement. Traffic, road work, or even the errant deer will throw a monkey wrench in the transport system, immediately awaking the reality that ultimately, we’re no more free to roam than a slot car on the living room floor.
But there is a class of car that is designed to drive clear off the grid, which we see every day, driving among us like a subversive rebellion who operate within the system but can hop clear out of it when at a whim, and it’s them that we envy when our little world is disrupted by the elements. When work needs to be done, and when the unforgiving world needs to be traversed, we will always turn to the 4×4 truck. I climbed into the latest example of the breed, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, and immediately saw the world around me in completely different way.
While being off-road capable is almost synonymous with brands like Jeep and its Wrangler here in the states, and the globe-trotting Land Rover, Ford has outdone both marks in the “sheer brazenness” category by having their Special Vehicle Team re-tool the DNA of the F-150 to produce the Raptor, a truck dedicated for wild off-road adventures. Most of the Raptor’s promotional images show it leaping with two (or even all four) wheels catching air through a cloud of dust. In instances like these, one usually has to take into account that photos like these are designed to get your hopes up and the sense of action conveyed will result in a more underwhelming reality. For example, you know the Bugatti Veyron will exceed 250 mph, but if you were fortunate enough to take one for a spin, the likelihood you’d experience the accompanying legend would be quite slim, with all your friends asking “did you?” afterward while you disappoint them. Seeing the Raptor for the first time, live, and in “Molten Orange,” the exuding charisma is palpable. Standing at 78.4 inches tall and in an audacious orange paint scheme, coupled with the vinyl slashes, the Raptor is imposing. The blue oval may be solely allocated to the tailgate, but the grille’s F – O – R- D lettering still makes it clear who produces this truck. The grille also sports LED marker lamps that add a genuinely interesting quality to the way the Raptor looks when it’s lit up. The hood has a pair of functional vents, with another duo of SVT-badged air extractors on the front fenders, just below the A-pillar. Beneath the Raptor-specific bumper, you’ll find the skid plate protecting the underbelly from terrain, debris, or anything that will be thrown towards the truck as you conquer the world before you. The cab of the Raptor is basically the F-150 SuperCab that holds six passengers with two full-sized doors and two half-doors to access rear seating. There may only be a small 5 ½ ft cargo box, but the box is still functional enough to satisfy most pickup needs, and the Raptor is a truck that is likely to be purchased more for play than for work.
The engine in my test vehicle was 5.4 liter 3-valve Triton V8 that puts out 310 horsepower at 5,000 RPMs and 365 lb-ft of torque at 3750 RPMs, with a small increase to these numbers if you’re burning E85 with its flex-fuel capability. There ‘s also be a 6.2 liter V8 on deck for the near future that will undoubtedly trounce these numbers. The engine’s output is managed through an automatic six-speed transmission with overdrive. The truck sports a double wishbone front suspension with coil springs on the front, with leaf springs on a semi-floating axle in the rear. These are coupled with internal triple-bypass Fox Racing Shox and ride on 17”painted machined cast-aluminum wheels adorned with 35” all-terrain tires as standard.
In the normal world, before any grand expeditions are made, the Ford Raptor most definitely has a presence. To start with the obvious, it is quite tall and quite orange. The Raptor carries enough prestige that enthusiasts in the know will do a double take, and may even warrant an impromptu Q & A in the mall parking lot by one or two giddy truck fans. This leaves you with a reflective sense of being the champion of all that falls in your path, lord of the road and slayer of medians. Other weaker cars tremble at the sight of you and your mighty Raptor. You are aware of being seen exiting and entering the truck and your inner monologue is a gravely, whiskey-honed narration of your every action. If Patton were around to drive a pick-up, he would choose the Raptor. It all goes straight to your head.
Reality will set in at moments like visits to the gas pump. At 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway the Raptor, given its function, expectantly guzzles a fair amount of fuel. The relief here is that it runs optimally on regular, and is ethanol capable if you have a nearby provider (I don’t). Also being so visible does leave you with a sense of detachment and concern when you’ve parked it somewhere. Your imagination runs away with itself in-between the moments your large audacious extension is out of sight, worried some vandals might bite at the irresistible lure. Lest we forget, there’s also the flip side of the law – highway patrolman with quotas to fill. Parallel parking does seem as foolhardy as expected, but an optional rear-mounted camera makes this task manageable with guideline graphics displayed on the screen and light enhancement at night. On the subject of options and the clarity of thought a tug on the wallet brings, a great deal of the accoutrements affect the bottom line. The F-150 in its pure Raptor incarnation starts at an MSRP of $38,020. Luxuries like the power seats and adjustable pedals, as well as heated mirrors bring the price up nearly $2,000. The vinyl graphics along the side and the accented interior can also be left out. These do add to the lunacy, but at a cost. Adding up the features my test truck had installed, the bottom line amassed to $45,045, not including any delivery fees.
Ford Raptor is equipped with SYNC, Ford’s award-winning, and Techshake–approved touch screen interface. While SYNC could warrant an article on its own, it most definitely complements the Raptor’s functionality. Bluetooth connectivity allows for integration of various devices, both phones and media. It’s simple enough to use, and multiple phones can be saved into the system and chosen easily if you share your truck with another person. And thanks to the 700-watt Sony audio system, the volume can be raised considerably when talking via the speaker system. Using SYNC, I encountered a refreshing rare situation in which a call was too loud instead of vice-versa. If you have a phone with the capability, SYNC can also send and display text messages on the navigation display. Despite pairing multiple phones with the blessing of their various owners, none of them had this functionality, so I unfortunately couldn’t experience this for myself or discover if this allows you to text while driving. I’d imagine not as SYNC does lock out typing for other inputs while on the move.
Other than Bluetooth, there’s an auxiliary jack as well as a USB to plug in various media devices and manage them through SYNC. There is, of course the AM/FM radio and 6 disc CD-changer, in which is housed a 10GB hard drive where over 2,000 songs can be stored in the Raptor’s “jukebox.” SIRIUS satellite radio is offered, as well as its Travel Link service, which is well-integrated into the navigation functions. As you may have read in another Ford piece here on the site, the map screen becomes replete with gas station glyphs when your fuel level starts to run a bit low. At any point, you can also search for nearby gas stations and arrange your search results by real-time fuel prices. Travel Link also allows you to look up weather info, search for nearby sports activities, and browse movie times for nearby theaters. SYNC is well-balanced between the touch-screen functionality and the physical buttons that adorn the dashboard. It’s easy to familiarize yourself with the functions and to decipher at quick glances, allowing you to focus on the road. Most of these features are voice activated as well, which can streamline the process with a little practice. What I found to be the greatest feature that many fixed-screen interfaces seem to lack, is that not only can the display switch to a black screen with the most minimal information on it, it can be turned just plain off. It sounds like a no-brainer, but a perfect example would be the display in the Dodge Challenger that can at best be switched to a black “stand-by” screen while still dominating the interior with an unwanted ambient glow.
Beyond the dash, the rest of the interior can be replete with molten orange highlights (if orange or black is chosen for the exterior), and just black leather trimmed if the truck is painted blue or white. The rest is either rubber or hard plastic with a great deal of silver paint to go around. The overall effect looks better here than in most, but a spade is still a spade. The cabin is expansive, and easily houses 6 occupants with ease. The front seats, with optional ten-way power adjustment, include two much-appreciated seat memory buttons. Your Raptor interior will come standard with an auxiliary switchboard by the gearshift where the hill decent and off-road modes are activated, as well as four pre-wired switches to activate any aftermarket parts you may want to install into the system. With the optional tow package, the interior will also have a trailer brake controller available by the steering column for maximum towing control. The best feature on the inside? A good ol’ fashioned cigarette lighter. I don’t even smoke, but it just being there seems right for the Raptor’s persona.
Being based in New York, and not the big, expansive part, tests of various vehicles tend to take me through a variety of places like town roads, highways, and usually Manhattan (and yes, it’s loads of fun watching Big Apple pedestrians at crosswalks leap back onto the sidewalk at the sight of the oncoming Raptor). This truck demands more than a road test and luckily, I had knowledge of series of trails through a nearby area. Emboldened by the recalcitrance of the Raptor, I turned off the pavement.
The path was a network of varied trails cut through the woods. The direction taken at the onset was mostly flat and sandy, and it was here that the Raptor was in its element. While highway driving was comfortable, the truck felt slightly out of place, like a creature in captivity. Here, the Raptor was bounding across the bumpy path with ease and speed. Our route gradually took me uphill, and the area became much more bony. Putting the truck in 4WD and activating off-road mode gave me the confidence to move forward. Off-road mode eased the traction and stability controls while languishing in gears a little longer. The throttle response became more cautious, allowing me to ease and creep over rocks and out of troughs with care. This mode also activates the ELD or electronic locking differential and, as you can guess, locks the differential until you exit off-road mode, or manually disengage it with a pull of a knob. The 29.8 degree approach angle and 22.8 departure angle allowed me to take the Raptor higher up the terrain where the uneven ground had significant ditches cut into it. Obstacles were approached with held breath, but each time, the Raptor handled each without concern. I finally reached the top of the hill where I lingered with the truck and watch waves of heat emanate from the hood vents. Evidence of a camp fire, coupled with the journey up there, reinforced my impression of the Raptor as a capable companion to take beyond the borders of the daily grind. Hill decent mode (and the breadcrumbs map option) saw that we returned back to the highway, making short work of a few mud puddles along the way. Back among the populous, passers-by, seeing a mud-splashed, orange behemoth, were inclined to ask “did you have fun?” as they saw the Raptor at a cursory glance as the big plaything that it is, and not simply a dirty truck. Could the same journey have been done in a Jeep or a Land Rover? I’d say no. Both are certainly physically capable of the same trip (possibly superior in the case of a Wrangler), the Rover, with its cameras and automated everything would seem too serious as it faithfully carried you aloft. And with the Jeep, you sort of expect it to handle various terrains like a good piece of equipment, whereas the Raptor amazes you each time it crawls out of some rocky maw. The Ford Raptor is a fun truck that has its faults but doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the good times do well to sooth the sting of the price tag. And if you ask “did you?” about catching air, in the middle of secluded land, in a borrowed truck? Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint.
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Editor’s note: For the record, Alex in no way tried to get the truck airborne as the media stills implied he could. Incidentally, rumor has it that it is physically impossible to bottom out the Raptor’s immense suspension travel.