If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already familiar with the F-150 Raptor. It’s Ford’s premiere off-roading truck, hardcore enough to complete the Baja 1000 desert race without any modifications, and take jumps like no other production car can. Six drive-modes-most of which are dedicated to off-pavement travel-make it easy for novice drivers to maneuver through almost any terrain with little effort.
But the truth is, most Raptor buyers will rarely take their cars off the asphalt. They’ll be used as daily-drivers, towing machines, and work trucks. So we took a Raptor through 400 miles of highways, back roads, and city streets to see what it’s like to drive the market’s most extreme new off-roader on nothing but pavement.
Like any modern truck, the first thing you notice getting into the Raptor is its size. Standing at six and a half feet tall and over seven feet wide, it certainly wasn’t built for a life in the big city. Maneuvering through parking garages is a stressful experience thanks to clearance heights, while tight one-way streets gave little room for error. The Raptor doesn’t leave too much wiggle room in its lane, so keeping it from crushing the nearest taxi means having a keen sense of road placement, and a lot of help from the 360-degree cameras.
Out on the highway, the Raptor’s size isn’t as much as an issue as it is a helpful tool to intimidate left-lane hogging drivers to move over for passing traffic. In congested situations, I used its girth (and brutish looks) to muscle my way into lanes and see ahead of the crowd. It’s like driving a crossover, but without the whole ‘selling your soul’ part of it.
Spending long periods of time inside the Raptor is a pleasure. Like most F-150 trim levels, it’s decked out with anything you’d need to kill a few hours comfortably on the road, whether it be for towing your race car to the nearest AER event or just commuting to work. Heated and cooled seats, Ford’s SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and even a movable pedal box make you forget this is a truck capable of near-triple digit speeds in the desert. In normal mode, the suspension is perfectly compliant, as are the tires-BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2s designed specifically for the Raptor. The exhaust doesn’t drone, and thanks to that 10-speed automatic transmission, the engine barely spins above idle at 70 mph.
Despite the Raptor’s exceptional off-road prowess, driving it on some good back roads was somehow a uniquely enjoyable experience. Those KO2s might have great dirt capability, but on pavement it’s easy to overwhelm them in the 2WD setting. Laying on the throttle through tighter bends shoves out the unweighted rear axle, and there’s enough power from that 3.5-liter twin-turbo Ecoboost V6 to get to 60 mph faster than a late-model Porsche Cayman. In sport mode, the suspension and steering firm up to turn the Raptor into some sort of Franken-performance car, but with several feet of metal and tire in between you and the road, there’s only so much the electronics can do. Still, it’s a blast to drive, even if you never leave the beaten path.
Worried about the noise? Don’t be. Although the rumbling 6.2-liter V8 is gone, that twin-turbo Ecoboost has no shortage of sweet sounds emanating from under the massive hood. Whooshing, popping, and blow-off valve squeaks are all part of the new Raptor experience-as long as you have the windows down. With the glass sealed, it’s a much deeper, isolated rumble, originating mainly from the speakers rather than the mufflers, unfortunately.
There’s no denying the F-150 Raptor is the go-to truck for desert racers who want something with amazing capabilities straight out of the box. With huge Fox Racing shocks, bead-lock wheels, and a mode literally called “Baja,” it’s expected the Raptor performs like it does. But Ford went the extra mile to make sure this truck could provide satisfaction even when it’s not slamming into dunes at 50 mph. It’s comfortable, quiet, and pretty damn quick too.
So if you’re planning on picking up the new Raptor, don’t be afraid to drive it on the street, because you won’t be disappointed. Just promise us you’ll hit the trails at least once in awhile, alright?
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