Lightning may have struck twice, but when the folks at Ford's Special Vehicle Team decided to trick out another F-150, the result - the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor - was a completely different kind of truck.
Though the F-150 Lighning may have appealed to those hankering for muscle-car fun and a pickup bed out back, the F-150 Raptor allows drivers to take blistering performance off the beaten path.
"Most of the major manufacturers have focused on on-road performance," said Mark Grueber, Ford's marketing manager for large trucks. "So when we looked at what was available in off-road truck performance, it was somewhat limited."
We'd imagine so, as we've seen no factory offering quite as extreme as this. Though it's certified for street use and carries some svelte creature comforts, the Raptor is essentially a purpose-built off-road race truck, not unlike those campaigned in the Baja 1000.
SVT looked first at the F-150's underpinnings, and scrapped most stock suspension parts. The most change came up front, where SVT added unique upper- and lower A-arms, a new tie-rod, and new half-shaft joints. All four corners also benefit from the addition of internal-bypass Fox Racing Shox, which increase stiffness as the suspension compresses to keep the truck from bottoming out.
Unless you're really flying over some desert terrain, we doubt that'd happen. The front suspension has a whopping 11.2 inches of travel, while the rear suspension has 13.4 inches. Coupled with the standard 35-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain tires, the package should be more than adept at tackling boulders or landing a stratospheric jump.
If that sounds like a Trophy Truck, the Raptor also manages to look like a Trophy Truck. Yes, there's quite a bit of stock F-150 thrown into its exterior appearance, but enormous fender flares (there to wrap around the seven-inch wider track), a large power bulge on the hood and front fender vents give the Raptor a muscular look of its own. We're not sold, however, on the new grille - devoid of the typical blue oval logo, it's also home to clearance lamps mandated by the truck's new girth. Interesting, yes; attractive? We'll have to see the truck in person before we can judge that.
But for the off-road faithful who'll buy this truck, appearance isn't everything. They'll be more interested in the 310-hp three-valve 5.4-liter V-8 offered as standard equipment on the Raptor, as well as the forthcoming optional 6.2-liter V-8, rumored to produce approximately 400 hp. They may also care more about the auxiliary switches for their off-road lighting or the off-road driving mode, which eliminates all stability controls and allows for some wheel lock under low speed braking.
Which is just as well. Ford offers no less than nine flavors of the F-150 for casual pickup users like ourselves. Perhaps it's fair - if not prudent - to offer one for buyers who consider the Sonoma Desert an expressway...