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Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Subaru WRX STI Ford SVT F-150 Raptor

Ford SVT F-150 Raptor
Price: $38,995
Pros: Turn-key package, able to leap tall dunes in a single bound
Cons: Huge, hefty, and no rocket ship -- even with the 6.2-liter

Okay, okay-this beast was designed to tackle desert races, but what's a Baja run but a rally with very loosely defined course borders? For that reason, we think Ford's F-150 SVT Raptor is a road-ready rally car -- er, truck -- in its own right.

Although it's based on a half-ton pickup, the Raptor is remarkably similar to the STI and Evo on a number of counts. The latest project from Ford's Special Vehicle Team is street-legal, seats five, costs just under $40,000, and was designed to blitz its way through dirt, mud, and sand. Ford's engineers, however, wanted to design a vehicle that's capable of leaping over the tallest sand dune in a single bound, an obstacle not typically encountered in a WRC event.

To that end, the heart of the Raptor is its customized suspension. Although the frame virtually mirrors that of a standard F-150, the hardware at all four corners is specialized for high-speed off-road hijinks. Most notable are the custom, piggyback reservoir front and rear shocks supplied by Fox Racing. These heavy-duty dampers, along with unique upper and lower front control arms and modified rear leaf springs, help provide 11.2 inches of suspension travel in front, and 12.1 inches at the back.

While the Evo and STI slice through dirt with the precision of a surgical scalpel, the Raptor does the same with all the poise of a 20-pound sledgehammer. It stands to reason that a 5900-pound truck isn't as nimble as a compact car, but its sheer size doesn't help, either. Those lamps scattered across the front grille and rear fenders aren't d├ęcor-their presence is legally mandated. Thanks to an enlarged track and flared fenders, the Raptor is some 86 inches wide. On an open road, the girth is unnoticeable, although it does pose issues when squeezing the truck into a narrow parking spot or down a slender trail.

Likewise, don't expect this truck to be all that quick. The standard engine, a 5.4-liter V-8, dishes out only 320 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, while the optional 6.2-liter V-8 adds an extra 91 ponies, 44 pound-feet, and $3000 to the price tag. You'd think that with more than 400 hp on hand and more than 400 pound-feet of torque, the 6.2 liter would be more than enough engine for this truck, but that's not the case. Blame the nearly 3-ton curb weight, which gives the big V-8 an awful lot to contend with. Sure, it's better than the 5.4 liter (and a lot more expensive), but it still doesn't make the Raptor fast.

Despite its specialized equipment, the Raptor is largely as usable as any other extended-cab F-150. Payload capacity is 980 pounds, and the truck is capable of towing a trailer up to 6000 pounds. If you plan on regularly loading cargo, we'd spring for the integrated tailgate step; what is a novelty on other F-series trucks becomes a necessity on the Raptor, with its increased ride height.

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