New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2011 Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew

Ford struck its competitors hard when it introduced the 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor SuperCab, calling it the “first-ever, high-speed, off-road performance truck.” With its wide stance and 133-inch wheelbase, not to mention the blacked-out grille and bold graphics, the Raptor had a look all its own, and it excited passions among truck enthusiasts. Some 8614 Raptors sold in 2010, and sales are off to a strong start this year.

But there’s room to quite literally expand the model. The new 2011 F-150 Raptor SuperCrew has a 145.2-inch wheelbase, gaining 12 inches over the SuperCab. All the extra length goes into the second row, where three rear passengers enjoy 43.5 inches of legroom. A 5.5-foot cargo box trails behind. Maximum towing capacity jumps from 6000 to 8000 pounds.

It would have been too obvious to introduce the Raptor SuperCrew in the desert. To emphasize the point that the brawny Raptor SuperCrew is more than a factory-ready Baja pre-runner, Ford chose the Smithers Winter Test Center, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, for the press preview. Fresh snow ensured a divertingly low coefficient of friction. While there were no opportunities to fully flex the long-travel suspension (11.2 in/12.1 in f/r) — neither jumps nor whoop-de-do’s were included — all sorts of other tomfoolery was possible and it became pretty apparent that the engineers have worked out the best compromises in chassis and suspension development. In short, they’ve taught the foxtrot to a pachyderm.

Masked bandit look

The Raptor SuperCrew clearly announces its uniqueness, establishing a much different look from the F-150. The blacked out grille spells the Ford name in bold letters. Black 17-inch wheels wear 315-millimeter-wide, 35-inch-tall B.F. Goodrich off-road tires. The Raptor series is the first OEM application for Fox shocks, whose presence is quite apparent through small openings in the front bumper and under the black fender flares at the rear. An optional matte-black graphic emblazoned with the Raptor name covers the hood, reducing glare. The hood’s nostrils and the front fenders’ vents provide enough outlets so that you can all but hear the truck snorting. For the cargo box, the optional “digital mud” graphic has so far been chosen by 43 percent of buyers.

Choose classically handsome or garishly bright interior

The standard interior includes exceptionally well-bolstered front seats trimmed with handsome black leather. The optional package adds orange seat and door inserts front and rear as well as matching dashboard and center-console trim. We didn’t sample this, but found ourselves satisfied with the black and silver and wondering whether the orange wouldn’t seem somewhat lurid after a few years. Beautiful chrome accents flourish on the shifter and center-console cupholders. The second row may be comfortable, but it lacks amenities like a foldable center armrest with integrated cupholders. The seat bottoms flip up in one easy motion to increase storage. Then they release with one pull of a handle and drop back down.

‘Productivity’ can be measured and displayed

In addition to the large centrally mounted display screen, the Raptor SuperCrew features a new 4.2-inch “productivity” screen between the tachometer and speedometer. With buttons on the lower left of the steering wheel, the driver selects from various menus that convey information about off-road and towing performance. For example, the front wheels’ turn angle can be precisely dialed in for crawling, with a corresponding graphic clearly conveying the information. Differential locking functions are another menu item.

The bigger V-8 is now standard

All Raptors now come with the 6.2-liter SOHC dual-spark V-8, as the original standard 5.4-liter V-8 has been dropped from the lineup. Putting out 411 hp and 434 lb-ft thanks to a unique cam profile and bespoke tuning, the engine smoothly connives with the six-speed automatic to make the 6200-lb brute to get up and move out. Plenty of torque is on tap, no matter what ratio is chosen. The subject of using the manual mode for changing gears is a bit of a sore point, though, for instead of being able to slot the shifter into a dedicated track and using push/pull to change gears, you have to mess with a toggle switch on the shift lever. On the other hand, you have to credit Ford with getting it right on the traction control. One push of a button changes the AdvanceTrac to a sport mode that keeps you from being sloppy but lets you throttle-steer this 232.1-in giant at will. We were impressed with how well the Raptor SuperCrew got through a slalom course under very slick (read: hilariously entertaining) conditions. Feedback from the superb, hydraulically assisted steering makes one glad Ford didn’t go with an electrically boosted system.

The essence of a sport truck

Indeed, all the recalibrations of chassis and suspension to accommodate the Raptor SuperCrew’s extra length and weight (200 pounds) pays off in an extremely well-mannered rig that handles with complete predictably. Before long, you forget about the bulk and just delight in the responsiveness, shaving ever closer and closer to the cones in the slalom. Body roll also is well managed. The Smithers facility included a 1.4-mile road course — loose snow atop bare ground — that proved the Raptor SuperCrew’s relative nimbleness. With the engine bellowing stoutly, you could power out of the turns with the tail slightly out, always confidently feeling the edge. And with such wide tires, it’s an edge that’s not easily reached. Leaving Smithers for Sault Sainte Marie over patched Upper Peninsula highways, you find the ride is almost cushy. The truck tracks straight and doesn’t wallow. And there’s no chassis flex or rattling of the cargo box.

Transcending the Crotch-Grab

Big, bold, and exciting, the Raptor SuperCrew combines a plethora of off-road design cues for a singular appearance. And it has the performance and capability to match. Yes, it’s expensive at $45,290 including destination charges. Ford doesn’t have to release fuel economy figures because of the truck’s weight, but you know it’s going to be a crotch-grabber. But to those in the know, it’s extremely desirable and even — in the opinion of one truck magazine editor at the preview — collectible.

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor SuperCrew

Base Price: $45,290
As Tested: $51,645

Engine: 6.2-liter SOHC 16-valve V-8
Horsepower: 411 hp @5500 rpm
Torque: 434 lb-ft at 4500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with overdrive and tow/haul mode
Drive: Two- or four-wheel

L x W x H: 232.1 x 86.3 x 78.4
Legroom F/R: 41.4/43.5
Headroom F/R: 41.0/40.3
Curb Weight: 6200 lb