It’s tough to blend in when you’re driving a Molten Orange F-150 riding on 35-inch tires with the widened stance that come with Raptor-ization. Everywhere I took this truck people were pointing, commenting on it, or just staring at it. I bought a new chest freezer from a home improvement warehouse that had dozens and dozens of pickups in the parking lot. Some of them were modified, some were pulling big trailers, but only one of them drew a crowd and it was the SVT Raptor. Most people didn’t know the Raptor rolled off the assembly line looking exactly like it did in that parking lot (save the freezer in the bed) but they all knew it was awesome.
If you think the Raptor is too expensive, you haven’t priced out an F-150 lately. If you’re looking for the 6.2-liter V-8 that’s standard (and your only engine choice) in the Raptor, you’d need at least a Lariat trim level, which, equipped with a crew cab and 4wd, will start at $44,125 with destination. By comparison, the Raptor is $45,290 when equipped with a comparable bed and cab. That’s a mere $1165 for the SVT suspension and tire upgrades. I understand that the Lariat comes with more luxury features, but the amount of engineering effort that went into the Raptor is an incredible bargain.
I’d jettison every option on this test truck except the Raptor plus package that includes a trailer brake controller and rearview camera for $595. Then I could have the ultimate half-ton pickup for $45,885. It isn’t cheap, but the only Ford vehicle that even comes close to being this exciting is the Mustang Boss 302. Call me crazy, but I say it’s worth the extra money to have the ability to cross any terrain you can find, at highway speeds. Heck, the Raptor just might be the ultimate vehicle, provided you don’t spend much time in urban environments.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor represents a remarkable engineering achievement on Ford’s part, as this truck is perfectly reasonable to drive on the street and yet, from all reports and the videos I’ve seen, masterful at the off-road game while remaining refined and comfortable. There are indeed reasons for a truck like this to exist, legitimate uses for it, as evidenced by the story that our own Ezra Dyer did of a Raptor on border patrol.
Ford is being rational about how it rolls out the Raptor, bringing out the extended-length cab last year and this year adding the SuperCrew. This is how you keep a model fresh and keep consumer attention, by dribbling out variants slowly and carefully.
From an aesthetics point of view, I like the black-on-orangish-red graphic treatment on the Raptor’s body sides. This is not a subtle truck, so why should its exterior be at all subtle? You also have to love the fact that so much of the Raptor’s capability is on display, in the form of the oversized suspension and frame components that are clearly visible to even the most casual observer. This is the equivalent, really, of a Ferrari V-8 under glass.
Despite all this, and despite the fact that people like my colleague Phil Floraday get so excited by the coolness of the Raptor that they start imagining it as a reasonable personal-use vehicle, I would say that it’s not. The Raptor is sort-of the opposite end of the performance spectrum from a twelve-cylinder supercar-it offers extreme performance but extremely poor efficiency. I saw readouts of an average of 9.5 mpg on the way into work the other morning, although when I drove the Raptor on the freeway over the weekend, my average crept up to a slightly more palatable 12 mpg. So, the Raptor is like a weekend sports car: great for when you need it, great for when you want to have fun, not great for your daily commute to work, unless you’re a border-patrol officer.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Those who think that focusing on performance is an irresponsible waste of time probably have a field day with the Ford SVT Raptor, which is, as Joe notes, an absurd vehicle that gets very poor gas mileage. I’d say just the opposite. The Raptor proves how important a performance perspective can be. You see, Ford’s SVT engineers didn’t just make the F-150 better at racing across gravel at 100 mph or clawing across rocks. They made it better at nearly everything. The team wasn’t quite satisfied with the brakes, so they went with the biggest rotors they could find and put in a different master cylinder. As a result, the brake pedal sponginess that afflicts nearly every mainstream Ford vehicle is nonexistent here. They didn’t like the steering, so they swapped in new control arms and put in a faster rack. Now the Raptor turns more confidently than any normal pickup. As Phil notes, these improvements come at a surprisingly minimal additional tarif. I’d argue there’s no vehicle that wouldn’t benefit from this sort of attention, even those that aren’t strictly performance offerings.
No doubt, the Raptor isn’t for everyone. Parking is a chore. Ingress is difficult, to put it mildly (“How the f—- am I supposed to climb into this thing?” was how my sister phrased it). People do tend to stare at a seven-foot wide truck with 35-inch off-road tires and billboard-sized decals. And, yes, the fuel economy stinks — I saw about 11 to 13 mpg in mixed city and highway driving. Despite all those drawbacks though, the SVT Raptor remains one of the only trucks I genuinely enjoy driving, even when I don’t stray from the pavement.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I love the SVT Raptor, and I’m not alone, considering Ford sold 8614 units last year, and 1072 already in 2011 (as of March 2, 2011). To put that in perspective, Suzuki sold 7500 Kizashis last year. So more people are willing to buy a big honky-tonk truck than a nice gas-sipping sedan.
People will complain about the Raptor’s size and poor fuel mileage, but it’s no worse than a high-powered two-door sports car. Your weekend fun would be off-road trails rather than open track days. And since it’s a truck, you can actually haul or tow stuff and drive it year round when all the pretty sports cars are hiding under their cotton covers in a warm garage. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a sports car guy more than a truck guy, but there’s something to be said for a truck that can perform like the SVT Raptor and definitely a place in the market for it, too. Kudos to the SVT team, keep em coming!
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
My first trip behind the wheel of this hot orange behemoth was to meet my wife to pick up the kids. At Whole Foods. Where I could feel the burning glare of every single set of environmentally-conscious, granola-shopping, organic-obsessed eyeballs in the parking lot.
My wife wanted to sink into the pavement in embarrassment, but my kids-girls, mind you-lit up at the prospect of a ride in “a monster truck.” The last time they seemed so excited about a test car? Last year. When I had the black SuperCab Raptor.
Out in Dexter, the Raptor got a somewhat different grocery store parking lot reception from the more rural-and male-demographic. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one of these guys’ groceries hitting the pavement as quickly as their jaws seemed to. One admirer was circling the Raptor on foot, peering into the wheel wells, crouching for a look under the front end, and then after mumbling, “Nice truck.” stared transfixed until I was out of sight down the road.
Bearing in mind every one of Joe DeMatio’s legitimate concerns and criticisms of this somewhat absurd vehicle, to my mind, if you’re going to drive a big-ass pickup truck that gets terrible mileage, you might as well go with the most fun and excitement possible. Give me the adolescent thrill of climbing into the Raptor over the barely more sensible 5.0 XLT. Make mine “Molten Orange” minus the slightly over-the-top graphics (and their $1075 premium) and in super-cab form.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
2011 SVT Raptor SuperCrew 4×4
Base price (with destination): $45,290
Price as tested: $52,140
6.2-liter V-8 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Trailer tow package
Electronic shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system
Electronic locking differential
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
AdvanceTrac with roll stability control
Front tow hooks
Locking & removable tailgate
Power sliding rear window
Manual air conditioning
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Sirius satellite radio
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
4.2-inch LCD screen
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Sony navigation — $2495
Luxury package — $2190
Power adjustable pedals
Heated outside mirrors
Remote start system
Power and heated front seats
Raptor plus package — $595
Trailer brake controller
Molten orange metallic — $495
Key options not on vehicle:
Power moonroof — $995
Tailgate step — $375
11 / 14 / 12 mpg
Size: 6.2L V-8
Horsepower: 411 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 434 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Wheels/tires: 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels
315/70R17 BF Goodrich all-terrain tires