DETROIT — Sure, you can lighten the new 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor with aluminum-intensive construction, replace the big V-8 with an EcoBoost V-6, and give the automatic transmission four more gears, but the second-generation truck making its production debut at the 2016 Detroit auto show is still the antithesis of the shared-economy electric autonomous-mobiles the Blue Oval was touting a week earlier at the Consumer Electronics Show.
The aluminum body and bed drops “up to” 500 pounds from the Raptor, a diet that’s a couple-hundred pounds shy of the redesigned standard-issue Ford F-150. While Ford isn’t talking exact numbers quite yet, a redesigned 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 will make more than the old 6.2-liter V-8’s 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque. The diet and longer suspension travel add up to both a better off-road ride and improved on-road handling. The latest version of Ford’s street-legal Trophy Truck goes on sale this fall.
“If you could drive the new one and the old one, blindfolded, back-to-back, you’d be convinced it’s a completely new truck,” says Jamal Hameedi, Ford Motor Company’s global performance chief engineer. “Straight-line performance blows the old truck away. The new truck, with its longer wheel travel, is much more plush off-road, and better-handling on-road.”
Ford says the four-door SuperCrew, built on a 145-inch wheelbase, provides more interior room and space for gear than before. The Raptor SuperCab, with its rear access doors, rides on a 133-inch wheelbase.
Like the redesigned 2015 Ford F-150, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor switches to an aluminum-intensive body and bed, on a high-strength steel boxed frame. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 replacing the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that powered the 2010-14 Raptor is essentially an all-new engine, Hameedi says. While it retains the bore spacing and displacement of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost that has been in production for several years, it has a new crankshaft and cylinder heads, and both direct injection and port injection.
It will improve on the old 6.2 V-8’s horsepower and torque numbers, with maximum torque coming in earlier, according to Hameedi. Ford won’t reveal the new numbers until a later date, though we heard previously that it could make as much as 450 horsepower.
“Imagine a square torque curve,” he says.
It’s also the first production vehicle to use a new, 10-speed automatic transmission that Ford has co-developed with General Motors for longitudinal-engine cars (the two also are working on a 9-speed for transverse-engine models). The Raptor comes with a torque-on-demand transfer case.
Even with its 500-pound material bypass, the Raptor’s still a heavy piece of machinery. Nearly six inches wider than a standard F-150, with its big wheels and tires, a hefty suspension and four-wheel-drive, the Raptor is still about 5,500 pounds for the SuperCab, and 5,700 pounds for the Super Crew.
Ford says it doesn’t have official EPA fuel economy numbers quite yet. But with a turbo V-6 replacing the eight, aluminum body and four extra gears in the transmission, it expects an improvement over the old truck’s rather marginal 11/16/13 city/highway/combined mpg.
The Raptor’s new Terrain Management System comes with normal, street, weather, mud and sand, Baja and rock modes. Expect more than 30 inches maximum wading depth, up slightly from the old truck’s 30-inches flat. Towing capacity is 8,000 pounds.
An optional Torsen front differential is available in place of the standard open differential. The rear diff is 9 ¾-inches, with an electronic locker. The truck comes with beadlock-capable wheels, and a new Fox Racing Shox design with a custom internal bypass that damps and stiffens the suspension over rough terrain and reduces the chances of bottoming out.
The weight reduction really becomes obvious off-road, Hameedi says: “When you had the old truck on a sand dune, it would move the sand dunes out of its way. The new truck feels like it’s riding on top of the sand.”