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.

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