First Drive: 2011 Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew

‘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.

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