by: Jag Dhatt
Esterel, QC: Imagine you wake up, turn on the TV and see something dreadful. What people thought would never happen, has happened – World War Z has become a reality and your family needs to get to the safe zone. Trouble is, you need to find a bullet-proof vehicle that will go through anything while keeping you safe. With your survival-of-the-fittest skills in full throttle, under the guise of darkness, you make your way over the Ford dealership, just a couple of blocks away. Nobody’s there…it’s quiet. And you see it, the all-new Ford Raptor, and let out a sigh of relief – you’re going to be okay.
While the above situation is, fingers crossed, not likely to happen, the Raptor may be the vehicle of choice in case it does. To test out just how good the new Raptor is, we were invited to beautiful Quebec to drive the truck on not only roads, but on special snow and ice tracks at Megaglisse and boy, were we impressed.
The Raptor made its debut in 2009 as a SVT (Special Vehicle Team) model. Rather than being a street rocket like the Lightning, this truck was built on Ford’s baja truck, offering amazing off-road capabilities. The truck was able to go head-to-head with custom built vehicles to tackle baja type races, and did so admirably.
For the 2017 Raptor, one of the biggest changes happened when team Ford decided to pull the 6.2L V8 and swap it with a more powerful, 2nd generation 3.5L EcoBoost V6, which now churns out 450HP and 510 lb-ft of torque – yes, you’re reading that right! That’s a lot of power and torque from a V6. This beast of a powerplant is mated to a brand new 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission (which is across all F-150’s) that is geared to keep the engine in its sweet spot at all times. Although we had the Raptor for only a few hours, I can confirm that the new transmission is quite good, with shifts being timely and quite quick. When needing to get away quick during the zombie apocalypse, the Raptor won’t disappoint. What’s more is the sweet sound that resonates out of the real dual exhausts with dual tailpipes – these are raised and tucked away under the rear bumper to improve departure angle.
Terrain won’t be a problem either for this Raptor – it’s already built a reputation for being able to handle most types. Now with six driver-selectable pre-set modes, you can be assured that this truck will be able to go anywhere and over anything. The redesigned, larger FOX Racing Shox allow for more suspension travel, making the ride not only comfortable on the roads, but appropriate when off-road – Ford says the suspension travel is enough to help prevent the Raptor from bottoming out in most situations. There’s also reinforcement to the suspension mounting points that won’t cause the truck to bend if severely abused. What I really liked was Sport Mode, in which the gear shifts and ratios are tuned perfectly for a great sporty driving experience.
For anyone standing in front, the Raptor has a menacing presence, like any raptor should. Its massive signature grille, aggressive and muscular stance, and giant front skid plate are enough to tell everything else, alive or dead, to get out of the way. This new Raptor is the best-looking so far; in fact, I wasn’t a fan of some of the previous iterations of the truck, but this one is quite a piece of work. With the truck six inches wider than a regular F-150, it’s not an easy beast to park, especially in your average garage. Live in a condo or apartment? Good luck!
Road Driving Impressions
Let’s face it, the people buying this truck and either those who want the oomph factor for social reasons or serious enthusiasts who need a true and tried truck that can compete in desert or gruelling off-road competitions – either way, you’re set!
I hadn’t driven the Raptor for a few years and as I climbed into the cockpit, I knew I was in for some serious smiles. Engine started, seat adjusted, belt buckled, Sport mode activated, and I was ready to go. Right off the bat, I had to hit the throttle to see if the new 3.5L V6 was all that it should be and yup, two big thumbs up! This truck really hauls and in Sport mode, using the magnesium paddle shifters, the shifts were abrupt, as expected. I was able to fly through the 10 speeds easily – the first 7 being for spirited driving while the last 3 more for highway use.
What surprised me most was for such a beastly truck, it was surprisingly quiet in the cabin. Like its non-steroid “regular” F-150 counterpart, the Raptor is very well insulated. The military-grade aluminum used for the body and bed can help shave the weight of the truck by up to 500 pounds, which you can feel when driving and cornering.
For the few hours we had this truck on the road, it drove better than I expected it to – it was civil when I needed it to be and downright psychotic every other time.
For the most part, the Raptor and its more docile sibling, the F-150, share the same interior. The Raptor does add bolstered seats with contrast stitching, a contoured steering wheel with magnesium paddle shifters, and six overhead auxiliary switches to control aftermarket equipment. It’s a great interior space for the enthusiast, worker, and regular driver.
Winter Off-Road Driving
As I said earlier, we all know what the Raptor is capable of in off-road conditions, especially the desert. However, Ford Canada had something special for us at Megaglisse – a winter driving course that we journalists were to power through first, and then, a hot lap as passenger with a professional driver.
Navigating through the course was a little tough; the path was tight and the truck is huge. Never-the-less, through snow, ice, and mud, the truck pulled through without a glitch. The exclusive 2nd generation BF Goodrich KO2 tires provided exceptional traction and are built to take on the toughest off-road threats that can be thrown at them. Again, I have to say that even as our heads bobbed around as we pummeled through the rutted track, the interior was quiet and comforting. The bolstered seats, unique to the Raptor, provided excellent support and yes, the heated seats and steering wheel were great too.
For the hot lap, I really was able to see what the Raptor could do. The professional driver disengaged traction control and took off. My self-proclaimed driving skills were shot down by the time we finished the hot lap. When you put a truck as impressive as the Raptor in the hands of a professional driver, you really get a sense of the what’s possible; even more impressive is that both the driver and Raptor weren’t pushing the limits.
Some Final Thoughts
The 2017 Raptor is everything you would expect from an extreme truck and then some. Yes, people will look at it and get out of the way, with most doing a double-take. And if you’re ever caught in a zombie apocalypse, the Raptor will scorch the road and trails to make sure you get to the safety zone.