The Ford F-150 Raptor has been redesigned for 2021. (Ford)
It’s a coil spring rear suspension that required a major re-engineering effort and is aimed at improving ride quality, handling and … flying.
The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is the first F-150 with a coil spring rear suspension system. (Ford)
The setup includes 24-inch springs, computer-controlled Fox LiveValve shock absorbers and provides 15-inches of wheel travel.
The 3.1-inch diameter shocks are designed to prevent overheating on the sort of long, high speed desert runs the four-door SuperCrew pickup is designed for and can adjust their stiffness to match conditions or cradle the truck as it lands a big jump.
The $65,840 Raptor comes with a full array of protective underbody plates and 35-inch all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels, while the first factory-installed 37-inch tire option is also available.
The turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 has the same specifications as before, with 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, but has been tuned to broaden its power band. Unfortunately, its 16 mpg combined fuel economy rating doesn’t do a lot to engender its EcoBoost name.
A 10-speed automatic transmission connects it to a 4×4 system with both a full-time setting and two-speed transfer case. A locking rear differential is standard and a Torsen (torque-sensing) front differential available through an options package that also adds a 360-degree camera system with a live front trail view and guidelines for squeezing the ridiculously wide pickup between trees, rocks and minivans at the mall parking lot. The three amber lights in the grille indicate it’s a wide load, but the off-road gear limits its tow rating to 8,200 pounds.
The Ford F-150 Raptor has a built-in 2-kilowatt inverter. (Ford)
Among the new F-150 features are a redesigned interior, a built-in 2-kilowatt inverter that repurposes the engine as a generator and a prep kit for Ford’s BlueCruise driving aid, which uses infrared facial recognition technology to allow for hands-off lane-centering cruise control on a growing network of over 100,000 pre-mapped roads.
They’re all paved, of course, and the Raptor rides well on smooth surfaces, although the oversized rubber does give it a bit of the bouncy feel of a modified truck. It’s a small price to pay for the payoff.
The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor’s interior has a new look. (Ford)
The Raptor is in its element on dirt and sand and anything with a lot of bumps in it, always asking to be driven just a little faster than you naturally would.
Several selectable drive modes are available including Baja, which puts it in 4WD high, reduces, but doesn’t eliminate the traction control intervention, adjusts the throttle map and keeps the steering in Normal, not the firmer sport, so the wheel doesn’t fight you as much. The suspension’s brain also pays attention to what you’re up in an effort to predict what’s coming next and prepare itself to handle it.
Its performance isn’t dramatically different from the last generation’s, but exhibits further capability and poise. It easily soaks up whoops and is more than happy to tail slide at high speeds. I didn’t have the opportunity to go rock crawling with it, but its specifications are better, not worse, than the outgoing model’s, which was no slouch.
One feature that’s been added that is shared with the new Bronco is a one-pedal drive mode that engages the brakes as you let off the accelerator to make it simpler to negotiate tough terrain. There’s also Ford’s low speed Trail Control cruise control that operates from 1 mph to 20 mph, but the Raptor is more fun when it’s going much faster than that.
And you’ll soon be able to get one that goes a lot faster. Feeling the heat of the Ram 1500 TRX, which took the Raptor formula and literally supercharged it with a 702 hp V8, Ford will be debuting a Raptor R next year with a V8 of as yet unspecified size or power.
Here’s hoping the R means it will be as ridiculous as the TRX, but the Raptor is already an animal.
2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
Base price: $65,840
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger 4×4 pickup
Engine: Turbocharged 3.5-liter V6
Power: 450 hp, 510 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
MPG: 15 city/18 hwy