For many, the arrival of the new 2015 aluminum-clad Ford F-150 was a gift unto itself. It represented the first really radical change in the design in many years, and its new construction promises substantial weight savings, better fuel economy, and crisper performance. But for a subset of hardcore truck enthusiasts, it was only a milestone on the way to getting to what actually mattered: a new Raptor.
The current Raptor is, by all accounts, a beast of a truck. It was purpose-built for rough terrain, without sacrificing itself as a functional vehicle that could still be used for all of the same reasons that the normal F-150 could be. Its cruising fuel economy leaves something to be desired, but that’s what happens when a bored-out 6.2 liter, 411 horsepower V8 is shoe-horned into what is already a sizable pickup.
It had additional suspension travel, reinforced components to handle the shock of impacts, and was wider than the standard F-150 model. And for all intents and purposes, those things held constant for the new model, which Ford has reworked considerably to make even more intense.
The V8 is now gone, replaced by Ford’s now-ubiquitous 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine. But don’t fret; though Ford hasn’t yet revealed its output, the company has promised that it will exceed the 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet that the outgoing model produces.
Like the standard 2015 F-150, the Raptor has benefited from the aluminum diet — the latest iteration has reportedly shed 500 pounds as a result. The power is routed through a new 10-speed automatic transmission, and the shocks — supplied by FOX Racing — are now bigger and allow for more travel. Combined with the boost in power, this sets the Raptor up nicely for some serious performance gains, and things are looking promising on the fuel economy front, too.
“When we created the first Raptor, we set out to prove vehicle performance isn’t just measured on the street or at the track – off-road can be even more fun,” Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president of Global Product Development, said in the company’s press release. “The original Raptor, plus enhancements on the all-new F-150 set the bar for us to make the all-new Raptor better in every way.”
There’s more high-strength steel in the frame to make sure the truck can handle just about anything thrown its way, and its trail prowess is improved with the addition of an all-new four-wheel-drive, torque-on-demand transfer case, which “offers better traction for a greater variety of terrain at low and high speeds – both on-road and off-road,” Ford Performance’s chief engineer Jamal Hameedi said.
Drivers can choose from six different modes of driving: Normal, Street, Weather, Mud, Baja, and Rock depending on the situation that they find themselves in. Each setting makes the appropriate adjustments as needed in terms of suspension firmness, power delivery, and gear ratios.
But Ford really didn’t even need to do any of this.
The Raptor plays in a league of its own. Despite the super-hot pickup truck battle that rages among the standard models, no other manufacturer has appeared interested in challenging Ford in the hardcore off-road space. Ram shot a warning shot or two with its newly-revealed 1500 Rebel, which features a beefed-up exterior and some added trail-inspired tweaks, but “it’s not an extreme, desert-racer off-road type product,” Ram cheif Bob Hegbloom told Autoblog.
Toyota’s Tundra TRD Pro is a massive step in the right direction for the brand, but, like the Ram, it’s more for casual off-road use — it doesn’t have as much power (383 horses) or the structural reinforcement that the Ford does. And GM, though it’s revealed or released a steady stream of special additions, seems more interested in catering to the luxury truck market than those lured outdoors or off-road.
This leaves the Raptor to brave the rivers and dunes all on its own, something we’re sure Ford doesn’t mind. But in doing so, it’s single-handedly holding the bar for the hardcore trail-going truck market, just waiting for another vehicle to come lift it. But they all seem more enamored in playing limbo than the high-jump.