2021 Ford F-150 Raptor first drive review: American badass

There’s one thing wholly satisfying about utilizing a well-designed device to its full potential. The greatest instruments are arguably people who ship higher outcomes the more durable they’re labored. Call it grace underneath stress, name it health of objective, name it no matter you want, it is clear the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor 4×4 has precisely this type of advantage baked into the marrow of its body, and boy, is it a thrill to find and exploit.

Although it arguably does not look a lot completely different from final yr’s mannequin, this Raptor is certainly considerably new. This pickup truck not solely advantages from practically all the 2021 F-150 model line’s substantial interior and tech improvements, it additionally good points much more spectacular off-road chops due to a complicated new five-link rear suspension and the provision of hulking 37-inch tires. 

Before you ask, one factor that continues to be largely unchanged is the three.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, as soon as once more matched to a 10-speed automated transmission and tuned for 450 horsepower and 510-pound-feet of torque. There’s the next compression ratio, revised software program for higher throttle response and new high-power cooling followers for extra assured off-roading and towing, however that is in regards to the scope of the modifications underhood.

Now getting into its third technology and at last dealing with its first real competitors within the type of Ram’s formidable 1500 TRX, that is the mannequin that can carry the Raptor nameplate into its teenage years. Fortunately, a day of pounding by means of the Mojave desert, assaulting sand dunes, blitzing over whoops and galloping throughout rock-strewn washes reveals not a hint of awkward adolescence. Better nonetheless, due to an all-new multi-mode exhaust system, the Raptor’s voice has dropped appreciably, bellowing extra loudly and extra authoritatively in a decrease register. 

37-inch tires on the street

My first drive of the Michigan-built 2021 Ford Raptor begins off innocuously sufficient, within the shadow of the casinos and lodges of Las Vegas. I set off from Sin City, driving on paved roads an hour out to Pahrump, a city of round 40,000 whose notable financial drivers embrace — [checks Wikipedia] — Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch, Front Sight Firearms Training Institute and a pair of authorized brothels. 

Here be 37-inch monsters.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The drive, together with a detour to take a look at Nevada’s stunning Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, offers me an opportunity to get acquainted with my take a look at automobile, which is driving on mondo meats: a set of newly elective 37×12.5-inch BFGoodrich T/A K02s, the most important tires I’ve ever seen fitted to a manufacturing pickup (they’re truly larger than the Sasquatch toes on Ford’s new Bronco SUV). These tires come as a part of the Raptor 37 Performance Package, a multifaceted $7,500 choice group that features beadlock-capable wheels, distinctive shock absorbers, fetching Rhapsody Blue Recaro seats and a slew of inside and exterior trim tweaks. The tires ship killer appears to be like and higher floor clearance, albeit on the expense of some suspension journey and unsprung weight (round 6 kilos per nook).

Big cabin and tech upgrades

Like most roads in Nevada that are not within the mountains, the street to Pahrump is featurelessly flat, straight and sunbaked. But whereas it is not an awesome place to check the Raptor’s dealing with, it is a great time to notice the Raptor’s supple experience high quality and fairly well-controlled NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). The massive tread blocks on the BFGs do not ship extreme tire roar and whereas the steering is gentle on really feel and a bit squishy simply off heart, it is simply fantastic and should not be off-putting to anybody used to driving a full-size pickup.

It’s additionally a great time to take inventory of the largest information for the Raptor’s on-road manners, which don’t have anything to do with the automobile’s dynamics: the brand new cabin. Like the remainder of its F-150 siblings, it is right here the place Ford had fallen behind its arch rival, the Ram 1500 (and fairly considerably, at that). For 2021, the 14th-generation F-150’s inside is of noticeably greater high quality. 

Raptor’s vastly improved cabin is a significant quality-of-life replace.


The dashboard is completely new and it is one thing of a tech bonanza. With a regular 12-inch digital gauge cluster and an identical 12-inch touchscreen operating Sync 4 infotainment, you are a significant quality-of-life improve versus the 2020 mannequin. The graphics are sharper, the response occasions are snappier and the characteristic set is deeper, bringing conveniences like wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Importantly, the system additionally incorporates a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, enabling bumper-to-bumper over-the-air updates for the first time. This ensures that not solely will the Sync 4 proceed to supply the most recent and best infotainment options, new capabilities and bug fixes might be downloaded for the remainder of the truck, too — powertrain included. Additional options just like the $765 360-degree digital camera package deal (which exhibits real-time tire paths for smarter off-roading), a deployable heart console desk and an out there 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen Unleashed audio system are actual pot sweeteners, too.

Prodigious thirst apart, Raptors have at all times made surprisingly nice every day drivers, however this new inside and tech ought to actually make on a regular basis life a lot simpler, even in case you do not go for stuff like Pro Power Onboard, a built-in 2.0-kilowatt generator able to powering a small job website or a killer tailgate celebration.

Off-road impressions

The convoy of take a look at Raptors spends the night time in Pahrump with a purpose to get an early begin to beat the late-summer warmth. How early? I’m within the lodge’s foyer by 4:00 a.m., then caffeinated and on the street by 4:15 a.m. I’ve one other 50-mile drive to achieve California’s Dumont Dunes, an unlimited, 7,620-acre playland that lies within the shadow of volcanic hills and alongside the banks of the Amargosa River. 

When I arrive, it is nonetheless pitch darkish, giving me time air down the tires to about 24 psi and to bolt on high-visibility dune flags, in addition to don a helmet and HANS device for security. The solar shortly catches hearth, illuminating a surprising martian backdrop that appears like somebody clicked the “widescreen” button on my life. It’ll be properly over 110 levels earlier than the day is out, so I load in sufficient water bottles to eat the advisable liter or extra an hour and head for the assorted programs that Ford’s staff arrange.

Playing within the dunes at velocity the place the Raptor is happiest. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Whoops! This efficiency isn’t any accident

While it isn’t the first activity I deal with, it is the Raptor’s efficiency on the whoops — an extended subject of of small, rolling jumps that create a quickly undulating floor — that impress me most. Credit goes to the engineers who developed the Raptor’s utterly new rear suspension, which ditches the leaf springs used on all different F-Series vehicles apart from the Lightning EV. This all-new five-link setup employs lengthy rear trailing arms, a Panhard rod and gigundous 24-inch coil springs to offer critical journey (15 inches out again on 35-inch-tire-equipped fashions, or 14.1-inches on my pickup’s 37-inch BFGs). Ford says this 2021 mannequin has 25% extra suspension journey than the unique Raptor, which wasn’t precisely missing in that division. 

Perhaps most significantly, this subtle rear suspension permits far more exact location of the axle all through the suspension’s journey — not simply up and down, however fore/aft and laterally, as properly. The result’s that the truck has a neater time placing the ability down and holding it there, particularly with a set of bigger, next-generation Fox Live Valve shocks. These electronically managed, internal-bypass items characteristic bigger 3.1-inch tubes to higher handle the punishing thermal load of high-speed desert operating. 

How this works out in actual life is that the sooner you go, the higher the Raptor performs throughout the whoops. What feels juddery at 40 mph smoothes out remarkably at 60-plus mph, the Raptor’s newly strengthened chassis staying surprisingly degree whereas its suspension executes a punishing high-speed dance because the truck streaks throughout the desert washboard. It’s a exceptional efficiency at speeds that would properly ship the mattress on a lesser truck mule-kicking uncontrollably — common ol’ leaf springs would possibly’ve subjected this Code Orange Raptor to a Code Brown second. Instead, I discover myself pushing to speed up to even greater speeds all the earlier, forcing me to rely ever more durable on Raptor’s succesful brakes (13.7-inch discs up entrance,13.2 inches out again).

The Raptor is a greater performer in desert whoops.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Beadlocks for all

Ford coned off a few giant sand programs that run up and down Dumont’s huge dunes, too, giving me the possibility to kick up some critical rooster tails whereas assessing low-grip dealing with on tires which have been aired down even additional to only 15 psi. The key right here is momentum — you by no means need to decelerate for worry of burying the Raptor as much as its axles. The 10-speed gearbox is primed to maintain the revs up in Baja mode and it is super enjoyable to hold the tail out and soar ever greater and additional over a crest. Or, at the least it’s till I load up the outer entrance tire in a nook too exhausting, the BFG rolling over on its sidewalls and popping a bead, deflating the tire and bringing the motion a screeching halt. (Other workouts featured the Raptor’s out there beadlock-capable wheels, however not this one, oddly.) Ford minders shortly shuttle me to a different Raptor, later reuniting me with my authentic Code Orange tester after a recent rubber swap.

Between the whoops, the dune operating and piling alongside a high-speed course on a wash, it is clear the Raptor is extra succesful than ever within the tough stuff. Even avid off-roaders are much more more likely to run out of expertise lengthy earlier than this truck runs out of functionality. I’ll have to attend for a future engagement to see how the brand new suspension stands as much as the pains of rock crawling, however the swap to a five-link setup and bigger tires hasn’t appreciably harm the Raptor’s on-road livability, both.

Sound opinions

As to the carryover powertrain’s new sound, Ford fitted a radically completely different exhaust setup to the 2021 F-150 Raptor, full with a funky-looking midpipe trombone loop forward of the muffler to equalize the 3-inch pipe lengths back and forth to make sure optimum acoustics. Combined with lively valves with 4 driver-selectable modes (Quiet, Normal, Sport and Baja), the brand new exhaust ensures the Raptor has a way more assertive voice if you need it and a don’t-wake-the-neighbors tone when you do not. Baja mode’s howl is a big enchancment over the fairly flaccid-sounding second-generation Raptor, nevertheless it stays a good distance from the intrinsically satisfying guttural V8 bellow of the Ram 1500 TRX.

The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine hasn’t modified a lot, however at the least the exhaust sounds higher.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Thirsty, however not TRX thirsty

On the plus facet, the 2021 Raptor, whereas hardly thrifty, handily outpoints the far more highly effective Ram in gas economic system. Models geared up with 35-inch tires ought to see 15 mpg metropolis, 18 mpg freeway and 16 mpg mixed, whereas 37-inch-tire fashions fall to fifteen, 16 and 15, respectively. The Mopar, in the meantime, nets a relatively reprehensible 10 mpg metropolis, 14 mpg freeway and 12 mpg mixed. 

Unlike the TRX, the Raptor is glad to dwell on common 87-octane gas and the Ford has a bigger 36-gallon gas tank, too, enabling 500 miles between fill-ups. Your bladder might not final that lengthy on the freeway, however you will be grateful for the additional capability if you’re caning the EcoBoost off-road in some distant location, getting far lower than EPA estimates.

Big value enhance

I hate to dwell on the quantity comparability sport with the Ram, however there’s one different vital set of figures I would like to debate: pricing. The outgoing Raptor held an enormous value benefit versus the Ram, beginning about $15,000 much less. That’s sufficient of a pricing gulf that one might argue these two autos truly existed in several lessons — supertruck versus hypertruck, maybe. 

No longer; the 2021 Raptor’s enhancements have triggered a significant value enhance. The outgoing 2020 Raptor began at $55,090 together with a steep $1,645 for supply. For 2021, a base Raptor will set you again $65,840 (together with $1,695 supply) and a full-boat mannequin can simply high $80,000. By distinction, the TRX begins at $72,120 delivered and might climb above $94,000. There’s nonetheless a considerable value differential, nevertheless it’s primarily noticeable on high-content fashions and with solely round $6,000 separating base MSRPs, the Raptor’s worth proposition is considerably much less apparent than it as soon as was.

You cannot get right into a 2021 Raptor for lower than $65,840.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

How did this occur? In half, it is as a result of Ford nixed final yr’s less-expensive SuperCab physique type after simply 4% of consumers selected the shorter mannequin’s rear-hinged half-doors. For 2021, the one means you may get a Raptor is with Ford’s bigger four-door SuperCrew physique paired with a 5.5-foot mattress and its 1,400-pound max payload (towing sits at 8,200 kilos). Further bloating the underside line is all of that new tech, together with a brace of good towing aids and Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite of lively security gear, which bundles normal forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise management, blind-spot monitoring, automated excessive beams and so forth. A prep equipment for BlueCruise, Ford’s forthcoming partially automated hands-free driving tech, is elective.

At the top of the day, the 2021 Ford Raptor is a considerably improved truck, constructing on what was already a massively spectacular pickup. This truck’s much more superior suspension will give hardcore off-roaders ample purpose to think about the brand new mannequin, nevertheless it’s the cabin’s much-needed overhaul and the large infusion of comfort and security tech that they’re going to respect most in every day life. Unfortunately, the brand new mannequin’s substantial value enhance blunts the Raptor’s attraction considerably and it does have me questioning how stratospherically the forthcoming V8-powered Raptor R can be priced when it arrives subsequent yr. That apart, there are extra causes than ever to think about parking this 4×4 in your storage. It’s top-of-the-line, most expressive autos America makes.

Editors’ observe: Travel prices associated to this story have been coated by the producer, which is frequent within the auto trade. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s workers are our personal and we don’t settle for paid editorial content material.

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