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2010 Ford SVT Raptor Pickup Truck

Behind the Wheel of an SVT Raptor in the California Desert

By

Ford SVT Raptor Pickup Truck

Ford SVT Raptor Side View

� Dale Wickell
Awhile back, Ford challenged its Special Vehicles Team, SVT for short, to create a new truck that was more multipurpose than the team's previous pickup, the sporty Lightning. Off-road abilities ranked high on Ford's want list, but the team went beyond that to build a truck that could also handle high-speed desert racing and serve as a daily driver.

The Special in Special Vehicles Team isn't an honorary title. This group has developed some unique vehicles over the years, including the Ford GT and the new Shelby Mustangs. Their projects aren't just re-badged Fords -- at the very least they involve modifications to an existing vehicle's engine and suspension, and the Ford GT was built-from-scratch.

I spent a couple of days behind the wheel of a Raptor, on and off-road in the California desert. On pavement, the truck drove as good (or better) than a stock F-150; off-road, there's no comparison between the two.

Raptor Suspension

The team created new heavy-duty alloy front control arms that are longer than a typical F-150's, allowing for more travel in the front suspension (a total of 11.7 inches). Front axles and steering arms were beefed up and lengthened to support the truck's wider stance.

The rear axle housing was lengthened to match the front track width, and stock axles were replaced with longer, stronger versions to improve the truck's off-road durability.

FOX RACING SHOX, well known in the off-road performance world, developed a set of triple by-pass shocks for the Raptor. The new shocks allow a softer ride in normal driving conditions (on and off-road), but provide a stiffer dampening effect as shocks reach the end of their travel.

Wheel and Tires

SVT created a new 17 inch alloy wheel for the Raptor and then asked B.F. Goodrich to design a tire that was as good off-road as it was on. The new tire (LT 315/70R-17) has an aggressive tread pattern to help it handle mud and snow and a strong sidewall to hold up to off-road punishment, but is still relatively quiet during on-road driving.

Body Modifications

The F-150 SuperCab underwent body modifications to become a Raptor.

  • A stacked brick style, black-out grille, with FORD lettering across its entire width (Front View

  • A hydro-formed steel front bumper (a first for any auto bumper)

  • A bulged hood with two fresh air vents

  • New front fenders and outer bedside panels to accommodate the truck's wider stance and larger tires

Optional Raptor mud graphics are available for the bedsides.

Raptor Drivetrain

A 5.4L 3-valve V-8 (320hp and 390 lb/ft of torque) is standard. A 6.2 liter V8 (411 hp and 434 lb/ft of torque) is optional, and adds $3,000 to the Raptor's price tag.

Ford's new 6-speed automatic transmission and transfer case connect to 4.10 ratio front and rear differentials. The rear differential's electronic locking mechanism enhances traction in slippery conditions.

Off-Road Racing

Ford SVT and Ford Racing entered a pre-production Raptor in the 2008 Baja 1000. Production hadn't begun, so the pickup wasn't eligible for the stock class, and was entered as a modified truck. The goal was to finish the race and evaluate how the Raptor held up.

The truck was fitted with a roll cage and equipped with the new 6.2 liter V-8. Not only did the Raptor finish the race, it finished third in its class -- not bad for a shake-down run.

Driving Impressions

I had the opportunity to drive the SVT Raptor on about 60 miles of paved, winding roads from about 2000 ft. elevation to the desert floor. Under those conditions, the truck rode smoother than my 2003 F-150 SuperCrew 4X4.

The truck handled its off-road tasks just as well. Its length might limit the Raptor in tight turns, but that's true of any full-size pickup.

Push the truck on curves -- stability doesn't waver. The 5.4L V-8 has plenty of power to climb hills and the 6-speed tranny allows you to choose the best gear for engine braking when you're coming back down.

Hill descent speed is variable, with an initial setting of about 2 mph. If you want to go faster, lightly push the accelerator to get to the desired speed -- the system will maintain it. To slow down a little, apply the brake until you're where you want to be and let the truck take over.

An electronic locking rear differential works in all transfer positions, 2WD HI, 4WD HI and 4WD LO. Combined with traction control, the system navigates slippery surfaces and makes steep climbs with ease.

In a 4WD system without a locking differential (with four wheels sitting on a slick surface) one front and one rear wheel could be spinning, and the other two wheels not turning at all. With the Raptor's locker, two rear and one front wheel can spin. The more wheels capable of spinning, the better your chances that one will get traction.

Because the truck is designed for high speed off-road driving, the locker will stay engaged at any speed (most manufacturers automatically disengage it at about 20-25 mph).

I drove through desert washes and navigated a rough off-road course at about 70 mph (and later rode with a test driver at speeds up to 100 mph) and always felt in complete control of the truck, even when all four wheels were off the ground.

Safety Devices Off-Road

Systems that control vehicle stability, traction, roll and other safety concerns can all be either modified or turned off at the push of a button. For instance, flip a switch to change airbag sensitivity -- the bags will still deploy, but are not likely to be set off by the bumps of off-road driving.

The truck's anti-lock brakes are adjustable, too. Driving off-road in normal mode, the system pulses the wheels to work over a distance. In off-road mode, the ABS pulses differently to help build up sand or mud in front of the tire, digging in to slow the vehicle more quickly.

The SVT Raptor is unique, and can't be compared to any other production truck. I'd like to spend a little more time getting familiar with it, but what I experienced in my two-day desert drive made it obvious that the team accomplished its goal to build a truck that's comfortable for daily driving and will handle just about any off-road task.

MSRP: from $38,995

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