2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Road and Trail Test Review

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When Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) turns its attention to one of the company's vehicles, that ride inevitably runs faster, jumps higher and provides way more thrills per mile than the vehicle it's based on. And, in many cases, more than any other vehicle in its competitive set too.

So, what happened when the SVT drew a bead on the new F-150?

Well, let's just call it focused mayhem.

The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is the Special Vehicle Team's take on the pre-runner pickups desert racing teams use to scout the course ahead of unleashing their outrageously expensive Trophy Truck racers. A pre-runner has to be able to negotiate the same terrain as those racing trucks, at greatly elevated speeds like those racing trucks, and they can't break down in the process, again, like those racing trucks.

Recognizing a ripe opportunity to offer something truly unique in the marketplace, Jamal Hadeemi, SVT chief engineer and a former race engineer for a Baja Trophy Truck, set the SVT's engineers on a course to build a pre-runner for the real world.

Hadeemi's truck had to be capable of absorbing the punishing shocks to its system engendered by pounding over thousands of miles of rough terrain at speeds that would get you pulled over on any highway in Canada. However, it also had to provide an acceptable ride, competent handling and diminished levels of noise, vibration and harshness so it could be employed as a daily driver.

In other words, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor had to be the off-road pickup equivalent of a high performance GT automobile. After spending a day driving it through the city streets of San Diego, over the sinuous roads scaling the Cuyamaca Mountains, and over miles of trails in the Anza Borrego desert, I can report the team has succeeded on all fronts. This is a truck you can drive back and forth to work everyday, and with no modifications whatsoever, take off-roading in virtually any style you wish.

On pavement, the ride is (dare I say it?) plush, but reassuringly stable. Tire roar is non-existent, which, given the size and tread depth of those 35-inch desert boots the Raptor wears is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. Body roll around curves is minimal and the steering is exactingly precise.

Taking to the dirt, if climbing steep inclines with loose gravel, sand, and/or snow under your wheels is your thing, the Raptor offers over 11 inches (28 cm) of front, and 12 inches (30 cm) of rear suspension travel, along with four low gearing and locking differentials. In other words, the Raptor SVT climbs like the proverbial mountain goat.

When it's time to descend those impossibly steep inclines, activating the F-150 Raptor's hill descent control eases you down that slope between 3.2 and 32 km/h or 2 and 20 mph (your preference) with only steering inputs required from you. The big Ford modulates the downhill speed all by its lonesome.

Now if that style of off-road going is too slow for you, there's this whole other aspect to the Raptor's personality. While 320 horsepower moving nearly 2,700 kilos (6,000 pounds) might not sound like a whole lot on the street (and there is a 400 horsepower engine coming for the Raptor), in the desert, said 320 horsepower is more than adequate for keeping the Raptor ripping along at an eye-widening, white knuckling, booty puckering pace. Surfing sand dunes, flying (literally) over moguls, power sliding through desert washes with its tail hung out, all while sending gravel and dust flying in all directions at ferocious velocities – this is one badass pickup truck.

That it does all this is remarkable, that it does all this and carries a factory warranty is absolutely amazing.

Back in the real world, the Raptor offers a towing capacity of 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilos) as well as a 1,000-pound (454-kg) payload capacity. Sirius satellite radio, Ford's Sync infotainment system, automatic climate control, supportive leather seating, and a nicely sculpted steering wheel provide welcoming accommodations.

I've always been fond of Ford's interior treatments and the touches they've added to differentiate the Raptor really infuse the cabin with a sporting flair. Orange accents tell the world this is the fun loving F-150, and the black on white SVT six-gauge instrument package says it's serious about that fun too. All in all, this is an entirely new breed of factory pickup. It'll be interesting to see if GMC, Chevy and Dodge (er… Ram) decide to play along.

Ford F-150 Raptor SVT pricing starts at $48,299, excluding freight.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Pickup, 4x4, Ford, 2010, F-150 SVT Raptor, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, SVT,

Organizations: SVT

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