2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

You usually don’t see full tests of pickups in the pages of Dirt Wheels. However, when Ford introduced the new F-150 SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Raptor, we had to take a closer look. Ford is touting this machine as “built for the desert but ready for the streets.” Not only could it be a daily driver for under $40,000, you could take this thing out on the weekend and drive as hard as you do your ATV or UTV off-road.

What makes the Raptor so unique from a standard F-150 is that it is a full seven inches wider and it has huge Fox Racing Shox on all four corners. No, these aren’t just skinny OEM shocks built for Ford by Fox, these are as close to true off-road racing shocks as you can find on a production truck.

Up front, double A-arms hold the reservoir-equipped Foxes, which move an impressive 11.2 inches. Out back, a solid E-locking system moves 12.1 inches thanks to the Foxes. These shocks are non-adjustable but do have internal bypass circuits, which help control damping, depending on how fast you drive through the rough stuff.

Yes, you can jump the Ford Raptor like this. It will take flat landings of about three feet without bottoming. Try doing that with most other production trucks and your shocks will fold in half.

Not only does this truck have some great construction and bolt-on features, it has computer controls that have never been seen on a truck before. A button on the dash allows you to switch the truck into an “off-road” mode. This setting reduces the amount of anti-lock braking it offers, slows down the steering ratio, alters throttle response and changes shift points of the automatic tranny. The mode also locks the rear end and adjusts the amount of traction control, depending on driver preference.

The Raptor pickup is just as practical as a standard truck. It will haul any quad and smaller UTVs. You can also tow smaller toyhauler or flat-bed trailers with more toys strapped on.

In a word, awesome! On the street, the Raptor handles like a sports car. It’s not the fastest vehicle on the road. But that’s okay, because with such cool colors like Molten Orange, Blue Flame, Tuxedo Black and Oxford White, the law would be hot on our tail here on the California highways. When you get off the pavement, that’s where the real fun begins. We took the Raptor to the Borrego Desert and really put it through its paces. We didn’t just drive on graded dirt roads. Our test loop consisted of rough sand washes, trail crossings (jumps), whoops, sharp turns and rocky sections.

The truck handled like it was on rails even in the loose dirt. We literally pounded it over two-foot whoops without bottoming the suspension. You could slam the truck into a berm as if you were on a lowered, 50-inch wide quad. There was never a hint of two-wheeling. This could all be done while driving with the air conditioning on.

Ford’s Raptor was not only built to fly through the desert, it’s equally capable of climbing up and down hills. Four-wheel-drive traction and decent control on the truck could rival the best ATVs. A full aluminum skid plate package helps protect the undercarriage better than any truck we have seen before. And if you do get in a little trouble and suffer a flat tire, a full-sized 35-inch BFG spare is behind the rear bumper.

The Raptor we tested featured a 5.4-liter V-8 engine that was capable of speeds of over 85 mph even in deep sand. For true speed demons, a 6.2-liter engine will be available soon. Both engines are mated to an automatic six-speed transmission.

This is not only a play truck, it can haul your toys, too. The bed is 50-inches wide (between the wheel wells) by 67-inches long (with the tailgate up), and it will hold any ATV and some smaller UTVs. The Raptor also has a towing capacity of 6000 pounds, so towing flatbeds, enclosed trailers and smaller toy haulers are no problem for its 324-cubic inch, 24-valve, V-8 engine.

The cockpit of the Raptor has bucket seats, nice gauges and a clean dash with an optional navigation system. Ford even striped the top of the steering wheel so you know which way is straight if things get away from you.

In the past, the Ford Special Vehicle Team (SVT) has come up with some pretty exciting vehicles. None have been such head-turners to us. A street-legal, warranty-equipped truck that works this well off-road has only been a fantasy before. And at only $38,995, we don’t even have to dream that long before we can afford one.

If Ford starts a trend of pre-runner-style trucks that you can see in a showroom, there will be exciting times ahead for all. If they don’t, we wouldn’t be too disappointed, because we would buy this Ford truck anyway.

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