By on February 16, 2015

Raptor 6

I’m driving down a narrow dirt track somewhere in a South Texas at a hurried but not unreasonable pace. As I round a bend, the ground arches up into a tall “whoop” just a few meters in front of me. I can’t go around it, and hitting the brakes will only send me skidding into it at nearly the same speed.

Until now, I’ve mostly driven the Ford Super Duty, in F250 or F350 guise, while on patrol. They can be surprisingly capable out here in the desert, but they don’t like to be driven fast on rough terrain. Hitting one of these “Border Patrol speedbumps” at anything above a cautious crawl transforms the cabin into a world of violence as the industrial suspension crashes to the stops and your head crashes into the ceiling. I brace for the inevitable.

Moments later, I’m past it and all is well. My ass never left the seat cushion, and as far as I can tell, my tires never left the ground. Hell, even my water bottle is still resting serenely in the cupholder where I left it. There’s a reason for that. Today I’m not in a Super Duty. Today, I’m in a Raptor.

 

Raptor 3

I wonder if a couple engineers sat down in Dearborn one day and said, “How bout we design the perfect truck for the U.S. Border Patrol?” It wouldn’t be an enviable job. Our trucks are operated in the some of the roughest conditions faced outside of pure military duty, and they have to withstand those conditions every day. They are piloted over steep, rocky mountain roads; across expanses of deep, soft sand that will trap you in place if you apply just a bit too much or too little throttle; through patches of dense, wet clay that wraps itself around your tires in thick, slick layers. They are driven by adrenaline junkies who are not financially liable for their repair or maintenance, and whose supervisors don’t particularly care how much unnecessary abuse is hurled at the chassis so long as you don’t dent the bodywork. We ask a lot, often way too much, of our fleet.

Drowned

Our mildly modified Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Super Duty vehicles can do almost all the things the Ford SVT Raptor is capable of doing. The difference is the ease (and speed) with which the Raptor does them. Where a Tahoe scrabbles up a steep slope, struggling to find purchase in loose rock, the Raptor simply ascends. Where an F350 churns through soft sand, fighting to keep its massive bulk afloat, the Raptor seems to glide over the surface. Our other trucks can be made to work in this environment, but the Raptor is to the manor born.

Raptor 1

Every component on the Raptor is intended to be used this way, under these conditions. Anecdotally at least, this means fewer repairs due to parts being pushed beyond their limits. Even if an agent is not willfully abusive towards his mount, conditions in the desert sometimes require that one drive less than lovingly. Getting across a flooded ditch or a patch of large rocks often requires a bit of momentum going in. I’ve seen this technique result in shattered suspension components, dislodged coolant and/or turbo plumbing, busted oil pans, and dented rims.

Raptor 5

Not with the Raptor. I’ve yet to see a single one sidelined for damage caused by routine overuse. That’s not to say we haven’t “deadlined” a few; if you want to find a product’s limits, give it to a Border Patrol Agent. The Patrol has determined that the Raptor will not float across a running arroyo during monsoon season. Also, if you have too much fun playing with the included inclinometer display, it will roll sideways down a mountain. Yet to my knowledge, not even our wildest/dumbest agents have managed to bend the frame on one.

Raptor 4

We have other trucks that can give the Raptor a run for its money in some circumstances, but none of them do it without significant compromise. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon’s short wheelbase is a delight when crawling through narrow canyons and up tight switchbacks, but it gets skittish when you have to dial in a bit more speed. The old HMMWV/Hummer H1 can bash its way across any landscape, but it is deeply unpleasant in every other regard and driving them makes me feel sad. Also, every fluid in that venerable military vehicle will boil if it’s hot or hilly, which can be a problem in the Southwest. The Raptor may be outclassed by a particular competitor in that competitor’s one-percent scenario, but you’ll be glad to have the big Ford when you realize 99% of the drive is still ahead of you.

When duty takes us back onto pavement, this off-road savant behaves with polite road manners as well. Pin the throttle coming off a soft shoulder, and the forgiving traction control allows the rear end to kick out a bit as the exhaust plays a thunderous siren song. Disappointingly, the government doesn’t trust us enough to remove the 98 MPH electronic limiter, but the Raptor will get to that limiter in a big damn hurry for such a big damn truck.

Fortunately, the typical smuggler’s vehicle is a circa 1997 Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Suburban loaded well beyond the manufacturer’s recommended GVWR, so 98 is usually fast enough. On an open road, the Raptor will only begrudgingly do anything under 90, the quiet cabin and stable handling cutting your perceived speed about in half. On the rare occasion that the Southwestern hardtop gets twisty, Ford’s desert racer inspires more confidence than most vehicles in the 3-ton+ class. The suspension resists leaning too far into its twelve inches of travel as the 315mm BFGoodrich All-Terrains brace against the pavement and the lateral momentum shifts smoothly from one side to the other. Your average driver will have found his way off the road, through a fence, and into a tree long before a pursuing Raptor hits its limits.

F250

Beyond the apparent savings in repair costs, purchase costs look pretty favorable as well. An F-250 built to standard Border Patrol spec, with the PowerStroke turbodiesel engine and an extended cab, goes for $44,710 according to Ford’s configurator. A base 4×4 Chevy Tahoe stickers over $50,000 nowadays. A 2014 Raptor starts at $44,995, and it requires no additional options for our purposes. Frankly, I’m not sure why the Patrol has purchased anything else since the Raptor arrived in 2010. SVT is taking a hiatus from the OEM off-roader game for the 2015 and 2016 model years, but they’ve already announced the Raptor will return with a lighter, aluminum-clad successor as a MY 2017. The 6.2L V8 will be retired in favor of a tuned 3.5L EcoBoost V6 producing more power and torque than its naturally aspirated ancestor. I can only expect that the price will rise proportionately, I just hope it remains within reach of the U.S. federal government and its humble civil servants like me. Does Uncle Sam qualify for 90 month financing?

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68 Comments on “Capsule Review: Ford SVT Raptor – United States Border Patrol Edition...”


  • avatar

    This is awesome.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    >I wonder if a couple engineers sat down in Dearborn one day and said, “How bout we design the perfect truck for the U.S. Border Patrol?”

    They did with the SSV F-250s in 2008 and 2009, but those turned out to be somewhat of a disaster with the 6.4L diesel and suspension components that no one could identify in service because most of the people who designed the truck were let go before the parts were cataloged.

    Turns out making the production truck as close as possible to a Baja racer works out just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      RedStapler

      Except for the part about the 6.4 powerjoke diesel. Probably the worst engine that has gone into a Ford product in the past 30 yrs. We had several of them at the garbage collection company; they were all fuel sucking monsters with 3-5x the downtime compared to the same F550 with a 7.3 or 6.0 engine.

      • 0 avatar
        jrmason

        While I don’t doubt you had problems with the 6.4, the 6.0 was hands down the worst engine in recent automotive history. The majority of the problems with the 6.4 were emissions related along with some turbo failures the first model year. There was only one recall with the 6.4, the “Thermal Event”, which would cause a burst of flame out the tail pipe due to excessive EGTs during regen and an improperly timed injection of fuel on the exhaust stroke. It was cool to watch, but if somebody happened to be standing near the tail pipe when a Thermal Event happened, here comes the lawsuits.
        The 6.0 on the other hand had several recalls, cost Ford millions in warranty repairs and ended in a nasty class action lawsuit. There have been reports that Ford bought as many as 5000 trucks back from customers that could not be fixed. Poor head design/not enough bolts, repeated FICM failures and a p*ss poor 48 volt injector design, HPOP that should have been scrapped with the 7.3, the list goes on and on. The 6.4 was far from perfect, but it did address most of the weaknesses of the 6.0.

        For those who aren’t aware of what so many 6.0 owners have gone through, take a look at the comments section at the bottom of the link. Just a small taste of how Ford treats its customers.

        http://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/3610-ford-diesel-engine-class-action-settlement/

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Reminds me of the old joke:

    -A Mexican, a Salvadoran, and a Guatemalan are riding a late model Ford Raptor. Who is driving?

    -A “La Migra” agent.

  • avatar
    NN

    Great review, and yes, Border Patrol truly is the kind of occupation that requires a Raptor, and is the perfect test-bed for it. Are Tacoma’s not considered by Border Patrol because of the Japanese badge? I know they’re not terribly refined, but hell neither is an F-250, and I’m sure the #’s on the Tacoma are favorable from a cost perspective in more ways than one.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Import branded truck wouldn’t qualify, but the F-250’s and Wrangler’s “stick” front axles has to put them ahead of anything IRS (ball-joints), for all out, high speed torture, except the Raptor.

      Running 80+ mph on a dirt road or riverbed, you don’t want a front wheel coming off. The TIB OJ Bronco was the GoTo BP vehicle til it’s end, for a reason.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Buying Toyotas from San Antonio wouldn’t seem to be importing them to me.

        More likely, the lack of UAW labor would get them excluded. If the Raptor is made outside of Texas, you guys might get them because the others are made here. Anyway of keeping money out of Texas gets the nod from this administration no matter what it seems.

        • 0 avatar
          Ihatejalops

          Even though it’s made here, the factories are considered international ports and are technically still “imported” vehicles. This could have changed, but I remember this from my days at Nissan and being dumbfounded that the gov’t does it this way. Also, how can one have a landlocked port?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Border Patrol trucks are purchased via the GSA. General Services Administration, or the gubmint’s vehicle buying folks. This Raptor and so many gubmint vehicles have the white and blue GSA plates. Since it’s the Federal Government at work, I’m pretty sure it’s the law that the GSA has to “Buy American” as much as possible. This is to involve vehicles and spares for said vehicles. Now whether the Taco made in the USA is equal to a Hilux is a whole other can of worms.

      • 0 avatar
        mtunofun

        When I was at Travis Air Force base, I saw a bunch of Hyundai Elantra GLS’s with government tags.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/hyundai-sonata-hybrid-is-the-governments-green-car-of-choice/ I’d been wondering about them too. I’m a contractor and can’t normally ride in a GSA vehicle. There are few very specific exemptions where I can. Oh but I have stories about GSA Dodge vans that would barely make it over the Coronado bridge in San Diego and where a joke on I-5.

      • 0 avatar
        drsparky

        The are DHS Plates and vehicles, not GSA, different bucket of money.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I had read somewhere that government contracts stipulate buying from American companies.
      Does that mean they have to stop buying Jeeps?

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      as tough as a tacoma is, i doubt that one would last a week with the border patrol

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I wonder if Ford would ever consider making an XL-level Raptor. Probably not, so long as they continue to sell this one.

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      there isn’t much call for a lower-spec Raptor and with demand and production going up across the entire run of the P415 version, I don’t think it factored much into the plan for the P552 version.

      the border patrol & the San Diego Country Sheriff’s office got to see the truck up close & person before it was even launched – most of the offroad development is done in the Anza-Borrego state park, where the SDS keeps things under control along with park police. Sheriff’s dept were first in line to buy them. the Border Patrol had to wait a bit until a fleet package was created for them (.gov can’t buy vehicles with leather seats) but it didn’t take too long.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        The fact that most Raptors are high level trim models helps Ford pay for the R&D. These trucks are outrageously expensive in Canada. I can buy a fully loaded Super Duty for the same price.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      AFAIK…the fleet Raptors have a cloth interior, not leather. Leather would be sweltering in South West heat but I also suspect that it would also be seen as a non-essential luxury for gov’t spec’ed vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Leather would be “non-essential”, but it reminds me of SSP Mustangs that forced alloy wheels that went coated flat-black. The only clear-coat alloys went on some police chief/captain’s issued ‘Stang interceptors.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I didn’t know the Border Patrol used Raptors, but you make an excellent case for them.

    98? Lame. I remember a funny scene in the movie “The Border” in which the agent angrily tells the mechanic that since his speedometer ends with 140, next time it had better do 140.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      “…98? Lame.”
      Raptors are governed to 98 MPH because that’s what BF Goodrich rates the 315/70/17 All-Terrain TA top speed capability at. I’m sure Ford doesn’t want to deal with another tire debacle a la Firestone.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Excellent point.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Speed limiting due to tires is common.

        • 0 avatar
          IHateCars

          I’ve had mine up to about 85 MPH on old fire roads…not sure I’d want to go any faster! Not that the truck isn’t capable of doing so, I was just approaching maximum “pucker” factor. Lol!
          But that’s one of the many things that I love about this truck, hitting 85 MPH off-road, while sitting in cooled leather seats, sipping my coffee and listening to tunes streaming from my iphone….all the while being covered by a factory warranty.
          Pretty amazing!

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    an MRAP would be cheaper because immigrants.

  • avatar

    I look forward to the day these start showing up in GSA auctions. Although i guess I’ll have to travel to a border state to get one.

  • avatar
    16b

    This is a well written article. I hope we get to read more from the author. I’m sure he/she has more vehicle related stories to tell.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Interesting. I’m glad they finally found someone to use the full capabilities of the Raptor. The Raptors in my area are mostly driven by older men who treat them like muscle cars not off road machines.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      “…older men who treat them like muscle cars …”

      i.e. – Frame the build-sheets, keep them scrupulously clean, park them street-side at the local retro-themed regional chain restaurant on Tuesday nights, and diligently refuse to put any joyful miles on them while sneering at the idle youth and their lack of respect for the ‘values that made this country great’.

      The king is dead, long live the king.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      And when they do try to use them to their full potential…you get funny vids.

      https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ford+raptor+crash

      Interestingly enough, all the muscle car/Corvette crash videos all seem to involve oversteer, while all the Raptor fail videos seem to involve jumps.

    • 0 avatar

      Around here, they mostly seemed to be owned by the Bro demographic who probably traded in their H2 Hummers or lifted F-350’s for them.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    One thing that I noticed when I was editing this but wanted to add separately: the PowerStroke diesel is an $8,480 option. A gas-engined F-250 is much cheaper than a Raptor for that reason. It’s not really an apples-to-oranges comparison to put a diesel F-250 against a gas F-150; if you’re willing to take the gas motor in your Raptor you should also be willing to take it in the F-250.

    That’s just the OCD former Ford salesman in me being picky, though!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The 6.2L V8 will be retired in favor of a tuned 3.5L EcoBoost V6 producing more power and torque than its naturally aspirated ancestor.”

    This should be interesting in fleet/near military use.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Yeah, an update when those have been in use for about a year would be appreciated. Especially being driven in the desert heat. We shall see.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      the millitary has been using turbo charged engines in the deuce for over 50 years, let it go man

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “let it go man”

        No. I’m having naturally aspiration go out as ungracefully and with as much sour grapes as possible.

        And the M35 engine is definitely the same as an Ecoboost.

        • 0 avatar
          jrmason

          I rode with a friend in his Ecoboost towing a 6500 lb boat through the “mountains” of PA. It struggled to maintain speed on 3-5% grades and had to downshift a minimum of 2 gears to do so. Fuel economy for the trip approached single digits. Sure, they’re fast in a drag race and should get decent empty mileage. But there’s a lot of over inflated hype over this engine and its towing capabilities.

  • avatar
    bubbajet

    Very interesting, and as others have said above, I’m glad someone has found a real use for these other than desert racing chase truck and wannabe racer’s mall machine. I’ve gotten to ride in one of these off road and drive it on road, it’s an impressive machine. It’s very far from desert race ready, contrary to the marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great vehicle for some uses.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I will appreciate the likely better braking performance for when we are driving near the border late at night and one of your buddies starts tailgating us at 70.

    I never know how to react. I don’t want to irritate the agent, but there is no known safe response. They follow too close for any speed above 20, but I’m not pulling over because I can’t always be sure it’s an agent until they hit the lights and pull us over cuz – late at night. I’d just pull over if that was acceptable.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      The safe response is to coast until the speed is low enough that their following distance is two seconds, or they give up and pass; whichever comes first.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Yeah, you are not familiar.

        They come at you without the flashing lights at over 100 mph in the desert darkness (yes, that’s illegal). They then ride your tail at about a car length or less in their overloaded trucks while presumably running your plates. They aren’t going to pass or turn for about five minutes plus. If they can’t find a reason to pull you over, they might just do it anyway.

        I’m not a fan of the method. Eventually, there will be blood and/or lawsuit or bad press. Until then, I thought maybe the author would clue me in on what us law following types should do. I understand that the agents are doing what they have been taught, so I’m not going to hold it against them. I blame management.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          If they’re looking for a reason to pull you over anyway, you might as well speed up the process and let it all happen safely. Don’t stop until the lights come on, of course. I don’t see why this is unreasonable.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Because the process is obviously unsafe. The reason to be out at night is because it’s hunting season. When you see deer, you brake fast. Of course, you might not see the deer due to the headlights in your rear window and get killed by the deer before braking. so, I guess there is that.

            Frankly, most of my stops by cops have gone quite well ever since I listened to a cop explain what to do. I was hoping our author would be in the know on this and provide a public safety service by filling us in.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            What the border cop is doing in that situation is extremely unsafe. He should be cons!dered negligent in any collision that results from that and jailed, regardless of initial cause. It’s like he somehow can’t even comprehend the dangers involved, or thinks he is, ahem, immune to any consequences. So I don’t see how there is any safer option left but to coast down to a speed that makes the situation safer. Then if you are pulled over be polite and show nothing but respect for his authority, as your rights are merely what he allows you to have. Don’t make anything personal and he won’t have any reason to waste time bothering you.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      just brake check them

  • avatar
    jvossman

    Hey its my tax dollar at work. If a rental car company can squeeze Audi for 300 downspec A4’s, why can’t the US government ask for Raptor spec suspension and worktruck level interior and engine. If its only one or two raptors, ok. no big deal, but once the numbers grow, even if it saves only $600, then it saves $600 of tax payer money.

    Cops and their toys…

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      What’s wrong with procuring a purpose built vehicle to perform a specific job? That the Raptor is capable pretty much “out of the box” for desert terrain patrols indicates it is a better value than upfitting a standard spec truck.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I thought the interiors were downspeced. I also don’t see the problem in using this vehicle for this purpus. It seems to be the right vehicle for the job. One of the few times the government is doing something right.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Since the de facto official Administration policy seems to be to ENcourage illegal immigration, wouldn’t Cushman Eagle scooters be the logical mission-specific vehicle for the Border Patrol?

  • avatar
    jrmason

    You know your in it deep when water is in the bed of the truck. I’ve never been under the hood of a Raptor but I’d be willing to wager the air intake is on the driver side of the engine compartment. That or its a very well sealed unit.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      Yeah I noticed that too, curious to know if the raptor has some type of fording equipment applied to it or if the driver just knew the precise depth of that water.

      Then again…. not his repair bill so prob not important!

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Perfect application. Needs a .50 Cal mount though.

    I suppose the Ram Power Wagon could tide over before the Raptor returns.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Mandalorian – the new Power Wagon is softly sprung and comes in a base spec truck. It could do the job but in reality any fleet spec 3/4 ton with a few mods can do what a Power Wagon does.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Does the Raptor use its own unique front facia or is it just a replacement grille? The reason I ask is the first thing I’m doing is ripping off the cheap looking plastic grille and replacing it with a chromed one from a standard F150 (assuming this is just a grille swap).

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The entire front clip and the bedsides are different. The only thing outwardly identical between a regular F-150 and a Raptor is the cab.

      With that said, I don’t know if it would be impossible to replace the grille. They seem to be the same shape even if the whole front surround is different.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      Yup, the entire front clip (hood and fenders) are composite, i.e. fibreglass. The rear bedsides have flared fender arches….the flares front and rear account for the additional ~8″ of width over the standard F-150.
      The grille is easily removeable, I’ve thought about replacing mine but the aftermarket replacements are pretty cheesy, so I re-sprayed mine “Tuxedo black” to match the body. Pretty sure the standard chrome grille would fit unless you do some major mods to fit the LED marker lights.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Needs a .50 cal…

  • avatar
    Carilloskis

    They mangled the front bumper on that Raptor. I try to use my Raptor as advertised every weekend hitting the speed limiter of road is good fun, but yah the tires are the limiting factor. so only going to 100mph but ford has told me that my truck has had over speed indicated in the computer and they think its from getting air at the top speed.


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