Review: Ford SVT Raptor

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

It would be difficult to conceive of a vehicle better-suited to demonstrating TTAC’s diversity of automotive reviewers than the massive and massively outrageous Ford Raptor. Robert Farago would have eviscerated it with a zero-star diatribe on the inadvisability of building three-ton boutique trucks with borrowed funds. Sajeev Mehta would rhapsodize about the graphics but demonize the chunky controls. Daniel Stern might be have complained about the lighting system. As fate would have it, however, I’m the fellow who got the Raptor to review. So I took it mudding.

In many ways, the big-bird Ford is merely the donor F-150 writ large, both in excellence and shortcomings. From the aero-look 1997 model onward, Ford has provided the best full-sized truck money can buy and equipped it with the worst engines in the class. The Raptor does nothing to change this situation. In terms of build quality, on-board electronics, comfort, and equipment it’s simply better than the rest, but the 5.4-liter “Triton” engine is as miserably inadequate as ever. The 6.2-liter “Boss” V-8 is supposedly arriving any moment now, but until then pickup buyers who demand first-class thrust will need to look in the direction of a HEMI-powered Dodge or Sierra Denali. Not that anything short of a JATO rocket would make the Raptor genuinely quick. It’s a massive vehicle, drawn to an outsized scale and then further widened with bespoke bodywork and suspension components. Compared to the 1995 F-150 XL regular-cab I drove as a demonstrator in my auto sales days, the Raptor might as well be from a different class of truck, or possibly a different planet entirely.

The press-preview journalists got to drive the Raptor up and down a variety of sand dunes and pre-arranged “whoops,” but I had to settle for driving up a tall residential curb at steadily increasing rates of speed. I finally lost courage at the 50-mph mark, not because there was a problem with the SVT’s ability to absorb the curb, but because the children playing in the adjacent yard were becoming more and more difficult to miss without tipping the truck up onto two wheels. (I’m just kidding. Save your comments.) Suffice it to say that this would be an outstanding vehicle for bank robbers, drive-by artists, or anyone else who might find themselves bounding across urban terrain at full tilt. Nothing else can touch it under these circumstances.

As a relative novice to the world of off-roading, I felt singularly inadequate to review the Raptor’s broken-field prowess. To find out whether or not the big Ford was a faker, I obtained the assistance of my colleague Sid Noblitt, who recently followed the “Paris-Dakar” rally on a single-cylinder motorcycle. Sid and I went to his personal 160-acre playground to try a variety of stream crossings and plowed-field mischief. It had rained for nearly a week, ensuring that the ground literally swallowed the Raptor’s tires down to the axle whenever we came to a halt for more than a moment or two. Still, it was relatively easy for me to climb mud-slathered hills at full speed and to reach near-freeway speeds across ruts that would pitch a motocrosser over the bars. A few times I got stuck and Sid literally pushed the Raptor out of trouble with his bare hands. No idea how he did it, given that he weighs about a thirtieth of what this monster truck does.

Perched six feet off the ground in the Raptor’s aesthetically-questionable, two-tone cockpit, I felt hilariously removed from all the differential-locking and traction-controlling going on beneath me. The 1997 F-150 benchmarked the contemporaneous Crown Victoria for NVH; this one probably matches a Lexus ES350, at least until wind noise comes into play. There’s a full SYNC and navigation system to amuse the itinerant off-roader; it’s possible to check movie listings and recent sports results while spinning all four wheels up and over fallen trees. I returned the truck to Ford with mud on the friggin’ roof; at 6′2″ I still couldn’t figure out a way to wash it adequately without resorting to a stepladder.

How, then, shall we rate this Raptor? Against the competition, it’s a five-star truck, primarily because it has no effective competition short of a Pinzgauer. Measured on the social-responsibility scale, it’s a terrible affront to humanity and should immediately be erased from history in the Orwellian fashion so beloved of America’s self-appointed intellectual elite. As a toy, it’s capital fun and worth every penny. Perhaps the best method by which to measure this rather unique product is against the Platonic ideal of a factory off-road-special half-ton truck. By that scale, only the weedy engine prevents it from being as good as one can imagine such an object. We’ll deduct one star for lack of poke and call the SVT F-150 what it is: the best-ever entry in its lonely, but fascinating, category.

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Big blue Big blue on Feb 28, 2010

    Dear Z71-sILVY guy. For one thing Ford never took any bail out money. Research facts before you comment on things you dont know about. G.M. took bail out money twice and still went bankrupt. If their vehicles were as tough as you claim theme to be, why has F-150 been number one selling truck for 33 years, not to mention that Ford Superduty out sold Chevrolet and Dodge combined just in diesel models alone. More or likely next time you see a police car, ambulance, wrecker or some type of service truck, please note type of vehicle. FORD. Please reply, have numerous built Ford tough stories to tell that I have personally lived. If you don't believe come ride with me and see. I am not saying that your vehicle is not a good piece, but when duty really calls, and lives depend on that, it just has to work. FORD

  • Survivor Survivor on May 06, 2010

    Just bought a 6.2 Raptor. I've owned many Fords including F150, Gt, etc. Also owned chevy, dodge,etc. When I raced motorcycles(20+years of road and off-road racing), I met many like P71. They'd come in to my pit and spout off how great they and their bike are...I'd just let 'em talk. Then after the first time I blew by them, then never came by again.LOL! This truck is AWESOME! Not some bolt-on special(which is what one of my close friends who can't ride,drive,ski or pedal worth a damn called it)! The 6.2 is plenty and if you need more, I'm sure you could get don't. I was driving like an idiot last night and you can predictably slide this truck on the throttle without the "truck-hop" that I'd get on my old 150. Yes, at 48 I'm still too immature to ride my GSXR1000 on the street, and I had to sell my GT 'cause it was totally impractical on the street along with other reasons. This truck is also a good daily driver...a bit wide for a "compact" parking spot. But, at the ranch, in the dirt it's a dream. All I can say to those(like my friend or P71) who poo-poo it....bring it on! Look me up, bring your what ever to our ranch and we'll time each other on the same track. I'll bet you all the post race beer we can drink, the 6.2 Raptor comes out on top! By a huge margin! You'd need to spend alot more $ to convert a stock truck to beat this thing..but then it would suck for every day street driving. I didn't think I would like this 6.2 Raptor as much as I actually do. After I drive it hard, I say to my self,"Holy Crap, this thing is insane!" Now I'm considering getting into off-road racing. Now I need the $100K illegal version!

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three