I groaned when I saw the Ford Raptor on my press car schedule.
That’s because trucks and the part of Chicago I live in don’t mix well, necessarily. Parking is a hassle, streets are crowded, and miles-per-gallon figures are comically abysmal in city traffic.
In the Raptor’s case, I worried I wouldn’t be able to use it the way Ford intended: Off-road.
That said, I do get the appeal of trucks. Whether it’s the image of toughness or the utility on offer, I understand why so many people snap up pickups from dealer lots, especially when gas prices drop, even if most truck owners never use them for their intended purpose.
And after I put it through its paces (and then some), I get the appeal of the Raptor.
I knew I was borked the minute the truck started down the incline.
Even a Ford Raptor is no match for fresh, gray mud that looks like wet cement. Illinois mud may not be Alabama mud, but it’s no joke. And I had just attempted to drive a Raptor through just that sort of mud, mud that was puddled at the bottom of sharply angled incline that had a distance of a few feet from top to bottom.
The thing is, when one is about to hit a mud hole, the best thing to do, usually, is to give it as much throttle as you can to maintain momentum (but not so much as to fling yourself into a tree). However, I came in a little too hot, bounced, and lost momentum when I reacted to the bounce by not digging into the throttle.
And that, friends, is how you stick one of the world’s most off-road-ready production vehicles in the mud. Also, it’s a good way to expose yourself to social media ridicule, as smartphone-wielding park guests, already happy to see a Raptor on the trail, surround you. Apparently, the woods aren’t free from 4G LTE.
In the coming years, we will begin driving riding around in the quiet electric embrace of autonomous convenience. We will look back on the 20-teens as a golden age when the last ounces of performance were wrung out of the internal combustion engine and automakers created cars for every conceivable market niche. New and presently unknown products will one day surprise and delight. But let’s stick with the present, which is a special time for auto enthusiasts.
Consider that the 5,600-pound 2017 Raptor is as fast to 60 miles per hour as the 2007 Mustang GT. Forced induction or not, the Raptor labors under a one-ton weight disadvantage, an unknown coefficient of drag penalty, and a 30-percent displacement deficiency versus the original pony car. A decade ago there was not a single stock vehicle available at any price capable of bounding through the desert at freeway speed that was also able to head back to civilization to pick up the kids from school.
Not convinced? In November, Ford raced a Raptor in the Baja 1000 Stock Full class. It got a roll cage, fuel cell, and a few other tweaks. Of almost 250 entries, the Raptor was among 142 rigs that finished the race. And after taking the checkered flag, it returned under its own power to Ford’s Arizona Proving Grounds 400 miles to the north.
The superlatives associated with Raptor are legion. What’s not to like?