(Photos by Tom Phair, Kerri Lohnes, and the author) – The most commonly asked question we had during our time with the 2013 Ford SVT Raptor was, “Is that thing fun to drive?” The answer is ten times yes. The truck stands as a monument to Ford’s swagger in the current marketplace and it has no equal. Literally. No one else in the world builds a production truck like this. With more than 400hp on tap from the 6.2L engine it can ignite the big rear all terrain tires with ease. It is equipped with a suspension that is the closest thing in the world to that of a production trophy truck. The Raptor drives down the road like no other pickup on Earth and it will do things when the pavement ends that’ll have you giggling like a school girl. In the three full days we had this truck, it was highway cruised, drag raced, blasted around a motocross track, crawled over rocks, and worked out in a 100-acre sand pit. It never hiccuped, faltered, or stopped thanking us and asking for another. Did we find faults? Sure and we’ll tell you about them. That being said we cannot recall another singular vehicle that can do what this truck can, at the level it can, and with the passengers in the comfort that it provides right off the showroom floor. A man sized Tonka toy with the heart of Ivan “The Ironman” Stewart. The SVT Raptor is so much fun it should come with a coin slot.
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The first thing that becomes immediately apparent when you come into close proximity with an SVT Raptor is the fact that it is huge. The widened and flared front and rear fenders, major league tires, large mirrors, and visible skid plates give this truck a presence that no other half ton has. In fact, when parked next to a late model three-quarter ton Chevy, it was still no comparison. It isn’t so much an imposing height that gives the impression of largess, it is the width and girth of the truck that makes it so imposing.
Our truck was delivered with the great “Race Red” hue along with the Raptor graphics on the rear quarter panels/bedsides. Normally we’re not much for these types of graphics on cars and trucks, but they fit the bill here. The truck attracts a lot of attention from people on the street, especially guys who know what a Raptor is. Thumbs up and wide smiles were the order of the day when we were rolling down local roads. While Raptor sales jumped by about 20% last year for Ford, these are still limited production trucks as compared to the rest of the volume selling F150 line.
Obviously, the wheels and tires are an important part of the whole package here. The wheels need to balance strength and styling and the tires are integral to the off road performance of the truck. It must have been a vexing job for the engineers to settle on a tire that was both reasonably quiet for the road and got the job done in the dirt, mud, and rocks. The wheels are 17-inch aluminum pieces. There is an optional bead lock wheel for 2013 models, which this truck was not equipped with. Bead locks allow the tire pressure to be drastically lowered and a bead seal to be maintained as they basically clamp the tire to the wheel. Beadlocks are very handy while off roading in conditions like sand or rock crawling where you want an aired down tire to form itself to the obstacle you are climbing or to widen the footprint of the truck on a soft surface. We didn’t mess with the tire pressures during our time with the truck.
The tires on the Raptor are 315/70/17 BF Goodrich All Terrain TAs. They stand a mighty 34.5-inches tall and are the largest factory installed tire on a pickup truck being sold today. The steel steps are robust pieces painted in a textured black paint that is grippy for shoes and boots as we discovered. SVT call outs are minimal as is non-functional schlock. Hood and side vents are tasteful and functional, not just dress up pieces as are the skid plates. We’d seen plenty of factory “off road” package trucks with skid plates that wilt at the sight of a ball peen hammer, let alone a rock. The Raptor plates are ready to handle all comers. They’re very strong and would have no problem scraping and sliding over whatever obstacles you press them into service for.
As far as the front end styling goes, the same theme that the rest of the truck exudes is true. Somehow it is loud, brash, and over the top without being any of those three things. On paper if someone told you that it had a blacked out grill with FORD stretched across the center of it, you’d laugh the designer out of the room but there it is and it seems right at home. The stretched and flared front fenders give the truck lots of its pre-runner/baja/trophy truck attitude and we never got tired of looking at them. For all the same reasons we love the styling of 1960s muscle cars, we love the styling on this truck. It makes no apologies for what it is and actually seems to revel in it. That’s a rare feat in today’s world of “crossovers” and “four door coupes” and other vehicles that are really pretending to be something far more easily digested by the masses. The masses aren’t the intended audience of the Raptor…no apologies necessary.
The SVT Raptor is not a cheap truck. Ours had a sticker price just to the south of $50,000. For that kind of money a buyer is going to expect some luxury appointments. We were super interested to see what the interior of the truck would be all about and it didn’t fail to deliver. Our SuperCab (extended, not crew cab) model had leather seats front and rear with the front buckets receiving some cool Raptor stitching and interesting mesh style inserts. We found the heated, air conditioned, and multi- way adjustable seats with adjustable lumbar supports to be the finest buckets we have ever parked our behinds in with respect to a truck. They had great hip and side bolstering and would be at home in a pony car or other performance vehicle. During our off roading adventures they were great and held us in place with no trouble. Going at 5’10 and 210lbs we have some girth and these seats fit very well. The dash has full instrumentation and some SVT call outs as well. The center stack has a huge LED screen that serves as the navigation screen as well as the heater controls, radio control, and information center. We found it to be easy to use and intuitive. As weird as it sounds, in less than 5 years there won’t be a car built without this feature. That’s the way the world is going and not just in the high end level of equipment. There are auxiliary switches in the center stack that can be wired for additional lighting, etc. Ours were not used. Also in the center stack is the “Off Road Mode” button, four wheel drive and locker selector knob, hill descent button, and traction control button. More about those features a little later.
While it isn’t as sexy as something you’d find in an exotic car, the center stack is functional and intuitive for the user. We were comfy operating the buttons and switches a few hours after taking delivery of the truck.
Here’s some proof that we actually took this thing into the muck and mire! These heavy duty, deep rubber floor mats are interesting proof about the comprehensive job done by Foord’s SVT team with the Raptor. It would have been simple enough to just leave the stock F150 mats in this truck, but they went the extra mile with these, which capture and hold a lot more dirt and muck than a standard issue mat would have. The mats are small stuff but the attention to detail speaks volumes.
One of the small things that rubbed us wrong about the truck were not the door panels themselves, which are more dressy versions of a standard F150 door panel but the feel the doors gave when they were closed. This isn’t a Raptor issue, it is more of an F-Series truck issue in general. The sound and feel of the door closing is pretty flimsy and cheap. You can actually watch the outer panel of the door flex and rebound when it is closed. We’ve seen this on F-250s as well as F-150s. A petty thing? Maybe, but for what this truck costs, we’d expect a more substantial feel when we closed the doors.
Enough of the looky-loo stuff. You want to know how this 411hp monster performed on the road, on the strip, and in the dirt! Firstly, the 6.2L Ford “Boss” series (formerly known as the Hurricane engines) engine does a fine job of getting all 6,000+ lbs of this truck moving. Ford said it would run 15.2 at the quarter mile drags but during our afternoon at New England Dragway in Epping, NH after using a multitude of launch techniques we eeked a 15.14 out of it and given a few more hours, we’re thinking that a totally stock 15.0 slip would have been in our grasp. It is on the strip and the highway when the nature of the 6.2L mill really comes out. Even with a 4.10 ring and pinion and the super short first gear in the six speed auto transmission, the truck does leave lazily. Once the engine gets its feet under it and hits the 3,000 RPM mark, it roars to life with a furious charge which it maintains through the lap. The truck trapped repeatedly at 90-mph on the strip, run after run. We ran the best times in 2WD with the electronic locker engaged, traction control off, and launching on the converter. A cold air kit, cat back exhaust, and plug in tuner would have this truck in the deep 14s and that would be truly riotous. While 15.14 is not quick by drag racer standards, it is an indication that the truck will swallow most anything you want to line up against at the stoplight grand prix. Ford didn’t design the truck to be a drag racer, but it was fun to put it through its paces on the asphalt.
One of the coolest things about New England Dragway is that the facility has a motocross track on the same grounds as the drag strip. As an absolute show of this truck’s dual personality, after we were done ripping down the strip we drove to the other side of the complex, engaged the locker again and bombed around the motorcross track with the truck. Although heavily rutted from recent use and sporting massive divots and gullies where the bikes wore the racing lines in, the Raptor shrugged it all off including the banked corners that looked like walls and a couple of climbs that would have stopped other trucks dead in their tracks. It was more than a little fun to sling the dirt and rocks and give the 6.2L mill a goose to keep the wheel speed up.
The exhaust note produced by the truck is fantastic. There is no rasp or tinny sound to it at all. It is a very rich roaring basso that gets even better the closer the pedal is to touching the carpet. The truck uses a Y-pipe that joins a very large diameter intermediate pipe before flowing into a dual outlet muffler that terminates with dual tailpipes tucked under the bed behind the passenger side rear tire. As far as factory exhaust notes go, this one is great. Inside the truck it is loud enough to hear but absolutely not loud enough to be annoying, or drone like. Outside the truck it sounds great. A cat-back system would result in more power but as far as tone and sound? The stock system is going to be pretty tough to beat.
The thing that makes a Raptor a Raptor is the suspension with its custom designed and built internal bypass Fox Racing Shocks. Up front is a coil over design and out back is a remote reservoir set up. Adding in specially designed leaf spring packs in the rear, specially designed A-Arms, sway bars, and other components up front, and you’ve got the closest thing to a race truck ever sold as a factory production machine. End of story.
This truck does not drive like any pickup we have ever piloted before. There is absolutely none of the harshness normally attributed to trucks. With the massive amounts of factory travel and the softness of the shock valving, the big beast sucks up pot holes, jumps, whoop-de-doos, and speed bumps like they’re not even there.
Believe it or not, we were sliding this truck around in the dirt for both illustrative and scientific purposes, don’t worry, it was not fun at all. The point here is to show you just how much the suspension works on the Raptor. Try this exact same thing with a beam axle leaf sprung or even a coil sprung truck and it won’t look anything like this. The rear is hunkered down and those front FOX coil overs are hard at work here. Another note. If you are driving this truck down the road and saw the wheel back and forth, it feels planted but it will lean and heave as the suspension works. Again, the truck always feels planted and stable but it’ll body roll like nothing else you’ve driven because of the priority given to off road performance and high speed off road ability specifically. According to wat we have read from Ford and other outlets, the Raptor will pull .7G on the skid pad. Factor in the off road tires with their knobby tread and the suspension that certainly is not optimized for high performance handling and that number makes some sense.
Just another gratuitous shot of the truck hanging out sideways in the name of science. In this photo you can catch a glimpse of the massive front control arms which are made of aluminum. More on those in a few minutes.
While the motocross track was neat and all, we really needed to get the Raptor into the sand. Because Massachusetts is pretty short on desert conditions, we got crafty and found our way into a secret truck testing facility otherwise known as a 100+ acre sand pit. This place had some cool dune-like hills, a couple of jumps, some steep climbing areas and enough open area that we’d be able to test the truck’s ability to soak up high speed ruts and bumps.
After climbing one of the highest sand hills in the place we wanted to try out the hill descent control button. We engaged the button and nosed the truck over the edge of a very steep and very loose sandy embankment. The descent control worked flawlessly, literally creeping the truck down the hill seemingly inches at a time and even compensating for the loose sand. It felt as though the transfer case was locked in low range, the trans was locked in first gear, and the computer was modulating the brakes as well. Neat technology.
In hill climb testing, the BFGs worked great. They bit and clawed until they found something solid to hold onto and the truck made its way up several of the hills made up of loose sand and dirt. In this photo we’re getting a little saucy with the pedal to keep the wheel speed up and the truck is digging in well. We did the vast majority of our ‘wheeling in 4-wheel High mode and had all the success we needed. Low range is geared way down as you’d expect with a 2.64:1 ratio when the switch is clicked over the Lo-Range. Yeah, it is a switch. No more handles on the floor, which is kind of a bummer.
So yes, we did get some air time in the Raptor. Believe it or not, the intention here was not to do it just for the sake of doing it, but rather to see how the suspension would soak it up. Famously, a couple years ago a group of Raptor owners on an expedition in the desert bent the frames on their truck when hitting a desert wash at basically wide open throttle. We did nothing of that sort. The conditions we were in simulated much more reasonably what a normal Raptor owner would be doing with his truck on the weekends. This photo and the one following demonstrate just how much travel the double wishbone front suspension has. Here it is at full droop with some air under the front tires.
Here is the truck on the landing at basically full compression. I can tell you that inside the truck this felt like a mild bump. We’ve jumped other trucks both IFS and solid front axle and it is a kidney busting experience. Not so here. Also, the FOX shocks work so well, there is virtually no rebound from the landing. The front end planted, absorbed the landing, and then flattened right out. No bouncing, no drama, and no indication that we shouldn’t do it again. That being said, we didn’t.
The last thing we did before escaping from the sand pit was to kick the truck into 2WD, engage the locker and fly around the soft, deep sand. The idea here was to see how badly the truck would axle wrap. Normally, a leaf sprung truck in loose sand and dirt has a high propensity to axle wrap. During this condition the axle housing itself actually rolls forward causing the spring pack to do the same and then violently unload. This can kill u-joints and suspension components in a hurry. We’re happy to report that after several heard launches in the sand, we detected not a single instance of axle wrap. It shot huge rooster tails of sand out under the bumper and flew across the pit like a rocket was strapped to the roof. Win.
The cool driveline and suspension components that make all of this possible –
For starters, the 6.2L engine provides 411hp and 434 lb/ft of torque. Those are great numbers but we’d sure like to see them in a different place. The peak HP happens at 5500RPM and peak torque happens at 4500RPM. If both of those numbers moved down stream about 2,000RPM, the seat of the pants feel of the truck would be better and it would certainly do better at the drags where it was really, really soft on the first part of the track. The six speed auto with its stout 4.17 first gear gets things moving, but low end torque is in short supply or shorter supply than in the engine offerings from both Chevy and Dodge at low RPM.
Gas mileage is predictably tough. The large weight of the truck, its massive frontal area, the rotating weight of the tires, etc all contribute to EPA ratings of 11 city and 16-highway. We got 12.3 average over the time we had the loan which included about 220 highway miles, drag racing, and lots of off roading. The truck has nearly 27 gallons of fuel capacity so even with the smallish mileage, you can cover some ground with a full tank.
The following photos will illustrate the front suspension, with its double wishbone design and specialty engineered FOX internal bypass shocks, humongo half shafts, and overall beefed up components.
Go ahead and look under the front of your 4WD truck today. Unless you are driving a Raptor, it ain’t gonna look like this. It would be very difficult to break this. We threw the sink at it and the truck basically laughed at us. Ever seen a sway bar end link that long before?
The rear leaf spring rates are special to the Raptor as are the shocks, which are also FOX Racing pieces that are internal bypass with remote mounted reservoirs. The shocks are fitted with thick rubber bash guards on the leading side to minimize contact with stuff that could damage the shock body like rocks, logs, and other debris that owners will encounter when bombing around the woods, desert, and whatever terrain the Raptor will face.
It is sad that the shocks are largely hidden from outside view when people check out the truck because so much of the machine is dependent on their performance. We had an off the record conversation with a FOX Racing engineer recently and he said that he believed Ford paid about $12 a piece for the run of the mill shocks that can be found bolted to millions of F-150 trucks. They pay many, many times that a piece for these heavy duty pieces. Apparently Ford actually had an employee on site at Fox during the development period for this truck and on top of that, the project was “officially” killed twice before it was actually seen through. We love stuff like that. FOX was literally told to stop the program and then given the green light to fire it back up again. The rest is history and the trucks have sold beyond any number Ford had envisioned for them.
Here’s the top end of the shock with the remote reservoir and SVT labeled mount.
The drive shaft is a huge aluminum piece that has bolted flanges on both ends. We dug these factory appearing marks. We’re guessing that they were put there to measure twist or distortion, not 100% sure. They were obviously made after welding was done so they were not marks for a welding jig and we imagine that these things were computer welded at the plant.
The skid plates on an SVT Raptor are not there for cool looks, they are 100% functional and far more robust than anything we had seen previously on a factory built truck. Note the hatch that can be unbolted for access to the oil filter for maintenance.
This front mounted camera can be activated in “Off Road Mode” and it shows the area directly in front of the truck that is essentially a large blind spot when looking out over the expansive hood. This thing is super handy when crawling rocks or “walking” the truck up large obstacles and picking the correct line. It will stay on up to 25mph and then automatically shuts off. We tested it like dorks. The truck also has a rear camera that engages when the shifter is placed in reverse.
The Verdict –
When it comes to factory built trucks, this is as good as it gets for an enthusiast owner and driver. It’s got fantastic looks, power, and capability to take you to places you never dreamed of going before. The Raptor rides and drives like no other stock pickup truck being made in the world today, end of story. The fuel economy would preclude this from being a long distance daily driver for us, but the ride quality and cab appointments make it such a pleasurable vehicle to drive that short commutes would be perfect. The fuel economy is only downside in our eyes and if a potential customer can afford the fuel and doesn’t travel long distances as part of their normal driving life, it may not be that big a factor. If an owner does commute in the Raptor they will be the most comfy and well surrounded pickup driver on the highway each day. The 2013 Ford Raptor is not a sticker and stripe package on a stock F-150. This truck was comprehensively engineered to be what it is and that is a wildly fun machine that will have have you, your passengers, and anyone who sees it smiling from ear to ear. This is the best and most capable pickup we’ve ever driven…and it comes with a warranty. The 2013 Ford Raptor is 100% BangShift approved.