By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Ford sells nearly 100 new Ford trucks every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With numbers like that the Ford F-Series trucks are easily the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. and they have been for the last 35 years – if you only count trucks, they’ve been the best seller for 40 years.
Obvious, Ford is doing a lot of things right to produce numbers like that. They are building outstanding and innovative trucks.
A few weeks ago, we had a chance to sample two of Ford’s 2017 pickups: The F-150 SuperCrew Lariat 4×4 and the dramatic all-new F-150 Raptor.
Both full-size trucks are built using Ford’s aluminum body structure and use variations of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine with a new 10-speed automatic transmission.
The regular lineup of F-150 trucks are offered with five different engine choices including naturally aspirated V-6 and V8 engines and three EcoBoost (twin-turbocharged) V-6 engines including the 375-hp 3.5-liter High Output version which boasts best-in-class 470-lb.ft. of torque good for towing up to 12,200-pound and with 3,300-pound cargo capacity
While the Lariat we drove was typical mid-level version of the bestselling Ford trucks, the Raptor is a specialty product designed for rugged high-performance off-road duty.
2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
The second-generation Raptor has dropped 500 pounds thanks to the lighter weight V-6 engine and the aluminum body. The Raptor gets a modified version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine rated at 450-hp and 510-lb.ft. of torque. It’s also the first pickup from any manufacturer to employ a 10-speed automatic transmission which delivers improved performance and fuel economy thanks to optimized wide span gear spacing, three overdrive gears and drag-reduction technologies. Now an available option on all F-150 models, the super-efficient transmission has a trailer/Tow Mode and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for better driver control.
The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor also has a new advanced four-wheel-drive torque on demand transfer case with Terrain Management System™ (TMS) which automatically manages power and torque distribution so it provides the best traction and optimizes driving performance. The TMS allows the driver to switch between Normal, Weather, Mud and Sand, Baja and Rock Crawl setting to maximize performance and response based on the terrain and conditions.
The drive train improvements produce a 0 to 60 mph time that is 1.8 seconds faster (5.3 seconds) than the previous V-8 engine used in the Raptor. Fuel economy is also improved by 23 percent to an EPA rating of 16 mpg city, 18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. We averaged 15.1 mpg during our week in the Raptor.
Designed by Ford Performance, the Raptor looks like a truck you would see running in one of the Baja off-road races. That is appropriate because that’s where much of the development was done and it was and tested.
Raptor has a six-inch wider track than other F-150 models, with the tires tucked under aggressively flared wheel arches. It also has redesigned front and rear bumpers, and slicker aerodynamics to improve performance. There are upper and lower active grille shutters, front fender heat extractors, skid plates, signature LED grille lights and many other enhancements to improve its capabilities and the “look”.
Inside the Raptor’s business-like cockpit are deep bolstered seats, a performance contoured steering wheel and magnesium paddle shifters. Plus, for an extra $995 you can get carbon fiber trim elements – they may save a few ounces of weight, but adds to the racy look big time. Knowing that many owners will “trick out” their Raptors with extra lights, winches and other off-road accessories, the Ford designers supplied easy to reach roof-mounted auxiliary switches to make that task easier.
Raptor is available in a SuperCab (with one door and a reverse opening smaller door for the rear seat passengers) or SuperCrew (full four doors) configuration. The Raptor is built on a high-strength steel box frame with extended suspension height and high-performance springs along with especially designed Fox three-inch shocks. To improve the off-road handling and traction the suspension travel is extended to 13-inch front and 13.9-inch rear – that compares with the 6.2-inch and 9.5-inch suspension range in the F-150 with the FX4 package. The body, like all the F-150 models, is high strength, military-grade aluminum.
As we’ve often said, we aren’t truck people, and are especially not fans of the big rugged off-road trucks. However, the Raptor had a strong appeal with a ride that was more like a luxury sedan than a pickup. And even with massive 17-inch traction tires, it was surprisingly quiet inside and comfortable to ride in once you climbed up into it. Plus, the handling was even better than we expected.
In addition, it’s always nice to know that we could race through the desert at 100 mph – if we wanted to, or someone was chasing us.
The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor pricing starts as low at $49,520, including the destination charge. It has an immense amount of technology and a high feature content for the price. Although someone checking all the option boxes could see the price of their Raptor to teeter near $70,000.
Ford F-150 Lariat 4×4 SuperCrew
Even though our Lariat trim level fell in middle of the F-150 trim levels (XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch®, Platinum and Limited) it was quite posh and loaded with features thanks to more than $14,000 in option packages. Like most manufacturers, Ford, encourages shoppers to customize their truck to their lifestyles, so the option list is extensive.
Press fleet vehicles usually are equipped with high levels of options so we can play with the available features and by doing just that, many of those cool tech features have found their way onto the top of our “must have” list. This truck had nearly every feature we look for on a car including leather seating, blind spot warning, reverse sensing, remote start, voice activated navigation, heated steering wheel, heat front and rear seats, adaptive cruise control and bunch of other great features.
It also had other exclusives we never even think about, but we imagine could be very handy in a full-size truck, like trailer sway control, Pro Trailer Backup Assist, active parking assist, 360-degree camera, a tailgate step, inflatable rear seat safety belts and the list goes on and on.
The EcoBoost V-6 engine in the Lariat test vehicle was also very quick, but not at the same level as the Raptor engine. It makes the 0 to 60 mph acceleration run in 6.1 seconds, still very fast for such a big truck. The EPA fuel Economy is listed at 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. We average 17.6 mpg during our week behind the wheel.
When we see the full-size trucks on the highway we often wonder about practicality of driving such a big vehicle, especially when most of them seem to be empty – unless a friend needs to move or someone is towing a boat. Spending time in both trucks made us better understand the appeal of lots of space, the ability to haul something if needed, and doing so while in the comfort of a luxurious cab where you can see over the traffic ahead.
We’re starting to see why Ford sells so many of these full-size F-150 trucks.