There’s one thing extremely satisfying about utilizing a well-designed device to its full potential. The most effective instruments are arguably those who ship higher outcomes the tougher they’re labored. Name it health of objective, name it grace below strain, name it no matter you want, but it surely’s clear the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor has precisely this form of advantage baked into the marrow of its body and boy, is it a thrill to find and exploit.

Though it might not look a lot totally different from final yr’s mannequin, this Raptor is certainly considerably new. This pickup not solely advantages from almost all the 2021 F-150 mannequin line’s substantial inside and tech enhancements, it additionally positive aspects much more spectacular off-road chops because of a classy new five-link rear suspension and the supply of hulking 37-inch tires. 

Earlier than you ask, one factor that continues to be largely unchanged is the three.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, as soon as once more matched to a 10-speed computerized transmission and tuned for 450 horsepower and 510-pound-feet of torque. There is a larger compression ratio, revised software program for higher throttle response and new high-power cooling followers for extra assured off-roading and towing, however that is in regards to the scope of the modifications underhood.

Now getting into its third era and at last going through its first real competitors within the type of Ram’s formidable 1500 TRX, that is the mannequin that may carry the Raptor nameplate into its teenage years. Fortuitously, a day of pounding via the Mojave desert, assaulting sand dunes, blitzing over whoops and galloping throughout rock-strewn washes reveals not a hint of awkward adolescence. Higher nonetheless, because of an all-new multi-mode exhaust system, the Raptor’s voice has dropped appreciably, bellowing extra loudly and extra authoritatively in a decrease register. 

37-inch tires on the highway

My first drive of the Michigan-built 2021 Ford Raptor begins off innocuously sufficient, within the shadow of the casinos and motels of Las Vegas. I set off from Sin Metropolis, driving on paved roads an hour out to Pahrump, a city of round 40,000 whose notable financial drivers embrace — [checks Wikipedia] — Spring Mountain Motor Sports activities Ranch, Entrance Sight Firearms Coaching Institute and a pair of authorized brothels. 

Try these 37-inch monsters.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The drive, together with a detour to take a look at Nevada’s stunning Purple Rock Canyon Nationwide Conservation Space, provides me an opportunity to get acquainted with my check automobile, which is driving on mondo meats: a set of newly non-compulsory 37×12.5-inch BFGoodrich T/A K02s, the most important tires I’ve ever seen fitted to a manufacturing pickup (they’re really larger than the Sasquatch ft on Ford’s new Bronco SUV). These tires come as a part of the Raptor 37 Efficiency Package deal, a multifaceted $7,500 choice group that features beadlock-capable wheels, distinctive shock absorbers, fetching Rhapsody Blue Recaro seats and a slew of inside and exterior trim tweaks. The tires ship killer appears to be like and higher floor clearance, albeit on the expense of some suspension journey and unsprung weight (round 6 kilos per nook).

Massive cabin and tech upgrades

Like most roads in Nevada that are not within the mountains, the highway to Pahrump is featurelessly flat, straight and sunbaked. However whereas it is not an ideal place to check the Raptor’s dealing with, it’s a good time to notice the Raptor’s supple trip high quality and fairly well-controlled NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). The massive tread blocks on the BFGs do not ship extreme tire roar and whereas the steering is mild on really feel and slightly squishy simply off heart, it is simply superb and should not be off-putting to anybody used to driving a full-size pickup.

It is also a very good time to take inventory of the most important information for the Raptor’s on-road manners, which don’t have anything to do with the automobile’s dynamics: the brand new cabin. Like the remainder of its F-150 siblings, it is right here the place Ford had fallen behind its arch rival, the Ram 1500 (and slightly considerably, at that). For 2021, the 14th-generation F-150’s inside is of noticeably larger high quality. 

The vastly improved cabin is a significant quality-of-life replace.

Ford

The dashboard is completely new and it is one thing of a tech bonanza. With a normal 12-inch digital gauge cluster and an identical 12-inch touchscreen working Sync 4 infotainment, you are taking a look at a significant quality-of-life improve versus the 2020 mannequin. The graphics are sharper, the response instances are snappier and the characteristic set is deeper, bringing conveniences like wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Importantly, the system additionally incorporates a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, enabling bumper-to-bumper over-the-air updates for the primary time. This ensures that not solely will the Sync 4 proceed to supply the most recent and best infotainment options, new capabilities and bug fixes could be downloaded for the remainder of the truck, too — powertrain included. Further options just like the $765 360-degree digital camera package deal (which exhibits real-time tire paths for smarter off-roading), a deployable heart console desk and an accessible 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen Unleashed audio system are actual pot sweeteners, too.

Prodigious thirst apart, Raptors have at all times made surprisingly nice day by day drivers, however this new inside and tech ought to actually make on a regular basis life a lot simpler, even in the event you do not go for stuff like Professional Energy Onboard, a built-in 2.0-kilowatt generator able to powering a small job website or a killer tailgate celebration.

Off-road impressions

The convoy of check Raptors spends the night time in Pahrump in an effort to get an early begin to beat the late-summer warmth. How early? I am within the lodge’s foyer by 4:00 a.m., then caffeinated and on the highway by 4:15 a.m. I’ve one other 50-mile drive to succeed in California’s Dumont Dunes, an unlimited, 7,620-acre playland that lies within the shadow of volcanic hills and alongside the banks of the Amargosa River. 

After I arrive, it is nonetheless pitch darkish, giving me time air down the tires to about 24 psi and to bolt on high-visibility dune flags, in addition to don a helmet and HANS system for security. The solar rapidly catches hearth, illuminating a shocking martian backdrop that appears like somebody clicked the “widescreen” button on my life. It will be properly over 110 levels earlier than the day is out, so I load in sufficient water bottles to eat the really helpful liter or extra an hour and head for the varied programs that Ford’s crew arrange.

Enjoying within the dunes is the place the Raptor is happiest.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Whoops! This efficiency isn’t any accident

Whereas it is not the primary process I deal with, it is the Raptor’s efficiency on the whoops — a protracted area of of small, rolling jumps that create a quickly undulating floor — that impress me most. Credit score goes to the engineers who developed the Raptor’s utterly new rear suspension, which ditches the leaf springs used on all different F-Sequence vehicles aside from the Lightning EV. This all-new five-link setup employs lengthy rear trailing arms, a Panhard rod and gigundous 24-inch coil springs to supply severe journey (15 inches out again on 35-inch-tire-equipped fashions, or 14.1-inches on my pickup’s 37-inch BFGs). Ford says this 2021 mannequin has 25% extra suspension journey than the unique Raptor, which wasn’t precisely missing in that division. 

Maybe most significantly, this subtle rear suspension allows way more exact location of the axle all through the suspension’s journey — not simply up and down, however fore/aft and laterally, as properly. The result’s that the truck has a better time placing the ability down and holding it there, particularly with a set of bigger, next-generation Fox Dwell Valve shocks. These electronically managed, internal-bypass items characteristic bigger 3.1-inch tubes to raised handle the punishing thermal load of high-speed desert working. 

How this works out in actual life is that the sooner you go, the higher the Raptor performs throughout the whoops. What feels juddery at 40 mph smoothes out remarkably at 60-plus mph, the Raptor’s newly bolstered chassis staying surprisingly stage whereas its suspension executes a punishing high-speed dance because the truck streaks throughout the desert washboard. It is a exceptional efficiency at speeds that would properly ship the mattress on a lesser truck mule-kicking uncontrollably — common ol’ leaf springs would possibly’ve subjected this Code Orange Raptor to a Code Brown second. As an alternative, I discover myself pushing to speed up to even larger speeds all the earlier, forcing me to rely ever tougher on Raptor’s succesful brakes (13.7-inch discs up entrance,13.2 inches out again).

The Raptor is a greater performer in desert whoops.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Beadlocks for all

Ford coned off a few massive sand programs that run up and down Dumont’s huge dunes, too, giving me the possibility to kick up some severe rooster tails whereas assessing low-grip dealing with on tires which were aired down even additional to simply 15 psi. The important thing right here is momentum — you by no means wish to decelerate for worry of burying the Raptor as much as its axles. The ten-speed gearbox is primed to maintain the revs up in Baja mode and it is large enjoyable to hold the tail out and soar ever larger and additional over a crest. Or, not less than it’s till I load up the outer entrance tire in a nook too arduous, the BFG rolling over on its sidewalls and popping a bead, deflating the tire and bringing the motion a screeching halt. (Different workout routines featured the Raptor’s accessible beadlock-capable wheels, however not this one, oddly.) Ford minders rapidly shuttle me to a different Raptor, later reuniting me with my unique Code Orange tester after a recent rubber swap.

Between the whoops, the dune working and piling alongside a high-speed course on a wash, it is clear the Raptor is extra succesful than ever within the tough stuff. Even avid off-roaders are way more more likely to run out of expertise lengthy earlier than this truck runs out of functionality. I will have to attend for a future engagement to see how the brand new suspension stands as much as the pains of rock crawling, however the change to a five-link setup and bigger tires hasn’t appreciably harm the Raptor’s on-road livability, both.

Sound opinions

As to the carryover powertrain’s new sound, Ford fitted a radically totally different exhaust setup to the 2021 F-150 Raptor, full with a funky-looking midpipe trombone loop forward of the muffler to equalize the 3-inch pipe lengths backward and forward to make sure optimum acoustics. Mixed with energetic valves with 4 driver-selectable modes (Quiet, Regular, Sport and Baja), the brand new exhaust ensures the Raptor has a way more assertive voice whenever you need it and a don’t-wake-the-neighbors tone when you do not. Baja mode’s howl is a large enchancment over the slightly flaccid-sounding second-generation Raptor, but it surely stays a great distance from the intrinsically satisfying guttural V8 bellow of the Ram 1500 TRX.

The three.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine hasn’t modified a lot, however not less than the exhaust sounds higher.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Thirsty, however not TRX thirsty

On the plus facet, the 2021 Raptor, whereas hardly thrifty, handily outpoints the way more highly effective Ram in gasoline economic system. Fashions outfitted with 35-inch tires ought to see 15 mpg metropolis, 18 mpg freeway and 16 mpg mixed, whereas 37-inch-tire fashions fall to fifteen, 16 and 15, respectively. The Mopar, in the meantime, nets a relatively reprehensible 10 mpg metropolis, 14 mpg freeway and 12 mpg mixed. 

In contrast to the TRX, the Raptor is completely satisfied to stay on common 87-octane gasoline and the Ford has a bigger 36-gallon gasoline tank, too, enabling 500 miles between fill-ups. Your bladder might not final that lengthy on the freeway, however you may be glad about the additional capability whenever you’re caning the EcoBoost off-road in some distant location, getting far lower than EPA estimates.

Massive worth improve

I hate to dwell on the quantity comparability recreation with the Ram, however there’s one different vital set of figures I would like to debate: pricing. The outgoing Raptor held an enormous value benefit versus the Ram, beginning about $15,000 much less. That is sufficient of a pricing gulf that one might argue these two autos really existed in several lessons — supertruck versus hypertruck, maybe. 

Not; the 2021 Raptor’s enhancements have triggered a significant worth improve. The outgoing 2020 Raptor began at $55,090 together with a steep $1,645 for supply. For 2021, a base Raptor will set you again $65,840 (together with $1,695 supply) and a full-boat mannequin can simply prime $80,000. Against this, the TRX begins at $72,120 delivered and may climb above $94,000. There’s nonetheless a considerable worth differential, but it surely’s primarily noticeable on high-content fashions and with solely round $6,000 separating base MSRPs, the Raptor’s worth proposition is considerably much less apparent than it as soon as was.

You’ll be able to’t get right into a 2021 Raptor for lower than $65,840.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

How did this occur? Partially, it is as a result of Ford nixed final yr’s less-expensive SuperCab physique model after simply 4% of patrons selected the shorter mannequin’s rear-hinged half-doors. For 2021, the one approach you may get a Raptor is with Ford’s bigger four-door SuperCrew physique paired with a 5.5-foot mattress and its 1,400-pound max payload (towing sits at 8,200 kilos). Additional bloating the underside line is all of that new tech, together with a brace of sensible towing aids and Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite of energetic security gear, which bundles normal forward-collision warning with computerized emergency braking, adaptive cruise management, blind-spot monitoring, computerized excessive beams and so forth. A prep package for BlueCruise, Ford’s forthcoming partially automated hands-free driving tech, is non-compulsory.

On the finish of the day, the 2021 Ford Raptor is a considerably improved truck, constructing on what was already a massively spectacular pickup. This truck’s way more superior suspension will give hardcore off-roaders ample cause to contemplate the brand new mannequin, but it surely’s the cabin’s much-needed overhaul and the huge infusion of comfort and security tech that they’re going to recognize most in day by day life. Sadly, the brand new mannequin’s substantial worth improve blunts the Raptor’s enchantment considerably and it does have me questioning how stratospherically the forthcoming V8-powered Raptor R can be priced when it arrives subsequent yr. That apart, there are extra causes than ever to contemplate parking this 4×4 in your storage. It is the most effective, most expressive autos America makes.

Editors’ observe: Journey prices associated to this story have been coated by the producer, which is frequent within the auto business. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s employees are our personal and we don’t settle for paid editorial content material.

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