Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
By Scott Mortara

Fantastic off-road-race suspension that is also impressive on road. When taking whoops at speed, the faster you go, the smoother the ride gets. Huge credit for SVT for redefining the idea of a high-performance truck. Still has actual towing capacity.

Needs the new 6.2-liter, 400-plus-horsepower V-8: The 5.4-liter doesn't put out enough power for this truck. Exterior and interior design look nice, but may quickly look dated. As-tested price of over $46,000 may scare off potential buyers.

The SVT Raptor R finished third in its class in the 2008 Baja 1000. That truck was equipped with a 500-horse version of the Raptor's upcoming 6.2-liter V-8.

The last time we saw SVT on a Ford truck it was badged Lightning and performed admirably on the street and the strip, but it was still a truck trying to be a car. The 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor isn't trying to be something it can't; it's a truck, and damned proud of that.

Significant changes were made to the standard F-150 to convert it into the off-road-racing Raptor. The new Fox Racing Shox and custom suspension are truly incredible. You get 10 inches of ground clearance from the lowest skidplate, 11.2 inches of front and 12.1 inches of rear suspension travel. Numbers like this used to be found only in custom-built trucks meant to compete in Baja. But even with all these off-road goodies you still get a smooth on-road ride, no bounce and buck, yet the truck is surprisingly fun on a canyon road, once you get used to the body roll and the slide from the knobby tires. "This thing drives like Jerome Bettis: big, heavy, yet changes directions with ease and keeps them wheels churnin'. Surprisingly good out on the twisties; unfortunately, this might well be lost on those who will drive only in the 'burbs or mostly on highway trips to the dunes," writes senior editor Edward Loh. One negative in this area is the slow steering that makes precise positioning on the road difficult, but that actually helps you once off the pavement.

The track of the Raptor is 6.6 inches wider than those of lesser F-150s to accommodate the beefier suspension, so Ford had to produce special composite fenders that flare out eight inches (four on each side) to house the specially designed, 35-inch BFGoodrich tires that give the Raptor an additional two-inch lift. In fact, the Raptor is so wide, it's required to run the federally mandated marker lights normally seen on dually trucks, though the Raptor wears them in the front grille instead of on its roof.

Highways and city streets are where you notice how big this truck really is; it takes up every inch of the lane you're in, and when you have to park, say, at a grocery store lot, it barely fits between the painted lines. This makes threading into narrow head-in parking spots an adventure.

The interior has nice, standard F-150 appointments, but with a few special additions to differentiate the Raptor from the rest of the lineup. Our tester was outfitted with the Raptor orange accent package for $395, which adds bright orange inserts into the front captains chairs. "They certainly have given this truck a lot of attitude, I wonder, though, how long it would take for the orange-and-black interior to get old. I like the color scheme in small doses, but don't know if I could live with it," comments Harwood. The big surprise is how comfortable the seats are now; just a year or two ago, F-150 seats were hard and flat, like a park bench, but the Raptor's are much softer and well bolstered-just what you want on- or off-road.

There's one area we all agreed on, there simply was not enough grunt in this powerplant. Except for the badging, you'd never know there's a V-8 under the hood. One would think a 5.4-liter V-8 engine would put out some serious power, but with only 310 horses (five less than the 4.6-liter V-8 in the Mustang), this has to be among the weakest V-8s on the market today. At freeway speed, you have to plan a pass well in advance because in the Raptor when you put your foot down nothing really happens. Sure you feel the kickdown and hear the engine growl a bit louder, but the Raptor can barely get out of its own way. Therepis a bigger 6.2-liter, 400-horse V-8 coming soon, but Ford should have waited for that powerplant. They built this extreme machine, then burdened it with an underpowered anchor of an engine.

Still, there's never been a stock, factory vehicle that can manage the feats the Raptor can while off-road, which is where this vehicle was meant to play. Flying through a river wash filled with whoops that would destroy any other vehicle, the Raptor just glides over the top. And that's the trick you must remember with this truck: You have to go fast to keep it riding smooth, and the faster you go, the smoother it gets. This keeps you floating atop of bumps instead of trying to drive through them.

It's always nice to see a manufacturer take a chance with such a focused, purpose-built vehicle, and the fact that it's a truck makes it that much more amazing. But with this wimpy engine, the mighty Raptor fails to clear the high hurdle required to achieve Truck of the Year status. We'll doubtless prefer the Raptor XT, but this was the Raptor's one shot at TOTY.

Click here to see our extended photo gallery!

2010 Ford F-150 Raptor
Base price $38,995
Model Tested F-150 Raptor
Price as tested $46,020
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 2-door pickup
Engine 5.4L/310-hp/365-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5980 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 133.0 in
Length x width x height 220.9 x 86.3 x 78.4 in
Actual payload capacity 970 lb
Max towing capacity 6000 lb
0-60 mph 8.3/9.6 sec*
Quarter mile 16.3 sec @ 85.1 mph/17.2 sec @ 80.8 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph 146/143 ft*
Lateral acceleration 0.71 g (avg)
mt figure eight 29.8 sec @ 0.53 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 14/18 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.25 lb/mile
HAULING *** (Empty/with 9700-lb payload)
Goes like a bat out of hell off-road, but the puny powerplant and quirky interior kept it from the top spot.