You may recall we had the world exclusive opportunity to drive the brand-new 6.2L V-8 Raptor under the watchful eyes of a large group of Ford engineers several months ago at their top-secret Anza Borrego testing facility. (They also showed us their Crew Cab Raptor.) As you read in the story and saw from the video and photos, it was exceptionally fun. (We even got a helicopter ride.) But now we're interested in seeing what this Raptor can do without hand-wringing PR wranglers and design engineers in the passenger seats.

As you might have guessed, we found out the 411 horsepower SVT Raptor (up almost 100 hp from the 5.4L option) loves to run wild in wide-open spaces In fact, a vast desert landscape is exactly the type of terrain the SVT engineers had in mind when they were building (some might say overbuilding) the Raptor. We took our bright neon blue 2010 6.2L Raptor to the high desert about 60 miles above the Los Angeles basin, to the wide-open spaces of the Johnson Valley Off Highway Vehicle area. The terrain is made of hundreds of dirt roads, rutted by ATVs, buggies, motorcycles, and other rugged four-wheelers. Suspensions get the most abuse out here, as shock absorbers overheat and often break completely off the chassis mounts as harsh, rapid-fire inputs stress parts well beyond their limits. Add desert temperatures above 110 degrees F (naturally we had to do this in July).

Much of our initial testing was through open desert, zigzagging in and out of large clumps of brush acting as lane dividers for the various two-tracks leading to our dry-lake destination. From the moment you fire up the bigger-engined Raptor, the most obvious difference beyond richer exhaust note is the extra 90 horsepower, which lightens up the truck's feel and response. Not that the 3-valve 5.4L V-8 was a slug, but it required you to rev the heck out of it to make the 6000-pound Raptor come alive. Additionally, the 6.2L V-8 (with only 2 valves per cylinder) offers 40 more pound-feet of torque, which seems to make the 6-speed transmission a touch faster to respond. In fact, we found ourselves using the throttle to do some of our steering around corners and in between sagebrush as we ran through our off-road course. But the increased power of the new 6.2L is only half the story of how much fun it is to drive Raptor through the desert.