The off-road fun factor is very high indeed
THE GOOD
  • Desert-racer ability
  • Comfortable interior
  • Smooth ride
THE BAD
  • It’s expensive
  • Fuel consumption
  • Too big for tighter trails

I don’t often get to use “Yee-haw!” in the context of a vehicle review, but there aren’t many other ways to adequately describe the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor.

For those who appreciate off-roading in wide-open spaces, this beast is among the ultimate warriors. Purpose-built seldom comes cheap, of course, and the Raptor, made only as a crew cab, starts at $86,349. My tester’s option list was generously checked, for a final tally of $109,339 before a non-negotiable delivery fee of $1,995.

Styling: 8/10

Based on the redesigned F-150, and now in its third generation, the Raptor shares its handsome looks but with some distinct touches, including a heat extractor in the hood and side vents, a wider front skid plate, and a blacked-out grille. My truck was painted Rapid Red for an extra $450, and had a twin-panel sunroof for $1,750.

My truck also had the so-called Raptor 37 Performance package, adding $10,000 to its slip. That gives you 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels wrapped with 37-inch all-terrain tires that give you as much as 332 mm (13.1 inches) of running clearance, and approach and departure angles of 31 and 23.9 degrees, respectively. The package also provides sport-tuned shocks, side graphics, and upgrades the interior with blue leather-and-synthetic suede Recaro seats, orange stitching, and carbon-fibre accents.

Safety: 9/10

The two American safety groups rate the F-150 overall, not the Raptor specifically. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it the top five-star rating, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names it a Top Safety Pick.

Standard features include emergency front braking, automatic high-beam headlights, a reverse sensing system, blind-spot monitoring that includes trailer coverage, and a government-mandated rear-view camera with hitch assist. I also had a 360-degree camera, tucked into a substantial option package that added an equally substantial $7,850.

Features: 8/10

One would expect a lot in a truck that starts north of $86,000 and the Raptor doesn’t disappoint, with much of that cash strapped to its unique suspension and driveline upgrades. Beyond that, standard features include adaptive LED headlights, mirror-mounted spotlights (handy when unlocking my community mailbox after dark), power-folding mirrors, a power-sliding rear window, running boards, 12-inch infotainment screen, dual-zone climate control, and more.

My $7,850 Equipment Group added such diverse items as a Torsen front differential, under-seat storage, navigation, premium stereo, towing package, and a fold-out console cover that creates a work or lunch surface.

User Friendliness: 8/10

Once you’re over the hurdle of getting into the truck – it’s a long way up, even with the running boards – the Raptor is easy to operate. Despite the large centre screen, where some automakers might bury many of the oft-needed functions, Ford supplies simple buttons and dials for the climate control, stereo volume and tuning, and drive modes. A line of buttons atop the screen handles such items as the ignition stop-start system and cameras.

The touchscreen uses Ford’s latest interface, and it’s also easy to operate. There are large icons for each menu, such as phone or navigation, and from there, you get more large-and-simple icons to choose the functions you need.

Practicality: 7.5/10

This is where we preface with “it’s all relative.” There’s little that’s practical about this oversized truck, but that’s usually the case for something that’s purpose-built – in this case, as a desert racer. You need wide-open spaces to get the most out of it, because it’s way too big for the narrow trails you can cover in something like the Wrangler-based Jeep Gladiator.

It’s almost ridiculously roomy inside, and with lots of small-item storage. The tailgate-mounted step isn’t as brilliantly simple as the bumper-end footholds offered by General Motors (GM), but it’s useful for getting into the tall bed. Towing capacity tops out at 3,719 kg (8,200 lb), while the maximum payload is 639 kg (1,410 lb). If you ever use a generator for garage projects or camping, $2,340 for my truck’s built-in inverter is money well spent. It’ll run a variety of power tools, lights, or appliances; and unlike a separate generator, doesn’t take up any bed space and can’t be stolen out of the back.

Comfort: 9.5/10

Mix huge tires with that off-road suspension, and what do you get? A ride that may surprise you for just how smooth and comfortable it is. There’s no wallowy side-to-side sway on pavement, and it’s calm-and-controlled on the rough stuff, even at higher speeds. That’s thanks to its new five-link rear suspension, and larger-diameter, electronically controlled Fox internal bypass shocks.

The seats are comfortable and supportive, and are heated and ventilated, along with a heated steering wheel.

Power: 8/10

The Raptor is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5L V6 that churns out 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. That’s the most horsepower of all F-150 models, while only the hybrid’s powertrain tops it with electrically assisted 570 lb-ft of torque. Power is delivered swiftly and smoothly through a ten-speed automatic transmission, and it’s always more than enough. And if you want to see something outrageous, crawl underneath the truck: one exhaust pipe loops around the other, to create equal-length pipes.

The Raptor’s output pales beside the Ram 1500 TRX and its 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, but because these two automakers must always one-up each other, expect to see an equally ridiculous Raptor R sometime next year.

Driving Feel: 8/10

Like all full-size trucks, the Raptor is needlessly oversized; but among its competitors, I find the F-150 generally “drives smaller” than others. I attribute it to the Ford’s quick steering response and better visibility. It’s remarkably composed on asphalt, and carries that over when it’s plowing through mud holes on rough terrain.

Its four-wheel drive system includes an automatic setting, which lets you use it on hard surfaces (if such a system doesn’t have that, driving in high-range on pavement can bind and damage the system). That’s handy on winter roads that may have alternating patches of bare asphalt and snow.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

The Raptor with the optional 37-inch tires is rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 16.0 L/100 km in the city; 14.4 on the highway; and 15.3 in combined driving (without the package, the Raptor’s combined rating is 14.6 L/100 km). Not surprisingly, that’s the thirstiest rating of all F-150 models. Premium fuel is recommended although not required.

Twin turbos force a lot of air in when you want full yee-haw, of course, and with that air comes more fuel. In my week with it, including some off-road fun, I averaged 17.3 L/100 km.

Value: 7/10

The Raptor is very much a niche vehicle, and the “pay-to-play” rule applies. You don’t necessarily need to option it as high as mine was, but you’re still going to start at that $86,349 spot, because you simply can’t combine the Raptor’s driveline with a de-contented truck. And while you can get other trucks with decent off-road ability – including from Ford – nothing else has the Raptor’s Baja-racer checklist, other than the Ram TRX, and that one starts north of $125,000.

The Verdict

Nobody needs a Raptor, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting one – provided, of course, that you don’t complain when it won’t fit into underground parking garages, or it swallows half your paycheque to fill its tank. It’s expensive, but if you’re into covering that type of terrain, it’ll take a lot of time and money to outfit something else to what you’ll get straight out of the box. Say it with me: Yee-haw!

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 3.5L   Model Tested 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
Engine Cylinders V6   Base Price $86,349
Peak Horsepower 450 hp @ 5,850 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 510 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm   Destination Fee $1,995
Fuel Economy 16.0 / 14.4 / 15.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $111,434
Cargo Space 635 kg (1,400 lb) payload  
Optional Equipment
$22,990 – Equipment Group (Torsen differential, under-seat storage, work surface, navigation, B&O Unleashed sound system, tow technology, 360-degree camera and more), $7,850; Rapid Red Metallic paint, $450; Pro Power OnBoard generator, $2,340; twin-panel sunroof, $1,750; Raptor 37 Performance Package, $10,000; spray-in bedliner, $600