Expert Reviews

The Quick and the Dad: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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Overkill. The word dates back to the 1950s, when stockpiles of nuclear weapons guaranteed that even the rubble would be blasted into atoms, enough firepower to snuff out every human candle on the planet.

Did you ever have an R/C Bigfoot as a kid?

It applies here too. The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is more truck than anyone could possibly need; it’s not just some frame-lifted mall-rat mudder, but a machine built to withstand both brutal high-speed desert running and paint-scraping rock-crawling. Everything about it seems cartoonishly overbuilt, from the way its 35-inch BFGs poke out of hulked out fender flares, to the all-caps FORD written on the grille in letters as big as the Hollywood sign.

Do you need a Raptor? No. Even if your last name is Stallone or Schwarzenegger, you probably don’t. But do you want one? It depends. Did you ever have an R/C Bigfoot as a kid?

Want-not-need is a pretty common theme in the pickup truck segment these days. There are plenty of folks driving around in F-150s these days that think “hay bale” is what you say when you bump into the guy from American Psycho. That’s okay – I pick up my groceries in a pro-tuned STI, so I get that sometimes we buy things with our hearts more than our heads.

But just how loco is it to park one of these meatheads in your driveway? To find out, I strapped in a couple of car seats, loaded up a weekend’s worth of kid stuff, and headed for the back country. The family that Raptors together, stays together.

First the good news. The second generation Raptor is some 230 kg lighter than the old sledgehammer. It also gets a theoretically thriftier heart in the form of a twin-turbo 3.5L V6. Rounding things out are, selectable terrain modes, an automatic four-wheel-drive system, shocks with external reservoirs, and a 10-speed automatic.

Regrettably, it’s this last item that buzzes its way into the ointment with a big fat splat. Sometimes slow-witted when called upon, Ford’s programming for the 10-speed isn’t quite there yet. On the tarmac, it can feel a bit sluggish with downshifts; by comparison, the similar 10-speed in the Camaro ZL1 is just as telepathic as Porsche’s best efforts. A little more software tuning might be needed, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ford roll out a future dealer-applied update.

Happily, the Ecoboost six is here to cover any awkwardness with an ample provision of torque. A stout 510 lb-ft is available from 3,500 rpm, with peak power of 450 hp arriving at 5,000 rpm. Passing shouldn’t be an issue for anyone, with instrumented tests seeing the 2,500kg+ Raptor sprinting to 100km/h in a hair over five seconds.

On a dash up the Sea-to-Sky highway, the Raptor easily kept up with anything. The ride was perfectly acceptable, and body roll not all that pronounced. Inside, the kids set about strewing cheerios all over the suede-inset seats, but they had plenty of space even with most of the luggage packed in the cab. As a short-bed four-door, the Raptor would be ideal for a family escape with a quartet of full-suspension mountain bikes hanging off the tailgate.

But then again, so would a regular F150, and as the Sea-to-Sky turned into the much curvier Duffey Lake Road, my co-pilot began to turn a little green. With its off-road oriented suspension and big sidewalls, the Raptor’s pitching motion becomes more evident as the road gets windier. From behind the wheel, it feels fine. If you’re in the passenger seat, you might need to bring your sea legs along.

Heading west from Lillooet, we finally got the Raptor’s wheels dirty, and everyone got a lot happier. About 100 km of gravel with intermittent tarmac sections, the road running along Carpenter Lake provides great views of the wilder side of BC, with the added bonus of not having any cell signal to distract you.

With its chunky BFGs churning up the gravel, the Raptor scooted through narrow sections, only sliding around a little any time the washboard juddered the rear out of line. For such a big lug of a thing, it felt relatively deft, easily able to dart out of the way should a logging truck appear coming the opposite direction.

We managed to outrun the sunset and pulled in at Tyax lodge, parking between a winch-equipped Jeep Rubicon and a manual-transmission Subaru Crosstrek. From the balcony, we watched a Grizzly sow escort her three tumbling cubs along the edge of the lake, as shadows climbed up the bare and rocky peaks.

The next day I spend traipsing around tiny mining towns, and piloting the Raptor through various gravel washes and faint trails. My two-year-old laughed every time the suspension whomped over a particularly big divot, and we all got out by a creek and had an impromptu picnic in the bed beside a rushing creek. Tiny, greasy handprints on the back windows soon picked up the dust as we got back on the road.

The Raptor was not unduly taxed by any of this light activity. I parked it on top of a boulder, just for fun, but for the most part I wasn’t anywhere near its limits. With two little kids in tow, and the aforementioned lack of cell reception, it was somewhat comforting to be behind the wheel of a truck that could handle nearly any situation.

And what’s more, the Raptor is fun. Everything’s so over-exaggerated it’s like playing out a scene from your youth. Maybe you never got that Power Wheels you were after, but now you can dip into the throttle, hear the turbos whistle up, and spray a little gravel around as the nose points skyward, climbing a steep hill.

Did the Raptor do anything that couldn’t be replicated with a lightly equipped Jeep? Nope. Could, in fact, that manual-transmission Crosstrek pull off all the same antics? Sure thing, with the possible exception of boulder-parking.

But perhaps that’s not a legitimate complaint to lay at the Raptor’s feet. It’s true that most owners won’t use half of this truck’s capacity. I’ve jumped one through soft desert sands at more than 100km/h, and I’ve scaled rock faces with jagged outcroppings reaching hungrily for the paintwork. That was at the launch of the vehicle, with Ford anxious to show off everything their full-size Tonka toy could do.

Likewise, whenever a company releases a sporting machine, there’s invariably a track component. Tires are smoked, and you hang the tail out, and there’s a chance to explore the limit safely. You don’t see that on the street (or at least I hope you don’t), and that’s where most of these machines will spend 90 percent of their time.

For a three-day holiday that saw mostly forest service roads and the odd bit of gravel pit tomfoolery, the Raptor was undoubtedly overkill. Even worse, check out the skin-peeling insanity of the pricing here: as equipped, this four-door Raptor is a couple of fill-ups away from breaking the $90K mark. That cools the ardour like a bowl of icewater to the groin.

Yet if we remove rationality from the equation, and consider the Raptor as the kind of thing someone with relatively deep pockets might buy because it stirred something inside them. It’s about the same price as a Mercedes-Benz GLE 550; not a comparable competitor, but just to put the cost in perspective.

Thus, though the rational side of my brain wants to caution that you should only buy the minimum amount of car or truck you need, and point out that if you put BFGs on a Subaru Forester you can pretty much drive it anywhere, and mention again the occasionally dim-witted ten-speed, and note that the real-world fuel economy was wallet-lightening, I wouldn’t stand in your way if you wanted a Raptor. The Raptor is unnecessary: that makes it a luxury, even if it’s not very luxurious.

And hey, come to think of it, I never did get that Power Wheels as a kid.

Engine Displacement 3.5L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 450 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Peak Torque 510 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 15.6/13.2/14.5 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 5.5" box
Model Tested 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew
Base Price $69,899
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,700
Price as Tested $89,639
Optional Equipment
$17,940 – Equipment Group 802A (360-degree camera, blind-spot monitoring, heated steering wheel, trailer brake, navigation) $7,900; Exterior Graphics Pkg $1,350; Hood Graphics Pkg $1,150; Raptor Technology Pkg $2,500; Interior Colour Accent Pkg $950; Spray-in Bedliner $550; Tailgate Step w/ Tailgate Lift Assist $400; 17-inch Forged Aluminum Bead-Lock Capable Wheels $1,390; Twin-Panel Moonroof $1,750