live in their own microclimates. The TRX are for those who live by the mantra “the person who dies with the most toys win.”
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
Before we get into the subject of this review, I have to address the elephant in the snowbank…
Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the Ram 1500 TRX. It was as bad assed as one can get in a high-performance pickup truck. It can make you the coolest person on planet Earth with its dominant presence and Hellcat performance.
That was until someone asked how it compared to the Ford F-150 Raptor.
It is easy to say that there’s no comparison. Nor, should there be.
Both vehicles live in their own microclimates. The TRX are for those who live by the mantra “the person who dies with the most toys win.” That was a space once occupied by the Raptor.
However, there is a new Raptor.
This new Raptor is part of a new generation of Ford’s best-selling vehicle. You read about the evolutionary changes and additions the new model introduced over a year ago. We always knew that the Raptor would continue on with this new generation F-150. It was a matter of its arrival.
For this new version, Ford took the approach of never messing with a good recipe. The skin is different – more buttoned-down than before. The interior is different than before with better materials and higher quality. There’s also a few new additions to this generation of the F-150 Raptor that never made its way on the previous two iterations.
What has not changed is the 450-horsepower 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged High-Output EcoBoost V6 that lies underneath the F-150 Raptor’s hood. It is what makes the Raptor a Raptor.
Which brings me to my first question: Why is the F-150 Raptor still relevant today?
It is simply because it’s the first of its kind – a performance pickup truck that is designed for maximum on- and off-road fun. Now, it is an icon among pickup trucks. The F-150 Raptor still stirs the soul, whether it has the big V8 or the High-Output EcoBoost twin-turbo V6. It is a proven desert runner that can conquer anything in its wake.
Wearing its new skin, it looks the part, but with some refinement. The wider wheel arches stretch the Raptor’s width to 86.6 inches before folding out the mirrors. A normal F-150 barely reaches 80 inches wide. The 35-inch BF Goodrich tires on my tester ride on 17-inch bead-lock-looking alloy wheels. You can get an upgrade package to add a set of 37-inch tires with real bead-lock wheels. If you ask me, the 35’s will do.
This Code Orange paint job is what makes this tester super cool. However, I can do without the crazy graphics that went with this truck. For example, the “FP GN 03” graphic with an American flag and a QR code on the lettering is a bit overkill. Then again, I’m OK with the signature Raptor graphic on the side of the box. The front grille is bold and is aligned with the last two Raptors. You will also find the requisite marker lights in the front fascia, as well as the new Rigid fog lamps.
The SuperCrew/five-and-a-half-foot box configuration is how I would specify my Raptor. The longer wheelbase might not be ideal for tight maneuvers on- and off-road, but this configuration is good for situations where the spaces are open and access to them are relatively easier.
The box does offer a few party tricks. You can operate the tailgate from your key to open and close. There is a step and a handle the comes out of the tailgate for step up into the box. Don’t forget the two 110-120-volt outlets inside the box that can power a small tool for work or an amplifier for an impromptu concert at the campground.
Standing with a ground clearance of 12 inches, I’m glad this Raptor came with a set of side steps. An injured person like me needs that leverage to get comfortably inside the cab. Once I got inside, it was very comfortable.
The big front seats offer a 10-way power adjustment, including lumbar support. There was plenty of support and bolstering to keep me behind the wheel. Not to mention, they are quite relaxing. Rear seat room is outstanding for three adults with loads of leg and head room. You have to remind yourself that one of the reasons the F-150 continues to sell so well is because of its cab space.
The Raptor comes with a 12-inch fully digital instrument cluster. You have access to a lot of information available through a few buttons on the steering wheel. It also features the retractable shifter that enables the center console armrest to fold over for a workspace. Access to controls is good with excellent logic in their operation.
On the center stack is an equally large 12-inch touchscreen, driven by Ford’s SYNC 4 infotainment system. It offers loads of connectivity options, including wireless smartphone integration and FordPass on-board Wi-Fi. Sound is emitted through the 18-speaker B&O Sound System Unleashed. Yes, B&O means Band & Olufsen. And, yes, it sounds wonderful.
I’ve praised the High Output 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 enough for the past few years. You already know that it packs a punch and a growl that goes along with it. It is still connected to a ten-speed automatic transmission and a four-wheel system with an available TORSEN differential on this tester.
Even though I experienced two Raptors in the past – both second-generation models – neither of them arrived for winter driving duty. It made me curious about whether this performance pickup truck can be driven year-round.
The key to testing this is through a knob located to the right of the steering column. If you twist it, then you go through all of the drive modes that appear on the instrument cluster screen. There are two modes that I tested: Slippery and Deep Snow/Sand. Each one has a pre-determined setting that switches the transfer case into 4-High and enables the right amount of traction to get through these conditions.
In most cases, Slippery mode gets the F-150 Raptor through the neighborhood. Plowing side streets can be rough, which leaves a caked and iced surface below. The Raptor did just fine, although I wondered if a set a 35-inch winter all-terrain tires would be the difference between confidence and excellence. That is, if such a level of excellence on traction management can be achieved.
Putting the Raptor into Deep Snow mode might not be the answer to everyday winter driving. That would come into play when the roads have not been plowed – including dirt and gravel tracks. Luckily, I never had to put the Raptor into Deep Snow mode.
While traction is important, the biggest difference in this new generation Raptor is the five-link independent rear suspension with a Panhard Rod and a set of FOX shock absorbers. Overall ride quality has improved, especially with 24-inch coil springs and enhanced torque management towards on-line performance.
While this rear suspension set-up is designed more for off-road performance, it does make a difference on road, as well. This goes back to balancing traction through the drive mode selector with actual handling and maneuverability. The F-150 Raptor feels better sorted now.
I also felt that Ford Performance also improved the braking on the F-150 Raptor. There is more confidence felt in normal, panic, and winter stops. The pedal feel is excellent providing absolutely no hesitation at the calipers to stop a 5,740-pound high performance pickup truck.
Since we’re on the subject of weight, the 2021 F-150 Raptor can haul up to 1,410 pounds of payload, with a maximum towing rating of 8,200 pounds.
As for steering, it does take some effort to do tight maneuvers. On-center feel is OK, with a bit of play in the steering rack. You do have a large steering wheel to work with, which is normal for the F-150. Then again, do you need a tight steering system when it is designed to play on a desert floor or on some craggy trail to the cabin?
Of course, this is a vehicle review and I have to discuss fuel economy. I averaged 14.1 MPG.
As for price? This tester had a few packages added to it – not everything, however. Therefore, the sticker price on this 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew was $78,545. Raptors start from $64,145.
If you are in sticker shock, you can get something less hardcore in the new F-150 Tremor, starting from $49,505. You lose 50 horsepower, the 35-inch tires, the fender flares, and the 24-inch rear coil springs. You do get a worthy pickup truck to play with that is also street smart.
In this new generation model, the Ford F-150 Raptor continues to be the sexy choice among pickup trucks. The YouTube channel Throttle House called the Raptor the ”Nissan GT-R of pickup trucks.” I can see why.
Is it as sexy as the Ram 1500 TRX? Rather, more butch? There are those who think that the TRX is completely over the top and does not need 702 horsepower to give you the same experience as a Raptor. If you are one of those enthusiasts, then look no further.
Here’s my problem: I like them both. The TRX is insane and absurd. The Raptor is less so. Frankly, neither of them is better than the other.
On its own merits, the Ford F-150 Raptor wears its improvements well. The rear suspension and new cabin create a better experience for those who have never driven one before. Refinement could be in the eye of the beholder. In this case, the F-150 Raptor is refined in all of the right places.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by the Ford Motor Company
All photos by Randy Stern