MO­TOR­ING

The Ford F-150 Rap­tor has al­ways been in a league of its own. Has the su­pertruck’s lat­est up­date ce­mented its supremacy fur­ther, asks wheels’ Sony Thomas

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

The new F-150 Rap­tor still looks men­ac­ing but have the changes given it more bite?

They say money can­not buy char­ac­ter. Who­ever said that clearly hasn’t seen the 2017 Ford F-150 Rap­tor. With its dis­tinc­tively ag­gres­sive stance, the new gap­ing, matte black sig­na­ture grille with a mas­sive skid­plate un­der­neath, burly haunches, strap­ping BF Goodrich KO2 all-ter­rain tyres wrapped around 17in off-road rims, raised height and wider track com­pared to a stock F-150, the new Rap­tor oozes char­ac­ter like noth­ing else on four wheels does. And what’s more it can be bought with just Dh220,000 of your money.

And Ford has man­aged to in­fuse gen­er­ous amounts of mag­netism into its su­pertruck with­out hav­ing to re­sort to gaudy graph­ics or silly badges. The new Rap­tor looks mean and an­gry with­out even try­ing. And as those who have driven the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Rap­tor will know, the mean­ness and fury isn’t lim­ited to its ap­pear­ance. It’s em­bed­ded deeply in its very DNA.

With the 2017 it­er­a­tion, this in­her­ent affin­ity for sav­age per­for­mance has evolved fur­ther. And the en­tire skele­tal struc­ture has been re­vised to adapt to this change. The high-strength steel frame has been pur­pose-built for the Rap­tor, and is clothed in a mil­i­tary-grade alu­minium-al­loy body that helps shave more than 227kg from the truck’s heft com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor. And to be more at home in its nat­u­ral ter­ri­tory, the Rap­tor comes stan­dard with new 3.0in Fox Rac­ing Shox that fea­tures a cus­tom in­ter­nal by­pass tech­nol­ogy that helps pre­vent the truck from bot­tom­ing out when travers­ing coarse ter­rain. Front and rear shock can­is­ters have grown con­sid­er­ably in di­am­e­ter and have more sus­pen­sion travel than the pre­vi­ous Rap­tor. It also comes armed with a Borg Warner trans­fer case with Torque-on-De­mand tech­nol­ogy, which es­sen­tially brings to­gether the char­ac­ter­is­tics of on-de­mand all-wheel drive and driver-se­lectable, me­chan­i­cal-lock­ing four-wheel drive. With six ter­rain modes, Nor­mal, Sport, Weather, Sand/Mud, Rock Crawl and Baja to choose from, this makes the Rap­tor ready to take on the most chal­leng­ing of ter­rains with char­ac­ter­is­tic ease.

In Nor­mal and Sport, the trans­fer case is in two-wheel drive, while Weather en­gages 4 Auto, which dis­trib­utes torque to the axle with grip. Choos­ing Mud/Sand calls up 4 High, which locks the trans­fer case and en­gages the elec­tronic rear dif­fer­en­tial locker. Rock Crawl se­lects 4 Low and locks the rear diff for some se­ri­ous low-speed crawl­ing, while Baja se­lects 4 High again while keep­ing gear shift points higher. And this last mode is where you’d want to keep it while tack­ling the desert ter­rain here. Although I didn’t de­flate the tyres and go deep into the dunes, some frol­ick­ing over gravel and sand near Al

Qu­dra proved highly en­ter­tain­ing, with the Rap­tor just glid­ing over shrub­bery and swal­low­ing up fur­rows.

How­ever, it’s not just the sus­pen­sion that’s the star here. Of equal sig­nif­i­cance is the all-new twin-turbo 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6. Now, be­fore you cry ‘sacri­lege’ just get be­hind the wheel of the 2017 Rap­tor and you’ll be amazed at how cap­ti­vat­ingly pow­er­ful this new en­gine is. It de­liv­ers more power and torque, 10 horse­power and 90Nm in Gulf spec, than the mas­sive 6.2-litre V8 from the pre­vi­ous SVT Rap­tor. And chan­nelling the 421 horses and the 678Nm of twist to all four wheels is a 10-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion with manual-shift­ing via pad­dle shifters. Agreed, even with all the en­hance­ment, the ex­haust note can’t hold a can­dle to that of the eight-cylin­der’s. But if you’re able to look past that, any ap­pre­hen­sion you might have about a V6 Rap­tor will van­ish into a cloud of fine dust once you hit an off-road trail and put the pedal to the metal. With the rev nee­dle at around 3,500rpm and the 10-speed auto hold­ing the gears for longer the V6 does an ad­mirable job help­ing the Rap­tor hur­tle along in the rough in a way no other pro­duc­tion pick-up truck can.

Although it’s been de­vel­oped to per­form at its peak in off-road con­di­tions, the Rap­tor is by no means a mis­fit in the ur­ban jun­gle. Flick it into Nor­mal, it trans­forms into a pliant, comfy fam­ily car that cruises along with the V6 revving at a row 1,500rpm and even a fuel-sav­ing stop-start sys­tem kick­ing in. The plush ap­point­ments of the cabin and the cav­ernously roomy pas­sen­ger cell be­lie the Rap­tor’s in­tim­i­dat­ing road pres­ence. In fact the ap­pear­ance is so im­pos­ing in the rear-view mir­ror that you don’t have to flash your head­lights or use your horn to part traf­fic ahead of you. Perched high up on the well-bol­stered driver’s seat en­joy­ing one of the most com­mand­ing driv­ing po­si­tions, you’ll be for­given for imag­in­ing your­self to be Moses and Shaikh Zayed Road, the Red Sea. How­ever, there are a few com­pro­mises in the Rap­tor’s on-road be­hav­iour. The brak­ing re­sponse, for in­stance. Although much lighter than that of the SVT’s, the new Rap­tor’s brak­ing per­for­mance is still not con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing. In fact, the stop­ping dis­tance is longer than that of the heav­ier SVT. This is likely due to the beefy KO2 rub­bers that are pur­pose­built. Also, ex­pect the oc­ca­sional jud­der and wal­low that can’t be avoided in a lad­der-frame truck made spe­cially for off-road per­for­mance.

But rais­ing these com­plaints against

Perched high up on the WELL-BOL­STERED driver’s seat en­joy­ing one of the most com­mand­ing driv­ing po­si­tions, you’ll be for­given for imag­in­ing your­self to be MOSES and Shaikh Zayed Road, the Red Sea

the Rap­tor is as point­less as ac­cus­ing a road-le­gal ver­sion of a track car of be­ing not so com­fort­able. The Ford F-150 Rap­tor doesn’t be­long in the city or on the high­way. It be­longs in the wilder­ness. It’s born wild, and has been raised to pum­mel mighty boul­ders and daunt­ing sand dunes into sub­mis­sion. It reigns supreme over a ter­ri­tory that no other pick-up truck dares to en­ter. And if you feel some­thing isn’t quite right while cruis­ing along a high­way, it’s pos­si­ble the Rap­tor’s in­ner beast is prod­ding you to take it to its nat­u­ral habi­tat. The best thing to do then is heed that pri­mal call and veer off the beaten track. You’ll end up tak­ing the longer way home, ev­ery time.

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Off-road, the 2017 ver­sion of F-150 Rap­tor rules all that it sees; on-road, its brak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are less in­spir­ing

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