Joel FederAugust 31, 2021Comment Now!

The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor arrives in a new reality in which it’s not the most over-the-top pickup anymore.

That fact doesn’t make the third-generation Raptor any less fun or extreme, & it doesn’t mean it can’t get more capable.


With a new coil-spring five-link rear suspension, more suspension travel, and smarter programming, the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor heavily updates an already capable truck. But it’s the available 37-inch tires và standard 35-inchers that create internal drama for buyers when ticking the options boxes.

Ford flew journalists lớn Las Vegas, tossed us the keys lớn a 2021 F-150 Raptor, and sent us out to the Dumont Dunes OHV park in the searing desert heat to experience the capabilities of this over-the-top, Baja-inspired pickup.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


Heat waves rose from the desert asphalt on the hour-plus drive from the Las Vegas strip to lớn Pahrump, Nevada. I kept waiting for mirages lớn appear ahead of the Antimatter xanh Raptor as the cooled seats did their best to keep my internals from overheating. With the 35-inch tires, the truck absorbed every ripple in the pavement khổng lồ create a comfortable ride. Revised front ball joints, knuckles, và control arms hooked together in an updated geometry now act in concert with the new five-link coil-spring rear suspension khổng lồ make the front và rear feel more tied together than the previous rear leaf spring setup.

Chief engineer Carl Widmann of Ford’s Performance division told me the team installed ride height sensors at all four corners that talk through a Hitachi controller board. The outgoing truck had two ride height sensors, both in the front, and the system “guessed what the rear was doing,” Widmann said. New code makes the communication quicker lớn adjust the shocks every 80 milliseconds. Those shocks are 0.1-inch thicker Fox racing shocks with internal bypass valves & 600 psi more pressure (900 psi on trucks with 37-inch rubber). While suspension travel has increased by an inch—now 14 inches up front và 15 in the rear—that inch goes away with 37-inch tires, though that version gains 1.2 inches of ground clearance.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


As I mashed the accelerator on Hwy 15 the new dual exhaust system with its “trumpet” design và 1:1 equal-length tubing let out a pleasant howl. The Raptor finally sounds good again four years after the twin-turbo V-6 replaced a V-8 with the second generation.

The truck surged forward with authority thanks to lớn the carryover twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6’s 450 hp và 510 lb-ft of torque. It didn’t squat on its rear tires, lift the front end, or launch lượt thích a rocket the way the Ram TRX does. It’s not close to lớn the TRX’s 702 hp and it lacks launch control; it’s simply not the same kind of truck, though next year’s Raptor R should invade that territory. Still, with 640 lb less weight to lớn haul around than a TRX (499 lb on 37s), the Raptor feels lighter on its feet và less lượt thích a blunt object than the Ram.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


Halfway khổng lồ Pahrump I hopped into a Code Orange Raptor with the 37-inch tires. Mashing the throttle failed khổng lồ deliver the same kind of surge as in the Raptor on 35s; it felt as if each wheel had an extra cinder block’s worth of weight strapped to it. That checked out as each tire adds about 6 lb, và in total a Raptor with 37-inch tires lugs around an extra 141 lb compared lớn a Raptor on 35s. An internal conflict immediately arose. The 37s look cooler, & more sidewall is better for ride quality, but they make the truck feel heavier, slower, và sloppier.

I slept on it và woke at 3:00 a.m, khổng lồ the sound of a Raptor cold-starting outside our Holiday Inn Express. Ford had us get up so early so we could beat the heat for our drive on the dunes of Dumont Dunes OHV park.

Still, it was above 80 degrees by 6:00 a.m. And 100-plus-degree temps were on the docket. During the safety briefing we were told “if you see a snake, walk away, & if it starts following you, walk faster.” Sage advice.

The heat was no problem for the twin-turbo V-6 or any of the Raptor’s mechanical bits, even when running the truck through the off-road gauntlet. All Raptors continue with standard four-wheel drive with low-range gearing, electronic front và rear locking differentials, và an available Torsen front limited-slip differential. Max payload increases 200 lb to lớn 1,400 lb & max towing also rises 200 lb to lớn 8,200 lb, but testing those ratings weren’t on the schedule. Another time.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


Every Raptor also sports a Terrain Management System with seven modes: Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl. Each mode adjusts the dampers, steering weight, throttle mapping & transmission shift points, transfer case behavior, stability control, exhaust sound, và the display in the digital gauge cluster. I drove in Baja mode while off-road lớn allow high revs while keeping the electronic nannies at cất cánh while letting things get loose before trying khổng lồ save my butt. On the street, thể thao mode kicked the Raptor into overdrive with quicker downshifts, higher revs, and quicker throttle response, though the heavy steering felt like I was pulling it through molasses.

I’ve played with the Raptor’s Trail Control, an off-road cruise control that can be set from 1-20 mph, and Ford"s Trail One-Pedal Drive system that lets drivers use only the throttle pedal for tricky off-roading, but this trip I left all that automation off and just drove.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


Cresting a hill in the Raptor, which spreads 6.0 inches wider than a standard F-150, can be nerve-wracking, but the forward-facing camera eased my fears because I could see what was about khổng lồ happen in front of me while the windshield only showed the sky.

Whether it was the whoops (consistent bumps lớn punish the long-travel suspension), the sand wash, the autocross or climbing over rocks on rutted trails, the Raptor’s five-link rear end & coil springs took the pounding and absorbed the impacts. We were told khổng lồ go about 45 mph in most of the sections, but I pushed the Raptor lớn just over 70 mph. It didn’t blink and neither did the Ford representatives. On the sand wash course, the truck with 37s kept straight và followed the tracks left by the truck in front of me, but the truck on 35s was lượt thích a kid in a candy store kicking out the rear & begging for some counter lock from the steering in the corners. Over the whoops, the truck on 37s stabilized quicker than the truck on 35s, which took more time lớn get into the rhythm of absorbing the impacts.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


I’ve jumped a Raptor before, & every time the truck leaves the ground my stomach drops. This time was no different. I lined up for the jump over a sand dune và hit the throttle. Stopping and slowing down weren’t an option because they’ll cause the truck khổng lồ sink into the sand. Up ahead, the sand just fell away khổng lồ create a dropoff I couldn’t see. We were warned that the truck would go airborne at any tốc độ over 50 mph. The odometer read 56 mph when the front tires hit the vị trí cao nhất of the crest, và suddenly the truck was floating through the air. As the nearly 6,000-lb of American iron came crashing down the Fox shocks took the impact as if it were no big deal. No drama. No fuss.

Every course revealed the same thing: Raptors with 37-inch tires are more composed, stable, and comfortable, but feel slower và less engaging. The 35s make the Raptor more nimble, & it acts more lượt thích a rally truck with a rear over that wants to lớn kick out when pushed through turns on sand or dirt.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


Raptor influencing Raptor

Pictures don’t bởi the third-generation Raptor justice. Menacing in person, it looks more like a trophy truck thanks lớn a blockier front over framed in the now trademark amber running lights. The functional hood vent and fender vents were inspired by F-22 Raptor fighter jets, according lớn F-150 line director Travis Calhoun. The largest request from customers were fog lights, & the 2021 Raptor can be ordered with Rigid LED fog lights that include a phối of high-intensity off-road lights, the latter tied into the Auxiliary 1 overhead console switch.


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor


Inside, the 2021 F-150’s upgrades carry over lớn the Raptor with a reconfigurable 12.0-inch digital gauge cluster, a 12.0-inch horizontal touchscreen, & a gear selector that folds into the center console at the push of a button to lớn create a flat surface. Unfortunately, the motor that folds the gear selector still sounds like marbles shaken in a jar and the shifter still wiggles while upright. I dearly miss the beefy console-mounted gear selector from the second-generation Raptor. The dash pad & soft door panel material has a texture that comes off as a cross between xanh denim and linen, và it goes well with the 37-inch truck’s xanh Recaro seats. Sadly, Recaros are not available on Raptors with 35s.

The Raptor also boasts some clever features, such as over-the-air updates, automatic emergency braking, a 2.0-kw onboard generator, và Ford’s hands-free driver-assist system dubbed Bluecruise.

At a starting price of $65,840 the 2021 Raptor undercuts the TRX by $6,050, but the Raptor you want will cost nearly $74,000. địa chỉ cửa hàng in the 37s and the cost swells lớn $81,485, which is about $7,000 less than the TRX you want.

Cheaper, lighter, friskier than the TRX, the 2021 Ford Raptor has gotten smarter, more capable, and more comfortable thanks to the larger tire option & five-link rear suspension. Deciding whether lớn get the 35s or 37s comes down khổng lồ this: vì you put a priority over how tough your Raptor will look or how fun it’ll be? And, if you’re like me, you’ll want to lớn figure out how you can convince Ford lớn sell a Raptor with 35s and blue Recaros.

Ford flew us to the desert where there are venom-filled snakes và put us in a Holiday Inn Express so we could bring you this first drive review.