I'm not normally a pickup kind of guy, but the 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor won me over nearly instantly. The street-legal trophy truck – there is really no other way to accurately describe it – is big, brawny and incredibly capable. Let's just say it's every bit the monster it visually portrays. I spent a week pretending I was one of Ford's Baja 1000 drivers, but lacking desert sand, I headed into the local mountains where a mild winter storm had dropped a couple inches of fresh snow on my favorite off-road park. The Ford was, for the most part, practically unstoppable.

Ford offers its SVT Raptor package on Supercab and Supercrew platforms with the five-foot, five-inch bed. The Supercrew I tested rides on a 144-inch wheelbase (about a foot longer than the Supercab). In addition to its cosmetic differences when compared to the standard F-150 – there isn't a young boy on the planet who doesn't think the matte black Ford grille is cool – the Raptor has a 73.6-inch track – nearly seven inches wider than the track on the standard F-150.

After upgrading the F-150 SVT Raptor significantly for the 2012 model year, there are only a few changes for 2013. The list includes standard high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, Hill Descent Control, forged beadlock-capable wheels, and the new matte Terrain color (aka "Desert Storm") option seen on my test model.

Driving Notes
  • The SVT Raptor grabs plenty of attention whether driving through a grocery store parking lot or bounding down the highway. Physically massive, it is amusing to watch other drivers move out of its way – nobody even considered cutting me off. Opinions were split on the new Terrain color. People either liked it or hated it. I liked it, as it hid dirt impressively well and it was a nice contrast to the trim and optional graphics without being overly loud like the Race Red or Blue Flame.
  • Nobody will question the power coming from the big-bore 6.2-liter V8. Its exhaust note is frightening, but so is its fuel consumption. I missed the EPA's ratings by a long shot, never seeing double digits around town. In fact, I found it challenging to hit 13 miles per gallon on the open highway. The six-speed transmission is sturdy and only about average when it comes to smoothness, though it never skipped a beat.
  • The commanding view, comfortable seats, spacious cab and kitchen-like storage space made the Supercrew very popular with passengers. The additional row of three-passenger seating, easily accessible through the second set of full-size doors, seemed to provide more legroom than an airport shuttle Lincoln Town Car. I found the backup camera a lifesaver, as I often had no idea what those LT315/70R17 All-Terrain tires were rolling over. The Raptor needs an all-around camera system (and, why can't the excellent front-facing camera work during parking maneuvers?)
  • Off-road, the Raptor was plush. Triple-bypass Fox Racing Shox, aluminum front suspension arms and generous wheel travel turned washboard surfaces smooth and absorbed impacts with aplomb. I never tried to jump 90 feet, but I did fly over several big berms at the wrong speed. I'd hold my breath, waiting for the suspension to crash into its bump stops – but the undercarriage absorbed the impact as if we were dropping into a down pillow. While its wide track improves stability at speed, its broad shoulders did keep the SVT off several of the narrower trails that I had enjoyed previously in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (the Ford is a full foot wider).
  • Wet snow over deep sticky mud is challenging to any 4x4, even the Raptor. Following snow-covered trails, I tried to keep it in two-wheel drive as long as possible. The truck nearly bogged-down a few times, but it was never something the electronic locking rear differential and the Torsen front differential couldn't get me out of. Rain-sensing wipers, not available on the Raptor, would have helped keep the muck off the front windshield and allowed me to keep both hands on the wheel when splashing around.
  • On-road, the ride wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected it to be. There was a constant background noise from the tread blocks and the occasional shutter over uneven pavement, but the ride was never choppy or harsh. In fact, after a few days my sports-car-tuned equilibrium found the Raptor more than enjoyable in the handling department too. Yes, I could live with this big truck every single day. I'm even quite sure that I would eventually learn how to park it without placing one of its rear wheels on the curb!