2013 Shelby Raptor

We're big fans of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, a full-size pickup impressively configured from the factory for serious desert running. While its stock, naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 provides 411 horsepower, some consider it lacking. Others still want more aggressive underpinnings for even more serious duty. Stop worrying, as Shelby American appears to have the answer with its new Shelby Raptor.

While the Las Vegas-based company offers nearly all of its upgrades on its à la carte menu (good for those on a budget), the test truck seen here arrived loaded with just about everything.

To begin the transformation, a 2.9-liter Whipple supercharger and intercooler are bolted to the V8, followed by a Shelby Stinger exhaust system to improve the engine's breathing. The upgrades bump output by 164 horsepower, meaning the truck goes from 'impressive' to 'seriously quick' on the acceleration scale. But the company doesn't stop there, as the suspension has been upgraded with Shelby 3-inch shocks, new upper and lower control arms and a new frame kit with bump stops. In addition to a new skid plate package for protection, the stock wheels have been replaced with 18x9 Shelby Method alloys wearing aggressive 35-inch BFG Mud-Terrain T/A tires (35x12.50R18LT) for go-anywhere capabilities.

Cosmetically speaking, the interior is upgraded with a custom Shelby leather package and additional gauges have been added to allow the driver to keep a closer eye on things. The exterior doesn't escape the treatment, either, as it receives new bumpers, a full chase rack and plenty of graphics. And, of course, there is the obligatory unique Shelby serial number plate on the blown engine and one for everyone to see prominently on the dashboard.

We recently spent an afternoon criss-crossing the LA Basin with this massive truck, putting in a few soft-roading miles for our photoshoot. To really do the Shelby justice and properly explore its capabilities, however, we really need to spend more time doing what it genuinely wants to do. That is, launching it off tall berms, crossing deep streams and bashing over rocks. Unfortunately, the opportunity didn't present itself. Next time.

Driving Notes:
  • One glance at our loaded silver and blue test truck reveals a ridiculous amount of 'Shelby' branding. Laughable levels, actually. Shelby's name is plastered on the seats, dash, quarter panels, doors and tailgate. It appears four times on the rear bumper alone! Enough already – it's overkill to a nauseating level (the company reportedly offers packages that are much more discreet). And don't get us started on the overuse of LED light bars.
  • Nearly all of the upgrades are actually functional for desert running and rock-crawling, with the exception of one; the silly placement of aftermarket gauges in the middle of the dashboard vents. The analog boost and fuel pressure dials are not only ergonomically incorrect (nobody looks to the HVAC vents for information), their 'plug' design blocks critical airflow from the vents themselves. We prefer to see them mounted on the A-pillar, like everyone else does, to make them easy to read and keep them out of the way. Speaking of visibility, if you opt for the bed-mounted spare, don't bother looking in the rearview mirror, as the backside of the tire completely fills the glass.
  • Stepping on the accelerator pedal sets a chain of events in motion. Within a fraction of a second, the supercharger begins to wail from under the hood, a noise that's followed by an immediate burst of power that rips the tires' tread blocks from the pavement. The process is neighborhood-waking loud, and the modified Ford takes off at a rate that is completely unexpected considering its obscene curb weight - most estimates say the 6,200-pound pickup will hit 60 mph in the mid-five second range. Fuel economy is predictably miserable, and owners should consider themselves fortunate if they make it into the double-digits (if by some circumstance they do, they aren't driving the Shelby properly).
  • Our test truck appears to have been tuned purely for off-road enjoyment, meaning its on-pavement driving characteristics are crude, at best. The generous suspension travel, low steering rate, high center of gravity, curb weight and huge tire tread blocks means the Shelby squirms and rolls around corners with an annoying delay to steering inputs. Yet if we had the ability to take this Raptor into the dirt, mud, rocks or snow, all of these qualities would have helped to make it one capable beast of a machine.
  • If driving a monster truck on public roads is what you are seeking, Shelby has your answer with its tuned Raptor. However, unless you plan on tackling serious trails, we'd lay off the suspension and wheel upgrades, as they destroy the on-road manners of the factory Raptor – qualities most drivers will grow to appreciate.