Unless you're a died-in-the-burlap save-the-planet kind of person, you probably think the 2010 Ford SVT Raptor is freakin' cool. There's not a factory truck on the planet that can wing across the desert floor with equal ease, grace and unmitigated speed.
The 2010 Raptor genuinely has no competition In the world of production trucks, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. If you bent the ear of the right Ford engineer, he would admit that the 2010 SVT Raptor was supposed to launch with the 6.2-liter SOHC V8 we're testing today. The aging 310-horsepower 5.4-liter Triton mill included at launch was never the perfect fit for the radical Raptor. Too tame.
From the truck's introduction last Fall, everyone knew the all-new iron-block/aluminum-head 6.2-liter engine would be better. But no one knew how much better until now. Read about our wild test drive (and brief flight) after the ummm... jump.
Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. and Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company invited the press to its Romeo, Michigan proving grounds with the intent to demonstrate that the 2010 SVT Raptor was a more than just an exceptional desert runner (as if that weren't enough). Slogging through narrow, rutted and muddy trails was further proof that the Raptor is plenty comfortable in typical Midwestern off-road environs. Our time at the 3000+ acre site also included the chance to flat-foot the new 6.2-liter V8 to see what 411 horsepower felt like. In a word: good.
But of all the driving we enjoyed, the most entertaining moment was launching the Raptor into the air after completing a high-speed off-road course. One can only imagine the conversations engineers must have had with Ford's legal team to get this event approved.
Engineers: We want the press to drive the Raptor off a ramp so fast that all four wheels leave the ground.
Lawyers: Are you nuts?
Engineers: The truck is designed to be driven that way. We know because we include a large jump at the end of our standard durability loop. Our test trucks have done the cycle thousands of times.
Lawyers: So? It's not the truck we're worried about. We're talking about the press. Half of those guys can't even parallel park. The ones from New York don't even have driver's licenses. You want to let them launch a 6,000-pound truck at some crazy speed? Are you guys nuts?!
Engineers: We'll ride with them.
Lawyers: Okay, you are nuts.
Here's how the experience went down (up?): After exiting a slippery right-hand corner consisting of wet grass and mud, you aimed the truck between two pylons at the top of a gravel ramp. The faster you were going, the higher and farther you'd fly. Following a rainstorm similar to one we've read about in the Bible, a low area just ahead of the ramp was filled with standing water and thick mud. To hit the ramp properly required getting hard on the throttle through the sticky stuff, which did all it could to knock the truck sideways.
Going over the ramp at anything but dead-nuts square virtually assured disaster. Landing on one wheel might cause the Raptor to corkscrew into the ground, instigating an unpleasant, cab-crushing roll.
There would be no blown-out windows today.
With the optional ($3,000) 6.2-liter V8 howling under the Raptor's vented hood, we hit the ramp spot on. The suspension fully compressed and then I heard it ... Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. Or angels. At that very moment, the wheels hung at the end of the suspension's rebound travel, poised to ease the truck's landing. The truck flew about 20 yards before returning to very terra firma. The landing used all of the suspension travel (11.2-inches front, 12.1-inches rear). And then some. This gallery photo reveals a once-flat front skid plate returned from the jump concave.
The lawyers could breath a collective sigh of relief. Nobody died. Not even the guys from New York.
We've already written extensively about the Raptor's new engine, covering its fitment to the 2011 Ford Super Duty, the high-volume truck the engine was really designed for. Important details include the enlarged, two-valve cylinder heads utilizing a twin-plug design for cleaner combustion, variable timing for the single overhead cams (a total delta of 43° to improve power output), and roller rocker followers (reduces friction). Engineers told us that they considered four-valve heads, but that they'd be too large to fit in the existing F-Series engine bay.
The Raptor gets its own version of the 6.2-liter that uses unique cams with identical lobe profiles, but separates the intake and exhaust valve operation with greater overlap for more power. Additionally, the Raptor's V8 gets an electric radiator fan (compared to a crank-driven unit) and a special premium-fuel engine management program with more aggressive fuel and ignition maps.
These changes result in 411 horsepower compared to 385 hp for the Super Duty. Torque increases to 434 pound-feet from 405 lb-ft. Run on regular fuel, the SVT's rate of work drops to 401 hp with no drop in torque. Compared to the standard 5.4-liter V8's 310 hp and 365 lb-ft torque, the 6.2 provides a huge boost. (Some outlets publish 320-hp and 390 lb-ft torque for the 5.4-liter, but this is generated running E85).
Regardless, who doesn't love another 101 horsepower?
Nearly every suspension component was changed to handle the motor's extra grunt. Engineers tweaked spring rates and the action of the internal bypass Fox dampers to make sure there wasn't undue pitch under the truck's increased power. If the old truck was good for 0-60 mph times in the mid-eight second range, the 6.2-liter should do it about a second less.
As with base Raptors, power runs through a six-speed 6R80 gearbox, shift-on-the-fly transfer case, 4.11 gear set and 9 3/4-inch rear axle. Electronic controls give drivers better command of the truck's hardware, including a sport mode for the stability control system and a special off-road setting. Additionally, the rear axle features electric-locking that operates in 2WD, 4WD High, and 4WD Low. Standard hill descent control works in Drive as well as Reverse, providing a fully automatic "speed control" for safely descending steep grades. All electronic nannies can be de-powered, leaving control totally in the hands (and feet) of the pilot.
Twisting the ignition brings forth a recognizable V8 rumble. The change in cams sexes up the rumpa-rumpa of the idle, although curiously, that more aggressive idle is the only clue that there's a mightier engine under the hood. There are no exterior badges, special exhaust pipes or other identifiers. A minor oversight? We think so. And it's not like the Raptor was designed to fly under the radar in the first place.
At wide-open throttle, the idle burble expands to a roar that reminds aging drivers of a sound from yesteryear: secondaries opening on a four-barrel carburetor. The noise confirms that power is getting to the massive 35-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires that feature proprietary construction developed just for the Raptor. On normal roads, the exhaust and induction noises remain subdued, as does the noise from the BFGs. In the cab, occupants remain comfortable in the deeply contoured buckets that provide more bolstering than regular F-150 seats.
Aside from the extra 101 hp, the 6.2-liter Raptor is nearly identical to the base truck dynamically. On road the suspension is soft, floating over the tarmac – regardless of the condition of the surface – and never feels out of control. The steering isn't Porsche 911 precise or tactile, but it gets the job done with a lightness that belies the truck's three-ton mass. To make too much of these nicks misses the point of the Raptor's design intent. The on-road ride is compromised to enable its off-road capabilities, a trade-off some drivers are eager to make.
Engineers told us that the only change they made to the trucks used for the PR event was airing down the tires from 44 psi to 28 psi. The Raptor's tires are certified for highway use at either inflation level, but the low-tire-pressure warning lamp stays on at the lower level to remind the driver to air up when the off-road fun is over.
If the new 6.2-liter V8 exposes anything about the 2010 SVT Raptor, it's that the truck's chassis could probably handle another 100 horsepower. Or 101. At some point during our drive time, even the big engine felt stressed through the thickest mud at speeds that would make Walker Evans or Rod Hall proud. Perhaps the aftermarket will be quick to offer a supercharger for the 6.2? We think yes.
Whether Saleen or some other tuner steps up to the plate, the reality is that anybody considering the $38,020 base Raptor should cough up another $3,000 for the 6.2-liter engine option. It's a must-have feature with no downsides, a fact born out by Ford's recent announcement that the crew cab version of the 2011 Raptor will only be available with the larger engine.
We wonder if the longer-wheelbase truck will fly as well as the extended cab. And we can't wait to find out.
Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc. and Ford Motor Company