It's as if the Ford F-150 Raptor was born among the scrub and dust and cactus, emerging from the Anza-Borrego sand and shattering our expectations. Back in 2010, our review of the first Raptor confirmed what we all know now: hauling ass through the desert in a stock pickup is the greatest thing you can do with your clothes on. We're back in that same desert, east of San Diego, to see if the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor can recapture the magic. Yes, it can crawl – we managed to billy-goat it over some improbable terrain – but this is a wide-open-spaces truck. That's why we're in a place with room to run. Out here, the new Raptor requires you to hard-code a different set of limits into your protesting brain. Say you're running next to some train tracks at 70 mph or so, and a ditch, perhaps a dry creek bed, appears before you. Your inner voice hisses at you – "Brake! BRAKE! Now, you IDIOT!" – as you brace against the dead pedal. You don't brake. Instead, when the exceedingly patient and calm right-seater, a pro instructor and Baja veteran, barks "gas NOW," you floor it. Unless you've been cutting up the desert on the regular, this isn't intuitive. But the right foot obeys. At this moment, thanks to throttle-on weight transfer, the unloaded wheels droop as the nine-stage Fox shocks extend like the landing gear they're about to become. Had you braked, they'd be compressed, and you'd hit the other side of the sandy chasm with much less than the full 13 inches of front and 13.9 inches of rear travel. And the landing isn't cushy, since your 5,500-pound truck came down at around 60 mph. But nothing breaks, which seems either miraculous or magical. And then you laugh, a hooting sound that nothing hears, because everything that can move on legs or wings has already fled the approach of the Raptor. Clearly, this experience is intoxicating. Learning to fly a pickup exposes the broad swaths of greatness in this truck, expanses as wide as this scrub-covered basin that Ford engineers used to develop both generations of the Raptor. But there are hard, sharp things in the desert, and while the Raptor is fun, it isn't perfect. Straddling the red rocks of this moonscape, the Raptor is a handsome thing. Its sheer width, accentuated by monumental flares and a track that's somehow six inches wider than its already chunky predecessor's, visually shrinks the wheelbase. A charge-air cooler is nestled behind the lower grille, flanked by bumper outriggers with central cutouts that serve as peepholes to reveal the sexy aluminum lower control arms and blue-and-silver shocks. Let the rear wheel hang off an obstacle to gain an equally sensual view of the rear setup. It's a hearty stew of off-road style. The tailgate's billboard-sized "FORD" script is distracting, but check out what's below. The vulnerable side-exit exhaust of the old Raptor has been replaced by a dual rear-exit …
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|MPG||18 City / 25 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||282 @ 6250 rpm|
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