After a buildup of hype and speculation, Ford revealed its third generation of the vaunted F-150 Raptor, which plays up the truck’s off-road mission but stays with tried-and-true EcoBoost power under the hood. That said, the company also teased a forthcoming R-model for next year, which will likely feature the long-rumored and highly desired V8 engine under the hood.
Raptor is rooted in Baja 1000 racing, and its suspension advances our capability and performance… — Carl Widmann, Ford Performance
Pioneering this niche in the market, the 2021 F-150 Raptor carries on that tradition by leveraging technology and a new suspension design to ramp up both capability and practicality.
“Raptor is the original desert truck. We just took it to another level,” Ali Jammoul, Ford Performance vehicle program director, explained. “The all-new Raptor splices high-speed off-road performance muscle with advanced technology and connectivity that comes together in a unique Built Ford Tough way.”
Obviously much of the initial focus on that off-road muscle is under the hood, and there Ford is keeping its cards close to the vest, saying only that the new Raptor packs a more potent punch from its proven 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine. It is said to churn out more torque and towing capacity than its predecessor — thanks to 10.5:1 compression, “state-of-the-art” turbos, and high-power-fan-augmented cooling — while delivering an astounding EPA estimated range of 500 miles courtesy of a standard 36-gallon fuel tank.
Moreover, it addresses one of the chief complaints about the EcoBoost engine — the sound — with a new active-valve exhaust system engineered for a “throatier” tone.
That exhaust is three inches in diameter and fitted with a patent-pending X-shaped crossover with an unusual trombone loop. The latter is a first for the Raptor exhaust, and the whole system leverages a pass-through muffler design and the familiar active-valve arrangement can toggle the system between Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Baja settings. In the audio provided by Ford, it definitely sounds less like a turbo six, but still not quite as rumbly as the V8 most fans were longing for.
Making the most of the tuned-up 3.5-liter engine is the familiar 10-speed automatic transmission. However, it benefits from a new control system featuring a torque-on-demand transfer case. That arrangement funnels power to a standard locker out back and an optional Torsen limited-slip in front. Both feature 4.10 final-drive ratios, and all told, the arrangement can carry or tow an additional 200 pounds.
While there is certainly more to learn about the powertrain in the future, the new truck’s suspension upgrades are comprehensive.
“Raptor is rooted in Baja 1000 racing, and its suspension advances our capability and performance – a five-link rear setup with more wheel travel than any Raptor before it,” Carl Widmann, Ford Performance chief engineer, said. “And like a trophy truck, every aspect of Raptor has been engineered to deliver precision capability when your foot is flat on the floor, way out in the middle of nowhere roaring across the desert.”
The aforementioned five-link rear suspension utilizes extra-long trailing arms to stabilize the axle position over the rough stuff. It employs a Panhard rod and 24-inch coil springs, which work in concert with the terrain-management tech to balance improved acceleration and throttle response with ride quality, handling, and traction.
Helping that cause are the Raptor’s next-gen FOX Live Valve internal bypass shocks paired with electronic controls for position-sensitive damping adjustments. The largest dampers yet offered on the Raptor, these units features a 3.1-inch-diameter aluminum body engineered for reduced friction. Paired with those electronic controls, they will deliver up to 1,000 pounds of damping during high-speed desert runs where the onboard electronics check numerous sensors to change damping rates up to 500 times per second to adjust to the changing terrain before the driver even realizes the difference.
That improved suspension works with 35- or 37-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires to put down the power and clear obstacles of up to 12 inches with the smaller tires and 13.1 inches with the larger rubber. The former setup can tackle approach angle of 31 degrees, maximum departure angle of 23.9 degrees and breakover angle of 22.7 degrees. The big-tire arrangement is a first for this truck, and can overcome 33.1 degrees of approach angle, a maximum 24.9 degrees of departure angle, and 24.4 degrees of breakover angle. All told, the truck features 14 inches of wheel travel in front and 15 inches in the back with the 35-inch tires, which is a whopping 25 percent more than the original Raptor.
Expect the new Raptor to arrive at your local dealer this summer, just in time to enjoy some off-road vacation fun.