The 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCab, By the Numbers
- Base Price (as Tested): $52,855 ($68,845)
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, 450 horsepower, 510 pound-feet of torque; 10-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive with low range
- EPA Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city, 18 mpg highway
- Ground Clearance: 11.5 inches
- Off-Road Angles: 30.2° approach / 22.9° breakover / 23.1° departure
- Towing Capacity: 6,000 pounds
- Top Speed: 108 mph
- Quick Take: Bah Gawd, he killed him. The F-150 Raptor destroys all comers.
The Caltrans worker leaned against the 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor, his face reddened by the icy wind. Behind him were at least a dozen drivers struggling to attach their tire chains in the flood-lit darkness of a highway patrol checkpoint. The snow flew thick and sideways, piling up fast. High in California's San Bernardino Mountains, the blizzard had arrived. And with the main pass to the ski slopes in Big Bear closed by a rockslide—this squall was only the latest in a weeklong parade of winter storms streaming off the Pacific—I found myself on Route 38, a serpentine two-lane trail winding its way up to 8,400 feet as it crosses over 40 miles of pure wilderness.
"You got chains?"
"No sir," I said. I'd passed the last gas station selling chains 20 miles ago. My wife shot me a look from across the truck's enormous cabin. At least, I assume. It's hard to see that far in the dark.
"You know you're required to have chains in this kind of weather."
I nodded sheepishly, and steeled myself for the inevitable order to turn around. Weekend: ruined.
He took a step back into the whizzing snow, looked the Raptor up and down. Let out a sigh.
"All right, go on," he said, waving us forward. "Get out of here."
And that, friends, is why you buy a Raptor. Because the rules don't apply to royalty.
Ford Raptor Is Rip-Roaring Fun
Pickup trucks are still the seat of automotive power in America, with nearly 3 million sold across all brands in the United States in 2018, and the full-size variants from General Motors, Ram, and Ford beating out all other cars and trucks for roughly the 853rd year in a row. That fractious oligarchy is chaired by the Ford F-Series, the country's best-selling vehicle for decades. And within the House of the Blue Oval, it's the Ford F-150 Raptor that emerges as the most entertaining version of America's favorite truck—the roguish prince of the ruling family.
The word "best" is tricky when it comes to pickups. By definition, members of the class are caught between two worlds—despite the growing number of people for whom a full-size truck is little more than a lifestyle accessory, there are still plenty of buyers who care deeply about maximum towing and payload figures. The Raptor is plainly built for the good times and little else; its fancy internal-bypass Fox Racing shocks and other off-road additions limit those two key numbers to a mere 6,000 and 1,000 pounds, respectively, in SuperCab form.
Still, it's not a stretch to say that for anyone who won't be hauling half a ton of junk on a regular basis, the 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor is the best full-size pickup truck out there. It might not be the best for you personally; its half-foot-wider-than-normal track, jacked-up ride height, and aggro demeanor make it a loud-and-proud choice. But objectively, there is nothing else out there that can fly down a desert wash at 90 mph, make speed bumps and potholes disappear, swaddle you in (relative) luxury, command respect in the valet line, and still offer the practicality of a mass-produced pickup. And oh yeah, it's got ups.
A huge draw for casual truck drivers is the feeling of invincibility behind the wheel. But in the Raptor, that sense is grounded in the fact that it is pretty much unstoppable, moreso in an all-around sense even than competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 or the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Be it tire-chain restrictions, an ill-placed curb, a high-speed pothole, or a pockmarked dirt trail—the Ford Raptor has the answer for almost every challenge.
2019 Raptor's Off-Road Bite Grows Stronger
The Raptor's recipe, simple as it is delicious, is as follows: Take a Ford F-150, widen it by half a foot, add some long-travel Fox off-road shocks and a set of big boy BFGoodrich tires, and plop a twin-turbo V6 under the hood. That last part has provoked a bit of dyspepsia in fans of V8 powahhhh; those complaints are not entirely without merit, and we'll get to that in a bit. But overall, it's the same truck it's been since the second-generation launched in late 2016: fast and extraordinarily capable off-road, with a 4.10:1 locking rear axle for decent crawling, an optional limited-slip differential up front, and drive modes for every type of terrain. It also happens to look incredibly cool, a childhood drawing projected to giant scale that prompts as many admiring glances as a $150,000 supercar.
Still, there are changes for 2019 that push its performance in sand and dirt to even greater heights. Its 3.0-inch-diameter twin-tube Fox dampers now continuously adjust in real time—Fox has dubbed it "Live Valve technology"—to take full and efficient advantage of the truck's 13-plus inches of suspension travel. Previously limited to nine preset modes, the freed-up suspension is supposed to deliver an even smoother ride over hill and dale. Whether or not it actually does depends on how susceptible you are to the placebo effect; the old truck wasn't exactly a slouch. Of particular interest to aspiring yahoos is that the new suspension controller knows when you've departed terra firma and can stiffen the dampers to stick the landing and better avoid bottoming out.
The 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor also benefits from the new Trail Control, Ford's addition to the growing lineup of off-road cruise control systems across the industry. It can handle the throttle and brakes from 1 to 20 mph, and unlike Toyota's Crawl Control, you don't have to be in low range to use it. (Another plus: it doesn't make a sound like a demon banging against the firewall.) Now, an undeniable part of the Raptor's joy comes from taking full control, turning the nannies off, and gunning it through situations that would trip up a lesser truck. It's also not a perfect replacement for skill—someone experienced in left-foot braking could do a smoother job of it. But it's nice to know you have the option of sitting back and simply steering if you want.
If you can live with the SuperCab's dinky back seat and lower tow rating versus the full-bore four-door Raptor, you'll be rewarded with the closest analog to a mass-market, street-legal Baja truck. It's a foot shorter than the crew cab in length and wheelbase, two important dimensions for off-roading, and it's about 200 pounds lighter to boot. The thing loves to scamper, eager and surprisingly nimble on its 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 toes; a bruiser doing its best billy goat impression. On a snow-and-ice choked two-track in the mountains outside Big Bear, the only obstacle that eventually halted its progress was a giant mud puddle of indeterminate depth.
Raptor's Rough Road Manners Improve
Where that trick suspension actually makes the most difference, interestingly enough, is on pavement. The Raptor's street manners are better than you'd expect for something designed first and foremost for off-road duty. Ford worked to limit the languid body movements that have typified the F-150 Raptor driving experience until now, taking advantage of new suspension's rapid-fire adjustability to add an anti-roll feature (stiffening the outside shocks in a turn) in Normal and Sport driving modes. Even in a straight line, the high-tech dampers feel more competent than before, bringing with them an easy confidence over truly shattered roads. It also makes the truck comfortable as hell.
Under the hood lies probably the Raptor's biggest weakness: Its 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, a version of which also powers the sublime Ford GT supercar. That lineage doesn't quite make up for an uninspired exhaust note and completely average fuel economy (15 mpg city, 18 mpg highway) in a pickup that's otherwise packed with superlatives. It's a fine engine, belting out 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It's not that it just needs more grunt or a better soundtrack, though; overall, it just doesn't deliver the wow factor that the rest of the truck does.
The 10-speed transmission is another hit-and-miss proposition, usually minding its own business but occasionally screwing up an easy putt of a shift. Heading back down that snowy trail, I took the opportunity presented by a sweeping right-hander with great visibility to engage in a spot of drifting. Unfortunately, I forgot to manually lock it into gear, and the combination of turbo lag and the transmission kicking down from 3rd to 2nd on the briefest of throttle blips nearly sent us into a ditch.
2019 Ford F-150 Raptor Rules All
Look past those few flaws, and the F-150 Raptor reveals itself to pretty much be a cheat code for the rules of everyday life. And its ludicrous abilities are accented by an interior that verges on luxurious when you pile on options like heated/ventilated seats, a banging Bang & Olufsen sound system, a 360-degree camera, and the usual grouping of dummy-driver features like radar cruise control and lane keep assist. The truck gives off feelings of solidity and strength, though the overall design is starting to show its age four years into the F-150's current generation. The near-luxury vibe also fades in the back bench of the SuperCab, which is fine enough for a joyride, but not something you'd want to endure as an adult on a long road trip.
The Ford F-150 Raptor is a lot of truck for a lot of money, no doubt about it. Its size alone—those front amber LEDs are actually the marker lights found on heavy-duty pickups, required on vehicles over a certain width—can make it a tough sell. It certainly wasn't the easiest car with which to ply the Los Angeles street grid. But it stands alone as the most complete truck you can buy, in many ways—the one that can go fastest and furthest off-road from the factory while still checking enough of the requisite pickup boxes to make it a (somewhat) practical choice.
And besides, to judge a member of this new group of factory off-road pickup trucks (see: the Colorado ZR2/Bison, the new Jeep Gladiator, and the upcoming Ram Rebel TRX) entirely on the traditional merits of the class, like towing, humility, and most of all a low MSRP, is to miss the point of these trucks entirely. It's like being one of those Japanese soldiers hiding the mountains of Oceania, unaware or unwilling to admit that the battle is lost. Pickup trucks have been a lifestyle item for decades now—the Raptor is just the apogee of the form. And we all know by now how much the Raptor loves hitting those apogees.
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