A week with the 2011 Ford Raptor

It stung.  It hurt real bad.  I wept silently.

But I had to return this truck.

I hated giving this one back, and I briefly considered running across the border with it.  A few things held me back from doing that, but I considered it.

If I had to pick one vehicle to weather a zombie apocalypse with, this would be it.  No questions asked.


Simply put, the 2011 Ford Raptor is a truck.  Underneath that bulging sheet metal and behind those massive tires, you’ll find hints of what started out as an F-150, which is an excellent truck to begin with.  I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with the F-150, and I’m not going to rehash all the similarities here.  Please check out my F-150 review here, and allow me to continue, making note of the considerable differences between that truck and this Raptor.  Or maybe more specifically, what makes this a Raptor.

The Raptor is built at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan.  It starts at CDN $53,199, which isn’t completely out of this world but certainly not cheap either.  The one I had didn’t come with an official invoice, but the option packages are pretty clear, and this one had all of them, as far as I could tell.  Optioned up the way it sat on my driveway, this contender rings in at a healthy CDN $65,834 after price adjustments.  That’s a lot of change.  Let’s be honest – these days, it’s not hard to spend that much on a truck, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lot of money.

Although you can see the obvious genetic connection to the F-150 in the Raptor, the SVT division at Ford has made it clear that this truck’s purpose and abilities are above and beyond.  The Raptor is marketed as a practically race-ready off-road monster, and its looks play the part pretty well.


In terms of looks, there was nothing subtle about the Raptor I spent some time with.  It came in a Molten Orange Metallic tri-coat, with the added graphics packages on the rear sides of the box and on the hood.  The truck does come in other colors – I’d consider the Blue Flame Metallic – it’s a snazzy eye-catching blue.  There are also white, silver and black options, all of which seem a little meh on a truck this pretentious.  If you’re getting a Raptor, why not make it stand out from the crowd at first glance?  I loved the hood graphics, my wife thought they were ridiculous.  What does she know, though.  I’m not sure about the graphics package at the rear sides of the truck – apparently they symbolize mud – it seems like a bit much at times, yet the truck looks a bit too plain without them.  You can’t win with an opinion here, and you just have to make up your mind as to what suits you best, I suppose.  They are, in my opinion, the most subjective part of this truck.

So, what do you get for your hard-earned rubles?  Well, as I mentioned, you get a looker.  Ford’s SVT people spent as much time making this truck a styling exercise as they did massaging the hardware underneath.  You will notice a bold grille that separates itself completely from other Fords.  It is a beauty, and the FORD lettering is massive and bold and goes from edge to edge.  The fenders aren’t so much flared out as pumped up – this is a necessity, for they have to accommodate massive and aggressive 35″ 315/70-R17 tires wrapped around dark SVT wheels – the Raptor is a full 8″ wider than a standard F-150.  The wheels are painted dark, with a bright machine-finished rim – they were hit and miss – some people loved them, other people said they didn’t quite keep up with the visual impact of the rest of the truck.  Running boards are a beautiful full-length cast-aluminum powder-coated black affair, with flares cut into them. You’ll find huge air “extractor” vents on the hood, which are functional and will serve to cool down the engine bay.  A final nicety on the Raptor’s exterior are the cool marker lights – you’ll notice one on each corner of the vehicle, and three inside the top of the grille.  They look great, and people definitely commented on them, especially running at night.


Inside you’ll find a number of differences from the F-150.  Visually, the Raptor I had was immediately different inside.  It had the Raptor orange accented leather seating, which looks pretty cool, and was very comfortable.  It also had the orange accents throughout the dash and door panel areas.  At first I thought people might find the orange gaudy, but it was very positively received by people checking out the truck.  At the front of the center console, you’ll find a control panel, housing two buttons for the hill-descent mode and for the off-road mode, as well as 4 excellent toggle switches, which are pre-wired for any electrical accessories you may want to add to the truck.  Unique SVT gauges round out the instrument cluster, surrounding Ford’s ubiquitous and highly useful LCD screen.

Another visual tip to the casual onlooker is the set of dual exhaust tips sticking out from the back right of the truck.  Firing up the standard 6.2 L V-8 isn’t just fun for the driver – it also stops conversation outside of the truck.  Cold or warm, this truck sounds nasty when its fired up, and people notice it.  That doesn’t stop when it’s moving.  The exhaust is definitely tuned to be heard, and there is no mistaking a big V-8 under the hood.  Thankfully, it’s got the goods to back it up – stock power is 411 HP @ 5500 RPM and a lovely 434 lb.ft of torque at 4500 RPM.  Step on it, and you’ll be happy you agreed with me and chose this beast to survive that zombie apocalypse with – because you can easily wake up the dead with the thunder this thing musters.  And considering it’s lugging over 6000 pounds around, this lump under the hood does a fantastic job of making short work of it.  This truck gets up and goes when you ask it to, and there is no hesitation, no lag, and no fuss.  I’m unsure as to where on the mileage spectrum this truck is rated, but if you’re buying a full-size truck with a 411 HP engine and worrying your pretty little head about fuel economy, you should likely have your meds adjusted anyway.  I can tell you that I did drive this Raptor with a relatively heavy foot.  Dipping into the torque, as well as hearing the rumble, is very addictive and could very likely impact an owner’s ability to drive with any semblance of efficiency.  Bearing that in mind, I saw a planet-wilting 22.2 L/100 km (10.5 mpg) average over the time I had it.  Scary?  Yes, a little.  Surprising?  Not at all.  I’m pretty sure Mother Nature cried every time I fired this monster up – proof is in the pudding, since it rained almost every day I had it.  Stopping this monster was never an issue – I’m not sure how big the brakes are, but they were very effective in every kind of driving situation I threw at it and I never experienced any fade.  That’s fantastic, considering you’ll need them if you are going to use this truck for what it was designed for.

All the looks and all the noise in the world won’t do you much good if a truck can’t back them up.  It’s the equivalent of having a dozen Mugen Power and HKS stickers and a loud sewer-pipe sized can hanging off your Honda Civic, with nothing else to show for it – other than an irritating noise-maker.  In my humble, and always correct, opinion, trucks are symbols of manliness, and when they deliver an underwhelming amount of performance where it is sought, the truck seems more than a letdown.  It feels like it’s letting all trucks down.  Not so here.  The Raptor was purposefully designed to be able to tackle the vast majority of what an owner might throw at it.  Sure, a hard-core off-roader may scoff at the concept of a factory-ready off-roading vehicle, but don’t scoff too much.  What you get is nothing to sneeze at:  11.2″ of front suspension travel using internal bypass Fox Racing Shox, beautiful and massive cast aluminum front control arms, a massive front skid-plate intelligently designed with an access hatch to service the engine, a 4.10 rear axle, outboard-mounted rear Fox Racing Shox with piggyback reservoirs allowing for 12.1″ of rear suspension travel, and an electronic locking rear diff are some of the goodies.  The power from the 6.2 L engine is enough to do most anything off-road and the low-end torque allows you to focus on what you’re doing, instead of trying to find the sweet spot where the engine will cooperate best.  Yes, the Raptor leaves some stones unturned, and I’m certain that people who consider their off-roading a religion will find ways to criticize it.  But in talking to a few people who do off-road, they were duly impressed and said there was little they would need to do to make this a very ideal off-roading truck.  And that carried some weight with me.

The Drive

In terms of driving, spending time with the Raptor was less of a chore than its considerable bulk would lead one to believe.  Puttering around town, or just downright commuting, is just fine.  The ride is definitely stiffer and bouncier than an F-150, but not uncomfortably so.  Let me put it this way, it’s not an ideal post-surgery transport vehicle, as my wife can attest.  But for day to day stuff, the ride is fine, and of course the pay-off is the truck’s off-road capability.  The width is nothing to be trifled with, and I found myself paying close attention to it for the first couple of days.  Drift over just a little bit, and you might see a Corolla driver veering off to the side, fear in their eyes.  It definitely takes up most of a lane and you remain conscious of this.  Mind you, if you get busy texting and just drift over into the other lane, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  You’d win the contest every time.  Kidding!  Steering effort is easy regardless of speed.  Surprisingly, the Raptor is very comfortable at higher speeds.  I thought the tire noise would get unbearable at freeway speeds, and likely things would get a bit unsettled, considering how much weight and frontal area you’re pushing around, but not so – as a matter of fact, it cruises effortlessly at highway speeds and tracks very well, and the ride becomes exceptional.

I did take the Raptor off the beaten path a few times.  Nothing crazy, but we did make our way up and down a few dirt hills bigger than I’d dare to do with something else, and I did make my way through a few muddy fields, with what I measured to be around 18″ of standing water on top of clay and/or soil.  Of course, things bogged down once I hit the water and the muck, but the Raptor didn’t even hesitate to find the required traction, or to break that traction at will when the V-8 was urged with a little tap on the gas and send four rooster tails of slop flying into the sky, and frankly I know I didn’t even begin to approach the limits of what this machine is capable of.  Suspension travel was extraordinary, and very smooth at the same time.  Power was never an issue, nor was controlling it.  It’s easier to appreciate those extreme approach and departure angles once you snuggle up to or off of a steep hill.  And the tires were very competent on any surface I presented them with.  I’d love to get a ride with a professional off-roader to see what this thing could really do.

Tech-, safety- and convenience-wise, the Raptor shares virtually all the same traits and treats with the F-150 I reviewed earlier, which is to say it’s a loaded vehicle.  The SYNC system works great, the Sony sound system is excellent (but a bit bassy/boomy for my taste), and the 4.2″ LCD information screen between the gauges is top-notch and provides quick and easy access to very useful functions.  The Raptor adds an off-road display which will show you your turn angle, and whether the off-road mode is engaged, what level you have set your Sport-Trac to, and if you’re using the hill-descent mode.


Nitpicking, as always, can’t be avoided.  Hey, I’m German – I’ll never really be completely happy, right?  Any vehicle in this price range should have HID headlights.  They’re more effective, and frankly they look more expensive – and should be included for both reasons.  The Raptor didn’t have cooled seats, which the F-150 did, and I found myself missing them on the hot weekend.  I actually couldn’t find them in the option list, so I’m not sure if this is because of the specialized Raptor seats or not.  Step-up height is rough on kids, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering this truck.  The F-150 had the motorized running-boards, which were amazing, but wouldn’t work so well when you’re throwing mud up against them on a regular basis.  This is far from an issue for me, but some people may actually prefer the truck to be quieter.  The exhaust is very expressive, starting at idle and working its way up to a crescendo – personally, I love the sound of a V8 and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.  It should be noted though, as it’s a completely different story than a V-8 powered F-150.  The sheer size of this vehicle makes it plain difficult to park inside a normal garage, so if you’re considering one, and that’s an issue, make sure you try it out first.  Being a big truck, with a long wheelbase, hobbles the Raptor with a typically large turning circle – no surprise there, but still, something to be considered if you’re new to trucks.  The nice thing is, instead of doing the standard back-n-forth’ing, you can just drive OVER whatever you’re trying to get around.  Curb there?  Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t even feel that bump.  Finally, the 6-speed automatic is nice, but unless you’re stepping on it, it immediately wants to beat a hasty retreat into the higher gears, seeking to economize your driving if at all possible.  Clearly there is an advantage to being able to manually control your shifts in certain situations, especially when you are off-road and doing precision driving.  The standard Ford SelectShift is included, which is just a horrible concept.  I suppose it’s better than NOT having an option, but putting a rocker switch on the left side of the shift lever is pretty much the best way to convince someone to never use the manual shifting option.  I’ve never been a fan of SelectShift, and it’s even more laughable in a truck that could really use manual gear control on occasion.

The Verdict

Of all the vehicles I’ve test-driven and reviewed to date, this one was the least practical from a first-glance, economical, conservative husband and father perspective, yet it was the most difficult to part with.  The Raptor has the ability to grab its driver on an emotional level.  And yet, upon closer inspection, it is a capable (and, fuel economy aside, practical) day to day vehicle, it provides utility when called upon (seats 5 adults very comfortably, great box payload and space – with box extenders – and towing capacity), and augments all that with a truly off-road ready package – with the looks to back it up.  If it wasn’t clear yet, this is also the vehicle I’ve had the most fun with.  Most warm-blooded males will have a difficult time suppressing grins in this thing.

I think the best way to look at a Raptor is that this truck sells itself.  If you need any sort of convincing, then this isn’t the truck for you.  As for me, this vehicle actually works very well for a family like mine – just as with the F-150, we easily fit all three child seats in the back, with plenty of room to do the seatbelts up, etc, AND room for groceries in there as well.  As much as I’d love to own a Raptor, and as much as I enjoyed it, I’d have to bow to my conservative side if it were my money, and I’d likely end up buying an F-150, likely the Platinum EcoBoost that I reviewed earlier.  As a car guy who absolutely enjoyed his time with it, I’d give the Raptor an 8.5 out of 10.  As a practical family guy, I’d bring that down to a 7.5, solely because of the ingress/egress height, and the fuel economy.  But let’s be honest here, neither of those factors are truly going to be deal-breakers for anyone who’s seriously shopping for something like a Raptor.  WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was relatively low at my place – I think it was a bit loud, audibly and visually, for my wife.  This truck got a lot of looks – and surprisingly almost all were positive – lots of thumbs-ups, lots of appreciative nods and pointing at from other truck drivers and meek suburban dads in their minivans, and the occasional irritated shake of the head from some old folks.  I’m guessing it was irritation at the sound or the loud colour, or maybe they were just getting ready to shout: “Get off my lawn!” as old people typically do.  I’m sure some eco-weenies also shook their heads behind my back as I drove by, shuddering behind the wheel of their Priuses and daintily sipping at the world’s reserves of fossil fuel.  Hey, is it Priuses or is it Priii?  Whatever.

Remember I said there were a few things holding me back from running across the border with this Raptor?  Well, there’s the old “I’d never leave my family behind” excuse, which could hold water for a while, but everyone knows how much I love vehicles.  The other reason is that I realize I’d only get so far until I have to hit up a gas station, and then another gas station.  And another.

Goodbye, Raptor.  I will miss you, you orange leviathan!

Disclaimer:  I’m a meek suburban dad in a minivan.

Disclosure:  Vehicle was provided by Ford.

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.