A Ford F-150 SVT Raptor taps into the off-road enthusiast market, both the desert and the ice and snow
by Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Published: 12/08/2012 08:00am
In an age of downsized dreams, high-priced gas and a general disdain for supersized living, Ford Motor continues to make a sales star out of a four-by-four pickup truck that kicks sand in the face of convention.
It’s the Ford SVT Raptor, a full-gulping 411-horsepower V-8-powered variant of the F-Series pickup riding atop oversized tires. And it is finding new fans for its performance in ice and snow, not just desert dunes and rocky hilltops.
The Raptor shows that despite all the forces aligned against it, the market for performance vehicles and brawny pickups in the U.S. auto industry remains intact. Yes, gas mileage has become a top consideration for buyers. But no, buyers aren’t going to sacrifice fun — or a vehicle that best fits their needs — for one that scores on fuel economy. That’s where Raptor comes in.
“It has this kind of ‘Oh yeah, watch this’ kind of quality to it,” says Mark Williams, editor of PickupTrucks.com. “There’s a lot of cache.”
Raptor competes against the Ram Power Wagon and Ram pickups customized with the Ram Runner desert kit, plus Toyota’s Tacoma Baja pickup. Raptor, however, seems to have found its place in the market by being the do-it-all truck.
Despite being basically unchanged for three years, Ford Raptor saw its highest sales in a single month ever in October. The 1,400 Raptors sold for the month topped the previous monthly tally set in April 2011, by 200.
The model is on pace to top 13,000 in sales for the year, highest in the three years since its debut. While the sales tallies pales compared to the F-Series pickup sales overall at 520,830 through October — it’s the nation’s best-selling vehicle — the Raptor comes with a high price tag that makes it one of the prizes of Ford’s stable.
At $43,340 before delivery charges, the 2013 Raptor starts at almost twice the price of the cheapest F-150. But then again, the thing is a monster — from its 6.2-liter V-8 to its 35-inch all-terrain tires.
“If a guy needs that off-road capability, there really is nothing else that can approach it,” says Jamal Hamedi, chief engine for Ford’s global performance vehicles.
Hamedi was the part of the team that envisioned Raptor as a desert racer. By the time it had been fitted with touches like long-travel Fox Shox shock absorbers and a front-view camera to give drivers a view of obstacles they can’t see over the top of the hood, it turned out to have decent rock crawling and snow capability as well.
When a blizzard shut down travel to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit a couple of years ago, Hamedi says he and two other Ford executives hopped in Raptors and plowed their way from Detroit in less than five hours.
Raptor’s icy-weather capabilities are impressive enough that Mark Rowe of Greenburg, Penn., is organizing a 500-mile backwoods rally over the frozen tundra of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in January. The so-called SnoBall 500, which Rowe dreamed up with a few buddies, has already attracted 35 Raptor owners and $20,000 in donated raffle items, with proceeds being donated to charity.
Raptor defies stereotypes, Rowe, who works for an oil-services company, says. “Everyone thinks it’s going to ride rough,” he says, but in fact, “It rides like a sports car riding on a marshmallow.”
Sure, the gas mileage is pretty awful. It’s government rated at 11 miles per gallon in the city and 16 mpg on the highway, 13 mpg combined. Rowe says despite the fuel use, “It puts a smile on my face every time I get in and pull out of the driveway.”
There is little else like a it. Ram developed the Ram Runner kit, costing about $18,000 though its Mopar aftermarket division, to turn its pickups into desert racers. And there has been “a great response to it,” says Steve Houtman of Mopar. The Power Wagon, with its sway bars, winch and Bilstein shocks, is aimed at traversing rough terrain.
Because it rides so well, Raptor is attracting a high-end clientele outside of hard-core offroad enthusiasts, says Steve Olliges, president of Team Ford in Las Vegas, one of the nation’s top-selling Raptor dealers and one of the drivers involved in the original testing of the truck.
He says some buyers have his and hers Raptors. Some trade in Range Rover for one.
Cars.com’s Williams’ says Raptor has proven overall more capable than its rivals. “The way the computer…suspension and traction all work together is amazing,” he says.”As far as vehicles that are run to drive, it’s hard to find vehicle like the Raptor.”
Copyright 2012 USATODAY.com
If your interested in taking you’re Ford Raptor and seeing what it can do in the snow filled climate of the Michigan Upper Peninsula, follow this link to get details about signing up. There are 42 trucks registered as of today 12/8/2012, with registration open until 12/21/2012. This event has attracted some major attention with the fact that the Forum thread at www.fordraptorforum.com has over 1400 post and 29,000 views. That is serious for an inaugural event that has some major promise for a long annual future.
ICON Vehicle Dynamics and SnoBall 500 organizer Jason Kanakry have been working hard to put on a great event and offer some cool Raffle and Entrant Gifts like an ICON swag pack that currently includes a ICON T-shirt, Stickers, and a KC Hilites 300 lumen LED Flashlight that every registered driver and co-driver will receive. We at ICON Vehicle Dynamics are raffling off the biggest prizes at the even including a set of 3.0 front remote reservoir shocks / Billet uniball upper control arms / and ICON Raptor lower arm skid plates valued at over $4500.00