In the summer of 2010, Ford sent a factory rep to our dealership in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At the time, I was a sales consultant for Sioux Falls Ford – and this particular sunny July afternoon was a training session for a wild new truck that would soon arrive on our showfloor: The 2010 Ford SVT Raptor. The demo Raptor the factory rep drove was a bright Molten Orange with the black “digital mud” graphics on the side. It was the coolest thing we had seen.
During the training session, the factory rep pointed to the fender flares and wide-open wheel wells of the SVT Raptor. “That’s to show the ‘candy’ that’s underneath,” he said. “We want everyone to admire and be impressed with those Fox Racing shocks.”
Impressed we were. And impressed we still are. Hence the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor.
It’s hard to believe that’s been over a decade ago now, but here we are with a new Raptor. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s the strongest, most powerful, and most connected Raptor to date, with a fully boxed high-strength steel frame, a twin-turbo powertrain, a ton of interior tech, and this super cool exhaust system. In a general sense, the Ford Raptor is the truck everybody dreams of driving, but this 2021 version even more so.
“Raptor is the original desert truck. We just took it to another level,” explained Ali Jammoul, Ford Performance vehicle program director. “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.”
Chassis & Suspension: The Trophy Truck
The foundation – that is to say, the architecture, chassis, and suspension – is what makes a truck, a truck. These are essential ingredients when you bake a truck in the automotive kitchen. And they are even more essential when your main entree is something like the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor.
“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,” said Carl Widmann, Ford Performance chief engineer. “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 Raptor’s new five-link rear suspension consists of longer trailing arms, a Panhard rod, and 24-inch coil springs. Ford designed the suspension in tandem with the engine management software. On the one hand, this allows the new Raptor to maintain its footing on rough and demanding terrain. On the other hand, it also means the rear wheels will support more torque, which translates to quicker acceleration, better throttle response, and so on.
Electronic Controls & Low-Friction Fluid
Next-generation FOX Live Valve internal bypass shocks (photos below), with state-of-the-art electronic controls, provide position-sensitive damping adjustability (say that five times fast!). Naturally, these are the Raptor’s largest and most functional shocks yet, engineered to resist more heat and react quicker to unexpected terrain changes versus prior generations.
In terms of the nitty-gritty, the 3.1-inch-diameter anodized aluminum shock bodies contain a new low-friction fluid to decrease frictional losses inside the damper (to improve off and on-road comfort). From there, the electronically controlled base valves withstand upwards of 1,000 lbs. of damping per corner at desert speeds.
At this point, we come to where the software and hardware meet. Suspension height sensors and other sensors around the Raptor can change damping rates independently at each corner 500 times per second. Essentially, the shocks respond at the same speed the human brain processes visual information. By the time the driver notices the terrain change, the 2021 Raptor has already adjusted accordingly (isn’t engineering fun!?).
When The Rubber Meets The Off-Road
Drivers have the option for 35-inch or 37-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. Wearing 35-inch tires, the new Raptor clears 12-inch obstacles with an approach angle of 31 degrees, a maximum departure angle of 23.9 degrees, and a break-over angle of 22.7 degrees.
With the 37-inch meats, the Raptor has an approach angle of 33.1 degrees, a maximum departure angle of 24.9 degrees, and a break-over angle of 24.4 degrees. The 37-inch tires also give the Raptor 13.1 inches of total ground clearance. Three different 17-inch wheels are available, two with beadlock capability.
2021 Ford F-150 Raptor: Engine & Powertrain
Under the hood is a high-output, twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, complete with new cooling fans and a 10.5:1 compression ratio. The EcoBoost engine is married to a Ford-built 10-speed automatic and a torque-on-demand transfer case. An electronic locking rear differential is standard, while a TORSEN front limited-slip differential is available (4:10 final drive ratios).
The new three-inch equal-length exhaust system is one feature that has everybody talking (some even thought the 2021 Ford Raptor might be packing a V8 because of the sound). The design consists of a “patent-pending built-in X-pipe” with a “unique trombone loop,” which allows for a proper pass-through muffler system. Inside the Raptor, drivers can play with four different sound settings: Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Baja.
Ford has not revealed horsepower and torque figures yet. However, we know that the Raptor’s maximum payload and towing capacities have increased by 200 lbs. to 1,400 and 8,200 lbs. respectively. According to Ford, the new Raptor does have a projected EPA-estimated range of more than 500 miles when its 36-gallon tank is full.
The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor has several tech tricks up its sleeve in the powertrain department when it comes to off-roading. The first is Ford’s Terrain Management System, with seven selectable drive modes: Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl. These different modes adjust the steering, throttle response, transmission shift points, transfer case stability control, and active damping system accordingly.
Next is a Trail 1-Pedal Drive system, which helps the driver modulate the brake and throttle while doing things like rock climbing. The third item is a standard Trail Control system, an off-road version of cruise control. Finally, the available Pro Power Onboard system turns the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor into a rolling generator with up to two kilowatts of exportable output power. Rigid off-road lighting is available as well.
To add to the tech fun, drivers can control nearly every element of their 2021 Raptor with the FordPass feature. The mobile app can lock or unlock the Raptor from almost anywhere while showing things like the tire pressure and fuel level. Drivers can also control other nifty items through the app, like Zone Lighting, Trailer Theft Alert, Trailer Light Check, and the Pro Power Onboard feature.
Like all Raptors before it, the 2021 variant has the steering wheel with the 12 o’clock marking. While the standard seats have plenty of bolstering, Recaro buckets are available (highly recommend). Interior trim packages consist of a standard aluminum finish layout or an optional carbon fiber array. Lockable, fold-flat rear storage is available, adding a vault under the rear seats for all kinds of different gear and equipment.
The standard SYNC 4 system supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and apps like Ford+Alexa. A customizable 12-inch digital gauge cluster with off-road data, turn-by-turn navigation, and Raptor-specific graphics and animations is standard. Likewise, a 12-inch center screen, also customizable, allows the driver to split the display to access multiple functions at once. The available 360-degree camera provides a complete view around the Raptor; a dash-mounted button turns on the 360-degree view and rearview cameras.
2021 Ford F-150 Raptor: Pricing & Availability
The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor will be available in a SuperCrew configuration on a 145-inch wheelbase. Assembly will take place at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford has not announced any pricing information but says we can expect to see the new Raptor at dealers this summer. According to Ford, a Raptor R with a V8 is on the way next year.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.