- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

If visions of blasting across a desert, catching air beneath the tires and leaving behind an enormous plume of dust appeal to you, Ford has the pickup capable of making that fantasy come true.

The truck is the 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor 4x4. Like its hard-core racer sibling, the Ford Special Vehicle Team’s production truck is prepared for racing in off-road endurance events.

Raptor showcases F-150 capability and delivers the “ultimate expression” of the automaker’s “Built Ford Tough” slogan, said Mark Grueber, F-150 marketing manager.

The company that has made its mark with victories in the grueling Baja 1000 race says the F-150 SVT Raptor has the right stuff to lure the growing group of off-road-performance enthusiasts. Ford SVT’s goal was to create the ultimate off-road-ready high-performance production truck.

The basis for the truck is Ford’s four-door SuperCab Styleside F-150 4x4 with the 5.5-foot short box. With pricing starting at $38,020, Ford reports that customer orders for the performance-enhanced truck are exceeding expectations, and the plant where they are being manufactured is at maximum capacity. The automaker reports 94 percent of the Raptor orders are from males with a median age of 39.

The beast shows its teeth with a 5.4-liter V-8 delivering 310 horsepower and 365 lb.-ft. of torque. In early 2010, the Raptor will be offered with a 6.2-liter V-8 for $3,000, which is expected to generate about 400 horses and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines are mated with a six-speed automatic transmission. Hill descent/off-road mode is standard.

Initial consumer response for the 5.4-liter engine has been “fantastic,” said Mr. Grueber, and demand for the upcoming 6.2-liter engine is even greater. A 4.10 rear axle and electronic locking differential give it an edge during encounters with the rough stuff.

The Raptor’s big engineering story is its reworked long-travel suspension, featuring beefed-up components such as front and rear Fox Racing Shox internal-bypass shocks. These shocks are engineered to make the best of limited space by achieving multiple spring and damping rates all in a single shock.

SVT Performance capability is engineered into the front upper and lower control arms; tie rods; front coil springs; rear leaf springs; and front and rear microcellular jounce bumpers.

Ford reports this softer suspension couples with a 7-inch-wider track — allowing the Raptor to, as one off-road racer put it, “soak up the terrain.”

It rolls on beefy BFGoodrich 35-inch LT315/70R-17 all-terrain tires, wrapping painted and machine-finished cast-aluminum wheels. Raptor is protected from punishment with a heavy-duty front chassis and engine skid plates.

You don’t have to look beneath a Raptor to know it’s a truck that pushes the performance envelope. It’s evident by the pumped-up exterior — available in Molten Orange, Tuxedo Black, Blue Flame and Oxford White — that this is a ready-to-romp F-150.

Much wider than a base F-150, Raptor’s Hummer-esque front end wears a grille that’s clearly different from that of any other pickup on the road. It’s all black with rectangular-link texture, and likely the largest-ever presentation of a Ford logo — with enormous FORD block lettering centered from end to end. The bumper/fascia below is black, and the chiseled hood wears a pair of functional black air extractors.

Fender flares get the black treatment, too, with the front ones incorporating air extractors. Opting for the $1,075 graphics package adds an effect akin to black paint splashed on the bed sides and cab’s rear.

Signaling that pursuing an image for many consumers trumps a bare-bones off-road mindset, Ford reports more than 80 percent are ordered with the $1,950 luxury package, which includes heated 40/console/40 seats with 10-way power adjustability, 10-speaker Sony Audio system and dual-zone temperature control.

Whether the Raptor is upgraded with the luxury extras or cool graphics, it’s got the credentials to give the consumer what it’s bred to do: give the driver confidence when moving at high speeds through the wilds.

The splashed-on “graphics” will come free and automatically — in Mother Nature’s earth tones — when the Raptor races off-road.

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