Take a look online at the Ford F-150 model lineup and you’ll see seven different trim levels, starting with the basic XL. The Ford F-150 Raptor is positioned graphically as the ultimate F-150 variant, even though its base price is over $14,000 less than the F-150 Limited. With that positioning in mind, I took the keys to a 2019 F-150 Raptor for a week to see if Ford’s “top dog” of F-150 was really multifaceted enough to handle daily driving, towing, and off-roading alike.
Ford wanted me to drive the F-150 Raptor so badly that they dropped it off with a full tank of gas and said “have fun,” with little definition of what my fun could or could not include.
What Is It?
Ford introduced the Raptor variant of F-150 in 2009, positioned as the ultimate off-roading model of F-150. Ten years later, it’s stuck to the same formula and merely evolved alongside the “normal” F-150s. The truck is about 6″ wider in track width (with fender flares to match) and 1″ taller in ride height. It rides on a set of 17″ bead-lock wheels wrapped in huge BFGoodrich K02 all-terrain tires. New for 2019, the upgraded Fox shocks are adaptive, adjusting their damping to the various drive modes that can be chosen using steering wheel buttons.
The Raptor uses a “high output” version of Ford’s 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 engine, producing 450 horsepower and 510 ft-lb of torque and paired to the company’s 10-speed automatic transmission.
My tester carried a MSRP a few hundred dollars shy of $75,000.
Daily Driving a Ford F-150 Raptor
I’ve driven countless F-150s and even owned two, so driving to work in a Ford F-150 was nothing new to me. The cabin layout and feature set was identical to that of the 2018 F-150 Lariat that recently left my ownership, so the Bang & Olufsen sound system, Sync 3 infotainment and general vibe of the cabin were all familiar to me. However, the Raptor offered a few tweaks to the F-150 formula that made it a better place to spend my commute compared to a non-Raptor F-150.
The adaptive Fox shocks that are so good off-road (see more below on that) improved the ride of the Raptor markedly compared to my personal Lariat. Unloaded, the non-Raptor F-150s ride somewhat poorly, especially over bumps and expansion joints. The Raptor’s suspension smooths things out substantially.
My test vehicle was also equipped with the blue-accented Recaro seat upgrade. The leather-and-alcantara seats were more supportive and better bolstered, and frankly, should be an option on the higher non-Raptor trims of F-150.
Fuel economy was one downside of the Raptor – the extra bulk of off-road-focused bits means it takes a bit of an aerodynamic hit compared to a 3.5L EcoBoost XLT or similar truck. The other downside was the general width. While the truck itself uses the same “SuperCrew” cab as a non-Raptor, the track width of the wheels is increased by about 6″, with fender flares to match. The flares were fine to deal with, but the track width increase made parallel parking in a city environment a bit amusing. There were several attempts made where the truck was simply wider than the space.
Towing With a Ford F-150 Raptor
The entire point of this review was to see how well the Raptor would handle a trailer. And frankly, it was the part of the week-long review that had me the most nervous. My enclosed trailer had behaved well behind my 5.0L Lariat and a 3.5L EcoBoost XLT, but the softer spring rates and Fox shocks on the Raptor are decidedly tuned for off-road driving first.
Nonetheless, the Raptor, in SuperCrew cab size and wheelbase, is rated for 8,000 lbs of trailer if a weight distribution hitch is used (5,000 if not). So, I hooked up my trailer, chained up the weight distribution bars, and set off on a Saturday to see how the truck would behave with a big sail in the wind behind it. The trailer has a 20′ box and 4′ V-nose, coming in around 27′ total length and 6,500 lbs loaded.
To my surprise, the Raptor handled the trailer with ease. The rear exhibited slight sag, though lowering the hitch ball could have alleviated some of it. Ford claims the shocks remain at “normal” stiffness in Tow/Haul mode, but the ride and chassis control were excellent, even at highway speeds with 18-wheelers passing by, creating air pockets to disturb the trailer. Power, of course, is always on tap with the High Output EcoBoost V6, and the 10-speed pairs well against a turbocharged engine.
Some quick forum searching reveals Raptor owners who tow frequently may add aftermarket airbags to the rear suspension to help with the squat. In my case, I didn’t feel it necessary and had complete confidence with the trailer in tow. A larger trailer than mine, however, may not be controlled with as much ease.
Off-Roading With a Ford F-150 Raptor
My plans didn’t initially include off-roading in the Raptor, but I figured it’d be a crime to have the keys and not take it somewhere sans-asphalt. With a few friends in tow, we met up in the George Washington National Forest and took the Raptor up to the summit of Flagpole Knob.
Now, Flagpole is not the most challenging trail in the world. We got our $1,500 AWD beaters up the trail with ease last month. However, East Coast trails, particularly those in Virginia, are not generally wide enough to accommodate the Raptor’s extra bulk. Given I didn’t want to hand the truck back to Ford with some surprise pinstripes, I figured the wide gravel-and-dirt path up to the summit of Flagpole would be most appropriate.
The trail up to Flagpole’s summit offers a few long, straight stretches with room to see who’s coming, if anyone, and undulations in the road surface that make any “normal” off-road vehicle feel a bit bouncy. I played with the Drive Mode buttons on the steering wheel until the Raptor was in “Baja mode,” placed the transmission selector in Manual mode, and made sure my fingertips could find the metal paddle shifters behind the thick-rimmed steering wheel. And off we went.
The Raptor has sensors that can detect when the vehicle is airborne, and on the 2019+ model with adaptive shocks, the shocks will set themselves to “full stiff” to help catch the truck when it lands. We didn’t get the Raptor airborne on the trail, but the imperfections in the road surface made the shocks work pretty hard. We covered the trail at speeds that would make most vehicles buck and bounce around, yet the four of us inside the cab were comfortable as could be. The truck just made it easy.
Pulling off near the summit, I figured I’d run the Raptor’s big BFGoodrich tires through a mild mud pit. Of course, this was no challenge for the truck or its rubber, but it sure made for some fun photos.
Is It Well-Rounded?
In a word – yes. While the F-150 Raptor is not the ultimate street truck (far from it), it’s more comfortable than a regular F-150 and can be used for most “truck stuff” with ease. Should the need arise for a bigger trailer or heavier payload, Ford will be happy to sell you a non-Raptor variant of the F-150 that will pull more, haul more, and be much less willing to do obscene speeds over sand dunes in the desert.
But if parallel parking isn’t part of your vocabulary, and you want a truck that is just as happy in the Whole Foods parking lot as it is pulling a racecar as it is bouncing around off-road, the Raptor makes a pretty compelling case for ownership.