The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor won’t challenge the TRX … yet

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The third generation of Ford Raptor is here, and it’s more impressive than ever. Building on the bones of the 14th-generation F-series, the Raptor riffs the same formula that made the previous two generations of Raptor huge hits with off-roaders and “halo trucks” for the rest of the F-150 lineup. The best news is that we won’t have long to wait: It’s coming this summer as a 2021 model.

Unsurprisingly, the 2021 Raptor got wider bedsides and bespoke, vented front fenders that frame a chunky grille. There’s also a new power-dome hood with a heat extractor. The new dune-trouncing truck absolutely looks the part and remains the most stunning pickup in Ford’s showroom. More importantly, the Raptor’s under-the-skin hardware is more precisely tailored for a high-speed off-road environment than ever before. As the spy photos indicated, the new 2021 Raptor will use a five-link, coil-spring rear suspension and lots of technology to make the system work in harmony.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
Ford

“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’s 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.”

2021 Ford Raptor rear wheel and tire
A standard locking rear differential is paired with an optional Torsen limited-slip front differential and 4.10:1 gears to send torque to the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. Ford

Ford is offering Raptor buyers the choice of 35-inch or 37-inch tires, the latter the largest ever offered by the factory for a light-duty pickup. When equipped with the 37s, ground clearance is a staggering 13.1 inches and approach and departure angles measure 31.1 and 24.9 degrees, respectively. Those numbers drop a bit with the 35-inch tires, as the missing inch of sidewall sacrifices an inch of ground clearance: Approach and departure angles dip just slightly, to 31 and 23.9 degrees. The 35s do deliver more wheel travel, however; the front wheels can cycle 14 inches, and each rear corner has 15 inches of travel when equipped with 35s. Predictably, the travel drops by an inch with the 37s, since the larger tires simply run out of space at the top of their travel range. Whichever rubber you spec, the Raptor will be able to soak up just about any kind of terrain you can throw its way.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor front suspension
Ford

Taming all that wheel travel are heavy-duty FOX Live Valve internal bypass shocks that offer position-sensitive damping adjustability. The 3.1-inch diameter aluminum shock bodies are built to resist heat accumulation and maintain performance over extended desert romps, using data from suspension position sensors to alter the damping rate up to 500 times per second. That active damping system works in concert with Ford’s Terrain Management System, which tailors the steering feel, stability control, throttle mapping, and transmission shift points via seven selectable drive modes to dial in the right behavior to meet the demands of the road, trail, or desert. Those modes include Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
Ford

As expected, the 2021 Raptor comes with most of the goodies and technology of the 14th-generation F-150 as standard equipment, like the twin 12-inch customizable screens (one for instrumentation and another for infotainment) found in the upper F-150 trim levels. Ford even managed to offer the optional Pro Power Onboard mobile generator, making the Raptor one of the best ways to get way out into the boonies and still take the comforts of home with you. We can already tell that SEMA 2021 will be jam-packed with overland Raptors packed with everything including the kitchen sink, plus a margarita mixer.

There is one option that is gone for 2021: there’s no longer a SuperCab Raptor. All 2021 models will be Crew Cab only, and the exterior dimensions are all very close to the outgoing Raptor except this new one’s about two inches taller.

There are no power figures for the 2021 Raptor just yet, but we do know that it will have a single powertrain: the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 paired with the 10-speed transmission. It will get a unique equal-length exhaust in the Raptor, with an active muffler for an adjustable sound level. You can select between quiet, normal, sport, and Baja to achieve varying levels of rowdiness and keep you from becoming the bane of your neighborhood (in theory).

Perhaps feeling the heat from the Ram TRX and its 702 horsepower, Ford hinted that we’ll have to wait until 2022 to see the next big thing for the F-150 lineup—dubbed Raptor R—so don’t discount those rumors of a V-8 powered desert beast just yet. If you’re a Ford fan and can wait for 2022 to have a Ford to keep up with the Joneses’ Ram TRX, the Raptor R may be the truck for you. In the meantime, the 450 or so ponies from the EcoBoost V-6 don’t sound bad at all.

 

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