In my dreams, I can levitate. Always have been able to. I can’t fly; that nonsense is for dreamers. No, I can just lift off the ground and hang there, maybe six feet from the deck. Sometimes I go up as much as 10 feet, but never much farther. This serves no actual purpose. I’m not moving anywhere. I’m not taking advantage of my elevation to pick apples, or peep in second-story windows, or avoid anything on the ground. I’m just . . . levitating.
I’m convinced after spending a couple days in the Nevada desert with Ford’s newest F-150 Raptor that it harbors similar dreams. In its promotional materials, Ford habitually shows the Raptor, both this generation and the last, leaping into the air, big wheels dangling. The corporation invariably notes that these shots are achieved through digital photo manipulation or were performed by a professional driver on a closed course. Curiously, the company sometimes mentions both provisos. But make no mistake; this beefed-up, desert-running, high-speed brute dreams of air as surely as I do.
And so, in preparation for this desert drive, I readied myself by conjuring up visions of our ruby-red Raptor suspended in midair, while the Mojave Desert streamed by underneath like a treadmill of rock and dust and crispy creosote bushes, and—sure, why not?—an adorable desert bunny or two.
The Raptor needs 206 feet of roadway to stop from 70 mph. That’s four feet longer than what the older, heavier truck could manage. If you want better on-road braking performance, you would need to mount dedicated street tires. And then what would be the point of the Raptor?
The Raptor might be a big lug in the city, but out in the hinterlands of the Nevada Mojave, where guys run for public office wearing cowboy hats and mustaches, the truck gets small quickly. Of course, plopped down in the middle of this soundless desert, everything but the desert itself seems small. The vast desert floor covered in creosotes, saltbushes, and yuccas looks like a nubby berber carpet as seen from a bug’s eye. The surrounding mountains are great piles of ground cinnamon, cocoa powder, and unbleached flour. Sounds comforting, right? It is, until you realize that everything that lives out here is weaponized with needles, stingers, fangs, or firearms.
The Raptor, on the other hand, takes most of the beating for you, its big, aluminum lower control arms and rear solid axle pumping furiously up and down but leaving the body more or less level. This allows for speed—stupid, glorious speed. At one point on the section of trail just south of Pahrump, we peeked at the speedometer to find we were bullying down a path roughly the width of one Raptor at 85 mph. As far as we know, this is legal. In Baja mode or the similar Mud/Sand mode (which locks the rear differential), the truck resolutely refused to upshift. Instead, it just ran the engine near redline, goading us. The Raptor drifts gently across the rocky crust. There are dry-wash ditches that present themselves with no notice, requiring a firm jam of the brake pedal. The tail of the truck wiggles, the front tires drop into the ditch and then bound the truck upward, and the engine is still on boil, ready for you to jump back into the power.
There is an odd peace that overcomes you when you’re concentrating intensely. Your hands and right foot do the driving while your eyes and mind are occupied with scanning the ground ahead for telltales of big humps, off-camber bends, and gnarly ditches and ruts. Things are happening so fast and in such oddly narrow confines that it sometimes feels as if you’re playing one of the early Atari driving games, where the vehicle sits in the bottom center of the screen and you effectively drive the road around it.
Luckily, our quiet and quite pleasurable disassociation from reality came while driving a vehicle with 13 inches of front and 13.9 inches of rear wheel travel (up 1.8 and 1.9 inches, respectively) and fat Fox Racing dampers that could soak up most of the stuff our inexperienced eyes missed. Our co-driver, Folks, would chime in periodically with, “Man, this thing is really well set up.” And he was right. It’s softer and more compliant than the old Raptor, but handier and quicker and almost entirely unperturbed. A proper desert truck, in other words. And, yes, it jumps. Oh, how it jumps.
|ABS And Driveline Traction Control|
|Advancetrac w/Roll Stability Control Electronic Stability Control (ESC) And Roll Stability Control (RSC)|
|Side Impact Beams|
|Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Seat-Mounted Side Airbags|
|Rear Parking Sensors|
|Tire Specific Low Tire Pressure Warning|
|Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Front Airbags|
|Airbag Occupancy Sensor|
|Mykey System -inc: Top Speed Limiter, Audio Volume Limiter, Early Low Fuel Warning, Programmable Sound Chimes and Beltminder w/Audio Mute|
|Safety Canopy System Curtain 1st And 2nd Row Airbags|
|Outboard Front Lap And Shoulder Safety Belts -inc: Rear Center 3 Point, Height Adjusters and Pretensioners|
|Engine: 3.5L V6 EcoBoost High Output -inc: auto start/stop|
|Transmission: Electronic 10-Speed Automatic -inc: SelectShift w/progressive range select and paddle shifters, terrain management modes: normal/baja/rock crawl/sport/mud-sand/wet-snow and tow-haul mode|
|Electronic Locking w/4.10 Axle Ratio|
|Transmission w/SelectShift Sequential Shift Control w/Steering Wheel Controls and HD Oil Cooler|
|Electronic Transfer Case|
|Part And Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive|
|78-Amp/Hr 750CCA Maintenance-Free Battery w/Run Down Protection|
|HD 220 Amp Alternator|
|Class IV Towing w/Harness, Hitch and Trailer Sway Control|
|2 Skid Plates|
|Front HD Anti-Roll Bar|
|Fox Racing Brand Name Shock Absorbers|
|Electric Power-Assist Speed-Sensing Steering|
|26 Gal. Fuel Tank|
|Dual Stainless Steel Exhaust w/Black Tailpipe Finisher|
|Auto Locking Hubs|
|Double Wishbone Front Suspension w/Coil Springs|
|Leaf Rear Suspension w/Leaf Springs|
|4-Wheel Disc Brakes w/4-Wheel ABS, Front And Rear Vented Discs, Brake Assist, Hill Descent Control and Hill Hold Control|
|Brake Type :||N/A|
|Brake ABS System :||4-Wheel|
|Brake ABS System (Second Line) :||4-Wheel|
|Disc – Front (Yes or ) :||Yes|
|Disc – Rear (Yes or ) :||Yes|
|Front Brake Rotor Diam x Thickness : in||13.8|
|Rear Brake Rotor Diam x Thickness : in||13.7|