2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Sticks with Twin-Turbo V-6, Adds Off-Road Cred

  • The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is here, featuring new coil springs in the rear, the most suspension travel of any factory pickup, and optional 37-inch tires.
  • It’s powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6, though a Raptor R, likely with a supercharged V-8, is coming next year.
  • The 2021 F-150 Raptor will arrive in the summer and is expected to start at around $59,000.

    Ford says that since 2009 it has sold more F-150 Raptors than Chevy sold Corvettes. We believe them. Think about it, how often is there a day that you don’t spot one? Raptors even stalk the concrete jungles of Southern California, a place where the official state vehicle might as well be the Toyota Prius. It took 12 years for another truckmaker to launch a rival, the stonking Ram 1500 TRX, and Ford has just answered with the third-generation Ford F-150 Raptor—and with a Raptor R coming after that.

    All the usual elements of Ford’s would-be trophy truck are in play: long-travel suspension, knobby all-terrain tires, and skid plates to protect the relatively soft underbelly from hard impacts following short flights. It’s a recipe Ford knows well, after all. And, just as with the workaday 11th-generation F-150, this Raptor is tweaking the formula just enough and even stealing a play from Ram.

    Control arms still underpin the independent front suspension, but, as half-ton Rams have done since 2009, the Raptor now swaps its old-timey leaf-spring suspenders for a pair of contemporary coil springs and a few links, including a Panhard rod. Ford says the new design contributes to a better utilization of torque through improved traction. This translates to more speed through the desert. We like more speed.

    And when the speed is so much that little hills cause the Raptor to take flight, the 2021 has a little more squish room than before. With 14.0 inches in front and 15.0 inches in the rear, the Raptor has the most suspension travel of any factory pickup. But those numbers only apply to the base 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2, the optional 37-inch BFGs reduce travel by an inch in front and 0.9 inch in the rear. But what is lost in travel is made up with improved approach, departure, and breakover angles and ground clearance, which grows from 12.0 inches with the 35s to 13.1 with the 37s. Three 17-inch wheels are available. The base wheel is the only one that will not accept a beadlock ring.

    Adaptive dampers from damping giant Fox Shox are beefy as well. Thicker bodies handle the larger damping forces of the internal-bypass shocks. The rear dampers have external reservoirs. The Live Valve technology adapts to driving style and terrain, varying the damping up to 500 times a second.

    If you were hoping for a V-8, that’s gonna have to wait for next year’s Raptor R. For 2021, the Raptor gets what amounts to a carry-over engine. The twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, or high-output 3.5 EcoBoost, will likely make a handful more horses than the 450-hp 2020 model. Peak torque of 510 pound-feet is unlikely to wander from the peak that starts at 3500 rpm. The possibility of a few more horses is made possible by a new equal-length exhaust system with muffler bypass valves that, when activated, sounds menacing in a way that few V-6s have ever. The HO EcoBoost mates to a 10-speed automatic transmission and an automatic four-wheel-drive transfer case that, unless things went very wrong in Ford’s trans development, will shuffle gears and driveline modes seamlessly. A limited-slip differential is again an option, while a locking rear is standard. Both axles house 4.10:1 gears.

    Ford nixed the extended-cab Raptor, so all are crew cabs. The frames are fortified with upgraded mounting points for the front suspension and all the bracketry for the new rear suspension as well as the addition of a Raptor-specific trailer hitch, which looks dished to make room for a full-size 37-inch spare. Ford likes to point out that its customers expect to be able to use Raptors as trucks, so no bed-mounted spares.

    Just as with the new F-150, the Raptor carries all the electronic doodads and organic Wi-Fi that keep peoples’ phones and brains connected to the Matrix. So that means wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability as well as over-the-air updates for the Sync 4 infotainment system. Ford’s Pro Power onboard generator system offers 2.0 kW of AC power should your Raptor’s rear suspension travel be tested by a tailgate party. Both payload and towing capacities grow 200 pounds, to 1400 pounds and 8200 pounds respectively. We expect the Raptor’s curb weight to climb by a similar amount, to about 6200 pounds. We expect a small price increase, too, but the truck should start around $59,000.

    Ford’s suite of advanced safety features is standard, as are many drive modes. Lots of drive modes. They are Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl, which adjust throttle, transfer case, damping, and transmission programming. One more interesting mode isn’t for going fast, but rather for going slow off-road, or rock crawling. Ford calls it one-pedal drive, and it is just as it sounds. When lifting off the throttle, the brakes are automatically engaged like aggressive regenerative brakes on an EV. While not a g0-fast feature, a Raptor that never sees dirt is a terrible waste of potential and it should give novice off-roaders the confidence to take their shiny new trucks down a trail. Or at least something to play with until that faster R launches next year.

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