Ford's F-150 RaptorNew, lighter and more powerful for 2017

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DETROIT — The nice thing about designing Ford's new 2017 F-150 Raptor is that you don't have to compromise to satisfy a number of types of drivers.

Everyone who buys this off-road hot rod knows exactly what they are getting, and why.

The Raptor's job is to be able to go off-road at high speed and come home safely with all its bits still attached. For 2017 the Raptor will do just that. You don't even need to do your homework, one look at the 2017 Raptor and you know it will climb or cross almost any terrain.

It looks like a Baha racer, and in fact a street legal racing version ran the Baha 1000. So, its design fits the profile of a desert racer and it has a six-inch wider track, flared wheel arches and modified bumpers to handle the additional wheel travel and redesigned front/rear bumpers.

Inside the features are plentiful and the comfortable interior uses deeply bolstered seating embroidered with Raptor logos and optional color accent leather, the steering wheel setup includes magnesium paddle shifters, and you can choose carbon-fiber trim to feel even more racy. There are even roof-mounted switches which can be used for optional and aftermarket equipment.

That makes the F-150 Raptor look exactly like what it is. More importantly, what's underneath the aluminum body is equally appropriate to this truck's task. It also reduces the vehicle's weight by about 500-lb. compared to its predecessor.

Ford uses the basic F-150 architecture, but the Raptor gets a stronger fully-boxed frame. The suspension parts are beefed up and can take a beating while raising the Raptor two inches compared to the standard F-150. The Raptor comes in both SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations, but include a Raptor-only SuperCab configuration with 134.2-in. wheelbase.

All Raptors feature custom — and huge — three inch-in-diameter Fox shocks, extended suspension height, high-performance springs, and are shod with unique BFGoodrich tires, designed specifically for the Raptor. These give the Raptor 0.8-in. front and 1.9-in. rear wheel more wheel travel compared to its predecessor. The result is 13-in. front and 13.9-in. rear suspension travel.

The Terrain Management System includes five modes which choose to modify such things as throttle response, the rear differential, shift points and so forth to match expected conditions. The modes are: Normal, Weather, Mud and Sand, Baja and Rock Crawl. There are also three steering modes to control the electrically-powered steering.

But the most impressive feature, at least to me, is the engine. Ford's Raptor is powered by a V6, and you won't believe it. It is a second-generation, 3.5-liter high-output EcoBoost V6. It generates 450-hp and 510 lb.-ft. of peak torque.

That's 76 more "torques" and there are 39 more horses under the hood than its predecessor.it also gets a better EPA mileage rating, that being 15 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. All this power gets to all four of those big wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission.

I didn't get a chance to take the Raptor seriously off road, but was able to flex its suspension a bit. What I did do was drive it around town for a week as if it was my daily driver. I'm not particularly nervous about parking it tight places, but frankly that was the only part of a week's driving that might impact someone's decision to use it for urban-roading. I could get it into almost any mall or restaurant parking spot, and parallel parking was as simple as parking any vehicle — you simply must remember where the corners are.

Plus, with this kind of horsepower, it was fun. It simply won the race up the on-ramp unless there was a Porsche Turbo or equally overpriced exotic around. They might beat me, but can they carry a 60-in. flat screen home? Can they ferry enough bags of mulch to get the job done? Those are rhetorical questions.

The seats are comfortable, the view great, even girls look at this truck as it goes by — and mine was a black on black. The stereo was decent, the connectivity up to Ford's standard, and the features based on people who won't be wearing a fire suit while driving it.

For all this fun, the starting price for the Raptor is $49,520 — that's for a SuperCab base model and doesn't include destination, taxes and fees. It also doesn't include options, and there is probably nobody who's going to buy this at this price. Well maybe some folks who are going to strip it out and making a racing truck might, but everyone else would be foolish not to get the truck they really want if they have decided to get a Raptor.

This is a specialty vehicle, and their purpose, for the most part, is to be a reward or at least to make a statement about its owner. That being the case, and with a starting price this low the Raptor can make a statement and still be considered affordable.

Even if you load it down, it is quite a bit of fun per dollar. And if you find somebody truly na ve about the truck world, they might actually believe you really need its capability. You don't, but you will really enjoy what it can do.

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