Looks like: Slightly wider and more aggressive Raptor with bigger tires, new graphics
Competes with: Previous F-150 Raptors, Ram 1500 TRX, Ram 1500 TRX … oh and the Ram 1500 TRX
Powertrain: twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, horsepower and torque TBD (but according to Ford it’s safe to assume “more”); upcoming Raptor R will have a V-8; 10-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Summer
The latest generation of Ford’s F-150 pickup truck bowed in 2020, and it was only a matter of time before the Blue Oval used it as a platform for the third-generation, hardcore off-roading F-150 Raptor factory desert runner. We’ve gotten our first look at it, and we’ve got good news and bad news.
Related: 2021 Ford F-150 Review: Keeping the Champion in Top Condition
The good news: The Raptor gets a lot of upgrades for its third generation, including a new dual-valve active exhaust system, new five-link rear suspension, upgraded Fox shocks, available 37-inch tires, a higher-tech interior and more.
The bad news: As of now, the Raptor isn’t getting a new engine, and the Ram 1500 TRX exists. We don’t have power figures for the high-performance, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 just yet, but Ford engineers said it was safe to assume horsepower and torque ratings will be higher than the second-generation’s 450 hp and 510 pounds-feet. How much more is unclear, but it seems unlikely this Raptor will get close to or surpass the TRX’s 702 hp and 650 pounds-feet, which may leave fans disappointed.
One more bit of good news for those disappointed fans: Ford says a Raptor R is coming next year, and it will have a V-8 (hopefully a version of the Mustang Shelby GT500’s supercharged V-8), but details are being left intentionally vague. During a Q&A session, Ford likened the Raptor and Raptor R to the Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT350R. We’ll have to wait and see what this means for the Raptor.
Raptorized 2021 F-150 Exterior
The 2021 F-150 Raptor looks about as different from the second-generation Raptor as the new F-150 does from its predecessor, which is to say: not that different. The most noticeable visual difference comes up front, with redesigned front styling and a new hood with a power dome and new heat extractors. Other noticeable visual differences include larger fender flares, larger 35- or 37-inch tires (compared to 34 inches on the second gen), available Rigid-brand foglights and a new graphics package. Put the new Raptor side by side with the prior one and the differences become more apparent, but standing alone it just looks like … a Raptor. That’s more a testament to Ford’s consistently aggressive design since the debut of the original Raptor than a complaint, to be clear. Notably, the Raptor is now only available in a four-door SuperCrew body style, as the previously available extended-cab Raptor SuperCab has been dropped. New graphics packages are also available.
More Tech on the Inside
Ford is plunking a lot of available tech from the vanilla F-150 into the Raptor, including the standard 12-inch center touchscreen with Ford’s Sync 4 operating system and a fully digital 12-inch gauge cluster with Raptor-specific graphics. The new interior also features upgraded materials and standard aluminum or optional carbon-fiber accents. The upholstery is intended to be nice but durable, and those looking to go even further toward replicating a trophy truck can add optional Recaro front bucket seats.
Also appearing on the Raptor are the F-150’s available interior work surface and fold-flat front seats, as well as Ford’s Active Drive Assist Prep Kit, which should add hands-free driving ability once Ford makes that feature available.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard (and wireless, if you choose), and a premium 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo is available. Locking storage located under the rear seats is also optional.
One of the nicest features about all this tech is the ability to receive over-the-air updates, with Ford floating a number of possible features that may be available down the road, including Trail Turn Assist, the ability to use your smartphone as a gauge when adjusting tire pressure and more.
Engine, Transmission and Off-Road Features
As mentioned above, the “bad” news is that — for now — the new F-150 Raptor will still have the same twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 under its hood, paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. “Bad” is in quotes because it’s a great engine, and paired to the new active exhaust system should make more horsepower and torque. But it will always be compared to the Ram 1500 TRX and its Hellcat-derived supercharged V-8.
The new Raptor comes with seven driving modes — Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja and Rock Crawl — and four exhaust modes — Quiet, Normal, Sport and Baja. Ford claims that footage of Raptor test mules where journalists thought they heard a V-8 was actually just the throatier exhaust note from the new exhaust. Does that mean there weren’t V-8 mules? Ford won’t say.
Additional upgrades to the new Raptor should help it compete with the TRX off-road, however, including new standard 35-inch tires or available 37-inch tires; BF Goodrich T/A KO2 all-terrains. Equipped with the 35-inchers, the Raptor has 12 inches of ground clearance, and approach, departure and breakover angles of 31, 23.9 and 22.7 degrees, respectively. Choose the optional 37-inch tires and ground clearance increases to 13.1 inches, while approach, departure and breakover angles increase to 33.1, 24.9 and 24.4 degrees). Wheel travel has also increased significantly, with 14 inches up front and 15 inches in the rear when equipped with the 35-inch tires.
Doing lots of hard work during high-speed desert driving will be the new five-link rear suspension and new Fox shocks. Ford says the active damping shocks are significantly more robust than the already beefy units from the previous Raptor and have active damping that can adjust damping forces up to 500 times per second and provide a maximum of more than 1,000 pounds of damping at each corner.
To make driving off-road easier, the Raptor still comes standard with Ford’s Trail Control system that can maintain constant low speeds over rough terrain without driver input. Also standard is what Ford calls Trail 1-Pedal Drive, which allows the driver to manipulate only the accelerator pedal to adjust driving speeds. Pressing the pedal increases the speed, while letting off on the pedal applies braking force.
One more useful feature that carries over from the vanilla F-150 is the available 2.0-kilowatt Pro Power Onboard generator, which can help power a portable air compressor, camping supplies or even charge electric off-road toys.
Pricing and Release Date
Pricing for the new 2021 F-150 Raptor isn’t yet available, but expect its starting price to be more than the 2020 Raptor SuperCrew, which started in the high $50,000 range. According to Ford, the 2021 Raptor goes on sale this summer. We’ll have to wait until 2022 to find out what the Raptor R can do.
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Editor’s note: This story was updated Feb. 3, 2021, to clarify that the upcoming Raptor R will be equipped with a V-8 and will be street legal, which Ford confirmed after publication.
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