2017 Ford SVT Raptor Tackles the Frozen Tundra with Ease

2017 Ford SVT Raptor Tackles the Frozen Tundra with Ease

2017 Ford SVT RaptorPhotos and story by Russell Purcell

The all-new Ford Raptor is a beast, and as such, this high-performance pickup truck is equipped to tackle just about any terrain or conditions put before it.

We recently had the opportunity to experience Ford’s latest hooligan machine in rural Quebec, where harsh winter conditions are known to wreak havoc on vehicles and just about anything else. Ford’s public relations team had elected to organize an event at Mécaglisse, a multi-discipline 700-acre motorsport facility nestled in the Laurentians about 90 minutes northwest  of Montreal, Quebec.

Mécaglisse is a four-season facility, but it is probably best known for the fact that it houses nearly 15 kilometres of icy tracks during the winter months. A variety of automobile manufacturers, tire companies, and racing teams utilize the facility for severe weather testing so it would prove a worthy opponent for the second generation Raptor.

Under the broad hood of the second generation Raptor resides Ford’s most powerful variant of its innovative 3.5-litre Eco-Boost V6 engine. This mechanical marvel produces a healthy 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. These prodigious numbers allow the wide-bodied monster to hustle to 100 kilometres per hour in a tick over 5 seconds.

While some Ford fans may whinge about the loss of the ferocious 6.2-litre V8 that came before it, the EcoBoost engine is more powerful, more fuel efficient, and even helps reduce drag by almost five percent. These improvements in efficiency can also be traced to the new 10-speed transmission, an ultra-smooth operating gearbox that replaces the 6-speed that was fitted to the first generation trucks. Manual gear selection can be readily executed using steering wheel mounted paddles or a clever toggle switch. The  rumble of this engine and boisterous exhaust note emitted when driven with authority will soon be your new addiction.

2017 Ford SVT RaptorThe Raptor was designed to run at triple-digit speeds over (and through) the harshest of terrain.  The original concept was derived from the purpose-built trucks that compete in desert endurance races like Baja, so the Raptor rolls on 17-inch wheels fitted with over-sized 30-inch tires suspended by one of the most capable suspensions ever offered on a production automobile. In short, the Raptor will gobble up bumps and dance over ruts like a champion, no matter what type of landscape, topography, or weather conditions may lie in its way. The tires have been specifically engineered for the Raptor by noted manufacturer BF Goodrich, and the K02 features a very aggressive tread pattern and sidewall to allow it to claw and cut its way over and through most surfaces.

The day incorporated several activities, including  hustling the big Raptor over snow-covered country roads in convoy fashion, as well as roaring down a deeply rutted and sloppy off-road track bordered by icy banks and a tunnel of trees. The former allowed us to evaluate the vehicle’s ability to adapt to daily driving duties as well as to carve some corners on slippery asphalt, while the latter proved that this race-proven machine is up to any challenge, and with its long list of performance upgrades, is able to deliver massive thrills in a very manageable package. Especially when piloted by a professional driver who was well versed in the capabilities of the Raptor and familiar with the icy roads.

The truck’s bold and aggressive appearance can be intimidating, but its muscular body panels, wide stance, and glorious rumble suit what stands as the ultimate off-road pickup truck. The truck feels planted at speed, as the wide KO2 tires seem to grip and go, and in fact, in this particular application, are winter rated. The latest long-travel shocks from FOX Racing absorb the blows, both big and small, and with the aid of internal bypass technology, they are able to quickly adapt to changing conditions.

The Raptor features a TORSEN front differential to further enhance its off-road capability by significantly increasing front-end grip, and electronic support  provided by traction control, ABS, and Ford’s AdvanceTrac stability control system help ensure that the aluminum-bodied monster will propel you forward without excess drama.

2017 Ford SVT RaptorThe driver is also able to further customize the truck’s performance parameters by utilizing the six-mode “terrain management” control system to best suit the terrain. This system will alter the feel of the steering, shift points, throttle and suspension  as well as manage the transfer case and rear differential. Even when tossed hard into corners, the Raptor felt more planted than the previous model, regardless of terrain or the consistency of the road surface.

Over-sized brakes seemed fade-free throughout the day, despite the fact these trucks had been driven hard all week, and there is less bob and wobble exhibited under hard braking than I have experienced on the previous truck. As a result, the driver will feel more confident with the overall handling dynamics.

If you park a Raptor beside a standard F150, it is immediately apparent that this truck is a very different beast. In fact, it is so much wider that it must incorporate special marker lighting to highlight its corners, much like a commercial vehicle. Exterior styling cues include signature LED lighting, aggressive bumpers, and a front skid plate to protect the mechanical goodies should the extra ground clearance be insufficient.

The cabin will look familiar to that of the F150, as it is shared with the rest of the lineup, but heavy seat bolstering and suede inserts help keep passengers in place during play time.

With the new Raptor, Ford has created a marvellous interpretation of what a high-performance pickup truck can be, but with a full factory warranty. Add to this the continued evolution of the capabilities and innovative ideas of the SVT design and engineering teams and their partners, and you have an almost unstoppable vehicle.

Tags: 2017, Ford, Raptor