The Raptor's mighty roar

BY Jim KerrAuto Tech. Mar 31 04:00 am

Ford’s redesigned 2017 Raptor has already won numerous awards — and its aggressive appearance certainly attacts attention — but it is what is “beneath the shine” that really puts the Raptor at the top of the high-performance truck category. Built for Baja racing based on a production F150 frame and cab, the Raptor is equally at home in the mud and snow, and surprisingly has a very comfortable ride on the highway, too. There are many specific features that make the Raptor as capable as it is and here are a few of them.

Start with the engine. Ford’s Ecoboost 3.5-litre V-6 replaces the heavier cast-iron V-8 engine in previous Raptors, but it also increases performance and improves fuel economy by 23 per cent. The new twin turbo V-6 puts out 450 horsepower and 510 foot pounds of torque thanks to several changes in the engine. A new combined direct and port fuel injection system delivers the fuel and compliments the recalibrated turbocharger boost maps and electronic wastegate. A stronger and lighter crankshaft and oil-cooled pistons help harness the increased power. Lighter valve-train components and variable-displacement oil pump reduce internal engine drag while stainless exhaust manifolds and a full dual-exhaust system improve engine breathing. They also provide a pleasing deep exhaust note!

The turbocharged engine produces quick boost and lots of low rpm torque, to move the truck briskly whether you are pulling away from a stop or need the power to get through a deep mud puddle.

Behind the engine is Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission and an automatic two-speed transfer case. The transmission was developed in conjunction with GM, but uses Ford-specific programming. The real news with this part of the drivetrain is the Raptor-exclusive Terrain Mode feature. Using a control switch on the steering wheel, the driver can quickly select three on-road modes and three off-road modes. Each mode selection will automatically make changes to the engine and transmission operation, traction and stability control, steering effort, the operation of the electronic locking differential and the transfer-case mode.

The on-road modes are Normal, Sport and Weather. In Normal and Sport modes, the transfer case defaults to two-wheel drive, although the driver can still select four-wheel drive manually with the dash selector if desired. In Sport mode, the engine and transmission have increased response to the accelerator and hold gear selections longer. The steering effort is also changed to provide a sportier feel. In Weather mode, everything becomes more relaxed to minimize tire slippage and the transfer case switches to automatic four-wheel drive. This is perfect for icy or slippery roads.

The off-road modes include Mud/Sand, Baja and Rock Crawl. As its name would suggest, Rock Crawl is for low-speed slugging and the accelerator pedal response is smoother so it isn’t affected by driver movement as you go over big bumps. The steering effort is also changed to a comfort mode and the transfer case shifts to four-wheel low range. You have to bring the truck to a near stop before the system will automatically shift into Rock Crawl mode, but then it will change all the settings automatically. The locking rear axle will switch to Locked mode and the traction and stability control systems are operational, but allow wheel spin to let the truck climb over obstacles.

Both the Mud/Sand and Baja modes are off-road performance modes. The Mud/Sand mode provided increase engine and transmission response while minimizing the traction control so you can keep the tires spinning to dig through the terrain. The locking axle engages and the transfer case switches to four-wheel high mode. For the driver ploughing deep snow, mud or sand, this is the mode to be in —and it still retains stability control to help keep things under control.

The Baja mode is all out. Maximum power, higher transmission shift speeds, no traction control or stability control, four-wheel drive and the rear axle in open mode, although it can be locked by the driver to give the truck the ability to get through the roughest terrain at speed, but the driver had better be skilled to use all the power the truck has without losing control. This isn’t a mode for the novice driver, but it is fun if you have some serious off-roading to do.

There is much more to the 2017 Raptor, including increases suspension travel and the ability to ford water to a depth of 81 centimeters! I have never driven a more capable production truck and those are a few of the reasons the Raptor wins awards.

james.kerr@sasktel.net