While the local car industry has largely left all-terrain high-performance motoring in the hands of the aftermarket, Detroit’s big three have long pushed dirty – in the most positive sense – culture into showrooms.
Ford’s latest, reinvented iteration of its flagship go-fast pick-up truck, the F-150 Raptor, brings as much smarts as it does brawn to the off-the-beaten table.
A mainstay of the Raptor breed has long been its intimidating appearance, with its blunt Transformers nose styling and extra 15-centimetre-wide pumped guards, Ford’s latest trophy truck for the road must look terrifying in your wing mirrors.
Much more than an F-150 tart-up, the Raptor adopts a purpose-built high-strength steel frame and bespoke bodywork made from what Ford claims is “military grade” aluminium said to offer weight saving of almost a quarter of a tonne.
Where the outgoing Raptor used a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 outputting 306kW and 588Nm, its next-gen replacement is a smaller-capacity, alloy-block 3.5-litre turbocharged petrol V6 leveraging – you guess it – the Ecoboost nameplate.
So far Ford is mum on the new engine’s specific outputs, short of claiming that the new second-gen, Raptor-exclusive Ecoboost unit is “more powerful and more efficient” than the old eight.
In the spirit of more is better, the Raptor will debut a new automatic transmission with 10 (!) forward ratios.
The Raptor’s on-demand all-wheel-drive system is fully mechanically lockable and governed, along with other electronic powertrain and safety protocols, by a new Terrain Management System offering selectable Normal, Street, Weather, Mud, Baja and Rock drive modes.
The lofty ride height comes courtesy of adaptive, motorsport-spec Fox Racing suspension hardware capable of up to 30cm of travel compression, an improvement over the outgoing model.
Suspension architecture, however, isn’t quite so exotic, it’s A-arm front and soild rear-axle arrangement true to simple-yet-robust tough truck traditions.
A key attribute of the widened front and rear tracks is improved stability across the most challenging off-road surfaces, while each corner mounts a 17-inch alloy wheel wrapped in humongous 35-inch-diameter BF Goodrich all-terrain rubber.
Available in both four-door crew cab and two-door extended ‘super cab’ body styles (and model-specific wheelbases), the Raptor loses the old model’s SVT designation in lieu of new Ford Performance branding when it hits US showrooms early 2016.
With the foreseeable increase in interest in imported trucks in the wake of the forthcoming demise of the Aussie large car, perhaps Ford Australia should take a closer look at the Raptor breed that it has, to date, steadfastly ignored.
Or perhaps offer a performance-bred, go-anywhere Ranger for well-heeled, all-terrain enthusiasts.
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