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Home The Market Ford unveils third-generation F-150 Raptor

Ford unveils third-generation F-150 Raptor

Off-pavement predator becomes even more capable for 2021

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“Classic” is a word with several meanings, and at least one of them applies to the Ford F-150 Raptor, the high-performance off-road pickup truck Ford first unleashed back in 2009. 

On February 3, Ford unveiled the third-generation version of the off-pavement predator. This newest one builds on the previous versions and adds 5-link rear suspension, new electronically controlled Fox shocks with “Live Valve” technology, and the availability of 37-inch tires to take on even tougher terrain.

In addition, the next Raptor will offer cloud-connected navigation with digital trail maps and a FordPass mobile app so you can check some truck features from your smartphone.

Ford also said the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine offers better low-end torque, increased towing and payload capacity, increased range — to more than 500 miles before needing more fuel. 

Oh, and a Raptor R (V8-powered) version is coming in about a year.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

That all sounds amazing, and that statement is coming from those who have driven and were very pleased with the previous versions. You can read Bob Golfen’s impressions of the second-generation Raptor here and in the pre-Journal era, Larry Edsall wrote on another website how he was amazed with how the first-gen Raptor dealt with Arizona desert terrain.

“Raptor is the original desert truck. We just took it to another level,” Ali Jammoul, Ford Performance vehicle program director, is quoted in the automaker’s news release. “The all-new Raptor splices high-speed off-road performance muscle with advanced technology and connectivity that comes together in a unique Built Ford Tough way.”

In a stretch-of-the-imagination effort to underscore the performance capabilities of a pickup truck, Ford notes, “Over the last four years, the previous-generation Raptor cumulatively outsold Porsche’s entire lineup of sports cars and also outsold Chevrolet’s Corvette.”

No doubt true, but the last time we saw a Corvette off-road in the desert was in an episode of the 1960s television series Route 66.

New features include 5-link rear suspension, new Fox shocks, and adjustable exhaust modes

Besides, the Raptor’s capabilities off-pavement have never been in question. 

“A high-performance off-road pickup is defined by its suspension, and the all-new F-150 Raptor debuts with completely redesigned running gear,” Ford reports. “It is re-engineered with an all-new five-link rear suspension developed specifically for Raptor, designed to deliver more control and power to the ground with greater confidence over rough terrain at high speeds.

“Raptor is rooted in Baja 1000 racing, and its suspension advances our capability and performance – a five-link rear setup with more wheel travel than any Raptor before it,” the news release quotes Ford Performance chief engineer Carl Widmann. “And like a trophy truck, every aspect of Raptor has been engineered to deliver precision capability when your foot is flat on the floor, way out in the middle of nowhere roaring across the desert.”

Ford says the new rear suspension features “extra-long trailing arms to better maintain axle position on rough terrain, a Panhard rod and 24-inch coil springs – the longest in the class. The suspension design combined with more sophisticated engine management software means the truck can put more torque to the rear wheels for quicker starts off the line, faster acceleration and better throttle responsiveness while simultaneously delivering comfort, stability, handling, control and traction at speed.”

Contributing to such capability is the next-generation, electronically controlled Fox shocks with Live Valve internal bypass technology. Ford says the shocks are the largest ever from the off-road suspension specialist supplier and “are designed to better resist heat buildup and to react even faster to terrain changes for greater confidence over extended desert running.”

Also new is the availability of 37-inch as well as 35-inch tires. 

“These specially designed BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires offer maximum traction and handling,” Ford reports. “Wearing 35-inch tires, Raptor clears 12-inch obstacles with an approach angle of 31 degrees, maximum departure angle of 23.9 degrees and breakover angle of 22.7 degrees. Raptor with 37-inch tires features 13.1 inches of running clearance, 33.1 degrees of approach angle, a maximum 24.9 degrees of departure angle and 24.4 degrees of breakover angle.”

The third-gen Raptor also can be equipped to serve as a mobile 2.0-kilowatt generator for running power tools, lights, etc. 

Among other changes are a new exhaust system with a “trombone” loop and four selectable sound modes — Quiet, Normal, Sport and Baja. Speaking of modes, there are seven settings on the terrain-management system — Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja and Rock Crawl. 

Rock Crawl is enhanced with standard 1-Pedal Drive that allows the driver to use only the accelerator pedal while the vehicle applies brakes proportionally as the driver releases pressure on the gas pedal. Also standard is Trail Control, like cruise control for off-pavement driving.

Also new is a customizable 12-inch center screen on the dashboard. A 360-degree camera package is available with “real-time tire track overlay” to show objects ahead of the front wheels. The FordPass mobile app that can check tire pressures, fuel level and even includes a trailer-theft alert. 

For more information on the third-gen 2021 Raptor, visit the Ford website.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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