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A closeup shows the grille on a red 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor.

Mighty Performance in a Tough Truck: The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

It wouldn’t be right to say that the Ford F-150 Raptor “first hit the streets” in 2009 because the model has always been intended for brilliant off-road performance. Specifically inspired by Baja 1000 desert racing, the Raptor was designed to maintain high speeds and detailed performance over the toughest terrains, along with climbing, jumping, soaring, and fording. The Raptor has always been meant to go where drivers were told not to go, and the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is no exception.

That’s not to say it can’t do the jobs other Ford F-150s do. It is, after all, a Ford truck, and with the manufacturer’s label comes a certain level of responsibility. So while the Raptor is perfectly content with the whoops and landings of a rugged course in the middle of nowhere, it also understands things like towing, cargo, and road driving.

The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor promises to be an intense trim of a truck, with a whole lot of new. With the entire F-150 lineup receiving a major overhaul for the 2021 model year, it stands to reason the Raptor would get some attention. However, drivers are more than impressed at the level of detail Ford has put into this Baja beast.

“The Original Desert Truck”

A black 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is parked in front of a hill and a dusty desert.

For the 2021 model year, Ford has decided to go straight back to Raptor’s roots. “Raptor is the original desert truck,” stated Ali Jammoul, vehicle program director at Ford Performance, in a media release. “We just took it to another level. The all-new Raptor slices high-speed off-road performance muscle with advanced technology and connectivity that comes together in a unique Built Ford Tough way.” Carl Widmann, Ford Performance chief engineer, elaborates, “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.”

Nearly every aspect of the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor’s performance features has received attention and redesign. The new model includes a brand new five-link rear suspension system that has been specifically engineered for the Raptor. That means extra-long trailing arms, a Panhard rod, 24-inch coil springs, and internal software that senses torque and traction needs for greater responsiveness.

Also on board are next-generation FOX Live Valve internal bypass shocks. These are the largest shocks on a Raptor model to date, with 3.1-inch diameter anodized aluminum shock bodies, low-friction shock fluid, and base valves that can handle over 1,000 pounds of damping. In fact, Ford reports that the suspension sensors have the ability to independently manipulate the damping rates 500 times per second, which is approximately the speed at which the human brain processes visual cues. As a result, the driver and the truck are experiencing each moment simultaneously.

If that isn’t mind-blowing enough, the technology involved in the Raptor’s re-engineered performance is pretty intense. A Terrain Management System includes seven drive modes to provide the greatest level of torque, traction, driving feel, transmission shifts, and more. Between choices like Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl, drivers should be able to find a configuration that meets their needs.

Trail 1-Pedal Drive technology is also standard. Rather than requiring drivers to work both the brake and throttle, Trail 1-Pedal simplifies the process. Press the accelerator to go forward, and lift your foot to activate the brakes. This takes the stress out of pushing the right thing when the trails get really exciting. On top of that, drivers also have the ability to choose their sound level, ranging from Quiet to Baja.

A Ford Truck at Heart

In addition to this impressive array of state-of-the-art technology and engineering, the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is a fully capable truck. Under the hood is a twin-turbo 3.5L V6 engine, which is slated to provide an estimated 450 horsepower. Paired with a 10-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive, the Raptor has increased capability for 2021, with the payload maximum climbing to 1,400 pounds and towing maximum rising to 8,200 pounds with a conventional hitch. The engine is sensibly equipped with its own cooling system to prevent mid-desert overheating, as well.

Ford didn’t limit the exciting new technology to the off-roading aspects of the Raptor. Drivers of the 2021 Raptor will enjoy many of the same features that are optional in other F-150 trims. Pro Power Onboard is a class-exclusive, providing up to 2.0 kilowatts of power output that allows drivers to utilize the truck as a generator, making it a boon to worksites and campsites alike. Drivers can also opt for Rigid front bumper lighting. This off-road-inspired feature provides extra light when it’s needed most. Wide beam LED projector headlamps with Adaptive Dynamic Bending are also available, moving with the road to show what awaits behind every curve.

The SYNC 4 connectivity system will be standard on the Raptor. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now connected wirelessly, as well as Ford+Alexa assistance technology. The infotainment system can be connected with voice control for navigation, hands-free call and text, and music streaming for greater convenience and safety. The Ford Pass mobile app has been updated to be even handier for off-roaders, with over-the-air updates that provide an up-to-date mapping of the road less traveled. This app can also lock, unlock, control the Pro Power Onboard function, and operate zone and trailer lighting, making it an excellent resource for those who aren’t necessarily cruising well-lit suburban streets.

The steering wheel and gray interior of a 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor are shown.

Inspired by the F-22 Raptor Fighter Jet

Drivers may notice that the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor looks a little more aggressive than it has in years past. The design inspiration for the new model is the F-22 Raptor Fighter Jet. Taking a look at the extended wide-stance bumper and power dome hood, it’s easy to trace the aerodynamic, sleek, and intimidating lines past the vents and fenders.

It’s possible to imagine the Raptor in flight, though its actual air-borne antics are just slightly more Earth-bound than that of a fighter jet. Being both wider and taller enables the Raptor to show off its new attitude. Drivers will have the choice of three different 17-inch wheels. 35 inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires are standard, but 37-inch tires are available. When the larger tires are chosen, the Raptor will have an approach angle of 33.1 degrees, 24.9 degrees of departure, and 24.4 degrees breakover with a running clearance of 13.1 inches. Meanwhile, options such as RECARO front seats for ultimate off-road comfort and support are available, along with special appearance features, like unique upholstery and stitching, and black-out lights that give Raptor a surly confidence.

Look Adventure in the Eye in the Ford Raptor

The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor may be the first of its generation, but it is already setting a precedent for off-road ready light pickup trucks. Drivers will have a brand new experience when they step behind the wheel of the all-new Raptor. From the first roar of the engine (depending on the noise level selected), drivers will be enthralled with the capability that awaits.

In their return to the Raptor’s Baja 1000 roots, the team at Ford has built a vehicle that can work and play with equal enthusiasm and ability. Whether tackling downtown errands or the Baja 1000, drivers will know that they are operating a truly magnificent vehicle. Inspired by one of the most powerful pieces of machinery in the world and intelligently outfitted to take on some of the roughest, toughest, and most intimidating obstacles imaginable, the F-150 Raptor is sure to win over the hearts of many fans.

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