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Review update: 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor levels up control and comfort

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Review update: 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor levels up control and comfort

The Ford Raptor is no longer the most ridiculous pickup truck in production. Both the Ram TRX and Rivian R1T electric truck dethroned the high-speed off-road king last year.

Yet, with a new rear suspension design, upgraded lighting options, and redesigned exhaust system the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor emerged as a smarter, better truck than before even if the competition has out-Raptored the Raptor. Can it still be the enthusiasts’ choice?

After spending a week in the cold Minnesota winter with the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor here’s what I learned.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Hit: Let there be light

The single most requested feature on the old Raptor? Factory-installed fog lights. The third-generation Raptor got them in the form of optional LED fog and high-intensity off-road driving lights sourced from Rigid. The Raptor’s height places the headlight beams high, leaving a dark void immediately in front of the truck. The fog lights remedy this. The off-road driving lights, which are tied into the overhead Auxiliary 1 toggle switch, increase overall light output noticeably, but have a pattern that is more directly focused in front of the truck rather than scattering to the sides like the fog lights. The addition of factory-backed fog and off-road driving lights is welcome.

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor

Miss: Lacks Trail Turn Assist

The 2021 F-150 Tremor adopted a functional feature from the Bronco that Raptor lacks: Trail Turn Assist. It’s a trick off-road function that uses the brakes to lock the inside rear wheel to help reduce the turning radius for tight maneuvers. Ford spokesperson Dawn McKenzie confirmed to Motor Authority the 2022 Raptor has Trail Turn Assist. The reason the 2021 model lacks this feature came down to prioritizing the rest of the truck’s development to get it out the door in the midst of the pandemic.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Hit: Settled and composed

The Raptor is hands down the most comfortable F-150 on the market, at least until the Lightning arrives. Then it’s anybody’s guess. But for now, the Raptor’s new coil springs and trailing arm rear suspension create a more settled, composed ride than before. The shivers that would send a quiver up your spine in lesser F-150s or previous Raptors while driving over Midwest pavement are gone. Every disruption in the road is smothered and absorbed with poise.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Miss: Practicality meets reality

The appeal of the Raptor is simple: It’ll go over basically anything, and it can do it at high speeds most of the time (depending what it is). That’s great in the desert, or in the wide open spaces of Montana, or while adventuring. But in the city, reality smacks you like a 2×4 to the face. A truck that’s 8-feet wide barely fits into most parking spots and requires three-point turns constantly. It might not fit in your garage due to width (it’s 6.7 inches wider than a standard F-150), height (it’s 2.6 inches taller than a standard F-150), or if you’re super unlucky, both, and it never, ever, feels smaller than it is. Measure twice, buy once.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Hit: That raspy bark

There’s still a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 under the hood of the Raptor producing 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. A V-8 isn’t an option, yet, but the Raptor R is coming this year. The V-6 no longer emits a weird sound through its dual exhaust system. A new setup with a “trumpet” design and 1:1 equal-length tubing belts out a pleasant howl that kind of sounds like a straight-piped GT-R crossed with a Nissan 370Z in the most pleasant way and satisfying way.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

2021 Ram 1500 TRX I Photography by Allex Bellus Photography

2021 Ram 1500 TRX I Photography by Allex Bellus Photography

2022 GMC Hummer EV prototype, engineering drive, September 2022 at the Milford Proving Grounds

2022 GMC Hummer EV prototype, engineering drive, September 2022 at the Milford Proving Grounds

2022 Rivian R1T

2022 Rivian R1T

Miss: No longer the most ridiculous thing

The Raptor’s no longer king of the truck food chain. The Ram TRX is faster, more powerful, and has a nicer interior all in one package, but it’s also more expensive. What’s not much more expensive is the Rivian R1T, which is Motor Authority’s Best Car To Buy 2022. With a boat load more power, more ground clearance, and the ability to rip harder and faster than the Raptor while being more efficient, the R1T is arguably the more impressive truck, at least on paper. Though, the Rivian likely can’t go 100 mph over desert terrain. Then there’s the GMC Hummer EV that’s basically as wide and imposing as the Raptor. It was pulling wheelies during development, is absolutely ridiculous looking, seemingly capable off-road (though it’s unclear how quickly it can cover off-road terrain at higher speeds), and currently much more expensive. But there are now three more ridiculous trucks on the market than the Raptor.

The Raptor is still the OG street-legal baja-running pickup truck. It’s still 8 feet wide, absurdly comfortable with its long-travel suspension, and motivated by a powerful engine. It still looks, and feels, like the closest thing on the market to a factory-built desert runner. It might not be king, but still just might be the best balance of performance, comfort, capability, and value in a factory-built gas-powered truck. But the electric era is threatening these trucks all together.

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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Base price: $65,840, including destination
Price as tested: $78,145
Powertrain: 450-hp, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, 10-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy: 15/18/16 mpg
The hits: Available fog and driving lights, new rear suspension, better exhaust note, still ridiculous
The misses: Less chiseled design, cumbersome to live with, it’s not king

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