Here at RightFootDown, we are starting to develop specialities. For example, Justin deals with a lot of our hands-on wrenching pieces, our Editor in Chief, Will gets a lot of the press cars (lucky bastard), and Michael is our on-camera talent, because he’s just too goddamn pretty. As for me? Well, I’m pretty decent at making really convoluted sodomy jokes, but surprisingly, that only goes so far. Other than that, I have become the defacto phone interviewer of RFD, probably because of my sultry voice. It started off with some very educational conversations with Ed Bolian, and has continued since then. That’s how I wound up on the phone with Mike Levine, Truck Communication Manager at Ford.
Now, full disclosure, I’m not really a truck guy. I think most trucks today are too bloated and ostentatious. Granted, I have owned a few old Fords. My first vehicle was a 1988 Ford Ranger with straight pipes. Because Missouri teaches class and subtlety. I totaled that one. Then it got replaced with a 1990 Ford Ranger. That then got totaled. Then we bought it back, fixed it, wrecked it again, fixed it again, had a can of yellow spray paint explode in the cab (which gave the interior a real nice modern art look), and then had a wheel fall off. So my personal history with Ford trucks has been literally colored, to say the least.
Now, as I said, most modern trucks don’t do anything for me. Some of this may be due to my time I living in the city, where I had to maneuver around people trying to park their quad-cab dually 3500 Denali Harley Davidson King’s Ranch in the parking garage behind Char Bar. It doesn’t fit! You look ridiculous. But there is an exception to my entirely irrational bias, and it was debuted at the North American International Auto Show.
The 2017 Ford Raptor is the one truck I am actually excited about. For those of you not in the know, the Raptor is what happens when you take a Baja truck, and then turn it down about a notch and a half. It is designed to absolutely maul any and all obstacles, from boulders, to tumbleweeds, to curbs, to fire hydrants, to pomeranians, to Miatas, to children with poor reflexes. Yes, there’s a full interior, with all the appropriate creature comforts of a modern vehicle, but there’s also a beefed up frame, with some truly impressive suspension designed by Fox. You know, the company who makes the jerseys that every kid with a dirt bike wears. Apparently they make parts as well.
With the 2017 Ford Raptor, the F-150 that it’s based on was being redesigned at the same time, so that allowed the Raptor team to be able to start with a totally blank slate. This redesigning from the ground up allows it to shave some 500 pounds off the last generation, even with the beefed up proprietary frame. Levine told me that the goal of the project was not strictly weight reduction, but instead the rather ambitious objective of: improve every aspect. So with that, there’s the summer diet, new suspension, and a terrain management system.
Now while the old Ford Raptor had an “offroad mode”, the new one has six different settings. Instead of having separate systems to adjust for the differentials, traction control, and more, now there’s just one adjustment. According to Levine, they were trying to make the interface more intuitive to operate. These affect things like shift points and stability management, but not suspension. There’s the typical “normal” and “mud” modes, but also fun ones like “Baja”. Whoever the Manager of Naming Vehicle Modes For Utmost Amusement and Marketing at Ford is just killing it. The Focus RS gets “Drift Mode”, and the Raptor gets “Baja Mode”. Coming soon, the Escape gets “Whole Foods Mode”, and the Explorer gets “I Swear I’m Not a Cop Mode”.
I asked a lot of my truck toting friends what their questions and concerns were with the new model, and almost unanimously they wanted to know about the engine. Now, the original Raptor had a V8, but the new new one uses an Ecoboost V6. Now, this is not terribly surprising, as Ford is heavily pushing the Ecoboost family of engines. The new GT even uses an Ecoboost. So, being the dutiful person I am, I asked Levine what the thought process was behind this decision. My initial prediction was emissions and fuel economy, as that seems to be the impetus for everyone else’s turbocharging efforts.
I was wrong. That happens a lot. But that’s a good thing. Having misconceptions corrected is how we learn and grow. No, instead, Levine told me that the decision was 100% performance inspired. The new motor generates more power, with a flatter torque curve, and the torque falls earlier in the RPM range. It also has both port injection AND direct injection. I’ve been informed that this is very impressive and important. My mechanical knowledge doesn’t go much farther than “fire juice go boom, motor go vroom”, so I’ll leave the technical discussion to someone smarter than me.
Ford has done more than their fair share of torture testing on the Ecoboost over the last few years. Levine told me that they’ve even raced in Baja with it. So obviously, they are not terribly concerned with it breaking down. If bombing across the dunes in Baja doesn’t grenade the engine, your Costo runs will probably be uneventful. Now, I’m aware some will mourn the loss of the V8. Because this is America, and turbos are for nancies, at least if you live in the Midwest like I do. But if it works, it works.
My dislike of modern trucks comes a lot from the fact that they don’t know what they want to be. Is it supposed to be luxurious? Then why is the suspension so uncomfortable? Is it supposed to carry things to your house? Then why is it so awkward to get in and out of the bed? The Raptor knows what it is. It is a high speed desert racer, with enough creature comforts to prevent you from wanting to commit suicide on the road.
The new 2017 Ford Raptor keeps the ideology of the original, with increases across the board in terms of power, usability, off-road prowess, and more. It might just be enough to change my mind on trucks. I’ll be very curious to see how it performs away from the dunes, down in the frost-heaved, potholed streets of the midwest. Are you listening, Ford? Instead of dodging jackrabbits, let’s dodge some soccer moms.