By Daryl Killian

If you had to choose just one vehicle to pilot…left arm out the window, hair blowing in the wind, and a cocky grin on your face as you spit into the face of Armageddon…the Raptor just might be it.


And as a side benefit, even if you never take it off the pavement, you just might be driving something with more street creds than you could get for twice the money spent on German iron.


Yes…I could feel my chest hair growing as I stepped up into the cab.   Way up.   If you’re looking for “capability”,  it’d be hard to find a vehicle that can do more….especially after the pavement ends.


The Raptor is Ford’s official Baja race vehicle…and if I have to explain that, you probably stopped reading this by now.


Let’s talk about what’s new with the ’17 Raptor, ‘cause there’ve been a bunch of big changes.


The biggest upgrade is the engine.   The ’17 Raptor uses the newest version of Ford’s twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6.    Yes….a V-6 in Ford’s high-profile do-anything muscle-truck.    It’s a new day, indeed.


But the 3.5 actually pumps out more power than the last version’s 6.2 liter V-8.    A whoppin’ 450 HP and 510 ft lbs of torque….all running through Ford’s new 10-speed automatic.    And it’s 500 pounds lighter.   That’s a lot of change….and a whole lotta’ performance.


And as you’d imagine, that performance really shows up off-road.   3” FOX Racing Shox are standard, as is a Torsen front differential and a computerized all-terrain management system that smoothes the ride when running rapidly in the dirt.


In fact, “Baja” is one of the six ride settings that you can select.    As the name implies, Baja is for going FAST on off-road desert terrain.   The other five settings are the expected “Normal” for most street use, an unexpected “Sport” for a bit more dialed-in on-road feel, “Weather” for rain, snow and ice, “Mud and Sand” for use as the names imply….and “Rock”, for those slow-motion extreme rock-crawling situations.    Did they leave anything out?   I don’t think so.


In addition to all the expected computerized safety alerts that everyone has today, Ford offers a few handy “extras”.  “Pro Trailer Backup” gives you towing  help  with a mere twist of a dial.    And Ford’s Blind-Spot warnings include your vehicle AND your trailer when towing your 6,000 – 8,000 load.


One other aide that you won’t often find, is Ford’s “Curve Control”…applying brakes as needed if it senses that you’re going a bit too fast around a curve.


But the biggest “Extra” that Ford offers to all ’17 Raptor owners just might be free off-road schooling at their “Raptor Assault Program” in Utah.   This is the off-road equivalent of the road-racing schools that Porsche and BMW offer.   And when you’re buying a $50 – $65,000 “tool” like a Raptor, it makes sense to know how to really use it, no?


This year, the Raptor comes in two sizes…Super Cab and Super Crew.   The slightly longer Super Crew that we tested was around $3,000 more than the base Super Cab….and offered more legroom than almost anything this side of a limo.


If ultimate off-road is your goal, you really want to check out the new-for-’17 Raptor.   And I doubt you’ll run into anyone wearing $450 Nordstrom fake-mud jeans when you do so.



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