In late 2009 when Ford Motor Company introduced the off road-focused truck called the “Raptor,” no one had any idea the truck would be such a game changer in the world of production-based off road trucks. Introduced in 2009 as a 2010 model, the F150 Raptor made a splash in the industry with a series of marketing campaigns that showed the half-ton flying through the air making good use of its 11.2 and 12.1-inches of front and rear suspension travel.
Ford’s marketing materials, which consisted mainly of customers using their F150’s repetitively on a ranch or at work, had never featured such shock value as the Raptor flying through the air – especially as a production vehicle. It was this kind of impact the Raptor made everywhere it went and set the stage for what was to come.
Something New From SVT
The Raptor represented a special edition performance-minded vehicle which wasn’t exactly a new idea to Ford’s SVT team. Under the SVT or “Special Vehicle Team” nameplate, Ford had a history of producing groundbreaking vehicles such as the Mustang Cobra R, the F150 Lighting, the Focus SVT, and now the Raptor – only this time the SVT-badged vehicle was designed to soar, literally. When the Raptor was introduced to the public, there was quite a bit of buzz generated. Coming equipped stock with 35-inch BFGoodrich tires, Fox Racing shocks front and rear, a seven-inch wider track width, a proprietary grill, widened fenders, 4.10:1 gears with an electronic-locking differential, huge travel figures, four-wheel-drive, and a custom interior, the Raptor made a statement – and rightfully so.
If there was anything that wasn’t loved about the 2010 Raptor, it was the trusty 5.4-liter Triton V8 that came as standard equipment and left a little bit to be desired for more spirited driving. It wasn’t to say the 5.4 was bad, quite the opposite really; it was just moderately underpowered in the heavy Raptor platform, with only 320 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque.
For a mere $3,000, perspective buyers could upgrade to the 6.2-liter V8 that cranked out 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque which was touted as a “must-have” by owners and the press alike. With both V8s being mated to the same six-speed transmission, there was a huge difference in drivability and in fun-factor when comparing the two motors – the 6.2 was the clear winner and in 2011 became the only engine option for the Raptor.
The powertrain wasn’t the only thing that Ford decided to change in 2011. Previously, the Raptor had only been available in the SuperCab configuration using two smaller “suicide doors” that opened backwards to allow access to the small back seat. While this cab option with the 5.5-foot bed created a very off road-friendly wheelbase, the industry trend indicated that buyers wanted a full four doors. To answer this, Ford added the SuperCrew to the Raptor lineup, giving buyers four full doors and the option to now seat five-passangers comfortably while going 100 mph through the desert – an option that was welcomed with open arms by the public.
From 2011 to the end of the Raptor’s production cycle in 2014, there were only a few changes made to meet consumer demand. New colors were added, the stock wheel design was changed slightly, a special edition Raptor was introduced in 2014, and beadlock wheels became an option as well for buyers seeking additional insurance when aired down. The phrase “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind with the Raptor’s lifecycle because it only experienced minimal changes over the years yet continued to gain momentum and become one of the most influential pickups to ever be sold to the public.
Why The Raptor Was Influential
Trophy Truck Image: The Raptor was the filet mignon of the truck market and Ford was selling the “sizzle” of the steak quite well. With dealer brochures and magazine features showing the Raptor two-feet off the ground, the Raptor was marketed as a street-legal Trophy Truck built to tackle Baja at high speed. While the well-versed off roader knows this is far from the truth, Ford did such an amazing job marketing the truck, that the Trophy Truck image was in fact the reality to the majority of the population.
Ford did such a great job marketing the Raptor, that owners began bending frames from abusing the truck so hard off road in attempts to replicate the marketing imagery. The Raptor is considerably more capable than your average pickup truck, but Ford’s marketing campaign was so good, that it had the public and buyers think the truck was nearly invincible off road – now that’s a successful campaign!
The $60,000 Half-Ton: Years ago, if someone told you a full-size pickup truck would not only be sold, but sold with such high demand that they were hard to keep on dealer’s lots for $60,000+, most of us would have laughed. Love it or hate it, this is now the stark reality of the half-ton truck market and the Raptor helped pave the way for this phenomenon. Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Nissan, and Toyota now all offer half-tons that are priced far north of $50,000 and are in some cases making their way to the $60,000 range. While these trucks are fully loaded and very expensive, they offer great profit margins for automakers and they continue to get eaten up by consumers looking for fully loaded trucks, no matter the price.
Fuel Economy: One of the most amazing aspects of the Raptor’s success was the fact that most owners got a real world 11-13 MPGs but didn’t think twice about making the decision to purchase the truck in an economy with extremely high fuel prices. Fuel economy has been a huge focus for manufacturers over the past ten years with new government regulations, and while “good” fuel economy in a half-ton truck is a relative term (they aren’t exactly a Prius), most models were creeping up on the 20 MPG range at the same time the 11-14 MPG Raptor was flying off the shelves! The Raptor defied the fuel economy concerns of buyers because of the mystique the vehicle carried with it – buyers simply didn’t care.
It’s a Raptor: The Raptor nameplate is truly a great half-ton pickup name. It’s tough, it’s rugged, and it’s associated with one of the most deadly predators to ever walk the earth – it’s arguably the perfect name for a truck that’s marketed as being the toughest of the tough. While the standard F150 is “Built Ford Tough,” the Raptor is just that – a Raptor. Ford’s branding was so successful that when the general public saw one of these trucks, it was referred to as a “Raptor,” not an F150. There were numerous celebrities and action sports athletes who owned Raptors and referred to them by name. Similar to a Bugatti or a Bentley, the truck’s nameplate and mystique it carried did all the explaining necessary – it became a vehicle that the public knew by name.
Not Your Standard Off Roader: When looking at other off road capable vehicles offered straight from the factory like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Ram Power Wagon, Titan Pro-4X, Silverado Z71, and more, the Raptor was the only off roader marketed towards buyers looking to seriously haul-ass through off road terrain. Ford completely ignored the low-speed market, and even the reasonable speed market, and focused solely on those looking to haul ass. It was depicted from day one as a truck that was built to tear through the desert and it represented uncharted territory for automakers to focus their effort’s on. This game-changing approach was innovative and risky, but paid off big time for Ford and the aftermarket as a whole.
Effect on the Industry
The Raptor broke new ground for Ford and proved that there was a market for high-priced half-tons designed to be the Porche 911 of off road trails globally. With that being said, the Raptor wasn’t only a success for Ford Motor Company – the aftermarket as a whole was set on fire with the Raptor because as it turned out, Raptor owners wanted to get their hands on anything and everything available to customize their off road warrior.
From body armor to suspension components, the Raptor spurred a huge influx of demand for off road accessories that was so strong, some companies built their brands off of the backbone of the truck. As one of the most popular display vehicles at SEMA and a vehicle you seldom see 100-percent stock, the public and the aftermarket alike loved the customization options available for the Raptor.
The Present and Future
With the end of the production cycle for the outgoing generation of F150s, the Raptor has ceased production as well. With an all new F150 platform that features aluminum body work and a now nonexistent 6.2-liter V8 option, speculation ran high as to whether or not there would be a next-gen Raptor and if so, what motor will even power it – until recently.
Introduced at the 2015 North American International Auto Show was the all new 2017 Raptor that the public had hoped for. Featuring an all-new aluminum body, all-new 10-speed transmission, and a variation of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that is guaranteed by Ford to be more powerful than the outgoing 6.2-liter V8, anticipation is reaching a fever pitch for the new truck to be released. When we broke the news earlier this year, we covered all the details available about the truck.
Other manufacturers have tried to throw their hats in the ring with such vehicles as the Ram Runner, and even more as they try to get in on the void created by the presently-extinct Raptor. Chevy recently introduced a prototype based off the new Chevy Colorado called the “ZR2,”which is a slightly smaller Raptor competitor, but there has yet to be any production guarantees. Even the aftermarket is doing their part offering full packages to take stock 2015 F150 4x4s and convert them into the Raptor that Ford won’t offer until Autumn 2016.
Even still, with all this competition trying to get some of the action left on the table with the first-gen Raptor’s exit, the industry as a whole waits patiently for the release of the new breed. While we here here at Offroad Xtreme can’t literally hold our breath long enough for the 2017 Raptor’s release, we are more than excited to test the capabilities of this second-generation rig upon its release.