The off-road pickup segment has seen a renewed resurgence in recent years both in demand and in performance, with many of these trail-ready offerings offering more performance than ever before. The truck that’s often credited with launching this revolution is the Ford F-150 Raptor. Originally created in borderline secrecy deep in the bowels of the Ford Motor Company, the Raptor has rapidly become one of the strongest sellers in the F-150 family and has rapidly emerged as a potent benchmark for all that came after it. Ford gave the model some updates for the 2021 model year, but with the utterly bonkers Ram TRX outmuscling it, does this dino still have what it takes to continue being a benchmark?
Proven Formula Continues To Work Its Magic In Raptor
The mainstream F-150 was recently overhauled, and alot of the magic that defined this one also makes its way to the Raptor. Like before, the Raptor is limited to a Crew Cab only but it still manages to look very imposing and intimidating especially when you factor in the exaggerated wheel flares and the massive “FORD” adorned grille which is exclusive to the Raptor (except for random aftermarket companies offering it for things like the Ford Ranger or Escape.) This grille also houses the reworked amber marker lights and it complements the revamped headlights very well too.
Our red-hued tester ditched the wild bed-mounted graphics package for a more restrained look and it also didn’t have the optional 37-inch tire package either, but that did little to dampen our view of this truck it’s a beast and it’s now wearing a posher suit of clothes. That said, The F-150’s more constrained personality also puts it a step behind the Ram TRX. The TRX is all about broadcasting its intentions to the world in a loud voice, and Ram designers were clearly told to go all out in making the truck stand out. In contrast, the Raptor’s look makes it blend into the crowd in certain situations and its times were the bigger tires and the bed graphics would make the truck more noticeable among observers.
Thankfully side steps are standard due to the Raptor’s height and they are a valuable help for shorter passengers including my wife who accompanied us on some of our treks around town in the Raptor. The bed of our tester came with the usual assortment of handy features including a deployable rear bed step and handle, numerous tie-downs for cargo, and several outlets though they can’t match what the Powerboost equipped F-150 can do.
Big Chunky Themes Define Raptor Interior
Slip inside the cabin, and the Raptor’s macho theme continues to shine through. There are plenty of big chunky cues here with many of the controls not only in easy reach of occupants but also having big round switches and dials. Our tester also came with the standard 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system which comes bundled with standard SYNC 4 software and even boasts wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. The system was very responsive and we greatly enjoyed using it during the truck’s stay with us.
Storage in the Raptor is very impressive with the door pockets having a two-tiered setup for a wide range of items while the cave-like center cubby can swallow an impressive array of items and valuables to keep them hidden from prying eyes. Our tester arrived with the $6,150 Equipment Group 801A package that adds Ford’s trick work surface feature which folds the shifter downward to help create a flat workspace. The rear seats not only provide rear passengers with large amounts of room to stretch out and relax but can also hold cargo that might not like spending time in the 5.5-foot long bed thanks to the flat floor and under-seat storage.
The rear also has additional cupholders, door storage, and even rear-mounted USB ports which is a sign that Ford is continuing to pay attention to recent truck trends including many Crew Cab models rapidly becoming a family vehicle for some buyers.
Raptor Is Outgunned But It’s Still Fun
With all the updates that the Raptor has received for 2021, the performance hardware under the skin remains unchanged. All Raptor models are powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 which still makes 450 hp and 510 hp. With those figures, it’s no secret that the Raptor is outgunned when compared to the 702 hp Ram TRX. However, look past the wide swath that divides the raw performance figures between the two, and the Raptor ultimately emerges as a more livable candidate for daily driving.
Part of this is due to the V6’s smoother character with the TRX’s engine feeling like an unchained animal eager to lunge out and accelerate. The Raptor in contrast unleashes its fury in a more controlled manner with the lighter V6 feeling more composed even when tasked with handling the extra boost from its twin-turbochargers. A 10-speed automatic is the lone transmission here and it continues to be a smooth operator when it comes to delivering the crisp upshifts and accurate downshifts that buyers expect from a performance product.
The Raptor has a confident personality out on the freeway but its lifted suspension and off-road-focused nature require it to be out on the trail to find its true happy place. Some light off-roading in a few spots of ours reaffirmed this and the Raptor is a very capable steed when tasked with going off the beaten path with the Fox sourced off-road suspension soaking up bumps and divots with ease. The four-mode exhaust is also fun to use, but while Baja mode delivers maximum sound, it’s best used in bursts since the droning note gets old very quickly after long exposure. Braking in the Raptor is also solid, but our tester did exhibit long pedal travel before the brakes clamped onto the front and rear-mounted rotors.
Our rig had a base price of $70,470 with the $1,695 destination fee factored into the mix. Our tester also came with a generous helping of options which helped push the final figure all the way up to $77,615. This price tag puts it lower than the Ram TRX which has a $77,000 plus base sticker, but can rapidly balloon that figure into the $100,000 range when fully equipped. The Raptor is however a noticeable upgrade over the Chevrolet Silverado Trailboss but Chevrolet is prepping a beefier ZR2 model that promises to truly bring the fight to the Raptor.
The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is still a very potent predator in the off-road pickup ranks. It still has a balanced combination of style, performance, and technology that have allowed the truck to retain its high levels of popularity among buyers. However, the food chain is rapidly changing, and with the Ram TRX currently assuming its role as a potential new alpha offering, the Raptor will eventually need more extensive upgrades to match. Part of these changes will come in the future when the V8 powered Raptor R will make its debut with a V8 that’s rumored to make 600 plus hp.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.