The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is the hottest truck of the year and the most capable Raptor yet. Its twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost engine will embarrass bigger V8s in a drag race, and the advanced Fox Racing suspension gives even the Jeep Rubicon a run for its money. Combine that with dozens of features inside the cabin, and you have one of the fastest and best off-road trucks on the road today.
But the 2017 Raptor didn’t just pop up overnight – it follows more than a decade of F-150 innovation.
2000 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
Let’s trace the Raptor’s lineage back to its street-legal racing cousin – the Ford Lightning. You might recognize it as Paul Walker’s daily driver from “The Fast and the Furious” (the cars were fast, so why not the trucks as well?). Created by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), the original 2000 Lightning packed 360 supercharged horsepower under the hood. Unlike the current Ford Raptor, which is lifted up by Fox Racing shocks, the Ford Lightning was lowered to give it better racing performance.
The Lighting was Ford’s first foray into the world of specialized trucks.
Ford F-150 Raptor reveal
The SVT spent the 2000s creating special versions of the Mustang, such as the Cobra, GT350, and GT500, but didn’t turn back to the F-150 until the first Raptor’s big reveal at the SEMA show in 2008. The F-150 was never a stranger to rocky trails and overlanding adventures, but most owners used aftermarket parts to give their trucks more off-road capability. Ford and SVT changed all that with the first Raptor.
The first Raptor had a giant 6.2L V8 engine with 411 horsepower, long-travel suspension, and an aggressive look compared to other F-150s. At an off-roading auto show normally dominated by Jeep, Toyota, and Land Rover… Ford stole all the attention. But its biggest announcement would come after the reveal of the Raptor.
2008 Baja 1000
The Baja 1000 is one of the gnarliest and most fascinating races in motorsports. It’s an off-road endurance run through the heart of the Mexican desert that’ll break down even the most battle-tested overland vehicles. Ford was no stranger to his race, taking home several titles since 2007, but this is the first time it threw an untested truck into the mix. The gamble paid off – the Raptor held its own during the 2008 Baja 1000, and Ford has sent a Raptor into the race every year since.
2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
Years later, we now have the most refined Raptor yet – and also the most controversial. While the twin-turbo engine produces an incredible 450 horsepower, the most ever in a Raptor, it’s only a 3.5L V6. That’s a problem for some enthusiasts who feel that a flagship F-150 should be nothing less than a V8 – but should it? In a head-to-head match-up against the old 6.2L V8, the new EcoBoost dominates in every category. The engine is so powerful, in fact, that the Ford GT supercar shares most of its parts in its own engine.
With the new Ranger and Bronco in the works for 2019 and 2020, Ford trucks will only get better. The wild popularity of the Raptor ensures that Ford performance trucks are going to be in demand for a long time.