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F-150 Raptor: A brawny beast with a gentle side

Barry Spyker
Tribune News Service

We get it. Ford’s gargantuan 2017 F-150 Raptor is big and mean and can scare off anything that gets in its way. With its muscular haunches and massive grille, it’ll spook anyone who sees it in their rear-view mirror.

With its steel-reinforced frame, jacked-up suspension and beefy all-terrain tires, it can crawl over boulders, dive over desert dunes — at highway speeds — and plow through sloshy mud, deep ruts and gravel.

The Raptor is a tough cookie. But, if there’s no sand dune on your commute, the 2017 Raptor is shockingly well-behaved on pavement, too, and a kick to drive. The 5,700-pound beast is fast, surging to 60 mph in a mere 5.3 seconds. And it has a features list worthy of a luxury vehicle.

Returning after a two-year hiatus, the Raptor is a leaner machine, dropping 500 pounds thanks to an aluminum body. But it’s still a mean machine: A new high-output, twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine is actually more powerful than the last generation’s 6.2-liter V-8, churning up 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque.

Going full-throttle is a blast as the 10-speed transmission ticks through the gears — you can count them on the instrument panel — while Raptor leaves a rumbling note through dual exhausts. The transmission is a little jerky around town, but manual shifters offer an alternative.

Ride quality is surprisingly comfortable on the asphalt, absorbing bumps and dips around town and offering a quiet highway drive. Don’t be scared off by the beefy all-terrain BF Goodrich KO2 tires, designed exclusively for the Raptor’s off-road escapades. They’re fine on the road, too.

In fact, folks using the Raptor every day for commutes, construction work or boat towing will find this giant is quite civilized, even luxurious by truck standards. It features a power tailgate and also offers a step that comes out from below it for an easier step up into the cargo bed. The step even has a fold-up railing for safety.

Raptor has blind-spot monitoring for not only the truck but a trailer, too. And, here’s a pampering feature: With the turn of a knob on the dash, the truck can back a boat trailer down a ramp all by itself. It’s like having your own valet.

Inside, seats are firm and well-bolstered, can be trimmed in leather, and are heated and cooled. The dash is broad but its controls are within easy reach, many contained on Raptor’s exclusive center console.

And Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system offers voice-activated navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as part of a $9,345 luxury package. A technology package ($1,950) includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision prevention and lane-keep assist. Other options include exterior graphics and interior accent packages.

The Raptor has a base price $48,325. With the luxury package, technology package, bedliner and tailgate step, our test truck had a sticker price of $60,490.

As accommodating as the Raptor is, it has its weaknesses. With a 7-foot-wide body, it’s challenging on narrow city streets and parking lots, though a 360-degree camera helps. The new-for-2017 full-size SuperCrew version — nearly a foot longer — makes matters even worse. Another predictable weakness concerns the mileage: Expect 15 mpg around town, just 18 on the highway.

Make no mistake: Raptor is built for, and most appreciated, off the road. A new all-terrain system offers six modes to optimize driving dynamics for harsh conditions. Among them are Street, Mud, Sand and one called Baja for extreme desert-racing.

Ford installed new Fox Racing shocks for 2017 and a new 4-wheel-drive system, too. A Torsen front differential transfers torque to the stable wheel before slippage occurs, Ford says, to provide stronger grip to the front end. Huge skid plates protect the undercarriage.