When one writes about a performance vehicle, rarely is fuel economy the lead discussion point, but the second generation Ford Raptor is not your average performance vehicle. Over more than a decade of reviewing vehicles, the single most expensive tank of fuel I have ever purchased belonged to the original Raptor. It was a whopping $167 and that was a few years ago, before gas prices skyrocketed. To be completely honest, while I was looking forward to driving the twin turbo V-6 powered 2017 model, I was dreading the cost of spending a week with it.
For the uninitiated, the Raptor is an off road edition of the popular Ford F-150. Unlike some such packages which amount to little more than a sticker package and bigger tires, the Raptor is heavily massaged to give it real deal desert racing type performance. Cosmetics in the form of fat fenders, an over the top sticker package and an aggressive wheel/tire package are backed up with some serious mechanical upgrades under the skin.
Make no mistake, the visual of the truck is nothing less than imposing and garners attention everywhere from the gas station to the girl at the drive through window who squealed “Oh my GOD, I LOVE your Raptor!” I even caught my next door neighbour poking around under the wheel arches, exclaiming that “This thing really is different from my base F-150”.
The first-gen Raptor was powered by a premium gas swilling V8 that provided swift performance despite the truck’s ample heft while sending an audio notice to anybody within earshot that this truck meant business. For the new model, engineers took a page from the Ford GT’s playbook and fitted a 3.5L V6 which is fed by a pair of turbochargers to fit the brand’s Ecoboost obsession. That 450-ish horsepower mill is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission which offers silky smooth shifts and promises improved fuel economy.
Being a bit of an old school truck guy, I have to say that I was skeptical of the way the boosted six would sound. A performance truck should rumble like a Trans-Am car and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Around town, the Raptor sounds like Tim Taylor’s hopped up Shop-Vac. To be fair, at full throttle, it does sound like a Ford GT race car, but ain’t nobody can afford to drive it like that all the time! A big ol’ V8 rumble would be much more fitting.
Wary of my past history with the Raptor, my drive home consisted of setting the adaptive cruise control to 106 KM/H and letting technology look after the fuel economy. I posted an Instagram picture showing a very impressive 11.6 L/100 KM. My buddy Eric Novak over at EnviroDad commented: “Don’t get used to it…” Eric and I have VERY different driving styles, so this comment had me worried.
My kid drove the truck to his girlfriend’s and back. In 20 minutes, the average economy jumped to almost 14. I became more worried.
My Wife commented that I was driving like a little old lady every time I got behind the wheel and yet the consumption climbed to 16.9 L/100 KM while driving mostly around town.
Then, as we began to put the Raptor to work, some sort of magic happened.
We loaded the bed full of coolers and tables and towed the DCS Appliances event trailer to a gig in the country. Fuel economy improved. Then, we loaded up again for a trip to the MLRC Rallycross in Bancroft. No trailer this time, but lots of pop, water, ice, tables and a big camp stove, so there was some weight in the back.
After feeding the rallycross competitors, we headed out of Bancroft, the bed full of catering gear but minus all of the heavy stuff. I decided to take a road that we have never been down, just to see where it went. The semi-rural tarmac road wound its way past a few houses and then the tiny local air strip before degrading to gravel and becoming a bit more twisty. Soon, we came upon a yellow sign warning of “No Winter Maintenance”, which is Ontario’s notice that fun times are ahead. Game on!
At this point, the reasoning behind owning a Raptor become more apparent than ever. The track narrowed so much that at some points, the Raptor was wider than the gravel surface. So tight and twisty that 60 km/h felt like we were in a stage rally, the Raptor’s Fox Racing shocks soaked up every rock ledge that the Canadian shield threw its way. So much so that I commented on how smooth the ride was despite the rough surface.
Driving in Off Road mode, the transmission shifts were set to allow for higher revolutions, keeping the turbos spooled up for instant power availability. The stability control was dialed back a bit, allowing for a healthy dose of easily manageable tail wagging. That is a good thing on really loose surfaces, where the big truck initially wants to understeer towards the woods, until a bit of welly coaxes the back end to come around, pointing the front end in the intended direction. The standard B.F. Goodrich All Terrain Ko2 tires are the perfect choice for this type of driving.
Back on the pavement, we continued our sunny Sunday afternoon drive in comfort, as the Raptor rolled along cottage country roads surprisingly peacefully.
At our final event of our week with the Raptor, one participant arrived in his own Raptor, identical to the one we were towing with. He joked that the dealer promised that it was a unique truck and here he was rolling into a Holiday Inn parking lot and the caterer had the same machine! Given that he had just driven from Montreal, we talked about fuel economy. I told him about my early experience and he said “No way, driving that slow is way too boring”. He had set his cruise control somewhere north of 130 KM/H and still saw an indicated consumption of under 16 L/100 KM.
In a week of mixed urban highway, country roads, fully loaded and towing along with an hour of what could best be called spirited dirt track driving thrown in, the Lightning blue beast sipped just 14.4 L/100 KM. That is better than many small crossovers would have fared in the same driving.
With a base price of $68,399 here in Canada, our tester had a fully load of options that bumped the ticket to an additional $15,100. The honest truth then is that the buyer of a pickup truck worth 85 grand isn’t going to be quibbling over fuel costs, but the most I put in the tank was $125 which is a really good saving over the previous, V8 powered version. A bit of financial practicality never hurt anybody!