By now, everyone's heard of Ford's latest brute, the 2017 F-150 Raptor pickup truck, the off-road Baja 1000 racer disguised (lightly) as your average, everyday F-Series on steroids. Most folks are familiar with what it does — it's the ultimate off-road pickup, able to fly over rough terrain and backcountry at speeds more akin to a racing truck and it comes right from the showroom floor.
But are there limits to the Raptor's prowess? Places that the Raptor just doesn't do well, or areas for which it's just not suited? Turns out, the answer is yes.
The Raptor is most in its element over slightly uneven terrain that's still mostly flat. Switch the drive mode to Baja and you can hit ridiculous speeds across desert terrain or sand dunes, and jumps and bumps are absolutely no problem — the suspension adapts instantly, and with the supersoft Fox shocks it handles that terrain without letting much disturbance into the cabin. Washboard dirt roads are similarly smoothed out, and between the fantastic grip of the BFGoodrich K02 All-Terrain 35-inch tires and the race-ready suspension, it feels like there's nowhere the Raptor can't go.
But this is not the case. I recently took a new Raptor out to Bundy Hill Off-Road Park in Jerome, Mich., about two hours west of Detroit. And it was here that I discovered what riding a bull in a china shop feels like. The Raptor may be great at blasting cross-country, but it's not at all comfortable through narrow or forested trails. Once or twice I stopped myself from going down a path that looked too narrow. The Raptor's extra-wide body and fender flares meant to accommodate the 6-inch wider track and huge tires are not meant for squeezing into tight spaces.
It's also heavy. Despite weighing 600 pounds less than the previous-generation, Raptor it's still a brute of a truck, so navigating obstacles at slower speeds can also be a challenge. The Raptor's electronic locking rear differential is helpful, as are the meaty tires, underbody plates/shielding and the Rock Crawl setting in the Terrain Management System. But trail crawling in a Raptor feels like a professional wrestler trying his hand at free climbing — maybe he can do it, but it's not what he was built to do. The size and heft of the truck makes it too unwieldy to confidently navigate through tight passages without worry of damaging it.
So, keep that Raptor where it's most comfortable — at top speed across desert washes or jumping desolate sand dunes. If you're looking for something to tackle lower-speed obstacles with panache and skill, a physically smaller truck such as a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or might be more your speed.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears