Can the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Be Fuel-Efficient?


Automotive journalists write lots of stories about fuel economy and fuel-efficient vehicles. We say, so what? How far you can squeeze a tank of gas or battery charge is only as important as the things it allows you to do.

Case in point: Earlier this year, a colleague bemoaned the fact that after towing his classic Willys Jeep to Moab, Utah, from Detroit with a new 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, he averaged a dismal 9.4 mpg combined for the 1,700-mile trip. We say he wasn't doing it right.

To his credit, he did note he encountered strong winds and rough weather, and maybe the Raptor equipped with the twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost and 10-speed automatic transmission wasn't the best tow vehicle for this adventure. To be fair, he also gushed in a companion piece about how the Raptor saved his bacon on the same trip.

What struck us about this Raptor tow story was that it all seemed to make perfect sense to us. A smaller engine that uses turbochargers so it can act like a larger V-8 engine very likely dumps gobs of fuel straight into the cylinders when on boost for hours on end. We surmise that was the case for most of his trip as he towed that load at the Raptor's maximum gross vehicle weight rating. Yes, the Raptor has 10 speeds; yes, it has mountains of peak horsepower and torque; and yes, with a 36-gallon fuel tank it is reasonable to expect the truck to get more than 350 miles per fill-up. Unless you're towing and hauling across country at maximum capability.

To be fair, the opposite is just as likely — and probably just as valuable when exploring the full depth of the Raptor's strengths and weaknesses.

So in the name of balance, we decided to do some "hypermiling" in a new Raptor to see what would happen. In the name of full disclosure, we're not good at this, so basically all we did was keep our speed down, run with the air conditioning off, and keep our starts and stops smooth. We didn't pull the mirror in, tape up the front grille or employ any of the other hypermiling tricks.

We started our adventure in Valencia, Calif., about 40 miles from Los Angeles. We headed north over the Tejon Pass, giving us a chance to climb and glide down the backside of many hills. Once into the flatlands of the San Joaquin Valley it was 60 mph all the way to Bakersfield. From Bakersfield we motored east on state Route 58, climbing in elevation again through the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada Mountains all the way to the wind-farm-dotted town of Tehachapi (elevation 4,000 feet).

Route 58 is popular with semitrucks and, due to some construction, the highway slowed to a crawl for about 45 minutes before we could get back up to our designated 60-mph speed. It didn't take long from there to get to the high-desert town of Mojave. From there it was a straight shot south on state Route 14 through the commuter towns of Lancaster and Palmdale (where we saw temperatures of 106 degrees — remember, no air conditioning). Then back to Interstate 5, which returned us to Valencia and the gas station fuel pump where we started. (It's our policy to use the exact pump and nozzle at the start and end of our fuel-economy runs.)

The round trip was 209.7 miles and the Raptor's trip computer reported 23.7 mpg, while our specific calculations gave us 22.7 mpg. Not bad when the EPA fuel economy numbers on the price sheet for our test Raptor were 15/18/16 mpg city/highway/combined.

Our test Raptor was a SuperCab that weighed 5,720 pounds, while the one my colleague used to tow was a SuperCrew, which probably weighed closer to 6,100 pounds. Still, getting 6.7 mpg better than the EPA combined number for a couple hundred miles is not bad.

Maybe the lesson here is that hypermiling a Raptor (or just driving one slowly without the air conditioning in the summer heat) and bragging about the results makes just as much sense as towing with a Raptor and complaining about it. Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should. photos by Mark Williams


This photo was taken not long after our final fillup, where, after driving (shall we say) a bit enthusiastically for a bit with the A/C on full blast, we remembered we better take a photo of the readout. 


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