There must have been more than 150 of them, and they came in all shapes and cabin sizes. Base versions were few and performance models were plenty, for F-150 has a way of compelling owners to make the monster look even more formidable. The group was commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ford Pick Up Trucks, in a way only these chrome-clad, boat-backed, rev-happy Vikings could. And my first taste of the F-150 Raptor turned out to be the first drive of the 2018 model.
THE SPECS: Twin-turbo, intercooled 3.5 L V6 ECOBOOST engine with dual port and direct injection; 450 hp, 691 Nm torque; 10-speed automatic transmission Wheelbase: 3378 mm Ground clearance: 224 mm Suspensions: Double wishbone and leaf Wheels: LT315/70SR17 tires, Cargo area: 1500 L
Also available: 5.0L V8 as the base model for F-150
THE PRICE: F-150 – AED 165,000 onwards for the V8 and AED 210,000 for the V6 / Raptor: AED 230,000 onwards for the 3.5 L Twin Turbo V6
Once we got over the huddle in the Al Tayer Motors Ford Showroom on the last stretch of E311 in Sharjah, and split fifty grand among three lucky blokes to buy more toys for their F-150s, I hoisted myself into the imposing cabin. Who am I kidding – “stepped on to the running board and slipped comfortably into the driver’s seat” would be closer to the truth!
Al Badayer desert area was almost an hour away – far enough considering that a U-turn at one point saw a hundred and fifty pick up trucks make a turn one after the other! The turning radius of the F-150 isn’t perhaps what you would call tight, but for these trucks that step over anything in their maneuver, it hardly mattered.
Surprisingly, much of the hard-core, hard-boiled expectations built around America’s favourite pick up truck couldn’t catch up with the easy, comfortable ride of the Raptor. The rough and tough exterior of the Raptor belied the easygoing steering skills of the truck. 450 hp and 690 Nm of torque came from the 3.5L twin-turbo Ecoboost engine, which is supposed to provide good fuel economy as well, especially as it is mated to a new 10-speed transmission. The monstrously sweet gurgle of the V6 was in sync with its blocky, muscular grille and flanks. The loss of 225 kg this time around doesn’t show at all for sure – it looks way more than the 2.0 tons it actually weighs! Two things to watch out for – highway speed limit feels like a cruising 90; so don’t end up on the wrong side of the speedo. And while the braking is relatively quick, slow down responsibly early; this is no saloon or sports car.
One reason for the all-absorbing ride was the generous suspension travel 13” in the front and 14” in the rear: almost as generous as the rear seat legroom in the four-door cab. Even in the half-door-fitted Raptor I was driving, the rear seat and the seatback could be folded away, making space for storage. Clever indeed but the vehicle clearly had no dearth of storage space – that cargo tub in the rear was as large as an ark!
As we drove into the wide expanse of sand and dunes, it seemed to the carefree frontier of adventure and recreation – half the nation had landed up. Like lines of rapidly moving ants, buggies went up and down occasionally using all four wheels when they were bored of crawling on two. With the Ford trucks landing up in the hundreds, what a party this was turning out to be!
After a while, the deflating team asked me to go ahead, and reassured me that all that the Raptor needed was engaging the differential lock and the 4H. The short journey forward was quick and confident and in very few places choppy as the LT315/70SR17 tyres were fully inflated at 32. And then, inevitably, as the sand were large, soft masses, the vehicle showed signs of getting stuck – yes, what was an adventure without some sweat! Turned out that there was hardly going to be any sweat. The marshall, with an effortless loosening of the steering wheel simply backed out of the sandy snare. The rest of the journey was uneventful – as I ploughed my way back through the sandy gateway to the desert and set out on a relaxed drive listening to the new Bang and Olufsen system, which had replaced the Sony.
However, that was not before we put the new F-150 and the Raptor to test with an off-roading instructor demonstrating the prowess of the vehicle on the mountain dune of Badayer. The lighter Raptor lent itself to even better handling over the dunes, especially for a pick up truck with an eleven foot wheelbase. We didn’t want any rationing of power by the 10-speed auto; so the gear was in manual mode and on its sliding descent, the truck send the sand flying everywhere – I take it as a sign of pure rapture!