Mountain Wheels: Ford’s 37-inch-tire-equipped special edition Raptor rules the road |

Mountain Wheels: Ford’s 37-inch-tire-equipped special edition Raptor rules the road

For an imposing pickup experience that takes things up a notch, Ford’s F150 Raptor adds the largest tires on a factory truck, plus umpteen lights and a widebody look.
Courtesy photo

It’s hard to imagine a more intense, fully factory-built, off-road competition race truck than the special edition Ford F150 Raptor 37, besides … well, that category-defying Ram TRX, with its 702 horsepower.

That’s really the only thing keeping the absolutely imposing behemoth that is the 37-inch-tire-equipped Raptor from crushing the competition, perhaps literally. Despite the added flourish of monster rubber and a full Baja-worthy race wrap and lighting package, the Raptor retains its same 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6, generating just 450 horsepower.

Imagine a period, a few years ago, where 450 horsepower wasn’t enough to make you top of the heap. The Raptor 37 also somewhere north of $80,000 in this configuration, also semi-normal territory in today’s pickup arms race.

Does that make my Code Orange Metallic-colored (almost Denver Broncos Orange) ultra-off-roader any less of a hyper-capable machine when it comes to its presumed duty of high-speed backcountry racing? No, not really, and it even got 17 mpg when driven normally on city roads.

It is a lot to handle on a street like Denver’s Sheridan Boulevard, where road conditions rival the developing world and lane width make this baby seem like it’s 40 feet wide.

The very surprising thing is that this even more rapacious Raptor is not especially impossible to drive in highway or urban situations, even with those unbelievably broad 37 x 12.5R17 all-terrain tires, the absolute biggest ever provided on a showroom truck.

Even the steering isn’t that heavy, although navigating into parking spots is certainly aided by front, rear and around-view cameras.

I very easily bounded along on Interstate 70, actually relishing the pre-construction ruts and grooves going up to the tunnel, and at full speed on Interstate 25, the tires were impressively smooth and the ride no worse than everyone else’s high-end monster truck package. I also took another short trip up the very steep Two Brothers Road north of Idaho Springs. It’ll certainly fly along on the roughest gravel roads you can throw at it.

In an off-road journey, you can dial up a variety of driving mode settings that turn off stability control and spike the acceleration power, and there is also a Trail Control cruise control setting to help with rock crawling or ultra-steep descents. The already booming standard exhaust has four settings, from a neighbor-friendly quiet to a full-blown Baja straight-pipe mode. Good lord.

This all creates a vehicle with a weird, split personality. It is indeed an intensely capable off-roader with a specially tuned Fox Racing internal bypass shock system built for rocks and ruts, five-link rear suspension and all the running lights, bells and whistles you can imagine for backcountry bombing, but it works as a very imposing daily driver.

The latter is a bit of an understatement, considering that Raptor 37 looks like a Matchbox toy that’s been soaked in testosterone and exposed to gamma radiation. The widebody look, with extra-flared wheel well flares, that Subaru-eating grille and almost traditional-style front bumper, all conspire to make it seem like a cement truck when parked between compact crossovers.

All that extra lift means an easy foot of clearance and a particular challenge in accessing the cabin — don’t even get me started about the difficulties in sweeping snow off the truck last weekend in Breck — though Raptor’s traditional black cast aluminum running boards make it easier to get aboard.

I very happily used the Raptor 37 for the rest of the week as I single-handedly completed an entire apartment/storage container move, with the ultra-rigid spray-in bedliner and toughened box rail tops resisting scratches and dents. I did very much appreciate that goofy fold-out step in the tail while doing so; huge tiedown cleats and a super-weatherized 120-volt outlet add versatility, though it’s only a 5.5-foot bed, so longer objects or motorbikes will have you going tail-down.

A Kenworth’s worth of orange LED marker lighting is complemented by side-mirror, top-of-cab and tail-mounted LED spotlights — no lightbar or ’70s styled roof lamps, but you know they’re out there in the accessory catalog.

Inside, you may want to think twice before getting back in if you’re actually covered in Baja dust or mud after changing a tire. It’s one of the nicest F150 interiors around, with a genteel and high-end look that’s rounded out with provocatively rigid Recaro sport seats and lots of carbon fiber trim pieces. Those seats have lots of grippy suede inserts, as do the edges of the laptop-sized center storage box; it’s leather everywhere else, with more orange highlight stitching on nearly every surface.

Raptor 37 gets the full complement of modern F150 details, including the impress-your-friends flattening shift lever, an absolutely massive center touchscreen and full digital instrument panel, plus a bunch of oversized knobs for A/C, trailer-hitching and off-road controls.

Andy Stonehouse

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