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2014 F-150 SVT Raptor

The SVT Raptor is a high-performance version of Ford's venerable F-150 pickup truck that is one of the most unique and capable off-road production vehicles ever made. With an extra-wide stance, specially-engineered suspension and oversized tires, the SVT Raptor (which is also available in Supercrew form) is unwieldy on the pavement but a superhero in the desert, where it can travel at nearly triple-digit speeds through terrain that would tear lesser trucks apart.

Ford has continually tweaked and updated the Raptor since it hit the market in 2009. For the previous model year, the Blue Oval added a new set of wheels that can be converted to a rugged beadlock design, HID headlights and the automaker's MyFord Touch infotainment system. For a full description of the changes, scroll down to the "Charting the Changes" section.

Ford spent a great deal of time and R & D dollars transforming the F-150 into the Raptor, even going so far as to construct a 62-mile durability loop in the desert of Borrego Springs, California, to replicate the conditions of the demanding Baja 1000 off-road race. The truck's thoroughly re-engineered suspension features 13.4 inches of usable wheel travel in the rear and 11.2 in the front in addition to industry-exclusive internal bypass shocks. Supplied by Fox Racing, the shocks feature high-altitude commercial jet-style fluid and an internal bypass system to stiffen the shock as it travels to prevent bottoming out.

Thirty-five-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires modified specifically for the Raptor provide a connection to the ground, while an Off Road mode calibrates the transmission, stability control and traction control to operate effectively in high-speed off-road situations.

Power comes from a 6.2-liter SOHC V8 that produces 411 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic sends power to all four wheels (four-wheel-drive is standard, as one would expect) and features a full manual mode that gives the driver complete control over gear selection - upshifts are not commanded at redline, and downshifts are allowed at the lowest gear possible as defined by the engine speed.

Fuel economy is about what one would expect of a large pickup with a big V8: 11 mpg in the city and 16 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. The Raptor boasts a 930-pound payload capacity and a 6,000-pound towing capacity.

The result of all of the Raptor's specialized off-road and powertrain components? A pickup that can traverse sand, ruts, and other intense bits of terrain at race-truck velocities.

Unique Look Inside and Out

Beside the raised suspension and monstrous wheels, a unique grille, hood and fender vents and dark-plastic fender flares set the Raptor apart from the standard F-150. An appearance package with matte black accent graphics is available.

The cabin features a grippy, SVT-exclusive steering wheel with an orange on-center marker, while an optional accent package adds bright orange trim on the seats, dash and doors. A 4.2-inch LCD productivity screen located between the gauges of the instrument panel provides information about steering wheel angle and vehicle angle on a grade during off-road maneuvers, and can also display vehicle status info.

Four pre-wired auxiliary switches are included to facilitate the addition of additional lights, winches and other aftermarket items.

All Raptor models come standard with SYNC, Ford's Bluetooth-based connectivity system that allows smartphone users to place calls and stream music by using voice commands or steering wheel-mounted buttons. It can also read incoming texts aloud to help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, and allows the use of Ford-approved apps like The Wall Street Journal news and Pandora radio.

The Raptor can be spec'd with MyFord Touch, an infotainment system that builds on SYNC by letting users control everything from navigation to climate control to the sound system with voice commands. MyFord Touch also replaces conventional sound system knobs and buttons with a center-mounted eight-inch touchscreen, dual 4.2-inch displays in the instrument cluster and touch-sensitive controls in the center stack. Many consumers report that the system is a "love it or hate it" item, so those interested in the Raptor are advised to try before they buy.

The standard Raptor comes in SuperCab form, which features two standard front doors and two rear-hinged doors that open to reveal a relatively small rear passenger space with seating for three. The SuperCrew model adds two normal-sized rear doors and a larger rear passenger area.

Standard and Optional Features

The Raptor comes standard with combination leather/cloth upholstery, an AM/FM/CD stereo, Ford's SYNC mobile phone connectivity system, a reverse sensing system, aluminum running boards and HID headlights in addition to expected items like A/C, power windows and locks and cruise control.

Numerous options are available, with highlights including a navigation system, a premium Sony Audio system, a rear parking camera and dual zone automatic climate control.

Charting the Changes

For the previous model year, Ford upgraded the Raptor with wheels that can be converted to an off-road-ready beadlock design. A common aftermarket upgrade for off roaders, beadlocks are designed specifically for ultra low tire pressure rock crawling situations, where they significantly reduce the risk of a tire rolling off of the wheel rim's "bead." For serious rock crawlers, they're a must-have.

The Raptor's beadlocks aren't trail-ready from the factory due to legal factors, but buyers can remove a decorative outer ring, then have a shop dismount and remount the tire in a lockable position. A beadlock ring kit from Ford Racing will be required, but the whole conversion process costs less than a full set of four new beadlock wheels.

In addition to newly standard HID headlamps, the latest Raptor also gains a 4.2-inch LCD screen for the automaker's standard infotainment system as standard or a larger, eight-inch LCD touchscreen that brings with it an upgrade to the more complex MyFord Touch software. Another 4.2-inch screen is mounted in the instrument cluster and it can display various gauge and trip computer functions.

Other recent changes include the incorporation of a Torsen front differential, which adds extra grip when off-roading, particularly when climbing steep angles when front grip is essential, and a forward-looking off-road camera. Mounted in the front grille, the camera provides a live video feed via the eight-inch dash screen of exactly what lies ahead of the truck when traveling below 15 miles per hour. This feature is intended to give drivers the ability to have a spotter-like function without needing to get out of the truck, helping to avoid rocks, ruts or other obstacles when crawling through the most intense terrain.

Occupant Safety

All Raptors come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and electronic brakeforce distribution.

Key Competitors

Although there's no other truck that can withstand the punishment of driving through the desert at extreme speeds like the Raptor can, less hard-core off roading pickups include the Ram 2500 Power Wagon and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 equipped with Z71 off-road package.