In the past, I have invited readers to join me for an on-road auto writer experience. Only one has taken me up on it: John (Hoppy) Hopkins of Kyle, TX, joined me for a ride-along in the 2012 F-150 SVT Raptor. I knew it might not be easy. Hoppy’s first comment was to chastise me for not using spell check on a previous story, but I figured it would be worth the time and I was right.
Hopkins told me that he had owned several brands of trucks, and — in his own words — had “seen the good, bad and ugly in them all. Traditionally, I’ve been a GM guy and think the C/K series trucks with the legendary 350(5.7L) V8 is hard to surpass.”
His last truck was a F-250 with a Powerstroke 7.3 which was “still going strong at 300,000 miles. It’s powertrain performance was incredible and I think I could have pulled the devil out of Hell on Sunday,” he adds. I suspect that this is a guy who doesn’t give his trucks an easy time.
Hopkins describes his roots in rural America. “The outdoors”, says the hunter and fisherman, “is my respite.” A former marketing executive, he draws and shoots photography; all of this with early onset Parkinson’s disease. His motto: I have Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s DOES NOT HAVE ME.”
The truck and the trail
Since the Raptor is basically a road legal Baja truck, I asked Hoppy to scope out some routes, both on road and on farm/ranch property. The area had had no rain for weeks and was bone dry with plenty of rocks to give us a good challenge. No hills to ascend or descend but we could get a pretty good picture of how this vehicle would perform.
One of Hoppy”s first observations was that the supercrew cab was huge and “the seats hug you like your Grandma.” I have to agree. This truck can actually be all things to most people. It is both rugged and luxurious, the passenger compartment is extremely spacious for people or cargo and has all of the features that a family or off-roader could want. Tow capacity is rated as 8,000 lbs.
“I also noticed snappy acceleration, a lot of high end and low end torque… No ’after shock’ from potholes or bumps and no residual vibration….firm and smooth…not a ‘fuel sipper’ (at 11 mpg city and 16 hwy) but at more than $53,000, who cares? It’s got POWER,” he added.
Hopkins observed that the Raptor sat very high and must have a high center of gravity, “but it seems to corner and handle like a sports car,” he said, asking what Ford had done to make this big, heavy monster hug the curve so well? If he felt that way as a passenger with me in the take-no-prisoners driver’s seat, it can surely be attributed to the truck.
The specs tell the story, I told him, and while the performance doesn’t come cheap, this is a natural for anyone who craves the off-road route and can afford it.
The truck that we drove has a base price of $45,626 (the standard cab starts at $42,975). Add to that $7,000 worth of options that took it from well-equipped F-150 to luxury Raptor. Standards include a 6.2L EFI V8 engine (class leading 411 hp with 434 lb.-ft. of torque), mated to an electronic 6-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode and SelectShift Automatic capabilities, trailer tow package, front axle with Torsen differential with 4.10 to 1 gearing ratio, skid plates, power windows and locks, hill descent/off-road mode, off-road shocks, 4×4 shift-on-fly, electronic lock differential RR axle, and a range of safety and infotainment features, including SYNC, Ford’s infotainment/Bluetooth system.
Options included the SVT Raptor preferred equipment package 517A which added or improved upon standard, including 17″ machined/ painted aluminum wheels,LT315/OR17 BSW all-terrain tires, 4.10 electronic lock RR axle, select shift transmission and 36-gallon fuel tank,\; and a luxury package that added power driver and passenger seats with heating and cooling, power adjustable pedals, electronic automatic temperature control, remote start, trailer brake controller and universal garage door opener. Box side graphics that refinely screamed Raptor were about $1,000 of the sticker price and the Sony entertainment package ($2470) and front/rear camera system ($525) brought it up to the $53,000 price tag.
Standard safety features include Ford’s AdvanceTrac with RSC roll stability control, trailer sway c ontrol, safety canopy system, SecuriLock Passive anti-theft system, SOS post-crash alert system and MyKey programmable vehicle lock.
For 2013, the front view camera becomes standard and a new light earthtone exterior color called Terrain is available. Also, industry-exclusive beadlock-capable wheels to help increase grip in low-traction conditions. It continue to build on the internal triple-bypass FOX Racing Shox. Another important improvement, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps for improved visibility and the refined SYNC with MyFordTouch for added conductivity and ease of use. I saw this updated Raptor in June, and can say that it just keeps getting better.
The impressive list translates to a great ride, excellent fuel range, ease of 4-wd shifting and trailering. and a fabulous off-road experience without sacrificing driver and passenger comfort. Don’t believe me, just ask Hoppy.