2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Review Update

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Feb 17, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Ford deals!

The Raptor is a factory-built, high-performance variant of the 4-wheel-drive (4WDFord-150 pickup designed with modifications that enable high-speed off-road and desert operation. First offered for the 2010 model year, the F-150 Raptor is now in its third generation and based on the F-150 that was all-new for 2021.

Anyone who played with a big-tired Tonka toy truck in a childhood sandbox is likely to get the strong appeal of this fat-tired, tall, and wide off-road-inspired Ford pickup.

For 2021, the Raptor is available only in the SuperCrew 4-door crew cab body style. Ford has discontinued the slightly smaller, lighter SuperCab extended-cab version offered in previous years.

The Raptor comes with a standard torque-on-demand 4x4 transfer case, electronic-locking rear differential, and optional Torsen limited-slip front differential. The maximum payload rating increases nearly 17 percent to 1,400 pounds this year, and maximum towing capacity rises to 8,200 pounds.

The base price for the 2021 F-150 Raptor is $65,840, including the $1,695 destination charge, but desirable options such as the 37-inch tire package can quickly help vault it into the low-to-mid $80,000 range.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2021 Ford F-150. This review focuses on the F-150 Raptor’s special performance features and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Ford F-150 - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Ford F-150 competes in the Large Light Duty Pickup market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 91 percent of new Ford F-150 buyers are male (vs. 90 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new F-150 buyer is 58 years (vs. 56).

There is no Raptor-specific APEAL data, which likely skews considerably younger than the F-150 in general. And Raptor buyers will also likely list Powertrain and Driving Feel among their favorite things about the Ford off-road performance variant.

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the F-150 in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you’ll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Interior design
  • Powertrain
  • Feeling of safety
  • Driving comfort
  • Getting in and out
  • Setting up and starting
  • Infotainment system
  • Fuel economy

In the 2021 APEAL Study, the F-150 ranks fourth out of six Large Light Duty Pickup models.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Ford F-150 Raptor - Find the best Ford deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert analyzes an F-150 Raptor SuperCrew equipped with the following options:

  • Equipment Group 801A (18-speaker B&O Unleashed premium sound system, Torsen front differential, interior work surface, partitioned lockable storage, connected navigation, tow tech package, integrated trailer brake controller, 360-degree camera)
  • Power Tech package (2-kW onboard Pro Power generator, power tailgate, tailgate step)
  • Raptor 37 package (37x12.5R17 all-terrain tires, forged aluminum wheels, sport-tuned shock absorbers)
  • Spray-in bedliner

The price of the test vehicle came to $82,080, including the $1,695 destination charge.

New Suspension with Increased Travel and Ground Clearance 

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Coil Spring Rear Suspension

Photo: Ron Sessions

A new longer-travel front suspension is up front with revised geometry, strengthened links, and taller, reinforced shock towers. At the rear, the Raptor breaks ranks with the regular-issue F-150 and introduces an all-new 5-link coil-spring rear suspension with 24-inch progressive-rate coils and extra-long trailing arms. The new hardware accommodates longer suspension travel and delivers increased wheel articulation to handle uneven terrain side to side. Similar to the setup in the Ram 1500 pickup, the Raptor’s rear suspension has less unsprung mass for improved response to road inputs than the previous leaf-spring design still used by other F-150 models.

With the Raptor’s stock 35-inch tires, suspension travel increases about an inch, to 14 inches in front and 13 inches at the rear.

The 2021 Raptor moves to the latest Fox Live Valve adaptive shocks, now upsized to 3.1-inch shock bodies with low-friction fluid. These electronic, internal-bypass dampers read the road surface from an array of sensors on the suspension and frame, giving them the ability to custom-tailor the compression and rebound control of each shock individually 500 times per second, according to Ford. Even if you’re not catching big air dune-hopping with glee in the desert, the combination of tall tires and the Fox adaptive shocks in the new Raptor takes the edge off particularly nasty, Big Gulp-spilling shopping center speed bumps, ruts, and steep driveway ramps. Plus, the combination of progressive-rate rear coil springs and adaptive shocks helps minimize rear-wheel hop under hard acceleration.

New 37-inch Tire Package

The 2021 F-150 Raptor is available with the largest tires ever offered on a Ford half-ton pickup truck. Buyers can upgrade the standard 35-inch tires to 37x12.5R17 BF Goodrich T/A K02 all-terrain rubber.

With the optional 37-inch-tall tires, the Raptor bridges over ruts or potholes that might swallow a compact car’s wheel and tire and traverses other rough terrain more easily. Another benefit of the tall tires is improved ground clearance, increased about an inch over the 35s to 13.1 inches in front and 12 inches at the rear. The 37-inch tires also increase the Raptor’s approach angle from 31 to 33.1 degrees, the breakover angle from 22.7 to 24.4 degrees, and the departure angle from 23.9 to 24.9 degrees. Of course, scrapes over rocks, tree stumps, and large dirt berms are inevitable but of little consequence to the Raptor, which has strategically placed skid plates for just such earthly encounters.

The tall tires also give the Raptor’s suspension more of an air cushion when the tire encounters the inevitable large rock or other sharp impacts. All Raptors equipped with 37-inch tires utilize a strengthened frame to handle higher-impact loads.

Low-Speed Torque Improved

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Blue Twin-turbo V6 Engine

Photo: Ron Sessions

It’s not the supercharged V8 Ram 1500 TRX competitor some fans were hoping for (the highly anticipated Raptor R V8 is coming later in the 2022 calendar year). Still, the 450-horsepower twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 under the massive sculpted and vented hood of the 2021 F-150 Raptor offers more-than-ample performance on- and off-road.

One key to the Raptor’s engaging personality is the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6’s generous midrange torque. For 2021, that improves as well with a retuning that improves low-end response by bringing in its 510 pound-feet of maximum torque sooner, now at 3,000 rpm instead of 3,500 as in last year’s model.

Even with the big tires, EPA-estimated combined city/highway fuel economy is 15-16 mpg. I saw an average indicated 15.4 mpg in a week of mixed pavement and dirt-trail driving. With the Raptor’s big 36-gallon fuel tank, that would result in a cruising range over 500 miles, a big relief when venturing the meaty-tired 4x4 Ford pickup far from civilization.

New Active Exhaust System

Part and parcel of a gas-powered performance machine is its engaging soundtrack. While the higher-pitched sound of the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 isn’t the menacing rumble of the Ram 1500 TRX’s Hellcat V8, the 2021 Raptor’s new 3-inch equal-length dual exhaust with built-in X-pipe and phonic “trombone loop” offers a pleasing auditory experience.

Not only does the pass-through muffler design sound appropriately throaty, but a new active exhaust valve in the pipes allows the driver to custom-tailor the sound. There are four sound modes: Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Baja. As you might expect, Sport is talkative and Baja mode even more so. Quiet mode comes in handy, too, for those times when one might want to slink home late at night without rattling the china or waking the baby.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Blue Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Now improved with the latest in long-travel suspension tech, the original full-size pickup off-road dune runner still makes a lot of sense for buyers who want a capable pickup for workaday activities and a well-engineered recreational toy for weekends. Upgraded with supportive Recaro front seats, the Raptor brings all of the F-150’s advanced safety and connectivity technology and blends luxurious cabin fitments with serious high-speed off-road capabilities.

Still with no answer to the V8-powered Ram 1500 TRX, the third-generation Ford F-150 Raptor is all-new for 2021. It differentiates itself from the regular-issue F-150 with a smoother-riding, new coil-spring rear suspension, greater ground clearance, and the latest Fox adaptive shocks.

Over the course of the last year and a half, Ram’s 702-hp supercharged Hemi V8-powered 1500 TRX has eclipsed the Raptor’s standing as the dune-running personal trophy truck champ with a 56-percent power advantage over the current 450-hp twin-turbo V6 Ford offering. Not to mention pavement superiority in the stoplight Grands Prix where the Raptor V6’s snappy 5.3-second zero-to-60 mph sprint is no match for the Hellcat-powered TRX’s sub-4-second snarl to 60.

Tipping the scales at around 6,200 pounds dripping wet, the Raptor is no lightweight even with the inherited F-150 military-grade aluminum body. But that’s still significantly less portly than the Ram 1500 TRX’s near 7,000-pound curb weight. The Raptor’s standard 10-speed automatic transmission offers two more ratios than the TRX’s 8-speed, giving more opportunities to keep its twin-turbo V6 in the sweet spot of its power curve for good all-around response.

Of course, all eyes will be on Ford’s upcoming Raptor R, due to hit the streets (and dunes) this calendar year. The R version is expected to roll with at least 650 hp from a truck-tuned iteration of the supercharged double-overhead-cam, 4-valve-per-cylinder 5.2-liter Predator V8 currently lurking under the hood of the Mustang Shelby GT500.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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