The redesigned Raptor's surprising features make for a unique vehicle.

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This article will guide you through the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, a high-performance pickup truck designed for off-road use. Edmunds' Ryan ZumMallen has extensive on-road and off-road experience with the Raptor as well as with its competitors. He shares his thoughts on how to choose the right vehicle for your needs.

What do I need to know about the second-generation F-150 Raptor?

Ford F-150 Raptor Review: Exterior | CarMax

The second-generation F-150 Raptor debuted for the 2017 model. It's the successor to the original F-150 SVT Raptor produced for the 2010-2014 model years. For this latest version, Ford borrowed several ambitious updates from the standard F-150―such as an aluminum body and 10-speed automatic transmission―and gave the Raptor an imposing style and turbocharged engine all its own.

Ryan's take:

A decade after it first hit the scene, the Ford Raptor’s concept remains just as radical today as it was then. Truck owners used to spend untold time and money creating Frankenstein-like vehicles for high-speed desert running. The Raptor offers them the opportunity to buy one directly from the dealer. The second generation, beginning in 2017, set a new bar for off-road trucks.

What about the 2017 Raptor's looks has changed?

Ford F-150 Raptor Review: Front Grill | CarMax

While the 2014 SVT Raptor and 2017 Raptor are nearly identical in size, the newer version appears more imposing. Part of that is due to its aggressive front grille and exaggerated fender flares. Ford also gave the truck even more ground clearance, which is the distance between the ground and the lowest hanging part of the truck's underpinnings. For the 2017 Raptor, it's a massive 11.5 inches.

The body is more sculpted and windswept, while the front and rear overhangs are shorter, meaning the Raptor has a sports-car look and feel. That is a remarkable feat on a truck's body.

Ryan's take:

Nothing makes a statement like the Raptor. It's huge, it's brash, and it usually comes with eye-catching stickers splashed across the pickup bed. Casting subtlety aside is a prerequisite.

How is the 2017 Raptor's storage?

Ford F-150 Raptor Review: Side bed | CarMax

All Raptors come with a 5.5-foot cargo bed, which equals 52.8 cubic feet of storage space if you loaded up to the top of the bed sides. This is the shortest bed that Ford offers across the F-150 range, and you can't get the optional long beds that are available on the standard F-150. Still, it's a versatile enough bed for most tasks, whether it be hauling camping gear or sports equipment.

Be aware that the F-150 Raptor's tailgate is surprisingly heavy to lift, and the bed floor is well off the ground because the truck is lifted so high. There is also generous space inside the cabin if you prefer to carry your items there.

Ryan's take:

The Raptor is primarily an athlete, not a workhorse. The bed is a great example of why. Putting the shorter bed on the Raptor makes it more maneuverable on rocky trails or tricky sand dunes. It doesn't have to haul around the extra length of a 6.5-foot bed or even an 8-foot one. Think of it this way: You're actually saving space because you're not hauling around dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and other toys―after all, the Raptor itself is the toy.

What's the 2017 Raptor's interior like?

Ford F-150 Raptor Review: Front seats | CarMax

If you haven't been inside a modern pickup truck recently, the size and comfort may surprise you. The Raptor is no exception. In fact, there is not much difference between a standard F-150 interior and that of the Raptor, save for some unique trim on the seats and optional logos stitched into the front seats. But the F-150 Raptor, which comes as either an extended cab (SuperCab) or a crew cab (SuperCrew), is very spacious inside, with a lot of headroom and legroom for both front and rear passengers.

The one thing you know you'll get is a commanding view of the road. The F-150's big windshield and side windows enable you to look down at the road. Add to that the Raptor's extra ride height and it's like driving from the bird's nest of a sailing ship. Additional upgrades include long, blade-like paddle shifters for changing gears on the 10-speed automatic transmission and auxiliary controls mounted to the ceiling to control aftermarket equipment.

Ryan's take:

The prospect of driving a Raptor is so enthralling that you may not notice much about the interior right away. Once you finally do catch your breath and take a look around, you'll see quite a bit of hard, uncomfortable plastic around the cabin.

Normally that earns a demerit, but considering the Raptor is a 450-horsepower pickup truck that drives like nothing else on the road or off, it deserves some leeway. Drivers more than 6 feet tall have plenty of space, and the seats are comfortable and hold you in place. Plus, the hard plastic makes it easier to clean out all that sand from your desert adventure.

How is the 2017 Raptor's tech?

Ford F-150 Raptor Review: Dashboard | CarMax

For a truck built for dashing over rough terrain, there is a lot to like about the technology in the 2017 F-150 Raptor. First, there is an available 8-inch touchscreen that pairs quickly with phones, and models with the Sync® 3 package include Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ connectivity. More importantly, the optional assortment of front- and rear-facing cameras provide a helpful picture when you're surrounded by rocks, steep drop-offs, and other potential obstacles.

Driver-assist features are available in abundance and work quite well. Adaptive cruise control, included in the Technology package, can change speeds comfortably and maintain your desired distance from another vehicle ahead. Blind-spot warnings can alert you to other vehicles you may not see in other lanes, and a lane-keeping assist function can make minor steering corrections to help keep the Raptor centered in its lane.

Ryan's take:

Take it from me when I say that Raptor's available surround-view camera views are a big plus. There have been times going up a steep incline when the Raptor's windshield is pointed to the sky, and the dynamic camera views were the only thing keeping me aware of the trail ahead. Tech in the name of off-roading―yes, please. More practically, the cameras also help you park this behemoth truck on the street.

What's the 2017 Raptor like to drive?

In two words: high drama. You have to remain aware of where and how the Raptor is moving at all times due to its sheer mass and potential for moving very quickly. The turbocharged V6 engine provides 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. Given enough thrust, the engine will rocket the Raptor forward with a combination of deep rumble and high-pitched turbocharger whoosh.

On the street the ride is choppy but livable, and on the highway the enormous all-terrain tires are sometimes difficult to keep straight. It requires keen attention behind the steering wheel, which you may wish to set to Sport for improved accuracy.

Once the pavement ends, the Raptor begins to make much more sense. The big tires and impressive height make short work of obstacles. While the 10-speed transmission can be clunky around town, in the dirt it works wonderfully in conjunction with the engine, encouraging you to drive faster. Even the steering feels more comfortable since the extra side-to-side give makes it easier to deal with terrain that constantly jostles the Raptor around. Just keep in mind, though, that certain types of off-roading can impact your warranty or service plan, so be sure to check your paperwork before hitting the trails.

Credit the Raptor's special Fox® shock absorbers and cushy suspension underneath the truck with making all of this possible. The suspension's ability to absorb such large impacts at speed, while keeping the experience bearable inside the cabin, enables the powerful Raptor to reach its full potential.

Just don't expect much in terms of fuel economy. The 2017 Raptor is EPA-estimated at 16 mpg combined (15 city/18 highway). All versions are four-wheel-drive, which enhances off-road capability but can hinder efficiency. Range should not be a problem, however. The shorter SuperCab has a 23-gallon fuel tank, and the longer SuperCrew carries 36 gallons.

Ryan's take:

The Raptor has earned its reputation as a great high-speed desert vehicle, straight from the factory. Its huge tires, wide stance, and intelligent traction control systems are suited for getting you quickly over rough terrain. The shocks move up and down extensively, known as suspension travel, to cushion big impacts and keep the truck going. The rear shocks have nearly 14 inches of suspension travel, an astounding figure from a standard truck. The Raptor is the total package.

What else should I consider?

The 2017 Ram 1500 Rebel is the closest direct competitor to the 2017 Ford Raptor. But where the Raptor is fundamentally a stand-alone vehicle in many ways, the Rebel is more like an available off-road package on the standard Ram 1500. That said, it is very capable off-road due to 33-inch tires, a suspension lift, and protective skid plates.

Chevrolet also offers its Silverado 1500 with the Z71 off-road package or the Trail Boss trim that debuted in 2019. Neither the Ram nor the Chevrolet, however, offers the same high-performance ability as the Raptor.

If you're just looking for a good time off-road, you might not need to step all the way up to a Raptor. There are many strong options in the smaller midsize-pickup class. The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 has a high ride height, excellent ride comfort, and an optional turbodiesel engine. Another great pick is the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, which offers great off-road traction and strength to power through extreme terrain. Finally, Fiat Chrysler introduced its Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, an extremely capable midsize pickup, for the 2020 model year.

Ryan's take:

While the Raptor is a triumph, it also represents overkill to many. After all, you don't need 450 horsepower to have fun off-road. I am a big fan of the Tacoma, especially in its TRD versions, and the Colorado ZR2 has an impressive assortment of off-road equipment. These trucks prefer to take things slow, but they excel at narrow trails that take you deep into the outdoors. Besides, sometimes it's nice to take time to breathe in the experience. The Rebel is an impressive truck, but it's nowhere near as capable as the Raptor. Or as fun.

If I decide on a Raptor, which one should I buy?

The only major choice to make when buying a Raptor is whether to pick the shorter SuperCab or the longer SuperCrew. The vast majority of buyers go with the latter, so there are more SuperCrew Raptors available on the used market.

Ford F-150 Raptor Review: Back seats | CarMax

After that, you have your pick of options and packages. We highly recommend the spray-in bedliner. The standard infotainment screen is 4.2 inches, but try to track down Raptors that come with the upgraded 8-inch touchscreen that includes Ford's Sync® 3 interface and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We also like the available heated and cooled seats, dual-zone climate control, and surround-view camera system.

Ryan's take:

There is no shame in making your Raptor comfortable. In fact, we strongly recommend it. This is a cumbersome vehicle in many ways, so don't be afraid to make life a little easier on yourself. A big infotainment screen and 10-way power-adjustable seats with heating and cooling go a long way toward adding value to your truck. None of these features detract from the rugged Raptor experience. The coveted Torsen® front differential in the Luxury package helps take it to new heights. Now, get out there!

Ryan ZumMallen has written automotive news and buying advice for nearly a decade. As an automotive reviews editor for Edmunds, ZumMallen examines trends in both the new and used markets with a focus on sporty, affordable cars, off-road trucks, and SUVs.