Before anyone starts chucking pixels, let me make clear I didn't drive it in any of the environments it has been specifically engineered to master. It had to cope with one muddy field and one gravel track, but apart from that the 500 miles we spent together in Michigan were all on paved roads. So no desert, snow or 15-foot berms to demonstrate its well documented ability to catch Monster Jam air and land without smashing its suspension through its bodywork.
But everyday stuff quickly proves more of a challenge. All-terrain BF Goodrich rubber struggles to find traction for 450hp and 510lb ft, especially in the default rear-drive mode. The back tyres squeal under even moderately enthusiastic departures from stop signs and junctions. Lateral grip is little better; while the Raptor steers accurately the limits are as low as they are tall and even on the smoothest tarmac the ride never settles down, making it feel like there's a localised earth tremor in the load bed.
Yet the fact almost all the official photographs we're using to illustrate this story show the Raptor at play in the wilderness show how unimportant Ford think all this 'real world' stuff is.
Emotional appeal definitely comes from the darker side of the brain, the Raptor maxing out every guilty pleasure receptor going. It looks more like a movie prop than a production vehicle, especially in the menacing black the full-sized Supercrew four-door version I drove was finished in. This is the sort of rig Hollywood gives to the baddest bad guy, the one who doesn't get killed until the very end of an action flick. Presence is off-the-scale, from the shouty all-caps 'FORD' grille to the wheelarch cladding that gives the Raptor a track six inches wider than the already substantial regular F-150. Get close enough to peer into the arches and the jacked-up suspension is very much on show, the star detail being the separate reservoir Fox Racing dampers.
The interior is as manly as John Wayne wrestling a bear in a brewery. The Raptor shares the standard F-150's slab-sided dashboard design but adds grippier seats, a modest amount of go-faster bling and about half an acre of leather to help lift the ambience of the regular grey and black plastics, and to justify a price tag that starts north of $50,000. Against which, and the massive width of the dashboard, the dinky display screen running the same Sync III infotainment you'd find in a British spec Fiesta seems positively incongruous.
While the previous Raptor ran a 6.2-litre iron block V8 that could trace its lineage to the dawn of internal combustion in under three moves, this one has been switched to a Ecoboost twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6; it's the same base engine that sits at the back of the Ford GT and which, in more proletarian form, powers the upper reaches of Ford's U.S. lineup. Power heads through a ten speed automatic gearbox to a switchable all-wheel drive system that gives the choice, via a rotary controller, between two-wheel drive, automatic four-wheel drive, centre diff locked four-wheel drive and then low-range four. There's also a dynamic control switch on the steering wheel, which gives the option of a Sport setting as well as several off-road modes for different types of terrain, and also a button for three different power steering modes - Normal, Sport and Comfort - just like in the Mustang.
While 450hp might sound like a plentiful sufficiency, the other side of the Raptor's power-to-weight ratio has an elephant sitting on it. Bear in mind that this generation F-150 has been switched to weight-saving aluminium construction, but it still tips the scale at 2.6 tonnes wearing just its socks. So while this monster truck is certainly fast, it never feels anything other than very big and very heavy.
Acceleration is impressive, but comes with the sense of gathering momentum you get with a heavily laden jet on take-off. There's almost none of the front-end lift that the claimed 13 inches of suspension travel had me expecting, the Raptor sitting flat even under full throttle. U.S. magazines have run 0-60mph times in the low-5s, more than a second inside the official number, but from the driver's seat it genuinely feels quicker than that, such is the unlikeliness of experiencing such longitudinal G-forces from such a lofty perch.
The 10-speed gearbox is the powertrain's weak link, and proof that nothing really needs so many ratios. Changes are lazy and there are pauses that can be measured in spoken "Mississippis" when you press the throttle into kickdown territory. Sport mode doesn't improve matters to any noticeable degree, although it introduces a jarring bump into upshifts for no obvious reason. The manual mode is equally sluggish, the 'box seems incapable of delivering more than one downshift at a time, and you have to pause between each one. In short, it's a waste of the nice-feeling metal paddles behind the steering wheel.
Yet you don't need to be attempting an off-road rally to start appreciating the suspension's bump-eating abilities. While the Raptor's ride never settles under everyday use, adding speed or bigger loadings gives it an iron-fisted purpose that makes it seemingly impervious to rougher surfaces, bumps and even some of rural Michigan's UK-rivalling potholes. I ended up sad that this part of America doesn't do speed bumps; I'd be prepared to bet the Raptor wouldn't even notice them.
But while the Raptor's credentials as a performance vehicle are suspect, never underestimate just how useful a sizeable pick-up can be. The Supercrew cab means four adult-sized seats in addition to a rear load bed that would put any UK-spec pick up to shame. Although less than the regular F-150, it can still tow 2.7 tons without breaking sweat; I doubt it would knock the 0-60 time that badly, either. Even fuel economy isn't as bad as you're likely expecting: after 500 miles the trip computer reported 17mpg U.S. - 20.4 mpg in British - which doesn't seem outrageous for a petrol-powered truck the size of a barn with 450hp.
Like all big American stuff, the Raptor would both look and feel utterly preposterous in the UK. But I'm very glad there's still a place in the world for it, and if I was looking for one production vehicle to drive into the zombie apocalypse it would probably be this one.
FORD F-150 RAPTOR SUPERCREW
Engine: 3,596cc V6, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 10-speed auto, selectable four-wheel drive.
Power (hp): 450@5,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 510@3500rpm
0-60mph: 6.1sec (manufacturer claim)
Top speed: 107mph (limited)
Weight: 2,630kg (manufacturer figure)
MPG: 21.6 (US Highway)
Price: $53,140 ($64,800 as tested)