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2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 4X4 Supercab (Ford FORD)
2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 4X4 Supercab (Ford FORD)

2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 4X4 Supercab

Ford's diamond in the rough Add to ...

There is a big, scary, orange Raptor in front of my house. It's there because when I pulled into my driveway, our ferocious German Shepherd, a former police dog, went nuts. Crazy. Howling and barking and snarling.

And that's before I told Pax the price. With options, that Raptor, a special edition F-150 from Ford's in-house skunk works, the Special Vehicle Team (SVT), stickers for $56,649.

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This beast is a hardcore, rock-crawling ride. See for yourself

Sure, there are some extras on board - $1,300 moon roof, $1,300 graphics package, $2,300 Sony navigation system, $350 box extender, $500 rearview camera and $500 orange accents - but even the base Raptor starts at $48,299.

So in an effort to calm the hound, I parked the Raptor out of sight, behind the big trees in front. But there is really no hiding this beast. With big tires, a wide stance, killer colours and a snarly, 320-horsepower V-8 under the hood, this pickup takes your breath away and leaves an otherwise intimidating animal panting and in fear of his life.

Actually, it's also taken away the breath of at least 5,300 buyers and counting. Ford Motor says is has that many orders - so far - for the F-150 SVT Raptor off-road pickup. Ford types say orders have "exceeded our expectations."

And the bottom line padding is welcome at Ford, no question. How pleased is Ford to have found an audience for such a hardcore, rock-crawling ride? Well, a Raptor costs $23,700 more than the base F-150 ($24,599). With the Raptor, Ford is enjoying a quick and small-scale return to Detroit's golden age of high-profit trucks from a decade ago.

Ford, it seems quite clear, has learned its lessons about relying on trucks for profits and survival. A broadening lineup of fuel-efficient passenger cars such as the upcoming Ford Fiesta subcompact are proof of that. So is Ford's reliance on its turbocharging/direct-injection EcoBoost system to squeeze V-8 power from V-6 engines with the commensurate fuel economy.

But there is a small, die-hard pool of buyers who get weak at the knees and short of breath when they see trucks like the Raptor. At our house, well, the dog just thinks some strange, big animal is posing a threat.

Ford officials say this Raptor is proving so popular, the auto maker wound up building more 5.4-litre V-8 models (320 hp) than originally anticipated - and the order banks are now open and filling up for the all-new 6.2-litre V-8 version (411 hp).

About half the orders are for black trucks, followed by orange, white and blue. Who would want this truck in white or blue remains a mystery to thinking people. Orange or black only, please.

Whatever colour, it seems unlikely that most buyer will actually bang around in the desert or slosh through mud bogs in such a pricey ride. Those that do, however, should not be disappointed. Ford's engineers point to the worst kind of back-country rocking and say, "Bring it on."

In fact, the idea behind this rig is simple: high-speed off-road racer. Ford's PR types are quick to point out that a pre-production version placed third in its class in the legendary Baja 1000 race. So Ford's claim that the Raptor can bang along unpaved stretches at 190 km/h looks credible, if not exactly inviting.

And on pavement it's livable - as much as a pickup shod with BF Goodrich All-Terrain TA/KO 315/70-17 knobby tires, and boasting 340 mm (13.4 inches) of usable rear suspension travel (as well as 284 mm or 11.2 inches in front) can be.

What you cannot see is even more important to the off-roading and has just as much impact in the city: a chassis with a heavy-duty suspension, new half-shaft joints and Fox Racing Shox - what the Baja cognoscenti know as "internal bypass" shocks. They get stiffer as the shocks travel, preventing the truck from bottoming out with a thunk when you launch it over a small cliff.

Ford Canada has about 550 of these Raptors for sale, but you'll need to frequent one of the dealers certified to handle SVT vehicles. They'll all tell you the same thing: if you want this truck in Canada, you'll pay the all-in price that includes a standard Luxury Package of dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way heated leather seats with memory, auto-dimming exterior mirror, power-adjustable pedals and six-CD stereo.

So the luxury goods are non-negotiable, along with all sorts of other basics. That is, the Raptor starts as an F-150 Super Cab with the short box, which means it's a short-wheelbase pickup.

The look, meanwhile, includes a grille stamped with a huge Ford logo, big, slightly rounded fenders and a body that is 178 mm wider than a standard F-series. How wide is that? Wide enough to require moulded LED clearance lights in the four corners. Three more decorate the grille. You also get tow hooks front and rear, cast aluminum running boards, Raptor-specific bumpers and skid plate, hood vents and SVT-badged side vents. It's the whole package, believe me and believe Pax.

Inside, Ford has loaded up with SVT gauges, special instrument panel trim, available two-tone leather seats and a Raptor-specific steering wheel.

If you're serious, you can punch buttons for sport and off-road modes. Play with them to optimize the traction control, turn off the electronic stability control, and dial back the antilock brakes to stop more effectively on gravel or sand.

Like other F-150s, the package includes an integrated trailer brake controller. For those buyers who might want to add a winch or a light rack, Ford has pre-wired the truck into four console-mounted auxiliary switches. Also standard is hill descent control, which allows one to crawl down a grade sans brakes; an electronic locking differential, or E-locker; and a tow rating of 2,721 kg. If you do tow, though that hardly seems the point here, Ford includes something called trailer sway control (to keep your trailer from swinging wildly) and tow/haul mode, which adjusst gearing to your needs and the grade of the roadway.

If this list of trucker gear is baffling, if you are struggling to keep your eyes from rolling back into your head with either boredom or confusion, then you are not a Raptor buyer and surely never will be. But there is a hard-core group who live to own this truck. My bet is they'll love what Ford has done here.

jcato@globeandmail.com

2010 FORD F-150 SVT RAPTOR 4X4 SUPERCAB

Type: Full specialty pickup

Price: $49,799

Engine: 5.4-litre V-8

Horsepower/torque: 329 hp/390 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-drive and part-time four-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.7 city/11.3 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Dodge Ram 2500 Power Wagon, Hummer H3T, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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