The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor and roostertails go together like bacon and everything. Since it was introduced, we’ve kicked up dirt, mud and rocks with both the original 5.4-liter and new 6.2-liter V-8 versions, but we’ve never carved a Raptor through snow and ice, until now.
Several weeks ago, we headed to Detroit for the 2011 North American International Auto Show. With temperatures hovering in the teens and 20s and sporadic snow showers, the climate could hardly have been more different from our backyard stomping grounds in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.
After spending two days hunting relentlessly for truck news inside Detroit’s Cobo Hall Convention Center from before sunrise until after sunset, we needed a break.
Weather that looked cold and bleak outside while eating shrimp with supermodels — really cold, soggy sandwiches and stale brownies in the company of grumpy, over-caffeinated journalists — turned into a playground for us and our friends from Jalopnik to take a Raptor for a spin (actually, dozens) in the snow.
On our last day in Michigan, we exited downtown Detroit and piloted a 2011 Raptor SuperCab 6.2 to a lonely parking lot near a Ford plant on the outskirts of Detroit, where several inches of snow had fallen the night before. Only we couldn’t tell it was a parking lot as we stared out from the cockpit of our Tuxedo Black Raptor at acres of virgin white powder that covered the icy pavement beneath.
In past off-road excursions, we naturally shifted the Raptor into four-wheel drive for maximum traction and activated its unique “off-road mode.”
Off-road mode changes the truck’s power delivery and shift points so it performs like a desert racer. Gears are held longer, and throttle response is linear throughout the power band instead of weighted toward the low end during normal driving.
This time, we deliberately ignored four-wheel drive. Instead, we took advantage of the parking lot’s wide-open space, emptiness and icy conditions and left the truck in two-wheel drive, so all 411 ponies from its 6.2-liter V-8 were sent to the rear wheels.
We didn’t stop with two-wheel drive. We also disengaged the Raptor’s stability, traction and rollover controls and changed the antilock brake calibrations to their mildest settings by pushing and holding the AdvanceTrac (sliding car) button on the dash for 5 seconds.
With the electronic nannies off, it was playtime. The 6.2 quickly revved high into the RPM range as the Raptor’s meaty LT315/70R17 BFGoodrich A/Ts tires sought out the least bit of friction to get the truck moving. Several times, the truck cut throttle at redline like it was on a dyno because its traction control system was sleeping and the ABS was comfortably numb.
We chucked and skidded the Raptor from one end of the lot to the other as we explored the Raptor’s winter boundaries. We made ice-glazed doughnuts so perfect that Krispy Kreme’s chefs would have had coronaries for their recipe, and we conjured up icy roostertails that floated around the truck as we drifted on the pavement’s slick, black ice like a crazed Zamboni machine re-imagined by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. By the end of it, we were laughing and smiling as much as school kids sledding on a snow day.
Soon enough, though, we had to call it a day and head to the airport.
As much as we enjoyed playing with the Raptor in the snow and ice, we didn’t come close to exploring how it performs in true off-road conditions in low temperatures. We’re very curious to see how its Fox Racing long-travel suspension — the heart of the Raptor — performs as the thermometer drops. We expect that testing will come later this winter.
For now, we accomplished our mission to create icy roostertails. And we found out the Raptor also sizzles like bacon, even in the snow.