By Joe Bruzek
The biggest unknown heading to Tucson Dragway in Tucson, Ariz., was how badly was the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor's acceleration going to embarrass the other pickup trucks, and would its 10-speed transmission help it? The answers were "by a lot" and "oh yes," respectively. We tested all trucks in zero-to-60-mph and quarter-mile acceleration, and 60-mph-to-zero braking distances. Braking was an important measurement in this 2017 Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge because stepping up to larger-diameter off-road tires and heavy-duty wheels can increase brake pedal effort and braking distances compared with lighter wheel and tire packages.
Ford's new EcoBoost V-6 in the Raptor generates an immense 450 horsepower and 510 pounds-feet of torque from just 3.5 liters of displacement. That's almost as much twist as the 555 pounds-feet of torque made by the 2017 Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X's Cummins diesel that has two additional cylinders and an extra 1.5 liters of displacement. Pumping up the EcoBoost with this much power and torque wasn't the only reason the Raptor blew the doors off the competition with a zero-to-60-mph run of 5.7 seconds and a 14.2-second quarter-mile elapsed time at 96.6 mph.
The 10-speed automatic transmission rocketed the Raptor away from the start line and kept the engine revs high all the way down the track. The Raptor's best runs were with the all-wheel drive in automatic, the drive mode selector in Sport and raising engine speed from a stop before letting off the brake and launching the truck. In Sport, the Raptor shifted hard enough to rock the truck on each shift. We don't think weight was as big of a factor as much as power management; the Raptor tipped the scales at only 85 to 120 pounds less than the other half-ton trucks.
The Raptor out-accelerated the next-quickest truck, the 2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X gas half ton, to 60 mph by 1.8 seconds (7.5 seconds) and beat the 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro by 1.4 seconds to the quarter-mile (15.6 seconds). That's a difference you can feel in the seat of your pants. The three non-Raptor half tons all tested with similar acceleration numbers, but numbers sometimes don't tell the whole story.
The Tundra stood out as an impressive accelerator with lightning-quick throttle response and a 4.30 axle ratio helping the truck jump from a stop. Its exhaust was also noteworthy and at wide-open throttle was the most aftermarket-sounding of the bunch. The 2016 Ram 1500 Mopar Rebel also had a meaty-sounding engine extremely well-harnessed by a smartly programmed, crisp-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, though it suffered violent wheel hop trying to get off the line; it was the only truck that really suffered from wheel hop in rear-wheel drive.
The three-quarter-ton 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon and kind-of-but-not-really three-quarter-ton Titan XD diesel were ripe for comparison as the two heavy-duty off-road trucks in our Challenge. Their weights were just 82 pounds apart: The XD weighed in at 7,400 pounds, the Power Wagon at 7,482 pounds. The Titan XD wasn't up to the task of out-accelerating the Power Wagon as it crawled off the line to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, slower than the Power Wagon's 9.4 seconds. The Power Wagon maintained the gap all the way down the track with a 16.9-second light jog in the quarter-mile at 84.8 mph compared with the XD's speed walk to a 17.2-second quarter-mile time at 82.2 mph.
To measure braking distance, we accelerated each truck up to a sustained 60 mph and then threw out the hooks to simulate emergency braking at highway speeds. The Titan half ton with the gas engine had the most confident brake pedal and the shortest braking distance of 134.9 feet. The Titan stopped the most carlike of the bunch with great composure in the demanding braking test. The runner-up Tundra had a less-confident brake pedal feel with noticeable antilock noise and side-to-side sway coming down from speed, but still stopped in 136.8 feet even though it wasn't pretty.
From there, the Rebel took a notably longer distance to stop in 144.4 feet. The Rebel had poor composure during these braking runs, squirming to a stop and taking a lot of brake pedal pressure to stop in the shortest distance.
You might have expected to see the Raptor stopping somewhere between the traditional half tons and the considerably heavier Power Wagon and Titan XD, but that's not how it played out. The XD had confident braking experience similar to the Titan half ton and stopped in 146.2 feet, while the Power Wagon took big brake pedal effort to haul the heavy rig down in 150.4 feet; the Power Wagon's brakes also felt taxed in other driving such as when descending downhill off-road trails and in street driving.
The Raptor, with its 34-inch tall tires (as measured at the track) and loosey-goosey suspension, fared the worst in this test. At the first press of the pedal, it was evident the truck would be stopping leisurely. There's a delay between mashing on the brake pedal and feeling the deceleration force. The pedal is light and feels like you can input a lot of pressure, but the truck only seems casually concerned about braking from 60 mph, and it did so in 151.1 feet.
How We Conducted the Tests
We used a Racelogic Vbox II GPS data logger to record acceleration and braking performance. Quarter-mile acceleration numbers mirrored how a dragstrip calculates quarter-mile times, including the 1-foot rollout method accounting for the distance a front wheel moves in the timing beam before rolling out of the beam and triggering the timing system, which is typically a few tenths of a second faster than not including rollout. Zero-to-60-mph times are raw times from a standstill and do not include a 1-foot rollout. All braking tests were performed on the same asphalt surface by accelerating up to a steady 60 mph and applying full braking power.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears