2012 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Off-Road Trail Test

Raptor 8
We have to admit it’s a little confusing. First, SVT goes to all the trouble to turn the new Ford F-150 into one of the world’s most capable desert-running full-size trucks. Sure, it took brand-new heavy-duty, long-travel suspension components to make it happen, and SVT was investing all this time and money to be the instant leader in a segment where really no one cared to be, but that didn’t matter. To its credit, SVT came out of the gate full speed, never looking back. 

But then something happened. In fact, many folks in the media said a pre-running pickup truck that you can beat up over rutted dirt roads and lumpy sand washes was fine, but why shy away from real four-wheel-drive prowess like the Ram Power Wagon has? Is that why you didn’t make a serious 4x4, they prodded. After all, they said, many more people use their 4x4 switch or lever or button to go slow — be it on a trail, to the cabin or for better pulling power — than they do blasting through remote open desert. 

Some of the hardcore four-wheeling journalists and consumer critics said the SVT Raptor was a good niche vehicle, but with an open diff on such a big truck, it really can’t be called a very good off-road vehicle. So that got the SVT engineers thinking, “What if?”

Eventually, that “what if” turned into the 2012 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, which is pretty much identical to the 2011 model except for a new Torsen limited-slip differential for the front and a new front camera in the grille. 

We’ve already noted some of the pricing and U.S. sales figures in a previous post, so here we will talk specifically whether these slight additions make the Raptor as powerful going slowly through the rocks as it is going like a bat out of hell through the desert. 

Raptor 1
Again, to its credit, Ford didn’t shy away from this challenge and took a small group of journalists to the ultimate rock-crawling playground, in the hills in and around Moab, Utah. It’s an area famous for a certain type of geological rock, called slickrock by the locals, that feels like 100-grit sandpaper to the touch and provides an amazing amount of traction for big-tired Jeeps and four-wheelers. (The name slickrock was given to these formations in the 1800s when the only mode of transportation was horseback, and shoed and unshoed horses alike would skate on the rocks like they were made of ice. Many a bank robber successfully hid from a posse in these hills just for that reason, we’re told.) 

At the parking lot at the beginning of Hell’s Revenge trail, we could air down the 35-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires between 15 and 18 pounds per square inch, basically giving us 33-inch tires with a nice side bulge. Locked in low range and creeping in 1st gear, the extra grab from each tire was going to be needed. In front of us was a narrow ridge of slickrock, climbing onto a razorback just barely wider than the Raptor itself. 

After everyone got moving comfortably on the trail, thanks in part to our trail leader and Moab native Dan Mick, we settled in for hour after hour of steep hill climbs, narrow ledge crawls and unnerving side hill balancing acts, sometimes just 10 feet to the sandy bottom of the rock wall. Other times we were about 300 feet above the Colorado River, with the vertical face of the cliff just off the side of our sidewalls. 

All of our Raptors were SuperCab models to keep the wheelbase as short as possible because many of the obstacles on Hell’s Revenge deal with climb rock faces. It didn’t take long for several of our car-loving trail drivers to figure out that if you approach a rock face at a perpendicular angle, you’ll likely scrape the bumper or front tow hook. But if you approach the steep face at an angle, the flex of the suspension and traction at all four corners is the only way to navigate that section of steep trail.   

Raptor 10
In fact, it was only during these moments that the full benefits of the front Torsen were fully seen. (Actually, felt from the driver’s seat.)  The rest of the time, the front limited-slip diff was invisible. We were told this was because, unlike other race-tuned Torsens, Ford set the preload of the differential to zero so there would be very little detectable feedback when driven normally. However, when sensing slip at high or slow speed, the helical gears inside the diff ramp up on themselves and basically lock up at a given point to transfer torque from the slipping front tire to the tire with traction. 

As you might imagine, on the steep hill climbs and off-camber rock faces, the front Torsen gave us all the front grip we could handle. Naturally, many of our climbs required us to pull the four-wheel-drive selector out to engage the rear locker, and truthfully, we probably would have been just fine with most of the trail challenges simply with the rear locker. But, as our wise trail leader reminded us, very few people get in trouble in Moab by having too much traction. 

So we attacked the six-mile trail meandering over rocks and navigating through dry washes and onto slab surfaces as big as a shopping mall, all the while in low range speeding along at about 1 or 2 mph. We snaked through tree shrubs and even made our way into deep “bathtubs” where wind and rain had carved out truck-sized holes in the rock that allowed us to dip over the lip on one side, disappear into a 20-foot hole, then reappear on the other side as if we were climbing out of a grave. If it weren’t for the darkened tracks on the trail — from the hundreds of vehicles that come this way every year, each one leaving a tiny amount of tire rubber on the ground — no one would believe that this vehicle, let alone a full-size pickup truck, could enter the pit. 

Another particularly intimidating obstacle came at our lunch stop. Not only did we get to see some stunning radio-controlled helicopter acrobatics (our hosts invited them along to shoot video of us at various stops), but we got to watch a masterfully driven Raptor execute a flawless run up Hell’s Gate, a narrow wedge of rock that takes a delicate throttle and supernatural tire placement to keep from tipping over or wedging your vehicle sideways. The Raptor’s (and driver’s) performance was impressive.  

Raptor 13
Our favorite challenge, though, came after the snaking part of Hell’s Revenge where the trail winds around various bathtubs until you come to Dragon’s Back. As the name implies, it is a narrow ridge of rock with 100-foot drops on both sides, and you need to put your tires on either side of the dragon’s back ridge. And to complicate things, the ridge starts over a blind drop-off where you have to make a gentle left turn. At night, the darkness would be paralyzing, but even during the day it was a nerve-wracking panic attack of a drive. 

Still, this was the perfect situation to highlight one of Ford’s new options, the front-mounted camera. As we pulled up to the ledge, we saw that we needed to adjust our front tires slightly to the left then slowly proceed with the ridge between the blue lines. It was a little comforting once we got over the initial discomfort of not looking out the front window while driving. It’s worth mentioning that we’d normally not risk doing a trail like this without designated spotters to let us know where to turn and where to put the tires, but the camera seemed to act like a good spotter. 

Raptor 2
It does take some effort to remember you have the camera, unless it’s absolutely required. In some ways, it is just like using the rear camera only when hooking up a trailer or backing into a parking space. But on our trail drive, having the front camera turned on so that it always came on at speeds slower than 15 mph — which on our trail was all the time — was a nice added piece of information to keep our tires pointed in the right direction and on top of the right rocks. Visibility was quite good, with a healthy wide-angle aspect to the lens. Still, it gives you a clear idea of exactly what the front tires will make contact with in the near (or very near) future. 

The only damage to our vehicle was some slight scratches to the tailpipe and a few small scrapes to the side steps. With that said, we did notice the Raptor may not have been the best vehicle for this trail, given that just about everyone put some good scratches into the rocks with the rear tow hooks on several of the rock climbs. (Some just couldn’t get the hang of taking the rock faces at an angle). 

The final obstacle of the trail was a polished off-angle rock slab called Tip Over Challenge. The 20-yard section of rubber-rubbed rock slopes off to the right and has naturally formed grooves in the face that are just the right size to grab and twist at vehicle tires. At different points during the short climb (and it doesn’t matter what type of tire you have), you’ll find yourself steering to the left, wanting to climb in that direction, but sliding and slipping off to the right. The worst thing you can do at that moment is let off the throttle. The second-worst thing you can do is give too much throttle. So you modulate, fight your instincts, feather the throttle a little, then hunt for a touch more traction by slowly moving the steering wheel from right to left, all the time sliding deeper and deeper to the right. If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel one of the tires grab and give you a boost while another grabs a foothold and pulls you toward the large rock face up the hill. Then, right before you hit the outcropping much farther to the left than you think you should be, you turn to the right and climb off the slope. 

Raptor 14
Our guess is with more tire pressure, or without the Torsen front locker, or with a lesser driver, any one of those variables could have sent us over the edge, rolling into the waiting riverbed. Thankfully nothing bad happened. 

There’s no doubt that a Power Wagon, with its sway bar disconnects and front and rear lockers, would have done at least as well. Or it’s quite possible a Baja Series Toyota Tacoma, with its rugged frame and suspension, could have survived this trail as well. But given that fact many wouldn’t have put the 2011 Raptor in their company on this type of trail last year, this a particularly impressive feat. We knew the Raptor was good for desert-running off-road driving, but now it seems to be the king in all types of off-road terrain. We’re even told it is becoming famous for its winter driving prowess as well, though we’re not too sure about the BFG all-terrain as a snow or all-weather tire. But that debate is for another day. 

For this test, the score at the end of this trail ballgame was SVT Raptor 8 (we had eight trucks start the trail and all eight finished without drama), Hell’s Revenge 0.

Raptor 4

Raptor 5

Raptor 6

Raptor 7

Raptor 11

Raptor 12

Raptor TT


Its so beautiful, now how many of us can actually afford 1 of these?

more ford trash yawn

They had better inspect those frames very close for damage due to crappy engineering. Seeing this obvious defect has turned me against them, and I won't be purchasing one now. Buyer beware.

Please quit with the Raptor drives, this is just getting repetitive and completely boring. These Rapor drives every two weeks and with the lame story about the Super Duty that went a million miles on 3 engines is just makes this site look like a Ford fan club site. How about some reports on GM or RAM products please to at least bring a little neutality to this site. Keep in mind guys this is just my opinion and I'm not trying to bash, but I'm seeing a distinct pattern evolving here.

Johnny Doe you are TRASH ... NorCal Greg your post is BORING, maybe if FIAT/GM/TOYOTA would build something worth a CRAP. PUTC would Write about it, so many 5 year olds post here ......

There was no defect. Stop spreading rumors.

"We knew the Raptor was good for desert-running off-road driving, but now it seems to be the king in all types of off-road terrain."

Raptor is king.

They need to change the name of this site to Ford Pickup Trucks Dot Com for goodness sake. The next article that we are likely to see will be one about the 19 year old Rump Ranger or the 14 year old Super Dooty. This is getting to be so predictable it is not funny. I would be happy to see a story on an old broken down Yugo at this point

I agree. My twenty-three year old K1500 could do this stuff. I guess if Ford put as much ingenuity into the Super Duty line as they do the Raptor, they might have something to compete with the Duramax. (Refer Rumble in the Rockies, Ford engine "Job 1" FAILED...also Chevrolet website, "HD to HD Challenge" Also Ford Job 2 FAILED.) I am guessing the garbage "Slip-o-Matic" six speed automatic transmission is the failing point. Hey to all the Ford fans...the transmission must TRANSMIT power to the drive wheels. Hence the word "Transmission."

In the last 20 articles, only 5 were Ford posts. If anything there should be more Ford posts.

A Chevy Caviler could do this! Is this the best Ford could do? Heck, all the Craptor is good for is bending that weak frame Ford put under it! But that's okay, the best Ford expects is 3 new engines, multiple new transmissions and rear differentials in a few years for a truck to be called tough and reliable! This is why GM sells more trucks and this is why Jesus drives Chevy! GM wins again! All hail GM, the king of everything automotive and beyond!

@ RLS and BOOB are your saying the ISUZU powerd DURAMAX ? REALLY . My old 85 bronco would do the same so what ? RLS .

Used to like Ford but now they are just getting overpriced. Silverado with decent options can still be had for around 30K-32 K which is about average. F-150 XLT is now 39K with the Ecoboost. Ridiculous and unrealistic. Sorry Ford. At those prices you can keep em...

@ RLS and BOOB are your saying the ISUZU powerd DURAMAX ? REALLY . My old 85 bronco would do the same so what ? RLS .

Posted by: cory | Nov 15, 2011 10:24:04 PM

A Duramax powered GM HD would jerk a knot in that old OJ Bronco and bring it to its rusty and inadequate knees.

You mean ISUZU powered DURAMAX !!!!!!!


Like you're really gonna bend the frame going back and forth to the mall! The knuckleheads that bent the frames hit the equivalent of a curb @ 100 MPH. Yes Ford didn't design it with those expectations but a Z71 would've had even more damage if it didn't launch ass over tea kettle. To say it's defective is like saying Hulk Hogan bought his son a defective Viper. Lame.

Thanks for posting for me above bob, glad you pay so much attention to my post that don't concern you. (Me buying a Raptor). Whats wrong smiling bob? Jealous because I can buy an new truck and you drive one built when I was in 9th grade? A 93 chebby isn't it?

Sorry bob, your a loser again! Just face it. In life there are winners and then there's you bob. I am really suprised you even have internet service, being you can't afford a better truck... Or do you use your mommies computer?

So far the only thing that i find very cool is that little remote helicopter.

Anyone check out that tacomaworld site yet? It really sucks! I don't blame anyone from there for coming to PUTC. bob's wife could make a better site, and she's a little on the short bus side, if you know what I mean. According to a topic that's on the tacomaworld site that's where they met. They were licking the same window and it's been true love every since. Just what I read there at least. I actually only read 2 topics. The rest all involved inflatable dolls and sheep....

@Denvermike: that wasn't my post. I am buying a Raptor. That was just a jealous nobody posting using my name. I own an 05 F150 FX4 and a 2011 CC 4x4 EB. I am buying the Raptor to tow my Polaris RZR XP 900's.

@Denvermike: I'm buying a Raptor because i have a very small Weenie.

@Denvermike: I'm buying a Raptor because i have a very small Weenie

@Denvermike: I'm buying a Raptor because i have a very small Weenie

@Denvermike: I'm buying a Raptor because i have a very small Weenie


What these Pu$$ies can't even troll using their own name? Anyways, congrats and I'm also getting a Raptor and own an '04 FX4.


Not to get technical sir, But you sir... Are the Pu$$y.

I want more Ford posts. Thank you.

Huh...Guess this site doesn't care about its loyal followers. If it didn't it wouldn't idiots the above to post their comments.

@Alton - if multiple persoanlity bob is in fact the owner of a Taco site, his strategy of killing this site is working.
The petty crap is sickening.
How about a shootout - Raptor versus Power Wagon versus Taco Baja versus an imported Colorado?
or how about bob in a parking lot versus the rest of the guys on this site.
Turn it into a charity event.
5 bucks a hit.
It will make millions.
I'll drive 4000 miles for the opportunity to take part.

@ Alton -- We're working on the multiple-post solution, as well as planning our next big 4x4 test. Still have to get through winter and a midsize shootout planned for publication in January. We're testing next month. Good tests on the way.

GM wins again?....................what no?

@Mark Williams - nice to hear that you are working on a solution.
How about a winter shootout? in a state other than California? LOL

It is easy to see why the Raptor is an all around capable offroad truck.
Any vehicle with good suspension will work well in almost all offroad situations.
I can see where a Raptor could be too wide for some situations (cue Oxi).
Ford hit a homerun with the Raptor. REfinements just make it better.
I wish that they could make it less expensive (especially in Canada).

I agree it is a great truck but I ran Hell's Revenge in a rented Jeep with my 70 year old mom in the vehicle. Bring it to Harlan KY and run Lion's Den.

Wow... I was under the impression that folks might post intelligent feedback about the articles on this site, silly me. I guess the comment section of a site about trucks is dedicated to partisan politics and pissing contests. Do some of you guys own shares in these manufacturers or something? Why on earth do you make this so personal?

Grow the F up, and make some intelligent comments for a change.

@Scott I guess GM fans can't count or add very well as this year Ford F-Series sales are outpacing both Chevy and GMC combined.

Good article. I would suggest next time have all three (GM, RAM & Ford) do the same trail at the same time.

Use their recommended (from the factory with no changes or upgrades) and do the run.

@M/W- can we also find a way to down-vote garbage posts out of existance? Like the ones that have nothing to do with this article...
My question- what does Ford do with their front axle in 2wd on these trucks? Torsen diff's don't play well with center axle disconnects.

Only two manufacturers could compete Scott. Ford could send the Raptor, Ram could send the Power Wagon and GM could send....um.... a Z71?

Hi Mark Williams, I don't post here often but read the site daily. I have to say that the pictures you are bringing in are incredible! That and the continuos posting of articles with great content shows that you are taking this job very seriously. You have made the transition seamless. Thank you!

@ Bobbeh

I'm sorry for jesus he drives an inferior truck!!!

Personally, I'd like to see more about Jeeps, but until the Gladiator becomes a reality, I'm sure I won't.

Jeep is still King of the Trail.

@ Mark Williams: Great news! Can't wait for the solution and articles. Keep up the good work.

@Lou: I also agree. Trending worldwide as we speak. Boots to Asses! lol


Are they for real? Lift blocks are for posers and very unsafe!

Note: None of these pickups had any real payload. How about throwing 1,000 lbs. in the bed and try those same obstacles?

Otherwise good to see heavy fullsize pickups thrashing it off-road, such a rare sight these days!

"a Baja Series Toyota Tacoma, with its rugged frame and suspension, could have survived this trail as well"

We know the Tacoma will do well off-road at Moab!

Less weight and better ground clearance for its size and weight!

Note: impressive approach/departure/break-over angles also...


It is clear you love Toyota. Then the question what about Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Suzuki, Subaru, Isuzu, Hino, Daihatsu do you love them too? we wonder hmm...

This site is getting ridiculous. The Bobs, et.al. are driving away your intelligent commenters with their endless drivel. I realize that policing them and deleting comments would be a full time job, but is there a way you could maybe ban their particular IPs from posting comments or something?

...Just a thought.


Are they for real? Lift blocks are for posers and very unsafe!

Note: None of these pickups had any real payload. How about throwing 1,000 lbs. in the bed and try those same obstacles?

Otherwise good to see heavy fullsize pickups thrashing it off-road, such a rare sight these days!
Posted by: oxi | Nov 16, 2011 9:02:27 AM

"a Baja Series Toyota Tacoma, with its rugged frame and suspension, could have survived this trail as well"

We know the Tacoma will do well off-road at Moab!

Less weight and better ground clearance for its size and weight!

Note: impressive approach/departure/break-over angles also...
Posted by: oxi | Nov 16, 2011 9:04:24 AM

Hi Bob from Taco world

Shame to scar up that gorgeous rock with all that rubber.

Anyone notice how Ford is reacting to challenges lately?

They bumped the power output of their 6.7L because they couldn't stand Chevy/Duramax having a higher rating.

They put a Torsen front diff and camera on the Raptor in response to criticism that it was a go-fast only truck.

What they did to the Camaro ZL1 was just plain mean. Chevy has been promising a top notch car that they have poured their soul into for the past couple years. It's finally ready for sale early spring and the same day Chevy releases pricing info Ford comes back with a COMPLETELY unexpected 650HP Mustang to be released at the same time as the Camaro! We all expected Ford to answer back within a year or so but NO, they won't even give Chevy ONE DAY as top dog!

What surprises are going to be in store for all of us when Chevy finally releases the new Silverado? Will Ford let it reign as king for a day?

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