Every truck in the 4x4 of the Year test had at least one selectable locker, most had aggressive tires, and each truck was designed with the off-road enthusiast in mind. So who left the ring with the belt, the title, and 365 days of bragging rights? Ford's '10 SVT Raptor F150.
We had serious doubts that the engineers in Ford's SVT program, known for making great high-performance cars, could deliver a truck worth a hoot in the dirt, but we're delighted to be proven wrong. Maybe it was influence from their Super Duty brothers. Maybe it was their outside-the-box approach. Maybe it was just good ol' engineering, looking at a problem and finding the best solution. Whatever it was, the Ford engineers did it well and delivered a truck like no other on the market, finally taking the win in a test that Ford hadn't done well in before.
That brings up another point. The Raptor isn't a Rubicon, Power Wagon, FJ Cruiser, Xterra, or H3. While those trucks are built to go over the biggest mountains, the Raptor simply puts the hammer down and makes a high-speed run of going around the mountain.
The Raptor had many attributes that helped it rise to the top. Though wide, the Raptor had a good turning radius, which really helped it when dropped in a rock garden. Also, though we all wanted more power from the 5.4L V-8, it did have a great exhaust sound. The graphics and bright red/orange paint of our Raptor made it stand out from the rest, but it is also available in basic black, white, and blue, with or without the bold graphics package.
The Raptor's dial-controlled transfer case was a disappointment to the old-dog judges, but it never failed or wouldn't shift, so it was hard to berate.
The suspension of the Raptor is what really helped it perform off road with rarely a jarring bounce, due in no small part to the collaboration of Ford and Fox Racing Shox. The internal bypass shocks move 11 and 12 inches of front and rear wheel travel, respectively.
Internal bypass shocks are not uncommon among desert racers, but they are groundbreaking in a production pickup truck. The additional wheel travel requires longer front A-arms and a wider matched rear axle, and thus the larger fenders to cover both. We do like form following function.
In the end the Raptor just felt more dedicated to the sport of four-wheeling. It made compromises, but always in favor of off-road performance. The other two trucks might be more well-rounded, but the Raptor is just more fun.