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The F-150 Raptor's appeal seems to cut across all demographics (image: Bill Visnic)

What we're driving: Ford F-150 Raptor

The wild-child Raptor is a halo model if there ever was one. It generates equal giddiness across a surprisingly broad demographic—and simultaneously demonstrates Ford knows the buttons to push to pump up the volume for the workaday F-150, which now is as common as a can of Campbell’s soup.

The specially tuned, 450-hp variant of the 3.5-L Ecoboost V6 makes a convincing substitute for old-school V-8 power—even if the bellowy, bass-heavy exhaust sounds just a little too contrived. And it does take a discernible second for the twin turbos to call up the otherwise mighty 510 lbft (691 Nm) that easily whips everybody else’s V8.

And yowzah!—this application of the Ford/GM 10-speed automatic transmission is special. The dance among the ratios is rapid, uncannily responsive to the driving situation and almost utterly imperceptible; watching the IP’s clever vertical 1-to-10 gear indicator gets to be an addiction, though.

The Raptor’s electric power steering is heavy and direct—the way good steering used to feel—but always is trying hard to return to center. And this truck’s a handful in urban quarters: front track is almost 74 in (1880 mm), which abets the Baja-tackling appearance but makes the Raptor a distinct PITA in the confines of fast-food and bank drive-throughs.

The Raptor’s individual components are technically fascinating and brilliantly engineered—yet the sum of the parts is somehow almost wilfully retrograde. That, I guess, is why this mobile tribute to width and hysteresis appeals so, well, widely.

2017 F-150 Raptor 4X4 Supercab

  • Base price:  $48,325
  • As tested:    $61,685
  • Highs:         Heroic turbo power; magnificent automatic transmission; spot-on styling
  • Lows:          Use the throttle at all, no hope of hitting that 15/18 EPA rating
  • Takeaway:   Probably never to be surpassed as the performance-pickup benchmark

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