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September 23, 2014

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Going off-road in style

If I could choose to own any high-performance vehicle available today, I would have to pass on the exotic names that would initially come to the mind of any car fantastic. No Ferrari or Lamborghini for me. My ride of choice would be the Ford F-150 Raptor.

I've written before in this blog about the Raptor and its prowess as a high-performance, off-road vehicle. A few years ago I was lucky enough to ride in the production and race versions of the truck with NASCAR driver Greg Biffle in the Nevada desert. I had a blast and was impressed with the ability of the Raptor to navigate the desert landscape at high speed without bending its frame or ripping off the suspension. A standard pickup would bend like a paper clip if it was driven the way a Raptor can be driven.

So when another opportunity came along to take a ride in a Raptor, I jumped at the chance. This time my ride was in a new 2012 truck with Steve Olliges, the president of Team Ford and an avid off-road racer.

I met up with Steve at Primm, NV where the SNORE (Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts) off-road races were being held. Steve, who was racing that weekend in his 700-horsepower, 1979 F-150 Ford pickup, also brought his new F-150 Raptor to the event to survey the racecourse before the start of the events.

If you’ve ever owned a new car or truck, you know how painful it is to notice your vehicle’s first scratch. We also park in the far corners of the parking lot because we would rather walk a mile to the mall entrance than risk getting a door ding.

But when you own a Raptor, your attitude has to be a little bit different. See, the Raptor is designed to be driven hard in the dirt, not parked safely in a parking lot. It may seem a little crazy to take a brand new vehicle worth over $50,000 and subject it to the harshness of a desert trail, but that’s what the Raptor was design to be used for. You wouldn’t buy a blender and resist making a daiquiri because you were worried about getting the machine dirty. The same philosophy applies to the Raptor.

Steve drove his Raptor over the racecourse as I rode shotgun. He held nothing back as he negotiated ruts, pitched it sideways in the turns and managed to catch some air on a few of the jumps. Of course, Steve is a professional off-road racer, so he knows how to handle the Raptor’s 400 horses. And that was a good thing because there were a few spots on the trail where I thought the Raptor was going to hit the ground pretty hard, but the two massive shocks on each wheel soaked up the punishment with ease.

The Raptor is unique in that it is a production truck that’s designed to handle the dirt like a heavily modified off-road vehicle. Could the technology that’s incorporated into the Raptor show up in other production vehicles from Ford? I don’t know, but I’d love to see a reborn Bronco with the capabilities of a Raptor.

Below are a few photos of the day at Primm.

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Steve (left) and I with the Raptor

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Steve's off-road racing truck

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Steve catches some air on a jump during the race

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Another racer from the day's events

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