The commercials for the Raptor are simple: lots of engine noise, lots of dirt being flung in the air, and lots of trucks getting airborne. In reality the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is ... all of that stuff. We spent a week in this pickup, pronking the plains of Eastern Wyoming, and we loved every minute of it.

The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor has a new engine plus all of the awesomeness that was already there. This includes 14 inches (355.6 mm) of wheel travel through its jacked-up suspension, massive skid plates, a cool center differential lock for better Baja running, and a reinforced frame to take the bumps and inevitable jumps the truck is literally made for.

In commercials for the Raptor – always on closed courses with professional drivers and perhaps some digital enhancement for, ahem, "clarity" – the Ford Performance truck is seen leaping into the air with abandon, landing in clouds of desert dust before drifting around a dirt track corner and heading for some underbrush to disappear behind. The reality is that with this truck, with perhaps less exaggeration about the actual air time, all of those things are possible.

The Ford Raptor is basically an F-150 pickup truck with a lot of modifications. The kinds of modifications that most rednecks dream of making to their pickup, but may not get around to because of, you know, warranties and the lack of a heavy-duty frame welder. Still, at least visually, Ford designers did take cues from the more adventurous mods to the F-Series. That much is obvious. Wide fender flares, deeper cuts to the wheel wells to allow for fatter, more aggressive tires, and a lot of protective bolt-ons to keep rocks and tree stumps from creating any serious damage are all there.

For 2017, Ford also did something else that took the Raptor from "cool" to "badass" in one stroke. Its engineers beefed up the engine. Considerably. The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 now produces 450 horsepower (336 kW) and 510 foot pounds (691 Nm) of torque, which is all sent to the now-standard 10-speed automatic transmission. The standard F-150 EcoBoost upgrade 3.5L engine this year produces 385 hp (287 kW), for reference.

That beefy engine upgrade comes with some nice tuning in the intakes and exhaust for some powerful sounds. This also means 0-60 mph (96.6 km/h) sprints at just over five seconds and a top speed of 107 mph (172.2 km/h). Much of that is thanks not only to the engine's speed and the transmission's smooth shifting, but also to the pickup's all-wheel drive being on during any performance driving, which improves both traction and handling.

That AWD switches on and off as needed, and can be over-ridden by the driver with four-wheel drive options, including low gearing.

There are some downsides to the Raptor of course. Mainly they come when hauling goods, pulling trailers, or running at highway speeds on pavement. There is noticeable feedback from the tires and suspension when the Raptor is driven like a normal vehicle. That's to be expected, though, and we note that noise levels and "shimmy" are far superior to other off-road powerhouses like the Jeep Wrangler with its Rubicon package.

Another major downside is fuel economy. The EPA says that the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is capable of 15 mpg (15.7 l/100km) in the city and 18 mpg (13 l/100km) on the highway. Our reality showed that 16 mpg (14.7 l/100km) on the highway is probably the best you can really hope for, and most who drive this truck the way it's meant to be driven can expect far lower numbers than those.

But holy cow is it worth pumping gas into this truck. The Raptor almost literally begs to get air underneath it. In fact, while driving on the interstate, there will be moments of lucidity where the Raptor virtually speaks to you, telling you to yank the steering wheel and run through the dirt and weeds alongside the road where the truck will be more at home. It promises to find ways to hop the median fences and Dukes of Hazzard across the spans of the overpasses if you'll just give the Raptor a chance. Sometimes, it was all we could do to resist these urges.

What Ford has created here, basically, is a lightweight pickup truck that has a monstrous, turbocharged engine and some of the best offroad equipment you can attach. Throw in a few extra LED lights, some cool interior stitching, and a lot of well-earned credibility and it becomes something that's hard to forget.

The Raptor is US$60k worth of fun times, give or take a few bucks.

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