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Made in truck heaven

If you’ve ever seen desert rallies, where hand-built trucks race acrosssand dunes and rock crests, you’ll appreciate the work that goes intomaking one of these ultra-tough machines.

If you’ve ever seen desert rallies, where hand-built trucks race across sand dunes and rock crests, you’ll appreciate the work that goes into making one of these ultra-tough machines. Now, you can buy a version right off the showroom floor, as Ford introduces the 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor.

It’s the first truck produced by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (hence the SVT) since the 2004 Lightning. And while it’s naturally going to appeal to a niche market, its design, engineering and tough-but-tender nature make it one of the best trucks I’ve ever driven.

The only way you can get close to this combination of power and prowess otherwise is to build it yourself.

Only 550 are slated for Canada for 2010, starting at $48,299. That’s a lot of money, but it’s impossible to outfit a regular F-150 exactly like it, at any price. More importantly, and very unusually for this much off-road ability, it’s also almost ridiculously comfortable on city streets. You won’t have to pay once for a weekend toy, and again for a workday commuter.

It comes only as a Super Cab, with five-foot-five box, and right now with a 5.4-litre V8 with six-speed automatic transmission, producing 320 horsepower.

A 400-horsepower 6.2-litre V8 will also be available. Naturally, 4x4 is the only configuration available, and Canadian trucks come complete with a luxury package that’s optional for U.S. buyers.

The body is wider than a stock F-150, to accommodate the beefier suspension and Raptor-specific, 35-inch BF Goodrich tires. The fenders are rounded off, and a huge grille carries the brand name across its width. Inside, there are SVT-specific gauges, wheel and trim.

But the Raptor’s heart is in its suspension. Racing shock manufacturer Fox Engineering created a new, rebuildable triple-bypass shock that, unlike most of Fox’s products, you can only buy when the rest of the Raptor is attached. Ford says it’s the first time any production truck has used anything like it.

It stiffens as it compresses, becoming four times harder at the end of the stroke. The shocks let me take it over a series of desert crests at 65 km/h, as easily as tackling a speed bump at the mall, but turned pliable enough for an asphalt ride that’s more comfortable than the regular F-150’s performance.

So does any of this make sense at a time when hybrids are hot, and compacts are king?

Well, no matter what fuel prices do, trucks are a necessity for some and a hobby for others, and if Go RVing can run TV ads extolling the virtues of driving a house across the country, the off-road crowd should have its fix, too.

They simply can’t do much better than with this newest Ford, which will turn heads on the tarmac as easily as it will on the trail.

2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Type: Pickup truck
Price: $48,299
Engine: 5.4L V8
HP: 320

Highlights
• Ultra-tough but tender
• Impressive suspension
• Comfortable on city streets

 
 
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