In 2009, Ford took its best-selling F-150 pickup truck and turned it into a big brawny off-road toy. The F-150 Raptor was built for high-speed off-roading in the desert, sturdy enough to soar into the air and land safely. But its ultra-tough image and styling made it popular even in the D.C. area.
For 2017, the Raptor has entered its second generation without a radical departure from the first generation’s successful theme. Rather, it merely followed the evolution of the standard F-150, which had been redesigned in 2015. Aside from additional safety, luxury and convenience features, the new Raptor’s biggest change is under the hood: A turbocharged V6 engine replaces last year’s V8, bringing better fuel efficiency (16 mpg instead of 13 mpg) along with more power (450 horsepower instead of 411).
Once again, a wider stance and unique styling touches benefit both its aesthetics and off-road functionality. Once again, it offers respectable on-road comfort and luxury in addition to its high-performance limits – in that very general sense, think of it as the truck version of a Porsche 911.
Of course, the F-150 Raptor is more useful than a Porsche in the times you’re not treating it like a toy. Rather, it’s capable of carrying 1,000 pounds or towing 6,000 pounds. That’s less than many full-size trucks – including other F-150 versions – due to the specialized off-road suspension. But this still isn’t a light-duty vehicle. And even on the tested SuperCab version – with a smaller interior than the larger SuperCrew – there’s room for five adults to sit in decent comfort, even if there isn’t ample rear legroom.
The Raptor isn’t only for desert-running, to be clear. The truck’s six driving modes include Normal and Sport for on-road use – where that 450-horsepower engine can hurdle this giant vehicle forward with almost frightening velocity – and also settings optimized for snow, mud/sand or rocks. It’s just that the Baja mode is the truck’s biggest novelty factor, and the area where it stands out particularly strongly from other capable pickup trucks.
For on-road use, keep in mind that there’s a bumpier ride quality than most F-150 models, and that the Ford has some imperfect interior materials. And you pay a substantial premium for the Raptor’s high capability: The base price is $49,785, and the tested model surpassed $60,000.
But even nearly a decade after the Raptor’s debut, there’s nothing else truly like it. For either its extreme off-road ability, or just the confidence that the ability is there, it’s still a unique choice in the full-size pickup market.
Among electric vehicles, the all-important specification is the range: How far can the car go on a charge?
The two highest-profile new all-electric cars are both standouts in that regard. The recently introduced Chevrolet Bolt EV is rated for 238 miles per charge, and the new Tesla Model 3 – just beginning production to work through a long waiting list – promises 220 to 310 miles, depending on the version.
Hyundai hopes that buyers will ignore those numbers on its new Ioniq Electric, whose range is a relatively paltry 124 miles. Instead, Hyundai is counting on its first all-electric car to impress for its value and fuel efficiency.
The Bolt’s base sticker price is $37,495 and Tesla’s new value model starts at around $35,000, though it’s not available for purchase if you haven’t spent years on a sight-unseen waiting list. The Ioniq Electric starts at a comparatively affordable $30,385. (The good news, if you’re experiencing sticker shock, is that you can claim a $7,500 federal tax deduction on these models.)
Meanwhile, the Ioniq Electric claims the country’s best “mpg-equivalent” in EPA testing: 136 MPGe. Credit a smaller, lighter battery for reducing weight and cost.
Aside from the numbers, the Ioniq Electric delivers the peppy, near-silent acceleration expected from a modern electric car, based on driving impressions at a recent media event. It’s not as roomy as the Bolt, but it still has a useful hatchback body and a well-finished interior. Steering and handling are sprightlier than the Nissan Leaf, making the Ioniq both more fun and more upscale.
Don’t run to your local Hyundai dealer just yet, though. The Ioniq Electric is so far sold only in California, though Hyundai hopes to bring it nationwide once supply issues are resolved. In the meantime, a gas-electric hybrid version of the Ioniq is already available and is also pleasant. And if you want an all-electric car, the market is bursting with options: the Bolt, Leaf, Tesla and electric versions of the Kia Soul, Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, among others.