New Truck

2021 Ford Raptor bows with familiar engine, newly engineered specialty parts

The Ford Raptor has been reborn as a new generation model.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has taken nearly all the "good stuff" in the redesigned F-150 and combined it with off-road-ready equipment to make the new 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor. The fresh iteration marks the start of the third-generation Ford Raptor with the first model debuting just 11 short years ago.

Ford will only sell the F-150 Raptor in a SuperCrew cab configuration. It has a 145-inch wheelbase and fully boxed high-strength steel frame with an aluminum body. Front and rear bumpers are steel.

Ford has given the truck a power dome hood with blacked-out grille and headlights that run the full width of the truck. The hood's new heat extractor and functional side vents were inspired by the intakes of a F-22 Raptor fighter jet. Blacked out taillights, an available tailgate appliqué, and dual exhaust outlets complete the look out back. Rigid off-road lighting is available for the front bumper.

The truck's nether regions are protected by a wider skid plate that has greater side-to-side and forward coverage than the outgoing model.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Under the hood of the Raptor is a familiar beast. Ford has continued to install its twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. This is the third-generation of the engine, which now features a 10.5:1 compression ratio and high-power fans built into the cooling system. The truck offers faster acceleration and better throttle responsiveness for the new generation as well.

Ford has paired the V6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission and a torque-on-demand transfer case. Standard electronic locking front and rear differentials and available Torsen front limited-slip differential are fitted with 4:10 final drive ratios. Maximum payload increases by 200 pounds, to 1,400 pounds, while maximum towing also increases 200 pounds, to 8,200 pounds of conventional towing.

Horsepower and torque figures have not been made available yet.

Ford says that the powertrain is paired with a 36-gallon gas tank, which gives it over 500 miles of range. That puts the Raptor at about 14 mpg but those numbers haven't officially come in yet. Expect to see them closer to the truck's on-sale date.

Built as a variant of the Ford F-150, the Raptor receives redesigned running gear that includes a new five-link rear suspension. That suspension is designed to give drivers more control and keep the truck feeling planted even when it's deep in the desert. It has extra-long trailing arms, a Panhard rod, and 24-inch coil springs - the longest in its class. Ford specifically designed this suspension for the new F-150 Raptor.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor: Exterior

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Whoops and landings are no problem thanks to the truck's next-gen Fox Live Valve internal bypass shocks - the largest ever installed on the Raptor. They have state-of-the-art electronic control technology that allows for position-sensitive damping adjustability. New electronically controlled base valves are race-proven with an upgraded design enabling upward of 1,000 pounds of damping per corner at desert speeds.

Ford has equipped the Raptor with its Terrain Management System's seven drive modes: Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off-Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl. These are the same as in the Bronco. Drive modes adjust steering feel, transfer case behavior, stability control, active valve exhaust, active damping system, throttle mapping, and transmission shift points.

Drivers can get a surround view of the truck by opting for its available 360-degree camera package. The camera is then easily accessible via a dashboard-mounted hard button.

Standard Trail 1-Pedal Drive allows drivers to just use the throttle when driving forward. The truck then applies the brakes proportionally as the driver lifts their foot from the accelerator. Raptor's standard Trail Control acts like cruise control for trail driving conditions, managing the throttle and braking for the driver while they focus on the steering. Bronco has this as well.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor: Exterior wheel

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 3.1-inch-diameter anodized aluminum shock bodies are filled with new low-friction fluid and are designed to better resist heat buildup while reacting faster to the terrain. According to a release from Ford, "Readings from suspension height sensors and other sensors around the truck change damping rates independently at each corner 500 times per second, with the shocks responding at the same speed the human brain processes visual information."

Ford will equip the truck with the buyer's choice of either 35-inch or 37-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain T/A KO2 tires. When wearing the 35-inchers, the Raptor clears 12-inch obstacles with an approach angle of 31 degrees, maximum departure angle of 23.9 degrees, and breakover angle of 22.7 degrees. The 35-inch tires have 14 inches of wheel travel at the front and 15 inches at the rear - 25 percent more than the previous Raptor generation.

Raptor with 37-inch tires features 13.1 inches of running clearance, 33.1 degrees of approach angle, a maximum 24.9 degrees of departure angle, and 24.4 degrees of breakover angle.

Ford is offering the F-150 Raptor with its Pro Power Onboard generator system. The popular option makes available 2.0 kilowatts of exportable output to run power tools, camplights, and other equipment.

At the rear, a new three-inch equal-length exhaust system features a patent-pending built-in X-pipe, unique "trombone loop" and first-for-Raptor active valves. Ford says that the system improves the sound quality out the back end of the truck. Drivers can choose from four sound level modes: Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Baja.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor: Interior

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The truck gets a standard 12-inch digital gauge cluster with Raptor-specific graphics and animations, off-road data, and turn-by-turn navigation capability. Ford has made the truck capable of over-the-air updates and interacting with the FordPass mobile app, which allows owners to lock or unlock their vehicle from almost anywhere, check tire pressure and fuel level, and allow control Zone Lighting, Trailer Theft Alert, Trailer Light Check, and Pro Power Onboard.

SYNC 4 controls the car's infotainment operating system and allows for natural voice control, real-time mapping, customizable information-on-demand, wireless smartphone connectivity, and apps including Ford+Alexa. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. Buyers can upgrade to an 18-speaker B&O Unleashed sound system by Bang & Olufson.

The interior is finished in much the same way as a traditional F-150, complete with features like a foldable shifter. A new steering wheel features a laser-etched logo, top centering mark and aluminum paddle shifters. Seats with large bolsters keep occupants in place. More aggressive Recaro buckets are available.

Buyers can choose from standard aluminum or an available carbon fiber interior package, which influences the look of the doors, instrument panel, and center console. Lockable, flat-fold rear storage is also available.

The 2021 F-150 Raptor will be assembled at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, and available in showrooms this summer. Pricing will be announced closer to the truck's on-sale date.

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The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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