A first for a Ford vehicle, the hill descent allows you to focus on steering the truck on the right path while it uses the ABS actuators to apply brake pressure for a slow, steady trip. Ford had a loop of rocky trails for us to try out the crawling and hill descent capability of the truck. This wasn’t the Rubicon, but we did get to see some of the suspension’s articulation. One touch of the console-mounted button while we were stopped at the edge of a steep dropoff and the Driver Information Center (DIC) told us we were good to go, both in the display and with an audible chime. As I let off the brake the truck nosed over the decline and set off on its path at a crawl, with the ABS whirring and growling the whole way. Once we were past the worst of the rocky trail I tapped the throttle and the Hill Descent Control (HDC) upped the pace to walking speed. Think of it as a low-speed cruise control that you adjust with the throttle and the brake.
All of the Raptors at event were equipped with the 5.4L V-8. We’ve criticized the 5.4L before because the F-150s competitors all offer engines with more power, so no doubt many are eagerly anticipating the new 6.2L V-8 from Ford, with its 400hp (est) and 400 lb-ft. of torque (est). However, the 5.4L was more than adequate when it came to both crawling up steep trails and hauling across the sand. We’re not saying that more power wouldn’t be more fun, but we also don’t think that the initial buyers who don’t yet have the option of the 5.4L will be crying when the 6.2L makes its debut in 2010.
As of last week, Ford had 1,700 orders for Raptors, and they said they’d build as many as demanded. As more people become aware of the Raptor I’d expect the number to grow even faster, especially considering the price. The base Raptor comes in just under $39,000, which is about a $2,500 premium over an comparably equipped FX4. The problem is that an FX4 just isn’t comparable. For the extra $2,500 you’re getting one heck of a package.