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The powerful off-road ready performance truck is remarkably easy to drive every day.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor can handle the most extreme off-road courses but still be driven comfortably on daily trips.

In the course of a week I went from driving Ford's smallest and most economical pickup to its biggest and fastest personal truck. The difference between the 2022 Ford Maverick and the 2021 F-150 Raptor is more than size, fuel economy and power. There is a philosophical chasm between them that makes it hard to believe they are produced by the same company. But I'm glad they are because I believe in freedom of choice, even if I am tempted to make the wrong one.

Think of the classic drawings and cartoons where a person if facing a difficult decision. An angel sits on one shoulder telling him what do. In this case, it is buy the hybrid version of Ford's new compact Maverick pickup because it starts at around $22,000, can easily handle most common chores, and is EPA rated at a remarkable 37 miles per gallon.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The large twin tailpipes only suggest the exhaust rumble from the Ford Raptor.

A devil sits on the other shoulder. It says by the newest version of the plus-size Raptor despite the fact that it starts at about $64,000, is designed primarily for extreme driving, and will keep a whole crew of frackers employed as long as you own it.

Decisions, decisions. If money was no object, I'd buy the Raptor. It's just too much fun.

As much as I appreciate the practicality of the Maverick, especially in crowded downtown traffic, I really enjoyed the head snapping performance of the Raptor and its ability to climb the steepest mountains without breaking a sweat. It also looks great, like a Mad Max vehicle with a good paint job.

The 2021 Raptor is based on Ford's completely redesigned F-150 pickup, which is the best selling vehicle in the country. It only comes as a Supercrew model with a short bed and a high-output version of Ford's twin-turbocharged and intercooler 3.5-liter V6 engine cranked up to produce 450 horsepower and 510 foot pounds of torque. All that muscle is channeled though a 10-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels or all four wheels by selecting either all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive (low or high). It's raised off-road suspension can accommodate 37-inch wheels for taking on the toughest terrain.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The interior of the Ford Raptor is incredibly roomy and available with practically ever advanced automotive technology.

The Raptor is also suitable for serious getaways. It can tow up to 8,000 pounds and comes with an integrated trailer brake controller on the dash, plus a blind spot monitoring system includes the area next to the trailer you're towing. Just getting in and out of it is chore, however.

But despite its size, the Raptor is remarkably easy to drive slowly. It eases aways from stop signs and lights with only a little encouragement. The big tires and suspension smooths out the road. The brake stop it without grabbing. The view from the driver's seat is awesome because of the additional height. If it wasn't for the contact growl of the performance suspension, you might think it's just a big F-150 in normal traffic.

Because it's based on the F-150, the Raptor is also available with all the advanced automotive technologies of the best-selling truck, including the company's newest convenience, infotainment and safety systems.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The suspension of the Ford Raptor is modified for serious off-road driving.

I first encountered the Raptor in 2017 during the annual Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition organized by the Northwest Automotive Press Association. The event, otherwise known as Mudfest, pits manufacturer-submitted vehicles against each other on track and off-road courses. The Raptor was named Best Pickup and the competition wasn't even close. It was a blast to drive fast and literally crushed the most difficult off-road course without even trying.

But as extreme as it sounds, the Raptor is not the most powerful factory high-performance truck. That honor belongs to the Ram TRX, which packs a supercharged 707-horsepower V8 into a half-ton pickup. Ford is reportedly going to counter by dropping a supercharged 706-horsepower V8 from a Shelby GT500 Mustang into an R version of the Raptor. That choice means listening to devils on both shoulders.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The Ford Raptor can accomodate 37-inch off-road tires.

As outrageous as the Raptor sounds, it is not that much more expensive than luxury versions of similar full-size trucks. It starts at under $65,000 with the most important goodies — including the EcoBoost V6 — and tops out at far less than high-end Audi, BMW and Mercedes SUVs. And you can dump a load of gravel into its lined beds without worrying about scratching the paint.

Although Ford has phased out its sedans, it is offering consumers an incredibly wide range of vehicles these days, from the affordable compact Maverick hybrid pickup to the all-electric Mustang-E and F-150 Lightning pickup, the revived Bronco and Bronco Sport SUVs, and the over-the-top Raptor. If you can't find a Ford to meet your needs and desires, you're not looking.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The digital guage package in the Ford Raptor displays a wealth of information.

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Base price: $64,145

Price as tested: $76,870

Type: Performance Supercrew pickup truck

Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (450 hp, 510 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 15/18

Curb weight: 5,800 pounds

Final assembly: Dearborn, Michigan


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