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2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is a desert brawler

Now entering its third generation, Ford's off-road specialist gets huge suspension, tire and tech upgrades to fight Ram's TRX.

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Chris Paukert
2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
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The 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor may not look radically different from last year, but this off-road juggernaut is substantially new.

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This is the third-generation Raptor, boasting a sophisticated new suspension and gobs of new convenience and safety tech.

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Sneak a peek underneath and you'll find an all-new five-link rear suspension which allows for much greater control of the rear axle -- crucial for off-roading, especially at high speed.

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Raptor's cabin is all new for 2021 and hugely improved.

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A 12-inch digital gauge cluster and a 12-inch touchscreen running Sync 4 infotainment is standard.

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You might not even notice this 4x4's new looks, which are said to be inspired by the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighter jet.

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Among the visual cues said to draw their inspiration from that military plane are these new functional front fender vents.

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The Raptor's optional 37-inch tires are the biggest meats we can ever recall seeing on a production light-duty pickup.

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The 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 returns for 2021 making the same 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, but there's new engine software to help the engine feel more responsive, along with better cooling. 

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The engine even sounds better thanks to a new 3-inch active exhaust system with four modes. It's louder and throatier, but you also won't fool anyone into thinking there's a V8 under the hood.

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Yes, you can even get a Raptor with Pro Power Onboard, Ford's game-changing new onboard generator. This unit is 2kW, enough juice for a killer tailgate party or to keep select appliances humming in a blackout. Higher-power versions are available on other F-150 models, namely the PowerBoost hybrid.

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You just know we had to take it off-roading for a proper shakedown. We blitzed Dumont Dunes in the Mojave desert from sunup until well in the afternoon.

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Momentum is key when it comes to driving through sand dunes -- a lesson some other drivers learned the hard way.

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