What's the Best Pick-Up Truck?
Typically, businesses like to rely on some type of vehicle to get the job done. For Lethal Threat, a pick-up truck was always the go-to for both work and play. Throughout our 32 years of existence, we have used every brand of truck at one point or another. Some trucks were definitely better than others. For instance, I had a Dodge Ram SRT-10 with a Viper engine that was fast as f---, but not really practical as a work truck. With two-wheel drive, racing-slick tires and a top speed of over 150 mph, this truck was made for racing. It was like riding a bucking bronco! Driving in the rain was a white-knuckle experience, and if it snowed, the truck was garage-bound for the winter. Nothing against this truck - it just wasn't what I needed. I sold it to a guy for his 18-year-old son to use, which to me, felt like I was handing him a loaded gun. I figured it was too much truck for an 18-year-old, but the kid proved me wrong and is still enjoying the truck after a couple of years.
Honestly, I had no brand loyalty when it came to buying cars or trucks. If it looked good, had good consumer ratings and provided the performance I needed, I was sold. I know plenty of you are loyal Dodge, GMC, Toyota or Chevy fans, but in my opinion, the Ford F-150 is the best overall pick-up truck on the market. I know what you're thinking, but my company has no affiliation with Ford. The F-150 has just always delivered for me. Technology, styling, towing capabilities and performance have made it a best-selling truck in the United States for the last 10 years.
Finding a Ford During COVID
At the beginning of COVID-19, everything shut down in the New York tri-state area, and car and truck dealers were overstocked on inventory with little to no sales. I was always impressed with the Ford Raptor truck, since the first year I saw it at the SEMA show a couple of years ago. The Raptor was designed for off-road racing, so it's not the most practical choice for a work truck, but screw being sensible. During COVID lockdown, the only way to buy or trade in a truck was to do it online. I reached out to a couple of Ford dealers, and found one in New Jersey. He offered a great deal on our trade-in truck and dropped the price considerably on the 2020 Raptor. A year prior to COVID, no deals were to be found on a Raptor truck; many dealers were getting full sticker price or even above sticker. That being said, we had to strike while the iron was hot. We did the deal all over the phone and a couple of days later, the salesman showed up at our headquarters to drop off the new Raptor. No games. No hassle. All in all, it was a pretty straightforward transaction.
Journey to the Ford Raptor Assault Class
Soon after we took ownership of the Raptor, a letter showed up from Ford offering a two-day training program in Utah to put the truck through its paces. The class was free; you just had to pay for your travel and hotel accommodations. You had one year to go the class from the purchase date of your Raptor. This class was called "The Raptor Assault". No car or truck I've ever bought before came with a course to show you what your new vehicle is capable of, so I made sure to take Ford up on their offer. Almost to the one-year mark of the truck's purchase, I decided I needed to sign up for the course and make my travel arrangements. Next stop, Salt Lake City - then another 20 miles west to the town of Tooele, Utah. This was my first time flying in almost a year since the whole COVID mess started. Before COVID, I would average one or two flights per month, so getting back on a plane again felt strange. Once in the Salt Lake City Airport, I headed to the rent-a-car place, which had a huge line and one employee at the counter. The first night of the Raptor Assault featured a meet-and-greet dinner, with an overview of what would happen the next day. I would have made it on time for the meet and greet if not for the two-hour rent-a-car delay. A girl from Ford called to say that it wasn't a problem and to just be there the next day at the training course. Once I got to the town of Tooele, I checked in to the closest hotel. Tooele is a small town with views of the Oquirrh Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.
The next day started off with a bit of a surprise, unlike anything I've ever experienced. Around 5:30 a.m., I started to get ready for the day's Raptor Assault adventure. Still half asleep, I pulled out the ironing board from the closet and reached for the iron from its holder. I heard a thud, and looked down to find that the source of the sound was a 10-inch sex toy. As you can imagine, I was like, "What the f---!" What do you do in a situation like this? Call the front desk? Leave it on the floor? Put it back where you found it? I went with the third option, and no, I didn't touch it with my bare hands. I used a washcloth to place it back behind the iron for the next unsuspecting victim. It was quite the wakeup call.
Starting Off Strong at the Raptor Assault
Around 7 a.m., I arrived at the Raptor Assault center. Coffee and pastries welcomed us, and we were directed to a classroom. There were about 20 Raptor owners who would be taking the course, so we were divided into classes of 10. Each group of 10 was assigned two instructors. We started the day off with our instructor, Donny, going over Vehicle Dynamics, Cornering Theory and the different Driving Mode settings the Raptor is capable of. This course was the real deal. It will push your driving limits, and have you step outside your comfort zone. After about 45 minutes, it was time to partner up and head to one of the 20 Ford Raptors they had waiting for us. My driving partner was a great guy from Arkansas who was an adrenaline junkie. If it had wheels, he was all about it. He was into cross country cycling, mountain biking and was also a Moto GP motorcycle racer. We were assigned to truck #4, a black Raptor.
All communication with our instructors was done with a two-way radio in each truck. Our instructor was in the lead vehicle giving us driving commands via our truck number. We were instructed to drive as fast as we felt comfortable, as the Raptor can handle anything you dish out. First, we drove out to the driving course that Ford had set up. A series of cones were set up along a winding dirt path, with bumps, dips and 90-degree turns. We drove through the course with care, with the instructor telling us where to slow down and where to accelerate. Again, you drove the way you felt comfortable, but they wanted you to push your limits. My driving buddy was up first. He stomped down on the gas, and off we went. Both of us wore helmets and were strapped in with a racing harness. We each got in three runs, and both of us had a sh!t-eating grin after completing this part of the course.
Rock Climbing with the Raptor
Next, it was on to the rock-climbing part of the course. The Raptor has different driving modes that you can put the truck into by simply selecting the mode on your dashboard. Select Rock Crawl Mode, set your speed and the truck drives itself up and down the rocks. All you have to do is steer. Using the brake or gas disengages the system - that's pretty amazing technology. After that, we drove the truck on a 30-degree lateral angle along a rock wall. It felt like the truck was going to tip over, but not this Raptor; it was totally stable. My partner and I both got in a couple of runs at this, as did the other Raptors on our team. After an hour or two on this course, we headed up to Oquirrh Mountains for some off-roading.
While the trail was steep and treacherous as we climbed to the peak of the mountain, the scenery was beautiful. Once we got to the top, we parked the convoy of Raptors and had a boxed lunch with beverages supplied by Ford. We all got to relax a bit and reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. From the beginning, a photographer from Ford was there to capture every moment of the day. While we were off-roading, he would race ahead of us on a motocross bike. After lunch, it was time to switch drivers again and head back to another Raptor Assault course. Its capability while descending mountains, along with its features and driving modes, really sets the Raptor apart from the competition. We had two exercises left with the truck: first, an all-out obstacle course, and second, jumping with the Raptor.
Kicking it Up a Notch: Jumping the Ford Raptor
Though this second course was more of a challenge then the first one in the morning, everyone was feeling confident. This time, our instructor climbed up to the elevated portion and gave us his directions in real time as we went through the course. Speed up, brake, bank, turn - the commands echoed through our headsets. It was a really great time. Finally, it was time to jump the Ford Raptor. A dirt ramp was built, with cones on each top corner of the ramp. From a standing start, we had a 100-foot lead up before getting to the ramp, so basically, slam down on the gas and when you are airborne, take your foot off. The instructor told us that if you are still giving the truck gas on the landing, you are in for a violent jolt. During my turn, I got some good air, took my foot off the gas and the truck came down as soft as could be expected. The Fox shock absorbers withstood the impact with no problem. An eight-hour day of the Raptor Assault had come to an end. We drove the trucks back to garage, where we got a USB with all the day's photos and a swag bag. Everyone said goodbye and started heading back to our respective corners of the country.
Overall, the Raptor Assault instructors and staff were awesome. The whole experience was well-planned, and really showcased the many features and capabilities of the Raptor. I don't think I would have figured everything out myself. I have no affiliation with Ford, so this is a very unbiased review of my experience. I highly recommend the Ford Raptor if you want to kick it up a notch to the next level of pick-up truck. If you do buy a Ford Raptor, don't miss out on your opportunity to take the Raptor Assault class. You will have a blast during this eye-opening off-roading adventure!