As we’ve stated, this is not the usual apples-to-apples, identically equipped grouping of trucks that we put through a series of objective and subjective tests, with each one making up a specific percentage of the total score. This is very different.
Our head-to-head contest is more like an old-school gunfight, where two quick-draw gunslingers stand in the middle of Main Street, waiting for the clock to strike noon. When the flag drops, the one with the fastest time wins.
We know that these two trucks are not exactly equal, but it's not exactly clear which truck has the advantage. Both get the same driver. Both have their incremental strengths and weaknesses. And both love the open desert.
For lack of any better terms — and there’s no question that PickupTrucks.com readers are smarter about this type of Shootout than just about any other audience out there — this is basically an aftermarket vs. factory contest. Can the muscular, individually sold add-on parts and pieces of the Mopar Ram Runner overcome the harmoniously designed and powerfully integrated out-of-the-box off-road monster that is the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor? Let’s take a closer look at each and see what we can find out.
Our 2012 SVT Raptor SuperCab (133-inch wheelbase) came to us with Race Red paint and a black interior. What makes the Raptor so special is that the Special Vehicle Team has built a smooth-driving Frankenstein to take on nasty, vicious terrain, the likes of which only extreme desert racers (in their $100,000 racetrucks) can navigate. To do this, SVT made extensive modifications to the F-150's front suspension to include Fox Racing Shox, heavier-duty coil springs and longer, stronger upper (steel) and lower (aluminum) control arms. In back, the Raptor uses normal leaf springs and new, longer Fox Racing Shox.
Unique front and rear fenders allow for 315/70R17 (34.5 inches tall) BFGoodrich All-Terrain TA K/O tires in the wheel wells to provide tremendous amounts of traction, as well as 12 inches of wheel travel. The bigger wheels and tires and SVT suspension give the Raptor a much wider stance than other half-tons and helps the truck with added stability and control at higher speeds.
For 2012, the Raptor offers front and rear cameras and a Torsen front differential. These additions help improve the Raptor’s slow-go four-wheel-drive capability. It’s common knowledge — and it was proved during our test — that one of the Raptor’s greatest strengths is how well the Off-Road Mode (which is what we ran all our test runs in) delivers traction to the tires when balancing the braking and engine management systems, something we struggled with in the Ram Runner.
Our 6.2-liter V-8 SVT Raptor SuperCab makes 411 horsepower and 434 pounds-feet of torque. It has a base price of $43,720 (including $995 destination), but it did come with the special bodyside graphics ($1,075); the Luxury Package ($2,970), which includes power pedals, remote start, automatic climate control and heated and cooled seats; the Sony Nav and radio ($2,470); and the integrated front and rear camera ($525). Total price was $50,760.
If we held a contest for the most intimidating vehicle in a rearview mirror for this Shootout, the Ram Runner would win, hands down. But maybe that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Any time you take a plasma cutter and welder to the front of your truck and get rid of all sorts of sheet metal, bumpers and fender, and add a bunch of skidplating, you’re bound to draw attention.
As many know, the Ram Runner suspension kit from Mopar lists for just over $13,000 and is not a simple bolt-on. We’ve heard that to do it yourself will take a mechanically skilled wrench and a buddy both days of a long weekend, but that could save you about $10,000 — the price a shop would charge to do the same work. Our truck had the Stage II front suspension kit, which includes the much heavier-duty replacement control arms, front springs, front half-shafts, longer shock towers, new steering tie rods, an engine cross brace and a pair of dual reservoir Fox Racing Shoxs. In back, the kit includes longer coils, new shock and spring mounts, bigger Fox Racing Shoxs, and new drop brackets for the rear sway bar. To install the front and rear suspension, you’ll need to know how to grind, plasma cut, weld, and take very accurate measurements.
In addition to the Stage II Mopar kit, our Ram Runner had new fiberglass front and rear fenders ($1,020 per pair); a prerunner-style front bumper and skid plate ($1,250); a rear bed tire carrier ($1,010); and a Mopar cat-back exhaust ($1,135).
Spending the money on the wide-mouth fenders wouldn’t mean anything unless there were bigger wheels and tires, which our truck had, but we couldn’t find a price for them on Ram’s pricing sheet. We guessed (with the help of TireRack.com) that it would add between $1,500 and $2,000 to the total price, assuming a set of four Pro Comp wheels and 35x12.50R17 General Grabber AT tires. Add to this the price of our bought-new 2011 Ram 1500 Sport Quad Cab 4x4 (140.5-inch wheelbase) with all the options ($45,675) and your grand total for this Ram Runner is just under $68,000.
Now, before that price makes you fall off your chair, we have to remind you that part of the beauty of Mopar’s buy-what-you-want-when-you-want, mix-and-match strategy is that it empowers customers with choice and a time-frame that suits individual want and need. Also, since the kit fits all 2009 to 2012 Ram 1500 4x4s, let’s say you find a beat-up 2009 Dodge Ram with a Hemi for $18,000 at a local dealer. ... Now, the pricing may not seem so bad. Add that used-truck price to all the Mopar parts, wheels, and tires we’ve mentioned, and you could have a strong desert runner for $10,000 less than a new Raptor, assuming you can do all the installation work yourself.
Ready to Test
Still, there can be no question this Mopar Ram Runner suspension system has been designed and engineered (by Baja racer Kent Kroeker) with strength and durability in mind, but we have to note there is nothing in this transformation kit regarding the electronic engine or braking controls. If the stronger and heavier-duty Ram Runner has an obvious weakness when compared with the Raptor, it centers on its abilities to deal with choppy roads at speed (during braking and acceleration) and the fight that seems to occur when the traction control senses wheel spin, even when all the right buttons are seemingly shut off.
Both trucks weigh about the same, with the Ram Runner tipping the scales at 5,940 pounds (remember all four fenders are fiberglass) and the SVT Raptor weighing 6,080 pounds. We ran both trucks at full tire pressures, even though most desert enthusiasts would likely let a good amount of air out from each tire to help smooth the ride a bit. In fairness to both trucks, we kept tire pressures on the high side. And again, to keep things as fair as possible, we had representatives from SVT and Mopar watching our full procedures. This was to provide them with a close-up look at what we were doing and give them a chance to see the course and all the obstacles.
PickupTrucks.com photo by Evan Sears
Duel in the Desert Shootout