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Yes, You Can Confidently Tow With a Ford F

Mar 22, 2024

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One question we hear quite frequently at social gatherings comes from friendly folks wondering how well the F-150 Raptor tows. It's understandable since most people don't have the desire (or means) to have multiple trucks in the driveway. For the Raptor to work as both an off-road toy and a facilitator of fun, it also needs to be a competent tow rig. To test this, we sourced a pair of the most common recreational trailers, a 21-foot toy hauler travel trailer and an 18-foot flatbed utility trailer—and we've been putting in the miles.

Being a member of the F-150 family, the Raptor comes well equipped for towing. A Class IV hitch receiver is standard along with a seven-pin trailer wiring plug. An integrated trailer brake controller is included as part of the Tow Technology package in the Equipment Group 801A package along with Pro Trailer Backup Assist (both of which were made standard for 2023).

The truck offers an integrated trailer sway control system, which functions by utilizing the stability control system to detect trailer sway. When sway is detected, a message is displayed on the instrument cluster alerting the driver to slow down as the truck automatically modulates torque output and brakes individual corners as needed to help bring the trailer under control. The system can't prevent trailer sway, but it does a pretty good job of mitigating it. Thankfully, the Raptor's added width makes for an incredibly stable ride, and we have yet to get any sort of excessive sway warning.

Blind-spot monitoring through the BLIS system also works when a trailer is in tow. Utilizing the system isn't quite as simple as some other manufacturers make it (Ram's system automatically detects trailer length) but it's fairly straightforward. When a trailer is plugged in, the truck asks if you'd like to create or select a profile. While creating a profile you'll need to enter the trailer's overall length (from tongue to tail) rounded to the nearest 3 feet. With that information, the blind-spot warning system will be active with the trailer in tow. The BLIS system won't work with a gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer, which isn't much of an issue for Raptor owners, and it can be toggled off if desired. After nearly 2,000 miles of towing with the Raptor, we can say the blind-spot monitoring with a trailer works almost flawlessly and is greatly appreciated.

One of the most controversial towing aids is Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist. To set up the system, you need to apply a special checkerboard sticker to the trailer's tongue and then do a setup procedure that involves entering the trailer's basic dimensions and then driving at slow speed, making a series of left and right turns, as directed by the truck. Attempting to set up the system with our run-of-the-mill 18-foot utility trailer proved to be quite the chore. The setup repeatedly failed during the drive-and-turn portion of the process, making for a very frustrating afternoon. Once setup is completed, we find the system to be only mildly useful. The Pro Trailer Backup Assist system functions by allowing the driver to back a trailer using the dash-mounted knob and the truck's cameras. However, for those who are competent at reversing a trailer, the system does nothing but add confusion. That said, it can reverse a trailer in a straight line while automatically adjusting for road crown and other imperfections. This party trick alone makes it worth going through the hassle of setup, we suppose, even for the most seasoned drivers.

Largely due to its squishy long-travel suspension and large soft tires, Ford's F-150 Raptor has always come with lower max towing and payload specs. For our Raptor those numbers are 8,200 pounds of trailer weight or 1,400 pounds of payload (without surpassing the 14,500-pound combined-weight limit). By contrast, a similarly equipped SuperCrew four-wheel-drive F-150 with the standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 can haul up to 2,640 pounds and tow 13,800 pounds.

Most people take the posted maximums as gospel, but we know better. Our truck has a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 7,150 pounds. This is the total of what the truck can weigh inclusive of fuel, fluids, occupants, and cargo. With a curb weight of 6,023 pounds, our actual payload capacity is 1,127 pounds, or 273 pounds under the stated max. How does this happen? Simple, every optional feature added to the truck that weighs more than the standard it replaced counts against the payload rating. In our case, items such as the tonneau cover, electric tailgate mechanism, beadlock-capable wheels, and Recaro seats all add weight. With two adults and two school-age kids on board the available payload drops to about 600 pounds. That's plenty of buffer to put a couple dirt bikes in the bed but might not cut it picking up a load of gravel from the local home store.

Things get sticky once a trailer is hitched up. This is because trailer tongue weight directly reduces payload capacity. Assuming an 8,000-pound trailer has 800 pounds of tongue weight (most trailers will have a tongue weight between 10 and 15 percent of total weight), that leaves just 327 pounds for occupants and cargo. The theoretical family of four from earlier easily pushes the truck over its gross vehicle weight rating.

None of this math is unique to our Raptor, but it becomes more important the lower a truck's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and gross combined weight rating (GCWR) are. And we have to be constantly aware whenever we tow or haul anything of just how close to the limits the truck might actually be.

It's no secret now that the "Eco" in EcoBoost does not represent fuel economy. In fact, the high-output version of Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that is fitted in the Raptor is quite the opposite of fuel efficient. Despite carrying a 16 mpg combined rating from the EPA, the best we've been able to muster thus far is just shy of 13 mpg. In fact, our best highway tank has only resulted in 15.2 mpg. We'll continue trying, but it's not looking good for hitting (or even getting close to) the EPA numbers.

With a trailer attached the story goes from bad to worse. Even at just 8,000 pounds the V-6 engine works hard to move the load. Spending more time in lower gears, higher rpm, and pushing more boost pressure, the Raptor sucks down the dino juice like it's going out of style. Pulling an 8,000-pound 21-foot travel trailer, the Raptor has so far averaged 9.4 mpg. The saving grace in this situation is the truck's 36-gallon fuel tank, which offers a range of more than 330 miles even when towing maxed out.

Swapping to a more manageable trailer, our flatbed utility trailer hauling side-by-sides and weighing just 5,000 pounds tilts the game more in the Raptor's favor. On relatively flat ground we managed to achieve 13.8 mpg, which is both better than the truck's current combined average and just slightly under our best highway figure.

So far, we've been happy with the towing prowess of the F-150 Raptor. The truck's biggest drawback comes from the soft rear suspension. With a full load of tongue weight, the rear squats a fair bit, even with a weight-distributing hitch. Thankfully, the truck's headlights have the ability to adjust vertically, which prevents blinding oncoming traffic at night. We've also found that setting the dampers to "off-road" helps dampen out road undulations on broken pavement better than the normal setting. Also, even with the exhaust system in "quiet," it gets quite loud and droning on any grade and with moderate throttle input.

None of this is a deal breaker, and we've found the F-150 Raptor to be quite a competent tow vehicle. As long as you don't need to tow more than 4 tons, anyway.

MotorTrend's 2022 Ford F-150 Raptor