2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
“I mean, this is fantastic, right?” screams SVT Auto Dynamics engineer, Ford Tier 3-certified test driver, and possible asylum applicant Gene Martindale over the din of 35-inch tires pulverizing desert gravel. It’s 106 degrees, and we are streaking across the rock- and sand-strewn frying pan that’s Borrego Springs, California, in Aug. It’s absolutely unhappy out here, so hot and dry the scorpions have taken refuge under the sidewinders. Word is, Blackwater mercenaries train in this unforgiving desert as it makes Kandahar look like Club Med.
You’d never know it from within our van. The A / C is blowing ice cold, and Gene keeps his right foot flat as we literally glide over whoop after whoop ( an off-road-racing term for the thousands of beige speed bumps scattered before us ). Whoops alter in size and composition, from small ones made from storm-piled sand to taller berms packed down by dirtbike and cart tires, but all can seriously cripple an auto if taken at speed. At half this rate, any regular wagon would explosively dismantle as quick, hard, and repeated hits induce huge and total suspension or tire failure.
Our van simply strides over them, with some turbulence for us in the cabin, but without any stomach wrenching, bolt stripping, metal-on-metal prospects of approaching disaster. He keeps screaming and looking over to determine my reaction. Due to my helmet, he won’t see the massive, spotty smile on my face, nor does he realize I am not ignoring him.
I am noiselessly scanning the horizon for a new big hit. Allegedly, he takes my stoicism as evidence that I am not having a good time, and since we are already at Vmax, he comes to a decision to show me what a little full-throttle opposite lock can do. It’s when we launch off a big whoop while yawed at forty five degrees, that I realize I should let Gene know how much I am enjoying myself. While I would like to die with a grin on my face, I’d prefer to it not be in this godforsaken place.
I let off a whoop of my very own, and his reply is a fast and gleeful, “I know, right? You can not do that in any other van.