First of all, yes, I know this isn't a fair fight. The two vehicles you see here share almost nothing in common except their blue paint and tires made of rubber. But bear with me for a moment, because both of these vehicles share a singularity of purpose that makes them worth matching up. They're both meant to be entertaining.
The redesigned 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is the ultimate off-road pickup truck. It's a factory-prepped Baja racer, able to fly across fields and deserts at speeds you wouldn't think possible in something that rolled off the same showroom floor as a three-cylinder Ford Fiesta. Featuring a special suspension with Fox off-road shocks, 35-inch BF Goodrich K02 all-terrain tires, extra-wide fender flares, special cameras, five drive modes and a 450-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, nothing short of a U.S. Army Humvee can top it for allowing you to keep going when the pavement ends. And the Humvee isn't nearly as fast or comfortable.
In the other corner, the 2017 McLaren 570GT is the new fastback version of the 570S we tested last year. While the Raptor gave up its V-8 in the new model, the McLaren still has one, a 3.8-liter twin-turbo model mounted behind the passengers and mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. The big differentiator between the 570S and 570GT is a glassed-in hatch over the rear that allows for better visibility and the ability to stuff a duffel or two behind the passengers' heads, ostensibly increasing on-board storage room. There's also a glass roof that brightens up the interior considerably, and this test model had the extended leather package that wraps everything in cowhide that isn't already trimmed out in carbon fiber.
So how do these two stack up? Putting price aside, which is the better weekend toy?
Winner: McLaren 570GT
Both will stop people in their tracks, but the McLaren is the one that onlookers whip their phones out to snap pictures of. The changes from the 570S to 570GT are subtle — you only notice it's a GT if you get a look at the badge or realize that there's more glass in back than there used to be. It still has the menacing shark look, the super-low overall height (the top of the McLaren's roof doesn't even come up to the windows of the Raptor), and even in this Pacific blue hue (which, let's be honest, is a revival of the teal we remember from every 1990s Ford Escort wagon), everyone notices it when it growls by.
But the Raptor is no slouch in the styling department either, with its different grille, wide fenders, massive tires, electric blue paint and stickers aplenty. Everyone knows this is a Raptor because it says so in letters 5 inches tall on the flanks, but the rest of the cues also hint that this isn't your average, ordinary F-Series. However, unless you cover the truck in mud, it doesn't get as much notice as the McLaren, to which we give the nod in this category.
Winner: McLaren 570GT
Climb up into the Raptor's cab, a feat made easier by the cheese-grater running boards, and you'll be in a spacious cockpit with excellent visibility. The front seats are wide but not especially deep, and not especially comfortable, either. They feature a design that makes it feel like the lumbar support is fully inflated even when it's not. The backseat in this SuperCab model isn't fully sized as it would be in the SuperCrew crew-cab model, so it's not the most comfortable place, either. Everything is trimmed in leather, and the front seats are heated, cooled and, most importantly, padded — when you're jumping this monster, you need some cushioning.
You don't climb up into the McLaren, you sink into it. Sit your butt on the wide side sill, then plant it in the deep bucket seat and swing your legs into the narrow footwell. Once inside, the 570GT is really very comfortable. The seats are adjustable in multiple ways, there's plenty of headroom and visibility isn't bad. It's just that you're sitting close enough to the ground to actually reach out and touch it when you swing up the scissor door. Everything inside is swathed in leather, and for this price, it'd better be. Still, an hour driving the McLaren leaves you in less discomfort than an hour in the Raptor thanks to its superior seats.
The Raptor's 450-hp, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 doesn't have the brutal aural impact that the old 6.2-liter V-8 did, but it does have something the old V-8 doesn't: more power. It's pumping out 39 more horsepower and a whopping 76 more pounds-feet of torque, all in a truck that now weighs 600 pounds less than the old 2014 model. Combined with the new 10-speed automatic and selectable four-wheel drive, the Raptor flies — and it does so with a snorty growl that isn't V-8-quality, but still loud and respectable. Plant your foot and the Raptor takes off. It's quick of its own accord, and when compared to other pickups, it's downright athletic.
Of course, so is the McLaren. It has 562 hp from its tiny, mid-mounted, 3.8-liter racing-derived V-8, and with only 3,300 pounds to push around, to call the McLaren brutally fast would be an understatement. Around town at lower speeds, it's amazingly docile, easy to handle, comfortable over changing pavement, and simple to operate. Plant your foot, spool up the turbos and hang on tight because speed will be coming in short order. That guy in the huge Ram 1500 tailgating you to get pictures? Leave him in the dust — done and over with before you can even complete the thought. The only problem is that the 3.8-liter V-8 sounds like a sewing machine in any condition except full throttle, when it sounds like a Formula One Used Engine . And you really can't use full throttle except on rare occasions.
Winner: Ford F-150 Raptor
A base Raptor comes with a decent amount of equipment, but start checking boxes and you can add an almost obscene amount of kit to your Baja truck — mine had more than $14,000 in options alone, and it wasn't even fully equipped. Still, for that much money, you get a well-outfitted rig with items like a 360-degree overhead camera, a front obstacle camera, the remarkable trailer backup assist, LED spotlights in the mirrors, even adaptive cruise control, an integrated tailgate step and more. Sync 3 is part of the deal, Ford's super-fast multimedia system that also incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The McLaren is not so well-equipped despite costing four times as much as the Raptor. The multimedia system is Android-based, but it's a smallish screen in a vertical orientation, making navigation rather difficult to use or follow. The screen also disappears completely when you put on polarized sunglasses. Most of the 570GT's amenities come in the form of adjustable suspension and powertrain, as well as a novel nose-lifting function to allow you to get over small obstacles like low speed bumps. It features the basics for a luxury vehicle, such as navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port for connecting a smartphone and a few apps, but attention has obviously been focused instead on the car's abilities rather than its features.
Winner: Ford F-150 Raptor
How well do each of these brutes succeed in what they set out to do? The Raptor is billed as the ultimate off-road vehicle, but that's a qualified "ultimate" — it doesn't do everything well. Blasting across landscape is what it's made for, high-speed jaunts across desert terrain and jumping sand dunes. But crawling up box canyon trails, or down narrow forest paths is not something it's comfortable with — it's just too wide and heavy. Driving it in the city presents challenges as well, as parallel parking is right out and garages present their own low-ceiling disadvantages. Still, tackling the broken terrain of our country's crumbling infrastructure is a snap in a Raptor, which bounds over potholes, frost heaves and bombed-out parking lots with nary an errant shudder, and its on-board camera and sensor technology definitely aid in navigating tight surroundings.
The McLaren can be used as a daily driver without a problem, but it's meant for super-legal speeds that just can't be easily achieved here in the U.S. Blinding fast acceleration is fun, but when you have to lift off at 70 mph because the highway is clogged with traffic, that's unfortunate. Truly everyone is in your way in the 570GT, as you can never actually go as fast as you want. And you will want to go fast given that the ability to do so is absolutely effortless — at high speed, the McLaren is rock-solid, completely steady and so without drama that you will achieve super-legal speeds without realizing you've done so. But it's a little harder to find places to use the McLaren for its full intended purposes than it is to do so in the Raptor, which is why I'm giving the nod to the Ford for this one.
Both of these expensive toys are outstanding machines, both excel at their intended purpose, both make a statement when you show up in one. They're also both incredibly fun, have significant imperfections and are extremely pricey. Our informal challenge here resulted in a tie in the scoring, but that's almost the best possible outcome — picking a winner among these two really depends on what your own personal pastimes are.
Love the outdoors, blasting across open country and getting your kicks by jumping dirt mounds at unwise speeds? The Raptor is definitely for you.
Love blasting down a highway, apexing turns perfectly and drawing a crowd while filling up at a gas station? Mortgage the house and get the McLaren.
Either way, you're going to be happy with your choice of weekend toy.