Hennessey VelociRaptor 600: First Drive

Hennessey Performance's "standard" Raptor is supercharged, produces 500 horsepower and is called VelociRaptor 500. Their new 6.2-liter Raptor produces 600 horsepower and is called the VelociRaptor 600. Creative? No. But who needs creativity when you've got two giant bumper-mounted turbochargers?

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Walking around Hennessey's main headquarters in Sealy, Texas it's hard to ignore the feeling that everyone there suffers from a sort of tuning ADD. A Corvette here. A Viper there. A Corvette-powered Camaro next to a wicked fast Jeep Grand Cherokee below a disassembled Buick Grand National across from a Ford GT getting a twin-turbo package. There are even a few GT-Rs floating around.

This feeling grows stronger when I trot out to the 1/4-mile track in the backyard. It's 10:00 am but it's already so hot I'm afraid my Tigers are going to melt to the asphalt. Students in Hennessey's tuner school are testing out their personal projects, which include a turbocharged Civic SI and a Mustang. We creep up in the imposing blue VelociRaptor 600 and John Hennessey sets up to make a pass.

Hennessey VelociRaptor 600: First Drive

One lane over is that turbo Civic. It's a coincidence and something we doubt's going to happen often, but if you find yourself in this situation — don't bet on the Civic. Despite weighing nearly twice as much, the Raptor doesn't even look like it's trying as it blows down the track, leaving the Civic looking like a little kid on the other side of the fence trying desperately to pace an Olympic event. It's a strange sight, but this is Texas and I've seen stranger match ups.

The formula for the Raptor isn't much different from Hennessey's general approach to their products: lots of forced induction plus lots of fine-tuning. In this case it's two 58-mm turbos with 44-mm wastegates mounted in the truck's reinforced bumper with a pair of air-to-air intercoolers located behind the black plastic grille blowing air into the new 6.2-liter V8 and out a stainless steel exhaust. Essentially, it's a giant bolt-on kit.

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Power's conservatively rated at 622 HP with 638 lb-ft of torque, compared to 411 HP and 430 lb-ft of torque for the base 6.2-liter V8. I say "conservatively" because the dyno's showing 525 HP at the rear wheels, which with a 20% drivetrain loss is closer to 630 HP. Hennessey's dyno testing shows the loss on the stock vehicle was more like 23% over Ford's numbers. More power's possible with the 6.2-liter, but probably not without work to the stock 6-speed transmission.

When it's my turn to tackle the strip I stand on the brakes with my left foot and rev until the truck breaks away from me. The truck rears back more like a pissed javelina than a velociraptor, creating an inner-ear shift that competes with the visual stimulation of the tach sweeping from 2,300 up to 4,000 RPM in a blink and the aural sensation of the turbos doing their molecule compressing business.

But after those few nut-squishing moments, the VelociRaptor plants itself and carries down the track without much hassle. The sensation of speed that exists under 60 mph sort of bleeds away as the truck approaches 100 mph near the end of the track. A trick of size or just the Baja-ready suspension doing its job? Hard to say, and the feeling doesn't last long because there's a tent at the end of the track I'm not keen to run over (though I could, totally, it's just that it's not my truck).

Since Hennessey's still tuning the truck I'm not at liberty to discuss acceleration numbers yet, but I can remind you I ran a 14.09-second 1/4-mile on a colder morning with a 5.6-second 0-to-60 mph time in the supercharged VelociRaptor 500 and can tell you this version's already faster. If they can hit their targets I'll be impressed, but not surprised.

Hennessey VelociRaptor 600: First Drive

After a couple of passes I take the truck out to the slightly rolling hills and mostly abandoned roads of rural Texas. It's where this truck belongs. At a million inches wide it's a commanding presence on these narrow and roughly textured roads, but this suspension is designed for hitting divots in the desert at ludicrous speeds so it's mostly an afterthought. The biggest hint I'm not driving your mama's F-150 is not the power, but the "oohhhs" and "ahhhs" of compressed gas escaping from the blow-off valves like the overenthusiastic pre-recorded studio audience from a bad 80s sitcom.

Something anyone who has driven a Raptor will tell you is it's almost inexplicably well-planted on regular pavement and this version is no exception. Up to a point. With all the power going to the off-road spec tires the rear-end will rotate out on you in a quasi-drift that's two parts shit-eating grin and one-part shitting yourself.

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At $41,995, the stock 6.2-liter Raptor is a surprisingly incredible value. At $71,945 (installed/warranty), the VelociRaptor isn't. If you want value they'll happily throw some tuning and plumbing at you for a drastically reduced price and a more modest power gain.

This is a "halo" version of something that's already a halo car and the value only exists if you've got to have the biggest, baddest, fastest Raptor on the road... specific desires that become less dubious the more time I spend with the VelociRaptor.

The truck is the car of Texas, and if you own a Raptor the only truck you'll ever have to compete with is another Raptor. If you own one of these the only truck you'll have to compete with exists in Micheal Bay's secret robo fantasies.

How impressive is it? Even the typically unflappable Texan bovines turned to watch it pass.

Photo Credit: Zerin Dube/Speed:Sport:Life