Judged by horsepower alone, this is not a fair fight. The 2017 Ford Raptor has a 450-horsepower turbo V6, while the Polaris RZR XP 1000 runs a 110-horse twin. But horsepower isn't everything, especially when your drag strip looks like a roiling ocean cast in sand.
Out in the desert—or, in our case, a North Carolina facsimile at Outback ATV Park in Laurinburg—power is only part of the story. To make rapid progress over busted terrain, you need suspension, and lots of it. The RZR crushes the Raptor in that respect, with 16 inches of travel up front and 18 inches in back, all of it contending with barely 1,500 pounds of weight.
While the two vehicles have similar power-to-weight ratios, the Raptor would have an outright accelerative advantage on the street. (This truck feels quick even while towing the RZR.) But throw in perpendicular ruts and rhythmic rolling sand berms, and the Raptor's big BF Goodrich T/A K02s faces a mighty challenge maintaining and converting the EcoBoost's thrust into forward motion.
Now, to be honest, you could stage a race like this to favor either competitor. Run a quarter-mile across a motocross track and the RZR will win every time. Replace your tabletop jumps with dry lakebed and the junior trophy truck would be the obvious favorite. So we tried to choose a section of terrain that split the difference—bumpy enough to give the RZR a fair shot, but lengthy enough to let the truck overcome its off-the-line traction deficit. We ended up with an approximately eighth-mile drag which, at these speeds, would send most street-legal machines straight to the body shop with massive damage.
The race was close, with VBox data confirming our head-to-head results—one vehicle required just over 10 seconds to hit 60 mph across this moonscape, while the other was in the 9-second range. To give you an idea of big a factor the terrain played, a Raptor normally hits 60 in just over five seconds. Here, hitting 60 at all required an abiding faith in the handiwork of Fox Racing and Walker Evans Racing, the respective purveyors of the Raptor and RZR suspension components.
So who won and got to spin victory doughnuts? It was the Raptor by a nose. Watch the shootout and see for yourself.