Built for utility and built to last, the pickup truck is iconically American. One of the best in the business is Ford, whose F-150 came on the scene in 1948. After twelve generations of model updates the SVT Raptor ($44,000) has emerged as arguably the most tenacious version.

Purpose built as a true off-road performance pickup, the Raptor’s laundry list of features includes internal triple-bypass shocks from FOX Racing, seven more inches of track width, aluminum SVT control arms, a Torsen front differential, Hill Descent control and 411 horses from a 6.2 liter V8, all of which makes it seem like a custom shop’s showpiece rather than a production truck from a major OEM. On pavement it continues to impress, providing great steering and wicked fast acceleration.

More Off-Road Goodness: 2014 Toyota Tundra | 30 Minutes with Rob MacCachren | Mercedes-Benz 6×6 G63 AMG

Truly testing this machine called for something more than a few days piddling around Los Angeles. So when when we were invited to go attend the one-day Raptor Assault School at Miller Motorsports Park ($1,400) in the wide-open Utah countryside we moved quicker than a rattle snake on the floor of a country line dance.

What Ford set out to make was something unlike any other production vehicle out there. Sure, there are Trophy Trucks that would smoke this thing, but they don’t have A/C or comfortable seats, and they sure as hell cost more than the Raptor’s $44,000 price tag. This is an out-of-the box, insanely capable machine, able to run, jump and crawl over just about anything in its path. Heck, if it’s good enough for border patrol and filming action scenes from the upcoming Need for Speed film, it’s good enough for us… at least until the Atlas-inspired 2015 F-150 hits the scene.