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When a carmaker sells a rough-and-ready pickup as overtly extroverted as the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, it better have the biggest, um, cylinders around to back it up. Unfortunately, at its launch last year, the Raptor made do with a comparatively wimpy 320-horsepower, 390 lb.-ft. 5.4-liter V8 engine.

The good news is that Ford planned to rectify that situation from the start, and now offers a 411-hp, 434 lb.-ft. 6.2-liter engine that can cash the checks the truck's ostentatious paint job has been writing. The improved Raptor accelerates to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, which is 1.8 seconds faster than the earlier model, according to the company.

This new engine is not just the old one with bored-out cylinders or a stroker crankshaft. Rather it is an entirely different engine, derived from the one that debuted in the Ford Super Duty pickups previously. This engine has its own high-performance camshaft and is similar to the powerplant used in the Baja 1000 off-road race truck.

Customers have been waiting for the real thing. "There's a huge demand for the 6.2-liter," said Mark Grueber, F-150 marketing manager. "They are selling in six days from the time they arrive at the dealership. We have over 3,000 6.2 orders and we are building and shipping them as fast as we can to keep up with demand."

With more power under the driver's foot, Ford engineers retuned the programming for the six-speed automatic transmission's off-road mode, letting it hold gears longer and making the response of the electronic throttle more linear for more accurate control.

With its desert racing intentions, the Raptor features increased cooling capacity to withstand the rigors of the hot weather and the strain of churning through deep sand, with a 20 percent bigger grille opening and more effective cooling system.

And for the technically-minded: The beefy cast-iron engine block supports the crankshaft with cross-bolted four-bolt main bearing caps – yeah, that's good – while the aluminum cylinder heads have dual spark plugs for more effective ignition.

Keeping all the moving parts lubricated through the heat and strain of serious off-roading is the key to durability, and this saw significant attention. "It allows us to endure a lot of time at extreme speeds," reported SVT engineer Kerry Baldori.

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Dan Carney is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for MSNBC.com, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, D.C.

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