I don’t always know exactly which route to take, whether on an off-road trail in the middle of nowhere or in a downtown area jam-packed with traffic everywhere I look. I also don’t always like to use the navigation system on my phone, which is almost always connected to Apple Carplay. For starters, the Carplay nav app is getting dull and boring. It gets me where I want to go, but doesn’t look all that great and only supports basic features.
Recently, I tried out the built-in nav system on the amazing 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R, a beast of a truck meant for serious off-roading that I happened to use to drive through a major city.
The red and black truck looks like a monster of engineering and design, drawing attention not just when it was sitting in my driveway but mostly as I drove around town. I always like to poke around in test cars to see if there is anything new that catches my attention, but also that matches my objective with the vehicle that week.
In this case, I wanted to find a place to park and eat. Trucks are made to pull heavy machinery or a trailer, and the beefy nature of this off-roader makes it ideal for crushing rocks and rolling through mud. I wasn’t using it for that purpose, but I did want to reach my destination in a timely fashion and also not get stuck in traffic for too long.
What surprised me about the Raptor’s navigation is how the 3D rendering proved so helpful. I didn’t even bother setting a destination, I just needed a map to help me choose the right turns on a familiar route, and to look for a parking spot.
The 3D map shows every building, park, street corner, and intersection in real-time. It’s a bit like playing a video game, except that the goal is to find the best route to your parking space.
I was impressed with how detailed the map looked, even recreating iconic buildings I know well in my home city of Minneapolis. Wait, that’s the Foshay tower off to the right! That’s the park where I just had lunch the other day! It’s cool to see a map that represents the places I know already in a way that makes them easy to see, identify, and navigate toward.
Some 3D nav systems in cars add too much extra fluff and colors, but the Raptor uses a grayed out 3D rendering that makes it much easier to identify buildings quickly. It’s the same 3D nav found in many Ford vehicles, but I really liked how it helped me drive this monster truck in a heavily congested area. It was also easy to drag my finger around on the screen and look at other skyscrapers, parks, highways, and iconic locations.
Eventually, I found my turn-off and could see a 3D rendering of the actual lot, shown in a way that made it easier to judge where I needed to be in 3D space. Think of it as a co-pilot to help you see all of the buildings around you and make quick decisions on where you want to go (or in my case, where you want to park).
I used the 3D rendering multiple times in my week with the Raptor, but it was the most impressive in that downtown area. I may never go back to Apple Maps after this.