Mountain Wheels: Improved shock control adds real-world pleasure to Ford’s massive Raptor |

Mountain Wheels: Improved shock control adds real-world pleasure to Ford’s massive Raptor

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels
Ford is making its iconic F-150 Raptor – the ultimate high-performance off-road pickup – even better with upgraded technology including class-exclusive, electronically controlled FOX Racing Shox, new Trail Control™ and all-new Recaro sport seats.

When it comes to the ultimate pickup — as we are definitely in the era of menacing, quasi-militarized, apocalypse-worthy trucks — I still have big hopes for the newer Ram Power Wagon, and I was pretty impressed by the Chevy Silverado Trail Boss.

But the ongoing hero in the nearly milspec Humvee-styled world of brawn and battle-worthiness continues to be the Ford Raptor, which brings an almost comical Tonka Toy aesthetic to a real-world vehicle. And in its 2019 redux, it has created a monster that is actually pleasant to drive on paved roads, as well as tearing up the desert, mountain trails or any other off-road surface you’d like to pounce across at triple-digit speeds.

This updated version of the second-generation Raptor, all widebody monstrosity and pure domination, gains tremendous credibility (and a ride that is comparable to normal, lesser pickups) with a bunch of work to the suspension.

Take a look under the 13 inches of articulation clearance separating the vehicle from its gigantic BF Goodrich all-terrain tires and you’ll see the copper-colored tubes from new third-generation Fox high-performance internal bypass shocks.

They’ve been updated with live valve technology that electronically controls the ride, whether that be diminishing the bounce on battered concrete stretches of freeway or as you plow along on washboard gravel. Potholes pretty much disappear, and you can cruise over that 10-mph drainage dip or neighborhood speed humps at any velocity you desire.

Is the truck really made for off-road racing? That shock software is designed to compensate for the physics-defying experience of being multiple feet in the air, and keep the truck straight as you head for the Baja 1000 finish line, of your own particular invention.

The change is quite remarkable, as Raptor’s ride was frequently stomach-churning in its older form. Now you can just concentrate on harnessing the truck’s 450 horsepower and the awesome 510 lb.-ft. of torque, generated impressively by a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6. About 15 MPG was normal; extra-subdued highway driving got me closer to 17 mpg, but felt especially out of character.

Driving the Raptor is a wonderfully surreal experience. Once you’ve leapt up into the cabin, jumping up from the thin-profile metal running boards and hoisting yourself in with an A-pillar handle, everything becomes much less obnoxiously macho than it looks on the outside.

Steering is a bit heavy given those superwide tires, but it’s not draining, and once you’ve learned the truck’s larger-than-life proportions, it really doesn’t operate much differently than any other gigantic modern truck. Until you take it off road, where it behaves like a turbocharged dune buggy. You can be Mad Max, or normal truck person – whatever floats your boat.

Yes, that ominous, bowel-shaking exhaust note of the original Raptor has been fiercely reconfigured into a higher-pitched thrum at startup, which cascades into a more forceful gurgle as you accelerate — giant twin exhausts still in effect. The 10-speed transmission is a great idea, but you’ll often see the truck dropping five gears to react to a heavy throttle input, so there’s a lot of poking around. It’s more fun to whack on the oversized paddle-shifters behind the wheel, which are also helpful for holding in the nearly 5,700-pound SuperCrew model’s curb weight while headed down steep grades.

What has not been downplayed is the truck’s physical presence, which takes all of the brawny, angular, cubist crunchiness of the current generation of pickups and pushes it to top-of-the-heap status. Up front, the skid plate is real, and nearly wraps underneath the whole engine bay, and the skeletonized bumper, tow hooks and bright LED trim all mean business. The suspension control arms look like they are off of a Caterpillar earth-mover.

The impossibly gigantic rear seating area in the SuperCrew edition (a moderately smaller SuperCab is another option) features 43.6 inches of legroom and, if you flip up the seats, could probably accommodate a full-size freezer or a refrigerator.

In the far back, I got the optional, “Terminator” logo-inspired bed badging that looked like it had been chiseled out of stone, with a light-touch (or even remote-operated) tailgate that accessed the 65.2-inch-wide, 5.5-foot bed, with 52.8 cubic feet of capacity.

Mine had practically every option you could imagine, and when I ran through Ford’s online configuration tool, I estimated the truck’s $55,840 base price was getting close to $78,000. This included options ranging from carbon fiber trim in the cab, comfortably grabby suede-like seat inserts, a spray-in bed liner, an unbelievably gigantic full-cabin sunroof, heated second-row seating and the full electronics package — including trailer-hitching monitors and brake controllers.

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