The Suspension... It's Alive

2019 Raptor Review: How Does This Insane Truck Keep Getting Better?


December 4, 2018 Cars By Photo by Andrew Maness
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The 2019 Ford Raptor looks more or less the same as it has the past two years, but it’s the changes you can’t see that make this latest model the best Raptor yet. With the addition of active dampers and off-road cruise control Ford has moved the Raptor up into another echelon of vehicles, one that few would have ever thought a pickup truck could reach.

The Good: The major talking point with the 2019 Raptor is the addition of “Live Valve Technology” to the bespoke Fox 3.0 Internal Bypass shocks. These electronically controlled shock absorbers are controlled by a solenoid placed on the shock body that’s connected to a valve. The valve can be adjusted in as little as 40 milliseconds to alter the rate at which oil passes through it, thus stiffening or softening the shock. Wide open you get a soft suspension perfect for tearing over rough terrain at impressive speeds; closed you get a stiff suspension that makes a 5,697-lb truck returning to Earth after a brief flight a rather anticlimactic event. Ford also finally saw fit to make Recaro bucket seats an option – and damn are they excellent. Deep upper bolsters and suede inserts do their best to keep one’s body from sliding all over, and Ford wisely chose not to make the seat cushion bolsters so tall that they would impede one from sliding right into the seat when hoisting oneself up into the truck. The addition of “Performance Blue” as a paint option is also most welcome as are optional redesigned beadlock capable wheels.

Who It’s For: Hardcore off-road enthusiasts will continue to enjoy the Raptor (and moan about the death of the 6.2L V8 as they have for 4 years), but that crowd is only one part of the equation. With on-road ride quality vastly improved by the new suspension, the 2019 Raptor is for anyone who is confident in their skills to drive an 86.3” wide vehicle and enjoys getting some dirt under their fingernails with some regularity.

Watch Out For: Base prices for the Raptor are $52,855 for the SuperCab and $55,840 for the SuperCrew respectively. Good luck finding a dealership that will come anywhere close to those numbers. Dealer markups on the Raptor are absurd so be prepared to pay to play. That being said, the price of a visit to Ford’s Performance Driving School at Utah Motorsports Campus is included in the purchase price, so that adds some value.

Alternatives: The Raptor stands alone at the top of the mountain, but there are a few other pickups and one SUV that make a decent attempt at climbing it. The 2019 RAM Rebel starts at $44,990 and is a reasonably fun off-roader, but doesn’t come close to matching the outright capability or refinement of the Raptor. We’ll have to wait and see if RAM delivers a real contender with the RAM Rebel TRX which is supposed to go into production by 2022. A Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro will run you $42,660 and while it is most definitely easier to live with on a daily basis, it’s based on an old chassis, has an old(and underpowered) V6 under the hood and can’t pull off the same kind of shenanigans the Raptor can. To get anywhere close to you’ll need to forego having a pickup and fork out $230,000 for a Mercedes-Benz G 500 4×4 Squared, so with that in mind the Raptor sounds like a hell of a bargain, doesn’t it?

Review: To show off the new and improved Raptor, Ford brought us out to the 511-acre playground that is Utah Motorsports Campus. Following a quick classroom rundown of how the aforementioned Fox 3.0 Internal Bypass shocks work, I tried (and failed) to bottom one out in its stiffest setting by putting my entire body weight on the lever it was connected to. With the stiffness dialed back to the middle, similar to the previous generation’s ability, I was able to push it down, albeit with a good deal of effort.

Throughout the day I took full advantage of the suspension travel, which is 13” up front and 13.9” at the rear. However, with the mechanical valving doing the bulk of the heavy lifting during high-speed trail running as it has done in years past, I noticed the new Live Valve tech most during moderate speeds on the trail and even more so on pavement. Where the 2017/18 Raptor was prone to doing what I call “the floaty dance” at highway speeds, the 2019 is buttoned down. The sheer size of the truck is still noticeable when braking, but with “Sport” mode selected and those shocks stiffened up the stability is really apparent. Steering inputs are noticeably reduced and instead of worrying about keeping the damn thing between the lines you can think about the task ahead, which is exactly what I was doing before we pulled off the blacktop outside Tooele, UT.

Out along old mining roads, I got to put the other new key feature of the 2019 Raptor to the test. Off-road cruise control isn’t anything new – Jeep, Toyota and Land Rover all have versions too – but Ford’s “Trail Control” is now my favorite of the bunch because you hardly notice it working. While the other systems I’ve used lurch and groan, Trail Control is smooth and quiet. With “Rock/Crawl” mode selected and the transfer case in 4-Lo, Trail Control can be set from 1-20 mph so that all the driver needs to do is focus on steering. For novices it takes the guesswork out brake and throttle inputs, allowing them to focus on wheel placement and avoiding obstacles. For veterans, it makes mundane and tedious sections of trail much less of a buzzkill. There’s also the simple fact that even the most proficient off-road driver cannot distribute power and braking to each wheel individually as Trail Control can. Some of my peers voiced complaints about the system being “over eager”, especially when beginning a steep descent, but I didn’t experience any unwanted power surges throughout the day.

Is the 2019 Raptor that much better than the ‘17/’18 Raptor? After a full day bashing around the desert, climbing a mountain and repeatedly jumping it there is no doubt in my mind that it is.

Verdict: The first-generation Raptor was built for the few, but Ford sold more of them than they could have ever anticipated. Understanding the broad appeal of the truck led them to refine it, make it more accessible and that’s brought us here to a Raptor that has an adaptive suspension and off-road cruise control. The Raptor does things no other vehicle can do and does most of the things all vehicles can do reasonably well. Sure it guzzles fuel and needs its own zip code, but the tradeoffs are worth what it delivers many times over – provided you have the funds, space and environment in which to properly enjoy it.

What Others Are Saying:

• “All that intoxicating power comes paired to a 10-speed automatic. It’s the only downside to an otherwise superb setup. It sloshes around aimlessly at times, and doesn’t do what you want it to do on hard braking – that is, downshift quickly and with some decisiveness. That’s the same issue we had with the pre-refresh model, and Ford hasn’t done anything to mitigate it here.
” — Jeff Perez, Motor 1

• “We’re sure Trail Control will be controversial among hard-core off-roaders; plenty are bound to be of the “I-know-how-to-drive-off-road-and-don’t-need-no-fancy-electronics-to-do-it-for-me” mindset. We’ll remind them that systems like Trail Control can distribute power and braking individually to each wheel, which a human with two legs and two pedals simply cannot do. It can also prevent you from digging ruts by applying too much power.” — Aaron Gold, Automobile

Key Specs

Engine: 3.5-liter, twin turbocharged DOHC 24V V6
Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Horsepower: 450 horsepower
Torque: 510 ft-lbs
0-60: 5.2 sec
Top Speed: 110 mph (est)
MPG: 15 City/18 Highway

Ford hosted us and provided this product for review.

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