Test Drive: 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor

Off-roading in Utah, the truck offers impressive performance and comfort

During our test drive of the 2019 Ford Raptor, we got airborne in a truck that tips the scales at nearly three tons. Perhaps even more astounding is that when the vehicle’s four wheels touched back to earth, the sensation was akin to landing on a mattress. With confidence soaring, we circled a dirt track to try the maneuver twice more—adding increased power before hitting the jump and flying further.

This road-going truck has a lightness that is nearly inexplicable. That is unless you ask Ford’s engineers who worked on this class-of-one pickup or the automotive shock experts at Fox, who provided the updated internal bypass hardware. Better “landing gear” was one of the top goals.

It’s evident, during our day at Utah Motorsports Campus (home to the Ford Performance Racing Team), that the brand has truly improved upon the pickup truck. The 2019 Raptor isn’t just light and capable, it’s also incredibly adept at maneuvering quickly and slowly in desert playgrounds and over rocky trails. The comfort and technology are also laudable and will serve daily drivers generously.

As mentioned, the most impressive upgrade is the new ground-breaking, off-road performance shocks. The set-up blends class-exclusive FOX 3.0 Internal Bypass shocks with Live Valve technology that can adapt to the terrain in real-time to actively maximize handling, comfort, and bottom-out resistance. The smarter shocks can read throttle, brake, steering and terrain input and dampen as needed for both on- and off-road smoothness and control. Additionally, there’s a Terrain Management System with Trail Control, an available Recaro sport-seat themed by the Light Speed interior of the Ford GT supercar.

Our test drive started with slow-speed motoring over a human-made obstacle course with steep sidehills, with the aim to gain comfortability behind the wheel. Its capability to crawl at a severe angle—engaging Trail Control, while benefitting from the Raptor’s suspension and aggressive BFG rubber at the four corners—proved to be quite remarkable. On the highway drive to the off-road trails, it was clear the truck offers a comfortable on-road ride, with improvements coming from the suspension and well-bolstered sport-seats.

Notable are three modes. Jump Mode assesses the front wheel position and knows you’re in the air and goes to full stiff—keeping the truck from crashing through a landing. Terrain Recognition lets the front ride height sensors respond to small high-frequency changes and reacts to improve comfort when there is faster wheel travel over more severe terrain. Loud Pedal looks at the throttle pedal input and, when it’s more aggressive, it learns and reads it to add more cushioning and controls. As we motor at high speeds, with impressive control and comfort, the new system enhances the 13 inches of suspension travel in the front and 13.9 inches in the rear over large bumps and uneven terrain.

Trail Control is activated by a button above the nav screen, with speed settings that are employed using a toggle switch on the steering wheel. It gives extra confidence for difficult off-road environments. We were able to sit and steer as the truck “walked” us up and down steep grades and over obstacles. Think cruise control for low-speed, rough and rugged terrain: it’s available in any transfer case setting and drive mode. From on to 20mph, it engages in half-mile increments in low- and in high-range, from 1-10 mph, in 1-mile increments. The system draws on engine torque to control throttle and brakes, monitoring individual wheel slip and the traction at each wheel as an aid for extreme uphill and downhill gradients.

The new system replaces its previous generation’s downhill descent control as an aid for both novice drivers and even 4WD enthusiasts. For experienced off-road drivers who use left-foot braking to improve traction and smoothness over rocks and boulders, Trail Control is especially effective on downhill slopes, but rough in its application of torque and throttle over rocks. It would be ideal when driving over slick terrain. Like ABS brakes, in that circumstance, the computer will have more prowess than most drivers.

The 2019 Raptor F-150 starts at $54,350. Professional training at UMC is included in the purchase price.

Images courtesy of Ford