As it sits, the Ford Raptor is hardly lacking in the capability department. For 2019, the Blue Oval brute gets a brace of upgrades that ratchet its off-road prowess up even further.
Of major interest to off-road gearheads will be the new Live Valve FOX Racing Shox and a system Ford is calling Trail Control.
One of the Raptor’s chief party tricks are its internal bypass shocks, the units which allow for high-speed desert running and permits the truck to absorb landings like a kid jumping onto a feather pillow. Ford Performance worked directly with FOX to develop this new electronically controlled Live Valve technology. The companies say it continuously adjusts damping in real-time, using sensors in the suspension and body to maximize bottom-out resistance and handling response.
“By automatically varying compression rates, Raptor can now make the most of its suspension travel of 13.0-inches at the front and 13.9-inches at the rear,” said Hermann Salenbauch, global director of Ford Performance vehicles. Given a newfound ability to ‘read’ the terrain over which it is hammering, Salenbauch boasts, “The 2019 Raptor is not just more capable off-road. It’s smarter.”
Tearing across the desert and getting mad hang time in the Raptor makes for great YouTube videos, but Ford also wants to make Raptor king and master of slower speed trails. Similar in theory to other low-speed off-road systems, Ford’s new Trail Control helps F-150 Raptor drivers navigate challenging conditions other than a high-speed sand wash.
Think of it as off-road cruise control, and you’ll start to get the idea. On low-speed, rugged terrain, the system will automatically adjust engine power and wheel braking, allowing drivers to focus on getting over that one last rock obstacle. Trail Control can be activated at speeds from 1mph up to 20 mph depending on driveline position.
To those who say systems like that take the challenge out of off-roading, well, there’s always the ‘off’ button. For the rest of us, the system makes getting in to and out of tricky spots a heckuva lot easier, whether it’s a tight two-track or a rocky hill climb. Trail Control can automatically draw boatloads of engine torque to help a driver get over a steep obstacle, for example, then individually brake each of the four wheels for a smooth ride down the other side. Any system that helps rookies get comfortable on the trail is fine by this author.
Inside the truck, drivers of the 2019 Raptor will find new Recaro buckets, said to be aggressive with support and bolstering. Ford describes it as an ‘available’ seat, so be prepared to check an options box and fork out more cash if you want them. Eagle-eyed spotters will be able to spy your financial splurge from outside the truck as these new seats will have blue Alcantara inserts.
New colors for 2019 include Ford Performance Blue, Velocity Blue, and Agate Black. Test mules have been spied with a camouflaged tailgate and now we know why: next year’s truck will have a different rear appliqué. That’s Ford’s word, by the way; appliqué sounds like a fancy restaurant dish. All they’re talking about is different tailgate lettering.
The upgraded 2019 F-150 Raptor will be built at Dearborn Truck Plant. It goes on sale later this year.