The 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck, at first glance, doesn't look much different from the 2017 model. In fact, given the new grille and headlight design of the regular 2018 F-150s, the current Raptor still has the look and design of the previous-generation Ford half tons. This all seems quite odd given that the 2019 version of the off-roading pickup boasts traction technology not seen on any other pickup in the world.
Ford quietly revealed two new features — Fox Racing Shox Live Valve technology and Trail Control — on the 2019 Raptor this week. Now that we've done some more digging about these new traction systems, they could be the most under-publicized pieces of automotive technology we've seen in a long while, certainly on a pickup truck.
New Shocks Technology
The Fox Live Valve technology is basically the same suspension upgrade setup recently offered on the all-new 2018 Ford Expedition full-size SUV, which was impressive enough to win sister site Cars.com's 2018 Full-Size SUV Challenge. The Expedition uses the adaptive system to quell many of the annoying road chops and vibrations so typical on a big SUV truck-based platform. The 2019 F-150 Raptor takes this technology to the next level.
These new, active Fox Racing shocks have a dedicated computer that monitors multiple inputs all around the vehicle, such as wheel speed, steering angle, throttle position, yaw rates and more. And it's doing so every millisecond. That means that even when the pickup is airborne from an unintended (we're assuming) jump, with both the front and rear suspensions completely relaxed, it knows that each shock (especially the fronts) will need more resistance and stiffness to accommodate the impending impact. Essentially, it is predicting what's coming and does that before the wheels hit ground. It's even capable of making micro-adjustments as it monitors the truck during the impact as well.
The Live Valve system has three internal automatic algorithm settings, each of which includes several more software settings that will adjust differently in each of the Raptor's six Terrain Management System modes: Normal, Rock Crawl, Baja, Mud/Sand, Sport and Weather.
Interestingly, unlike the Expedition, the Raptor does not offer Tow/Haul mode to allow the rear active shocks to provide load-leveling or towing benefits. From Ford's point of view, maybe that makes sense since so few Raptor owners carry anything in their bed or tow toys to the lake, snow country or desert (read heavy sarcasm here). That needs to change.
The second impressive upgrade to this 2019 Raptor is Trail Control. This integrated software allows the Ford to offer a type of slow-speed cruise control when combined with the active and predictive ability of the shocks. It will help the new Raptor crawl rock-strewn sluices or slippery, rutted, algae-green stream trails with confidence and more technical skill than most expert off-roaders.
The best way to understand Trail Control is to think of it as a cruise control system that takes over throttle and braking duties — usually below 10 mph, depending on the terrain setting — to allow the driver to concentrate on steering the truck toward or away from nasty obstacles. Trail Control is activated with a new button atop the center display stack (replacing the hill descent control button). It works within speed parameters of 1 to 20 mph in two-wheel drive or high range, and between 1 to 10 mph in low range.
Once active, Trail Control will navigate the vehicle forward at the set speed until it meets an obstacle that provides resistance. It will then adjust the throttle to climb the obstacle, reading wheel travel via the electronically controlled shocks. It will also know, based on the same sensor readings, how much brake pressure to apply when descending the backside of the obstacle it just climbed. Speed slows or increases based on "perceived" terrain, eventually speeding up to the selected speed allowed by the terrain setting. The system can be automatically slowed by the driver with a touch of the brake or by tapping the steering wheel control up or down. Trail Control shares controls with the conventional cruise control system.
Both systems will be standard on all 2019 Raptors. Although we haven't driven the new truck yet — we're hoping to get behind the wheel before the end of the year — the end result is likely to be a Raptor that handles and drives better than any other F-150 or Raptor before.
We're not saying that all the Raptor's sway and body roll will be gone on the 2019 model, but with these new technologies you can expect it will drive like a completely different vehicle both on the pavement and off-road, in high and low range. In fact, it wouldn't surprise us one bit if the 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor gained popularity with people who spend most of their time on pavement instead of off.
Pricing for the 2019 Raptor is still a long way off — we're told Ford won't be making the new Raptors until late in the third quarter of this year. We'd like to see technology like this on the coming 2020 Ford Bronco SUV or a Raptor version of the 2019 Ford Ranger. We could even imagine a new Mustang with a set of shocks like these doing well on a track. More to come.