New Car Reviews

2019 Ford F-150 Raptor Remains the King of Bad-Ass Off-Roaders

Smart updates make for an even better all-terrain attack vehicle

There’s an old off-roading mantra that goes, “As slow as possible, as fast as necessary.” In the 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor, the opposite is true. Forget about carefully scanning the terrain and slowly picking the best path; in the Raptor, it’s full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes (and the rocks and ruts and streams and tree branches and assorted wildlife and slow-moving Jeeps).

Ford had us spend a day off-roading the updated 2019 Raptor along a route that was low-speed and technical in a few places and high-speed and irresponsible everywhere else. We came away with an aching back and a firm conclusion: Short of a sheer cliff, whatever abuse the terrain can dish out—the Raptor can take it.

First launched in its present EcoBoosted form in 2017, the Raptor has been revised for 2019, although the external changes are limited to a giant black plastic FORD on the tailgate and a few new paint colors. (Workaday 2019 F-150s see more substantive aesthetic changes.) Under the skin, however, the updates are significant.

First and foremost is the addition of electronic control and a “live valve” to the purpose-built Fox internal-bypass shocks. Ford has effectively adapted the adaptive suspension system from the Lincoln Navigator, albeit with freshly written code for the control module. The goal was not so much to improve the Raptor’s off-road abilities (which really didn’t need any improvement) but to improve day-to-day livability. The basic shock tuning is pretty much identical to the outgoing Raptor, with the electronically controlled valves adding the ability to stiffen the shocks for better on-road body control. The kind of high-speed off-road bashing for which the Raptor is designed means that the suspension’s rate of movement can exceed the electronic system’s processing speed, so the Raptor relies on the shock’s mechanical valving to do the heavy lifting—or, perhaps we should say, the heavy jumping.

But there are some off-road obstacles that even the Raptor can’t handle at full tilt, and for that Ford has fitted Trail Control, which Ford accurately describes as off-road cruise control: Once activated, you can dial up a speed between 1 and 20 mph in 0.5-mph increments in 4-Low—or 1-mph increments in 4-Hi—and the Raptor will do its best to keep that pace up- or downhill.

This type of system isn’t new—Toyota’s Crawl Control and Land Rover’s All-Terrain Progress Control have been available for some time now—but that doesn’t make it any less handy on steep, technical ascents and descents.

Ford’s system works pretty well, though our test truck had a tendency to surge forward when Trail Control was first engaged, which can cause a bit of mid-body puckering when the truck is pointed downhill. Our truck also paused over some of the uphill obstacles as the software figured out what to do. But for the most part the system worked very well, and we were able to sit back and relax (and steer, of course) as the Raptor virtually drove itself over some of the steepest sections of our off-road route.

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. And if you get into a situation beyond your skill set—and let’s be honest, it happens to all of us—there’s a good chance Trail Control can get you out.

Last but not least on the what’s-new list are new Recaro seats, which are broad and comfortable and bolstered in all the right places; and a couple of interior tweaks. Other than that, this is the same ol’ Raptor we’ve come to know and jump. We would have liked to have seen a little more power from the EcoBoost engine, mostly because we are firm believers in More’s Law. (Not to be confused with Moore’s Law, More’s Law states that “More is better, and too much is nearly, but not quite, enough.”) Oh well—we suppose 450 horsepower will just have to do.

Whatever you think of the Raptor, be it awesome or awful, it’s impossible not to respect the job Ford Performance has done with the 2019 version. The Raptor was already one of the most capable turn-key off-roaders you could buy, and one that makes few concessions to hauling (1,200 lb), towing (8,000 lb), or day-to-day driving comfort. Now it’s even better both on-road and off—and we have the crushed vertebrae to prove it.

2019 Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew Specifications

ON SALE Late 2018
PRICE $54,350/$71,865 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.5L twin-turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/450 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 510 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, 4WD pickup truck
EPA MILEAGE 15/18 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 231.9 x 86.3 x 78.5 in
WHEELBASE 146.0 in
WEIGHT 5,697 lb
0-60 MPH 5.2 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 110 mph (est)

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2019 Ford F-150

MSRP $36,000 XL 2WD Long Bed SuperCrew Cab