After months of cloak and dagger development in the California High Desert, Ford’s Special Vehicle Team invited two dozen journalists into their off-road playground in Ocotillo Wells for the official media launch of the Raptor. No longer a secret, Ford’s own low-budget, high-return viral video campaign had already given the Raptor a bit of a mythical aura before any member of the media was allowed behind the wheel. Long-time Ford fans were salivating, off-road enthusiasts were flooding online forums, and naysayers were estimating astronomical prices for a vehicle that was capable of 100-mph desert runs.
What Exactly Makes A Raptor, A Raptor?
Starting with an off-the-rack F-150 frame, Raptor engineers cut, moved, and reinforced exactly zero suspension mounting points. That’s right, the same F-150 frame that underpins every other F-150 that rolls off the assembly line is as equally suited for high-speed desert runs as it is for towing huge loads and serving as a commercial workhorse. Granted, the Raptor does employ extensive skid plates not found on a typical F-150, protecting the chassis and engine from the typical obstacles and hazards you might come across while running high-speed in the desert: rocks, cacti, coyote, roadrunners, ACME-brand land mines, etc. The only difference in suspension mounting we were able to notice on the frame is that the spring pockets use a wedge-shaped mounting ring to cant the coilovers a few degrees outboard to mount to the beefy, pressure-cast aluminum Raptor-specific lower control arms. The upper arms are also Raptor-specific, but are forged steel. Rather than dropping the suspension mounting points, which is the norm for most aftermarket lifts, Ford engineers widened the track of the Raptor like aftermarket long-travel suspensions do. The longer pivot of the new arms allows for a 35-inch tall, extensively-siped and Raptor-specific BFG All-Terrain tire that has 11.2 inches of suspension travel. New, longer half-shafts were needed to compensate for the 3.5-inch increase in width per side. The rear gets an equally-impressive 12.1 inches of travel through a reinforced version of the F-150’s 8.8-inch axle. With thicker axle tubes and stronger axles, the electronic-locker-equipped axle is capable of enduring some hard landings, as evidenced by all of the videos Ford has posted online that have gone viral throughout the off-road community.
But Does It Rattle Your Guts?
While the frame and suspension hardware allow the truck to survive a grueling blast across the desert, what about the fate of those strapped inside? Ford teamed with Fox Racing Shox to develop a remote-reservoir oil shock for the rear and an internal triple bypass coilover for the front. The triple bypass function allows the shock to get progressively stiffer as the suspension moves through its full 11.2 inches of travel so that it never bottoms out harshly. Even if you did bottom out the suspension, soft, closed-cell bumpstops act like progressive air-stops for the last few inches of travel.