The Ford F-150 Raptor receives a few updates for the 2019 model year, and I was recently invited to experience the new model at the Ford Performance School located just outside of Salt Lake City. The handful of new features that adorn the Raptor serve to set it even further apart from anything else on the market.
All of the Raptor’s sheet metal stays the same. The 2019 F-150 Raptor’s high-output 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 also remains unchanged. The Raptor makes 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, while returning around 16 miles per gallon combined, a reasonable figure if you value the powerful engine. The same cab sizes are also available; buyers can choose between the SuperCab and the SuperCrew, while the 5.5-ft short bed remains the only bed option.
The Raptor already offers the most off-road ready suspension out of any production vehicle on the market, with 13 inches of suspension travel in the front and 13.9 inches in the rear. This is considerably more than that offered by lesser off-road trucks such as the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, which offers 8.6 inches in the front and 10.0 in the rear. The Raptor’s Fox Racing-developed suspension gains an electronic component for 2019, which Ford and Fox are collectively calling "Live Valve" technology. Effectively, the shocks can now pull data from the truck and adjust themselves accordingly to a variety of conditions. This new element serves to push the Raptor’s limits even further and virtually eliminates bottoming out in situations where the Raptor catches a bit of air or comes down off of a rock too hard. Theoretically, this new feature serves to improve on-road driving performance as well.
In practice, it’s hard to say what difference the new electronic element makes to the Raptor’s suspension dampening. We weren’t allowed the opportunity to drive the previous-generation Raptor directly next to the new model, and the course over which we drove the new Raptor didn’t exactly push the vehicle’s limits. Still, not once did the suspension bottom out over the course of my time behind the wheel, which included catching a few feet of air on a dirt track at the end of the event.
The Raptor’s optional orange-accented interior is gone for 2019. Two new interior add-ons are available for 2019: Carbon fiber interior accents for the shift knob, door panels, dashboard and media bin lid and blue-accented microsuede Recaro seats.
The carbon fiber accents are more visual than functional, and they seem frivolous on a 7,000-lb vehicle, especially as a nearly-$1,000 option. The Recaro seats are nice, and the materials used seem durable and robust, but the bolstering could be tighter — although my narrow frame doesn’t exactly represent that of the average truck-buying American.
The 2019 F-150 Raptor also gains what Ford refers to as "Trail Control." When engaged, this feature acts as a sort of off-road cruise control at speeds between one and 20 miles per hour. In practice, it does the same thing as hill-descent control, except on flat and uphill surfaces as well. The system is activated via a button above the infotainment screen and, once active, is operated via the cruise control buttons on the steering wheel. Similar to Toyota’s Crawl Control, the Raptor’s Trail Control system can apply the throttle and brake individual wheels to help the vehicle traverse uneven terrain in as smooth and controlled a manner as possible.
Ford’s take on this feature is certainly quieter and subtler than Toyota’s, but altogether the real benefits of Trail Control will probably only be realized in seriously challenging low-speed rock-crawling situations, which aren’t exactly the Raptor’s forte to begin with, given the vehicle’s massive footprint.
The Raptor gains a new set of utilitarian-looking optional black wheels for 2019 that offer "bead-lock" capability. When driving on a bumpy off-road trail, often times drivers will opt to lower their tire pressure from the standard 30-40 psi down to around 20 or so. This increases the tire’s contact patch with the ground below it and makes the ride softer. When tire pressures are dropped to an extremely low level, say 15 psi or less, drivers run the risk of "losing the bead," or in other words having the tire basically slip off of the rim. Bead-lock wheels effectively lock the bead of the tire onto the wheel to ensure that this doesn’t happen, enabling the tires to run at very low pressures off-road. With "bead locks," the tire is fitted to the wheel, and then a ring is screwed into place around the outer edge of the rim that keeps the edge of the tire from slipping over the rim.
In addition to newly optional wheels, the "Ford" lettering on the Raptor’s optional rear bumper applique has also been changed to a contrasting gray color, the optional "Raptor" bed sticker has been changed every so slightly, the plastic engine cover has been tweaked and an embossed "Raptor" wordmark has been added at the base of the steering wheel. A few new colors are also added for 2019: Agate Black, Velocity Blue and Ford Performance Blue, the latter of which you’ll recognize from the Ford GT.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.