The Ford Raptor is one of few vehicles with legitimate recreational off-road viability from the factory. The second generation, based on the new aluminum F-150, is coming out for 2017 with a set of shocks that should help it crush dunes even harder. Here’s what we know.
Like the first Raptor we got in 2010, the shocks on the 2017 truck are made by Fox.
Fox has been dialing in off-road vehicles since the 1970's. Specifically, 1974 when Bob Fox ran his first prototype suspension on a dirt bike. The company’s history reports that it started getting traction in the truck world just a few years later, when Nissan factory off-road racer Rodger Mears ran them on his Hardbody pickup.
Flash-forward to today and Fox is a mainstay in the off-road industry– they sell a big range of shocks with “drivable” options for weekend warriors and expensive versions for hardcore racers. They offer aftermarket shocks ranging from “small lift” to “full dune-jumper” for quite a few different vehicles.
Jeep uses Fox shocks as factory upgrade options through their Mopar catalog, and Toyota offers them as OEM parts on the Tacoma TRD Pro. That truck is probably the closest thing to a “Raptor competitor” on the market now, and it runs 2.5 inch diameter shocks front and rear, like the old Raptor. The new Raptor’s tubes are .5 inch bigger, but the Toyota has an external reservoir for better cooling.
Ford’s brochure breaks it down pretty nicely, here’s their pitch:
“The new 3.0-inch FOX shock adds a base valve piston that enables lower gas pressure, resulting in a more comfortable-riding truck on the road. The internal bypass in the front and rear shocks has nine distinct zones that progressively manage shock forces, allowing for smooth on-road trips along with hard-hitting off-road driving. The final zones act like hydraulic bump stops to send fluid through the top of the piston while the shock is fully compressed, preventing Raptor from bottoming out. This allows Raptor to maintain a comfortable ride, and leads to improved confidence for the driver to explore all of its extra-long suspension travel.”
Conceptually, a shock boils down to “a tube full of thick fluid that pushes back against bumps.” The sorcery is about controlling the flow and temperature of this fluid.
While a “standard” shock absorber may be 1.5 inches in diameter and have basic pressure-regulation, the Raptor’s Fox units are 3 inches in diameter with a whole lot more little valves inside that regulate the fluid flow, ergo damping, more precisely. This translates to a more compliant ride in rough conditions. But perhaps more importantly, it also lets the truck be comfortable in a bigger range of conditions.
While old-school shocks might have been great off-road, but too floppy on the street, units like the Raptor’s Fox tubes are “stepped” in such a way that it changes the rate of damping depending on other factors like heat and speed.
Unfortunately Ford is taking their sweet time teasing out the specific details of the new truck. So far the only hard numbers they’ve presented on the 2017 Raptor’s suspension is that the new shocks are 3 inches in diameter as opposed to the old ones’ 2.5 inches, which basically means the fluid can flow faster and cool better but we don’t know by how much specifically.
Overall travel has also been increased by about 15 percent. The 2017 Raptor is supposed to have 13 inches of travel up front and 13.9 inches rear, while the old one had 11.2 inches up front and 12 inches in the rear.
It’s important to remember that suspension travel does not equal “lift.” Travel is the full range of bounce the truck has, with the “normal” cruising position being somewhere in the middle. Really, it’s a more relevant measure of off-road performance than suspension lift, since lift doesn’t even equate to ground clearance. Lift just lets you fit a bigger tire, and that gets your truck higher off the ground.
But “travel” is a hard spec to find for factory trucks, as I’ve learned a few frustrating minutes of writing this post. Luckily we can use FourWheeler’s off-road suspension guide from last year as a reference point– they were looking at about 11.5" of travel on a few Toyota and Chevys, and that’s with fairly hardcore aftermarket suspension setups.
As for the Raptor’s ground clearance and approach angles, we don’t that yet for sure. We do know the last-gen Raptor had about 10" of ground clearance where a regular old F-150 had about 9 inches. Now apparently a current F-150 FX4 has 9.4 inches of clearance, but we’re still waiting to see specific measurements on the next Raptor.
I mean, I wouldn’t?
The first F-150 got a wonky reputation because people were buying them, driving them like the Baja-racing trophy trucks they’d seen (probably in a Raptor commercial) and complaining when their trucks were destroyed.
The Raptor is cool, but you have to appreciate its limits. Those high-performance shocks are still strapped to a daily-drivable (and mass-produceable) frame.
Even the “Factory Stock Class” Raptor that Ford is currently running in the 2016 Best In The Desert race series has different suspension than the new regular Raptor’s Fox system.
Let me put it in hard terms: you just read that the new Raptor will have 13" of travel. That’s a lot, for a stock vehicle. A real Baja race truck (known as a “trophy truck”) has more than double that. Thirty inches plus to even 40 inches is how deep those things roll, and the entire system’s geometry is different from any truck you can drive off a dealership floor.
The 2017 Raptor will undoubtedly be a hoot in the sand and any other trail it can fit on. Just don’t drive one off the lot to a starting line.