2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor: Road Trip Suspension Impressions
August 04, 2010
This picture of our 2010 SVT Raptor's front suspension was taken after it climbed to the top of "The Dog", Dad's name for the peak behind his house, the one atop the previously-mentioned "Wall of Death".
If you want to see more suspension shots, up to and including a full Suspension Walkaround, follow this link to the one I posted using another Raptor last year.
"But Dan," you may be thinking, "It took over 900 miles of paved road driving to get to the point where you could drive to this point. How did the Raptor fare on those paved roads?"
The short answer: not bad. More than tolerable, but not without flaws.
As we all know, the SVT Raptor was designed and built as an off-road vehicle. But anytime you emphasize something extreme, like high-speed off-road prowess in this case or circulating the Nurburgring in the low 7-minute range in other cases, you're going to lose some day-to-day "normal" performance.
The Raptor's triple-bitchin' triple-bypass Fox Racing shocks soak up desert whoop-de-doos like they're not even there. Pulling off that trick effectively takes a ton of travel and lots of damping force via the shock absorber -- things that aren't necessarily the friend of daily-use ride comfort.
Those bypass circuits help by cutting back on the maximum force the shock's internal valve is capable of by, in effect, short circuiting it. You need a cutaway to fully get how it works, but here's a verbal attempt anyway.
The three short circuits are arrayed along the length of the shock, and they're additive. The maximum total bypass is available at the unloaded smooth-road ride height. That is, the shocks are in their softest "mode" while cruising down the street. As the suspension and shocks compress toward the bump stops, the short circuits phase out, one by one. Approaching the end of travel, all of them are out of the picture and all of the shock oil must cram its way through the tiny passages of the main valve. The shock gets stiffer and stiffer as it compresses further and further.
This is flat-out awesome off-road, where the process is spread out over several inches to match the terrain. But on normal roads, the sorts of sharp bumps and cracks that matter amount to less than an inch. In this situation, the fully-bypassed valve doesn't always feel like it develops enough resistance quickly enough.
On top of that, those off-road wheels and tires weigh 97 pounds apiece. There's a lot of unsprung weight, especially out back, where everything rides on a heavy solid axle and leaf springs, to boot.
Bottom line: the Raptor's ride is generally smooth and soft (but no overly so) on smooth pavement, even if the surface texture itself is coarse. It deals gracefully with swells and dips and other low-frequency stuff. Its wide stance helps it feel planted in corners, even.
But hit a high-frequency crack or bump of a certain size and there's a shudder, usually from the back. Sometimes the rear hops to one side a little as one of the big tires bounces off the pavement. This behavior isn't foreign to pickups, but it's more obvious here than it is on your average new pickup with a standard leaf-spring suspension.
As for tire noise, yes, these BFG All-Terrain T/A tires do emit some pattern noise. But it's not excessive, and it's certainly consistent with the character and mission of the Raptor. But even this is largely drowned out by engine noise, as our Raptor's big 6.2-liter V8 burbles noticeably (but pleasantly) at all times. Even when idling down the freeway at 2,000 rpm, the murmur of the 6.2-liter V8 essentially relegates wind and tire noise to the background.
All of this is fine by me. The overall ride isn't tiresome over long distances and the occasional quirk is a worthwhile trade-off for those who appreciate the Raptor's intended mission, like me. In fact, if the Raptor was too quiet or rode too well on paved roads, I'd wonder if the off-road claims were nothing more than hype.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,393 miles