Here’s Why the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor’s Next-Gen Fox Shocks Are Such a Big Deal

The new Raptor might not have a V8 (yet) but the suspension is better than ever—really.

Ford

As you'd expect, Ford says the 2021 F-150 Raptor is more capable than ever. We hear that with each new performance model, but the claim itself means nothing without proof of how it's actually been improved. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 remains essentially the same for the Raptor's third generation, so there's a lot riding on the fundamentals to make this new super truck shine. The next-gen Fox Live Valve shocks are a solid place to start, then.

These shocks are key to helping the Raptor fly across totally brutal terrain while providing 14 inches of suspension travel up front and 15 inches at the rear. Ford's initial reveal of the new Raptor gave a brief explainer of the suspension, though now, we've got an in-depth look at the differences with these new Fox units as well as how they translate to better all-around off-road performance.

Ford

Although Ford is yet to build another V8 Raptor—it's coming next year, supposedly—the Blue Oval insists that bigger is better; this time, we're talking shocks instead of engines. The 2021 model's shocks measure 3.1 inches in diameter, which Ford and Fox both say provides better passive support. Makes sense seeing as the bigger the base, the more stability that comes with it.

Secondly, the new Fox equipment is way better at damping than the previous gen, which was already touted as a stellar setup. They offer twice the damping of the outgoing units, and even without Live Valve adjustability in play, they provide more passive damping capability than the old ones with Live Valve active. It sounds complicated, I know, but this goes to show that they've improved the shock bodies tremendously, independent of the tech that makes these things truly special.

In case you need a refresher on how internal bypass shocks actually work, Ford and Fox have provided that below. Even if you're in the know when it comes to complex suspensions, it's a good watch that helps clear up a few things about the Raptor's specific running gear.

Essentially, there's less resistance inside the shock when the piston is toward the bottom; that's where it typically hangs out during normal driving. As the going gets faster and bumpier, it travels upward and faces increased resistance with more oil being forced to flow through the piston assembly. The shock is slowed down in turn, helping it to avoid harshly bottoming out when you're having the most fun.

The Live Valve tech is crucial here, too. It measures incoming terrain data 500 times per second, which is apparently how fast our brains process visual information. Then, the Raptor's smart algorithm—who knew trucks could even have an algorithm?—creates a predictive model to react accordingly. This is crafted not only with terrain information but also by observing your driving behavior. 

For example, if the Raptor determines you're driving in a reserved fashion and comfort should be the focus, it'll decrease preload and provide a plush ride. Say you're driving like a total hoon and there's a zillion bumps coming toward you at 80 mph, it can dial up more preload and prepare for, um, thermally critical events. It's the type of kit that helps the truck perform in every situation.

So while you still can't buy a new Raptor with a rowdy supercharged V8, you can get one with this innovative coil-sprung suspension and 37-inch tires—not what I'd call a bad deal, exactly.

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