Truck Science: How the Ford Ranger Raptor’s Drive Modes Help You Tame Any Terrain You Chose To Tackle

DEARBORN, Michigan, 17 December 2021 – With its race-bred suspension, wider track and super-strong reinforced chassis, Raptor is designed to tackle the worst of the off-road at speed while remaining in control.

And part of that control, according to Rob Hugo, Ford Australia’s Dynamic Experiences Supervisor is down to Raptor’s six-mode Terrain Management System (TMS) which includes the performance-oriented Baja mode. “These programmable drive modes are part of Ford Performance DNA,” Hugo said. “Whether it’s track and drag modes for Mustang or the various off-road modes for Raptor, they all help to make Ford Performance DNA what it is.”

Performance DNA aside, the TMS modes are there to “make life easier and help the car to work seamlessly with the terrain. They don’t remove the requirement for skill, but they enhance the experience,” Justin Capicchiano, Ford Performance Program Manager added.

What are Drive modes?
Because each type of terrain: mud; rock; grass; gravel; sand and snow are all different, they require different characteristics from a vehicle. So, the Ranger Raptor’s Terrain Management System (or drive modes) allows the vehicle to be configured to suit a specific terrain.

But it’s not just a case of selecting a drive mode at random, said Hugo, it’s about knowing what drive mode to use when and why. For instance, some drive modes, like Sport, are intended for on-road use when driving in 4x2, while other modes are intended for use off-road in either 4x4 high- or low-range, or both. These include Grass/Gravel/Snow (4x4 high-range only), Mud/Sand (4x4 high- and low-range), Baja (4x4 high- and low-range) and Rock (low-range only). Normal is the only drive mode that can be used in either 4x2 on-road driving, or in 4x4 high- or low-range driving off-road.

Each drive mode is software based rather than being mechanical, and can optimise a range of elements, including throttle response, transmission response, brake and engine traction controls as well as being able to adjust the Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

“The idea with Raptor’s drive modes is to flatter the novice and enhance the expert’s experience,” said Capicchiano.

So, which drive mode should I use and why?
Whether you’re driving on- or off-road the Ranger Raptor offers a drive mode to enhance the experience.

“Understanding what drive mode to use when, means both novice and experienced off-road drivers will get the most from the Raptor. Most drivers will likely just use Normal mode when they’re off-road, but we put a lot of effort into ensuring the drive modes enhance Raptor’s performance, and we’d encourage all drivers to use them on their next off-road adventure.”

Normal is the drive mode the Raptor defaults to and is best suited to everyday driving whether you’re on- or off-road. “This mode can be used on- and off-road and in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive,” said Rob Hugo. “If you’re turning off the bitumen and onto a dirt track, then Normal in four-wheel drive high-range would be my recommendation,” added Capicchiano.

Sport sees the Raptor’s throttle response become sharper while the transmission will hold onto gears a little longer than Normal. The steering also becomes a little heavier in the straight-ahead position.

“Besides making the Raptor feel even sportier, we’d recommend anyone towing with their Raptor to use Sport mode when they’re driving up or down hills as the truck will hold onto gears for longer and reduce unnecessary gear changes,” Capicchiano said.

Grass/Gravel/Snow is intended for use on slippery surfaces, but isn’t intended for general off-road driving, said Rob Hugo. “This mode is more for an on-road driving situation where conditions are slippery – for example – driving on the ice-covered roads leading up to Mount Hotham (a well-known ski resort in Victoria, Australia),” Hugo said.

“This mode prompts you to put your vehicle in four-wheel drive high-range, it reduces the throttle response to stop you from over-accelerating on a slippery road and optimises gear shifts for slippery surfaces, like starting you off in second-gear rather than first gear,” Capicchiano said.

Mud/Sand is intended to be used in deep soft sand or mud where you need to maintain power delivery and momentum. When selecting this mode, the Raptor will prompt you to select four-wheel drive while the throttle sensitivity is softened, and the transmission will hold onto gears for longer. Other changes to support maintaining momentum are a desensitising of the brake and engine traction controls, while stability control allows for greater slip angles.

“Sand is extremely soft and requires different use of throttle inputs to avoid spinning the wheels and digging the vehicle down into the sand – this leads to burying the vehicle. Sand and Mud driving is about momentum and keeping the vehicle moving through softer areas – which are often not easy to spot when driving,” Capicchiano said.

Rock mode can only be used in four-wheel drive low-range. The intention is to use this mode where you will generally have high traction but need to drive slowly because of either large rocks or very deep ruts, which may see one of the vehicle’s wheels lose contact with the ground.

“Brake traction control remains on in Rock mode to help maintain forward momentum and control when negotiating large rocks or deep ruts, but stability control is deactivated and that’s because you’re in low-range and driving slowly,” Rob Hugo said.

“The throttle response is softened because your foot is likely to bounce when you’re driving across rocks and you don’t want the vehicle to begin jerking, and the transmission prioritizes first gear and delays shifting, although you can manually shift gears.”

A highlight of Raptor’s TMS is Baja mode which is a reference to the Baja 1000; a grueling endurance rally through Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula and one of the most prestigious off-road events in the world. Like its predecessor and the latest generation Ford F-150 Raptor, the Ranger Raptor was torture-tested in the challenging desert landscapes around Borrego Springs in the US as well as on the course of the Finke Desert Race in outback Australia.

“Baja mode is designed for total performance when you’re driving off-road, and things like throttle response and shift quality are sharpened to increase the sporting feel of the vehicle.”

“Thanks to its strong chassis, increased ground clearance, FOX shocks, drive modes and aggressive all-terrain tyres, the Ranger Raptor is the most capable Ranger on-sale,” Capicchiano concluded.
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