What do the six drive modes really do?
The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is an off-road technological tour de force. It takes the dune-running suspension of the original Raptor and pairs it with a fancy new four-wheel-drive system and six preset computer drive modes. The combination is designed to make even the most novice driver feel like Ivan Stewart off-road.
The key to the Raptor’s six different drive modes lies in its transfer case. Like many modern four-wheel-drive pickups, the Raptor has a two-speed transfer case with four modes: 2H, 4A, 4H, and 4L. That’s 2-High (standard rear-wheel drive), 4-Auto (all-wheel drive, where power is only sent to the front wheels when slip is detected), 4-High (all four wheels are being driven), and 4-Low (a gear-reduction mode where all four wheels are driven at the Raptor’s 50:1 crawl ratio). Where the Raptor differentiates itself from other pickups is how the various transfer case modes are incorporated into the truck’s six drive modes—automatically shifting the transfer case based on which mode you toggle the truck into using the steering wheel–mounted rocker switch. For newbie off-roaders, it takes the guesswork out of off-roading. It ensures (in theory) that the Raptor is always going to be in the right mode for the conditions.
Here’s a quick peek at each of the six Terrain Management modes and what they do:
Well this one is pretty obvious, isn’t it? It’s the Raptor’s default drive mode. Although 2H is the default, the driver has the ability to manually shift into any of the other four-wheel-drive settings in this mode.
This ramps up throttle response and steering effort, and it holds the 10-speed automatic’s lower gears longer.
In this mode, it automatically shifts the truck into 4A, reduces throttle response, and increases the electronic traction and stability control intervention system’s responsiveness to make the Raptor more stable and predictable in low-friction environments.
Mud and Sand
This mode is all about traction. It locks the Raptor into 4H, locks the rear differential, puts the steering into Comfort mode, and turns off traction control while changing the stability control intervention threshold. You typically want both rear tires spinning at the same speeds on loose surfaces like mud or sand, but the driver can unlock the rear differential via a button on the dash if necessary.
This is the fun mode. Tuned based on Ford’s experiences racing a stock 2017 F-150 Raptor in the famous Baja races, this mode basically combines Sport with Mud and Sand. Mechanically, it engages 4H on the transfer case. Electronically, this mode engages a Ford GT–inspired anti-lag system for the Raptor’s 450-hp 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and changes throttle response, the 10-speed’s shift points, and the traction and stability control programing. If you’re feeling brave, you can manually engage 2H, lock the rear diff, and turn the traction control system fully off.
This is the sole Terrain Management system mode that engages 4-Low. Once engaged, Rock Crawl locks the rear diff, turns traction control off, and starts the truck in second gear to allow smoother throttle application, which will ensure the Raptor is climbing over rocks, not bouncing off them.