Available on everything from the Hyundai Elantra to the Lamborghini Huracán, driving modes electronically change a car’s character by altering the behavior of things like the steering, throttle, and transmission. Different systems vary in effectiveness, but on off-road vehicles like the Raptor, the multiple modes are often set up to deal with different types of terrain. The Raptor’s six modes include Normal, Sport, Weather, Mud/Sand, Baja, and Rock Crawl.
The first three modes deal primarily with on-road driving. Normal is for, er, normal conditions, while Weather adjusts throttle response, shifting, traction control, and the four-wheel system for slippery roads. Sport mode sharpens up the throttle and steering for “spirited on-road driving,” according to Ford, although you probably won’t ever mistake the Raptor for a Shelby GT350 Mustang.
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Things get more interesting with Mud/Sand mode. This sets the four-wheel drive system to “4 High” and locks the differential, but also puts the steering in its more relaxed “Comfort” mode. All of this is meant to smooth out power delivery and control inputs, which is important for maintaining traction on loose surfaces. Rock Crawl mode resets everything for rocky surfaces, and even activates a front-mounted camera so drivers can see where they’re going.
Finally, Baja mode is designed for high-speed running. Named after the Baja 1000 desert race that was used to test trucks in the past, it lessens traction control’s interference, engages a different throttle map to increase engine responsiveness, and tells the transmission to hold gears longer to keep the engine in its power band. If you ever find yourself being chased by a horde of post-apocalyptic bandits, this is the mode to use.
When it arrives later this year, the Raptor will offer more than just clever software. Its 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 is tipped to make 450 horsepower, and is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Will all of that add up to a killer off-road performance truck? Stay tuned.
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