It’s hard to remember a more high-profile vehicle launch than the new Ford Bronco. Everyone was excited to see an off-road SUV that could finally battle the Jeep Wrangler, and now we know that’s exactly what we got. However, some people have been concerned about the Bronco’s independent front suspension from the start, saying it should have been built with a solid axle. It’s still there on the new Bronco Raptor, though Ford has seriously beefed it up to hit dunes, rocks, and more.
While testing the Bronco Raptor in Johnson Valley a few weeks ago, we stopped for lunch at the nearby Driven Experiences store. There they had a pre-production model on the lift with the wheels removed. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos and ask Chris Paiva, the lead Bronco Raptor chassis development engineer, for a spin.
“The frame rails are very similar to the base Bronco, but we lengthened the upper shock tower to get a longer shock and more travel,” Paiva explained. “We also reinforced this area for more durability.”
These shock towers are obscenely tall – I’m 6’5″ and they stick out past my navel. Keep in mind this rig comes standard with 37-inch BF Goodrich K02s, which are even taller taller than the 35s a normal Bronco with the Sasquatch package gets. It also gave Ford more reason to beef up the front end.
“Next, we extended the control arms three inches—both upper and lower—allowing us to increase wheel travel with 13 inches up front,” Paiva continued. “We also put these giant aluminum control arms on the bottom, the rods are forged steel and there’s an aluminum knuckle.”
When I asked why the lowers were aluminum rather than high tensile steel, Paiva replied, “It’s mostly the weight. You have a lot more material in the lower control arm, so the weight gain is much more important on the bottom than on the top.”
As suspected, the Bronco Raptor applies many of the lessons learned from the F-150 Raptor. They are built on different platforms, as the Bronco actually uses the same T6 architecture as the Ranger pickup. But that didn’t stop Ford from copying some high-performance F-Series parts and pasting them on the Bronco Raptor.
“Basically this whole external module — the stub axle, brake, and wheel bearing assembly — is shared with the F-150 Raptor,” Paiva noted. The same with shock; it’s actually the same Fox Live Valve as the Gen 3 F-150 Raptor. We obviously tuned it, but the real guts inside the shock are all the same.”
These shocks are impressive, that’s for sure. Ford will go on and on about how they measure oncoming terrain data over 500 times per second, but I’ll just put it this way: they work better the faster you go, up to a point . You shouldn’t test them at top speed on an unfamiliar trail, but when I got to grips with Ford’s high-speed course at 40 miles per hour, I felt the bumps way more than 60 mph a few laps more late.
With all these improvements to the IFS, it was only fair to make some adjustments to the rear suspension as well. Ford made a host of modest modifications to make sure the Dana 50 axle can twist and contort like it should, and there’s 14.1 inches of travel there. It’s impressive how well the Bronco Raptor stays planted as it traverses a field of boulders; as cool as it sounds to see a rig on three wheels, you really want maximum articulation with all four tires on the ground.
“We changed the way the upper control arm mounts from the base Bronco,” Paiva said. “The Bronco base has, like, a spring pocket that’s very similar to the front; we went to that crossbar design and reinforced that area for durability. We also changed the rear geometry just a touch , and we actually moved some of the rear suspension arm mounting points out of the rocks.”
You can see, then, that the Bronco Raptor is more than fat tires and absurdly wide fender flares. The engineering team behind it has worked diligently to ensure it can handle exceptionally high speeds and triple-digit heat at the same time. I’m not saying the truck is invincible, but if it really shares that much with the F-150 Raptor, you’re probably going to break before.
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