There’s no doubt about it, the Ford F-150 Raptor is the ultimate high-performance off-road pickup, and there’s absolutely nothing else like it on the road today. Truth be told, Ford could leave well enough alone and sell every one of these bad boys, but that’s not how they roll.
For 2019, Ford rolled out a trip of new features that makes the F-150 Raptor an even tougher, smarter, more capable trail runner, with upgraded tech including electronically controlled FOX Racing Shox, a new Trail Control system, and all-new Recaro sport seats.
“Raptor’s success is rooted in its incredible suspension, superb vehicle control and confidence the truck instills in its owners,” said Hermann Salenbauch, global director, Ford Performance vehicle programs. “Upgrades to the 2019 F-150 Raptor have improved all three to new levels that the competition will have to benchmark – again.”
The Raptor’s suspension upgrades make it even more capable of clawing away at the terrain. To enhance Raptor’s already proven internal bypass shocks, Ford Performance worked directly with FOX to develop all-new electronically controlled Live Valve technology for the Raptor that continuously adjusts damping in real-time. This setup uses sensors in the suspension and body to maximize comfort, handling and bottom-out resistance.
“By automatically varying compression rates, Raptor can now make the most of its suspension travel of 13 inches at the front and 13.9 inches at the rear,” said Salenbauch. “The 2019 Raptor is not just more capable off-road. It’s smarter.”
Paired with Raptor’s Terrain Management System, FOX’s Live Valve suspension technology can increase the truck’s high-speed off-road capability while also enabling smooth on-road driving performance. “Not many trucks need sensors to detect when you are midair,” said Salenbauch. “Raptor sets the dampers to full stiffness to help smooth shock performance as the truck lands.”
Low-speed performance off-road is also improved. The new Trail Control helps Raptor drivers navigate challenging conditions. Think of it like cruise control for low-speed, rugged terrain, automatically adjusting power and braking to each individual wheel to allow drivers to focus on steering over rugged terrain. Trail Control can be activated at speeds from 1 mph up to 20 mph depending on driveline position.
The system makes everything easier – from driving on a simple two-track trail to traversing a rocky hill climb. Not only can Trail Control automatically draw significant engine torque to overcome steep obstacles, it can individually brake the wheels so the truck comes down smoothly on the other side.
Lastly, Raptor drivers now have enhanced seats to help keep them firmly in place for improved confidence at low and high speeds. All-new Recaro sport seats provide aggressive support with generous bolstering in the seat back and cushion. This available seat features blue Alcantara inserts and accent stitching inspired by the Light Speed interior of the Ford GT supercar.
And of course, the Raptor comes chock full of safety features, including backup sensors, since you really can’t see everything behind you in a truck of this size. Never used one before? Try using a backup sensor and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one.
Raptor’s aggressive exterior gets even more intense for 2019 with eye-catching new colors including Ford Performance Blue, Velocity Blue and Agate Black. An enhanced rear appliqué and available newly designed beadlock-capable wheels round out the new look.
Of course, if that $50K+ price tag is too rich for your blood, you can always purchase a less expensive F-150 and search for car parts wholesale to give your truck that off-roading look without breaking the bank.
The upgraded 2019 F-150 Raptor goes on sale in late 2018.
We Venture Off Life’s Beaten Path In The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali
When GMC invited me out to St. John’s, Newfoundland to drive the all-new 2019 GMC Sierra Denali, I was pretty excited, as I’ve been itching to get behind the wheel of this bad boy ever since it was unveiled earlier this year. And the fact that this first drive was taking place in such a picturesque location.. well that was just icing on the cake.
The Denali needs no introduction. First introduced as the top-of-the-line version of the 1999 GMC Yukon, the nameplate has become a luxury brand in it’s own right, the pinnacle of what it means to be professional grade. Demand for Denali continues to rise, thanks to first-class appointments, the latest tech, and advanced safety features.. and plenty of bling.
Our Sierra adventure started
bright and early in Cape Spear, the easternmost point in Canada, for what was supposed to be a breathtaking sunrise (and photo opp). Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans in store for us, covering the area in thick fog for much of the morning. But we weren’t going to let a little bad weather spoil our fun.
We hopped into our 2019 GMC Sierra Denali and headed off across the island towards our base camp in Heart’s Delight, passing through some cozy fishing villages with stunning views along the coastline. The 100+ mile route gave us plenty of time to get acquainted with the truck and play with it’s various features.
First impressions? The bold, new exterior design is unmistakably GMC, and no one is going to confuse your rig for a Silverado. While the two trucks share the same platform and drivetrain, the similarities end there, with the Sierra sporting completely unique sheet metal that gives it a more muscular and sophisticated look, along with that aggressive front-end. There’re also a lot of C-shape design elements from the headlights carried out throughout the truck.
We never found ourselves lacking in the power department, with the new 6.2-liter V-8 engine (which puts out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque) and 10-speed automatic transmission working seamlessly to deliver robust power and torque when needed. Yet despite the large displacement engine, it’s surprisingly fuel efficient, with a Dynamic Fuel Management system that allows the engine to run on any number of cylinders in order to provide the power or efficiency demanded by the driver.
The Sierra Denali’s interior is also well-appointed, with a wide array of advanced technology, including a massive 3-inch x 7-inch multi-color heads-up display that is fully customizable, a rear camera mirror (a second-generation version of the one we’ve used in the Chevy Bolt and Buick Enclave) that helps the driver see around potential vision obstructions, surround vision (giving you a bird’s eye view of the area around the truck), and a slew of active safety features.
Cabin space is absolutely cavernous as well, with the larger cab size allowing for an impressive amount of legroom – 44.5 inches up front and 43.4 inches in the rear. In addition, every inch of the cabin has been optimized for functionality, with new storage spaces (including a clever rear seatback compartment) to ensure that you’ve got a place for items of all sizes. And as you would expect with a Denali, interior materials are top notch, with a mix of aluminum, wood, and leather. Not quite as upscale as the new Ram 1500’s interior, but still nice.
But perhaps the most notable feature of the new Sierra is the GMC MultiPro Tailgate, which comes standard on the SLT, AT4 and Denali trims. This innovating tailgate features six unique functions and positions, offering enhanced second-tier loading and load-stop solutions, and easier access to items in the box. In addition, it incorporates a “step” mode that allows you to get in and out of the bed with ease, with a handle added for added stability.
But that’s not all. Later in the model year, the Sierra Denali will be available with an optional carbon fiber pickup box called CarbonPro. This is said to reduce weight by 62 pounds, while increase durability, efficiency and functionality of the truck compared to the standard steel inner panels and floor. Given the fact that this will likely be an expensive option, we’re not sure how many people will opt for this, but it’s cool that GMC is thinking outside of the box.
Last but not least, let’s talk about towing. GMC knows that a large number of their customers will use their trucks for towing. As such, they’ve introduced an available Prograde Trailering System that includes a number of features designed to take the guesswork out of connecting and towing a trailer, including an in-vehicle trailer app, rear hitch camera (which is accessible while driving), theft alert, and more.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali. There’s no question that GMC has taken Performance Grade to the next level, delivering a premium truck that offers pretty much everything you could ever want, including some features you never even knew existed. But luxury like this doesn’t come cheap, with Denali pricing starting at around $60,000 for a 4×4 model and going up from there.
The 2019 GMC Sierra Denali should be arriving at dealerships now, so if you’re in the market for a premium truck, head on down to your local dealer and take one out for a spin.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is Madness on Four Wheels
Family car? Check. Sport utility vehicle? Check. Drag racer? Check.
That sums up the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. After a week in this wild mashup of useful buffoonery, we came away wishing we had another one. Copious amounts of muscle in a package that cannot be poo-pooed by the more practical mindset is just genius. Therein lies the edge-of-madness thinking of Fiat-Chrysler’s SRT brand.
The 2018 Dodge Durango SRT is a perfect example of what happens when the right amount of everything is put together into a package worth selling. Its beastly 6.4-liter V8 engine and family-smart design are a great combination. When performance matters more than daily use readiness, though, the SRT engineers get more Trackhawk in their thinking.
The 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk drops the third row of seating and a few other passenger ergonomics in favor of a lot more horsepower and more performance-focused design. The GC Trackhawk is basically a Hellcat in Jeep form, and while that might seem just ludicrous, it’s actually pretty genius. In a Mad Hatter kind of way. Which happens to be how a lot of geniuses operates, it turns out.
The Hellcat’s 6.2-liter V8 with its supercharged output of 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet being channeled to the drivetrain. That drivetrain is all-wheel drive by default and those who push down the throttle and listen to the grumble of that big engine and the screeching tire results will be glad for that. The Trackhawk, with its greater weight and AWD, is far easier to control in a straight run than is the Challenger Hellcat.
This means 0-60 mph times of 3.5 seconds are possible with the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, despite its hefty 5,400 pound curb weight. Impressive! Even more impressive is the stopping distance from 60mph of just 114 feet. That comes thanks to the oversized Brembo brakes and grippy P-Zero tires mounted on the big Trackhawk.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is tuned for track performance, as its name implies, but the bulk of the Jeep simply cannot be ignored, regardless of how much thought went into the suspension and chassis tuning of the big SUV. The Trackhawk does well in the corners, but there are limits to the single-speed transfer case used to churn the front wheels and physics involved in the big Jeep’s bulk. Even with those, however, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk will corner wonderfully at speed, provided the driver is willing to let the gut tickle with an anticipated rollover and push limits. The Trackhawk is not a coupe.
What’s really great about the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, as with any Dodge-Jeep vehicle, is its everyday comfort despite its roaring musculature. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is comfortable and somewhat sedate in most daily drive situations. Provided the driver can keep a light foot and doesn’t mind the hood-shaking rumble of the big 6.2L. Outside of the small Trackhawk badge on its tailgate and the “Supercharged” signature across the lower panels, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk looks like any other Grand Cherokee on the road. More or less.
The huge wheels, fat brakes, and barely contained shakiness of its idle are giveaways too, but only to those looking for such things. It doesn’t take long for the kids to get their V8 legs and adapt to that motion at idle when getting in and out of the big Jeep.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is $90K of crazy awesome. It makes family hauling a new-level experience. We do not, however, recommend laying stripes of rubber from the school dropoff zone or out of the library parking lot. That’s just bad form.
Review: 2018 GMC Canyon Denali
There are fun times.. and then there are fun times with class. Somewhere in between chugging beers on the beach and sipping champagne on the terrace lies the GMC Canyon Denali. This midsize pickup truck has plenty of style, good capability, and rugged comfort.
We recently spent a week in the 2018 GMC Canyon in its Denali trim, the top-most trim level in the Canyon’s lineup of five trim options. Highlights include multiple cab configurations, two bed length options (we had the short bed), and both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive. GMC has added trailer hitch guidelines to the backing camera on the Canyon this year, which proved to be surprisingly useful, and made the infotainment screen larger as standard.
The 2018 Canyon has a lot going for it. It’s by far the best-looking truck in the midsize pickup truck market and it’s the only one with a diesel engine option. But it has some downsides too, including less off-road capability compared to like-priced options from Toyota and its larger size when compared to the Toyota or Nissan competitors in this category. But these points aren’t likely to dissuade people who are shopping the 2018 Canyon Denali, which is definitely the most upscale option in this market.
Visually, looking at the GMC Canyon Denali, one gets the overall impression that this truck is robust and ready, while also giving off a hint of sport and fun. It doesn’t have that big-rig muscle and chrome of larger full-sized pickups, but keeps the appearance of capability. It’s a good design that really gives the Canyon an edge.
Under the 2018 Canyon’s hood can be any of 3 engine choices. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that outputs 200 horsepower to a six-speed manual transmission, which can be upgraded to a like-geared automatic. We’d recommend upgrading that to either of the other two engines, which give more power and capability as well as useful towing numbers.
The upgrade V6 is a 3.6-liter that outputs 308 hp and 275 pound-feet of torque. We drove the Canyon Denali with this engine and found it to be a perfect match for the truck. The engine has a predictable, relatively long power band that is well suited to the automatic transmission.
The final option is also a recommended upgrade, a 2.8-liter turbodiesel. This turbo-four puts out 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Balancing power and economy, this engine is made for torque delivery to get a load moving, offering a 7,700 pound maximum tow rating for best-in-class trailering. We drove this model last year and found it very well done.
The main differences between the 2018 Canyon’s V6 and the diesel option are in everyday driving. The V6 offers faster acceleration and a good about-town and off-pavement presence, but doesn’t have the high towing capability or fuel economy of the diesel. The diesel has those things, but takes longer to get up to speed and its turbo lag is very noticeable around town. So the choice really comes down to which fits what needs better.
The four-cylinder gas option for the 2018 Canyon is EPA-rated at 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The V6 lowers those numbers to 18 in the city and 25 highway. That’s not much of a tradeoff for a much better engine. The diesel rates at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Nobody else can claim those kinds of MPG returns. These numbers are for rear-wheel drive models. Adding in 4×4 capability drops them by about a point each. In the real world, the diesel returned very close to those EPA ratings while the V6 was slightly lower, likely due to our higher altitude (5,400 feet).
Another huge difference between the 2018 Canyon and its rivals, especially in Denali trim, is in interior comfort. This is where GMC focuses its premium brand name, putting together an excellent interior. Seating is excellent with a lot of room for the front passenger and driver. The rear seats are good too, but they have less legroom (even in the crew cab) than expected. Adults can still fit back there, but the center position on the rear bench is really just for kids.
We also like the infotainment system in the 2018 Canyon. With the full upgrade, the 7-inch touchscreen grows to 8-inches, and the base model’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are augmented with GM’s IntelliLink system with its quick responses and easy-to-understand menu tree. We’d like to see more redundant buttons for quickly jumping from one thing to another (say from maps to radio), but once a few of the more advanced controls are learned, those things come quickly. Swiping to the side, for example, switches between main menu elements immediately, allowing a move from the NAV screen to the radio in one gesture.
Speaking of navigation, the built-in system for the Canyon is workable, but it’s not that great. Plugging in a phone and using its NAV (which can cast to the screen) is a far better option. Additionally, voice control of the GMC’s infotainment is really only useful for making phone calls. It’s otherwise iffy on getting commands right. Again, hold the VC button for an extra second and use your phone’s voice controls instead.
The 2018 GMC Canyon Denali is the top-most midsize pickup truck package available on the market today. It’s a strong goer and fun to drive. We took it around town as a daily drive and then out and about on and off the road for fun times here in Wyoming. The Canyon with its V6 is confident and well-mannered with a surprisingly quiet cabin on the highway. The 4×4 package will get you where you want to be without a lot of trouble, so long as the request is reasonable. The Canyon isn’t a hardcore rock climber or mud digger.
We also found that when towing a trailer matched to the Canyon’s capabilities, it does pretty well. It’s more than capable of pulling toys to the lake, getting a few things from the home improvement store, and hauling gear for camping or riding.
The 2018 GMC Canyon Denali is a great little truck with a lot of fun factor built in. The Denali trim starts at $39,600 plus delivery and rang in at $46,400 with delivery as we drove it.