The Ford Raptor is an impressive beast. It's cozy on the road and a devil in the dirt. There really isn't another choice of vehicle if you're goal is to have a Baja-blasting, dune running, jumping pickup that can handle serious abuse. It boasts a 450-horsepower turbocharged EcoBoost engine under its hood, and it also features a competent selectable drive system. That last bit is about to get dissected by your engineering friend Jason Fenske.

Engineering Explained is here to, um, explain the engineering behind the Raptor's drivetrain. You see, it's capable of operating in two-wheel drive with just the rear wheels getting power, or in four-wheel drive... or in all-wheel-drive. Yes, it can operate in one way or the other with power metered out to each corner.

It all comes down to the transfer case. In regular rear-wheel-drive mode, the engine's power is sent to the rear axle. There's no sorcery happening there, minus the magic of 510 pound-feet of torque. In the 4Auto setting, the Raptor is using all-wheel drive to send power to the front axle while a clutch allows slippage so that there's no binding during on-road driving. Put the drive system into either 4Hi or 4Lo, and you've now got locked differentials and even power flowing to all four wheels. It's this complicated combination of a transfer case, some clutches, selector shafts, and a bunch of other parts that allow the Raptor to rule any road on which it's driven.

And while all those moving pieces might be difficult for us normal folks to figure out, Fenske does the usual good job diving deep into the engineering behind this sophisticated system.


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