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May 30, 2023

It May Look Like A Brute, But The Next-Generation Ford Ranger Raptor Cuts The Air Better Than Before

From its bold F-O-R-D grille to its strong shoulder line, the Ford Ranger Raptor surprisingly incorporates an aerodynamic design that helps it reduce drag improving its performance and efficiency.

To sculpt the truck’s shape, the Ranger Raptor underwent around 700 hours of virtual and physical aerodynamics testing with cutting-edge computational fluid dynamics able to test the effect of design changes almost instantly.

Designers and engineers also looked to an unlikely source for inspiration to manage airflow around the wheels—a major source of aerodynamic drag. The Ford Mustang shares little in common with the Ranger Raptor, but the pickup truck’s development team was influenced by techniques used by their U.S. counterparts to help manage efficient airflow around the wheels and wheel arches of the Mustang.

Aerodynamics has not always played an important part in the design of the Ranger Raptor or the rest of the Ranger family for that matter. However, as more and more customers choose pickups for work, family and play, designers have had to improve pickup design to match customer expectations on efficiency and refinement.

Now, the basic pickup shape is not the easiest to work with when it comes to refining aerodynamic efficiency. With large frontal areas, big open wheel spaces, a dual cab design that ends suddenly and an open load box, designers have a lot to overcome when designing a new pickup.

That has led engineers and designers to focus their attention on several key areas: creating air curtains around the front and rear wheels to reduce aerodynamic drag, tuning the C-pillar treatment to improve airflow above the load box, and shaped the box capping and tailgate spoiler to minimize drag from the wake.

Wheels are also a major source of aerodynamic drag, and though Ford could have easily draped them in physical curtains to get the air to flow around it, that would look dinky. So, the Ranger Raptor’s designers and engineers, looked at the Mustang and its air curtains to develop a clever way of shaping the vehicle’s fog lights to create front wheel aero curtains.

The front bumper and fog lamp bezel were shaped to channel air flow around the front wheels which does two things. It helps to relieve some of the high pressure on the front of the vehicle which reduces aerodynamic drag and also mixes this higher momentum air flow with the front wheel wake to reduce drag caused by the wheels.

Managing the air flow around the wheels is critical to improving aerodynamic efficiency, whether the vehicle is designed for performance, urban, or utility usage. On the Ranger, in addition to air curtains, they developed tire spoilers ahead of the rear wheels to effectively reduce the bluffness of the rear tires and minimize the potential of the airflow to impact on the rear suspension and the box step.

Ensuring the load box is aerodynamic as possible, the team worked on the shape of the C-pillar, box capping, and tailgate spoiler to improve airflow characteristics above and around the load box.

Managing the flow of air above the load box has an impact on vehicle aerodynamics. The pickup shape dictates that you have a large recirculating flow in the cavity above the tray. By carefully tuning the roof and C-pillar geometry to interact with the box capping and tailgate spoiler shape, Ford was able to manipulate the extent of the recirculation and the shape of the wake behind the truck and reduce aerodynamic drag.

Despite its bold front end and wide wheel arches, the overall drag force of the new Ranger Raptor has been slashed by an impressive 3 percent. While this improves road holding and helps to reduce wind noise in the cabin it also improves efficiency; a three percent reduction in drag at highway speeds equates to a one percent improvement in fuel efficiency.

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