The thing about summiting a sand dune that seems roughly the size of a 15-story building is – and excuse me for getting technical right at the outset – you’ve got to keep your foot down. The fine white sand that composes the Silver Lake dunes on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, causes even the knobbiest of tires, driven by unspeakably powerful engines, to bog down if you lift too early.
I know this because, well, the guy in front of me kept getting stuck just a few feet from the top. One thing that the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R won’t do it seems – despite its many magnificent pieces of off-road-focused kit and a triumphant 700-horsepower, supercharged V8 engine – is convince its driver that the Earth doesn’t end at the top of a steep hill.
Here’s the interesting part: The support staff that rescued my fellow journalist on his last and deepest flub were driving a plain-old EcoBoost Raptor. Despite being down 250 hp and 130 pound-feet of torque, that insanely capable truck was easily able to climb the dune and tug out Mr. Lift in his stuck Raptor R. It’s a fair bet that one of the guys running around in the Bronco Raptor, or even some of Ford’s “lesser” off-road ready vehicles could’ve done the work as well. So why go R?
The truth is that nobody needs the Raptor R. No non-Baja-racer needs 700 hp in their pickup truck. But to paraphrase McConaughey, it’s a whole lot cooler if you do.
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|2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
|Supercharged 5.2-liter V8
|700 horsepower / 640 pound-feet
|4.4 Seconds (est)
|Trim Base Price:
Gallery: 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R: First Drive
These Go To Eleven
To state the obvious: replacing the standard Raptor’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with the supercharged 5.2-liter V8 is far and away the biggest change made to earn that red R badge. The power unit is familiar to anyone who’s looked at a Mustang Shelby GT500 spec sheet and makes 700 hp at 6,650 rpm and 640 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm in this F-150 tune.
The associated performance is just as impressive as those output numbers on the road, though Ford hasn’t disclosed any official acceleration figures. With about 400 more pounds (when corrected for trim and equipment) , 2 more horsepower and 10 more torques, blood rival Ram TRX is said to hit 60 miles per hour in just 4.5 seconds on dry pavement. Certainly, the Raptor R is likely to be a little quicker.
I did hand-time multiple 0-60 runs on a long muddy stretch of deeply rutted sand out at Sliver Lake. Hardly scientific, but the Ford consistently hit bang-on 5 seconds in those less-than-ideal conditions, to give you some idea of its accelerative profile. That is to say: very very quick.
The “Predator” V8 is complemented by an exceptional exhaust system, as well. Switched into the loudest and most exciting Baja Mode, the ripping sound that accompanies a full boot of throttle is hard-edged, metallic, and satisfyingly raucous. Perfect for a day at the dunes or out in the sticks with like-minded enthusiasts.
To state the obvious: replacing the standard Raptor’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with the supercharged 5.2-liter V8 is far and away the biggest change made to earn that red R badge.
To be honest, though, I was even more impressed with just how silent the active exhaust system could be in the aptly named Quiet Mode. When leaving the hotel in the dark of the morning, my truck was nearly silent (at least until I dug deeply into the throttle). For anyone living in polite society and planning to daily drive their R, this will be a godsend.
Spot The Changes
Beyond the new engine (which also has a different supercharger pulley and tune vs. the GT500), there’s not much you get on the Raptor R that doesn’t already come – at least optionally – on the plain-ol’ Raptor.
The biggest visual cue is the power dome popping out of the imposing hood – an unsubtle way of reinforcing that this isn’t your average F-150. Sophomoric R-specific graphics decorate the rear flanks of the new Raptor, too, but thankfully they’re a zero-cost option to delete. On the other hand, the Raptor R badge is a bit of subtle menace with a jagged, red “R” hanging off the “Raptor” badge. Beyond those, you’ll have to spot the standard 37-inch wheels (optional on the standard Raptor), or the blacked-out trim pieces outside and inside the new truck.
Ford has tuned the Raptor R’s long-travel Fox live valve shocks to account for the extra weight and power of the V8. The only other functional changes from the existing Raptor are meant to keep the engine cool and breathing freely. Raptor R gets an updated engine oil cooler, a deeper oil pan, a wider air intake, and a higher-flow air filter.
The Tame Beast
Knobby, 37-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires and 13.1-inches of ground clearance might sound like a recipe for poor highway manners and floppy back-roads blasting, but that isn’t the case. Despite being heavily optimized for desert running at triple-digit speeds, the Raptor R doesn’t feel much tougher to live with than your standard F-150 (save for the car payments and fuel bills).
The same five-link rear suspension with extra-long trailing arms that allows the truck to keep power flowing to the weeks on undulating surfaces, seems to have no deleterious effects on overall ride quality. At 75 miles per hour on the highway, those big tires do rumble away in the background (less than I expected, honestly), but otherwise the Raptor R feels utterly surefooted and stable. And the brakes – 13.8-inch rotors with two-piston calipers up front and 13.2-inch, single-piston rears – surprised me with their force and precision pedal feel, considering the nearly three-ton curb weight and high-riding stance.
Off the highway and on curving back roads, the Raptor R doesn’t feel like a sports car but it also isn’t totally out of its depth. The muscle truck requires a bit of planning (and bravery) to execute consecutive, tightly wound corners, but the lateral movement in those conditions is less pronounced than I expected.
With modal settings for drivetrain, dampers, steering, and exhaust, the mighty R is actually really flexible in terms of driving style and intensity. Combined with a comfortable and spacious cabin, an excellent 12-inch touchscreen running SYNC 4, and the ability to stab the throttle and douse your brain circuits with adrenaline at any second, this really is a truck for all seasons.
Head Vs. Heart
The boiled-down story of the Raptor R is taking the already insane Raptor and giving it stupid power for an astronomical price (more on that in a minute). That isn’t a formula for a mass market, but it describes a vehicle that should compete for the crown of Most Fun Truck Ever right away.
On pavement, even in Sport mode with power being intelligently distributed to all four wheels, 700 hp is too much to use. It’s hilarious to do a four-wheel burnout start from a stop sign on a deserted country road, but not particularly effective for anything less ludicrous. But on the sand – climbing dunes, jumping anything, steering with the throttle, two hands on a snaking wheel, and a silent prayer on your dry lips – it’s exactly perfect.
The regular Raptor – or a quad or a dune buggy – might do everything just as well as the R, but the hilarity of the overabundance is what you’re paying for here.
Even 700 horsepower doesn’t feel like too much on the dunes. And the regular Raptor – or a quad or a dune buggy – might do everything just as well as the R, but the hilarity of the overabundance is what you’re paying for here. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much or so hard, in 17 years of writing about cars, as I did in this Ford truck out at the lake.
The downside is less fun to write about but exceedingly real: Ford wants $109,145 to put one of these trucks in your (hopefully large) garage. That’s $76,775 for the Raptor, $30,575 for the R package, $1,795 for the destination charges, and likely some juice for your friendly local Ford dealer who isn’t liable to get more than a handful of these limited trucks allocated.
All-Inclusive Or À La Carte?
The only apex predator that truly competes with Raptor R is the similarly powerful Ram 1500 TRX. Ram’s pricing strategy is essentially the exact opposite of Ford’s for the R: the TRX starts at just over $80k for a truck with a massive engine, and very few optional goodies, whereas Raptor R essentially comes full-boat loaded.
To get a TRX equipped like the Raptor R you’ll still spend a lot less – about $102,000 – but the price is still eye-watering. I would say that many buyers, even those splashing out on six-figure trucks, care about an extra seven grand.
The trickiest bit, however, considering Ram’s buy-what-you-like strategy, is that you can get a TRX that has all the power and the things that really matter on the dunes or in the desert, for a lot less. For instance, kitting a TRX up with beadlock-capable 18-inch wheels, and rock rails (the addition of which require the $3,795 Level 1 Equipment Group) net out to a truck just under $90k.
If paying less to get less comfort and convenience stuff in your off-road toy appeals to you, Ram offers a lot more value. If you’re likely to tick every box anyway, the choice really comes down to a head-to-head driving experience (that I’m dying to do, by the way).
Overall, the supercar price for the F-150 Raptor R isn’t surprising once you’ve experienced the jaw-dropping ability of this monstrously impressive truck. Climbing, crawling, jumping, or racing, the R is a supertruck for any environment and a perfect expression of Ford Performance’s vast capability. Keep your foot down and you’ll see what I mean.
2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R