Ford’s muscular F-150 Raptor is an impressive machine, quick off the line and ready to rumble, whether on pavement or off. But for those who think it’s still too tame, especially when compared with the likes of the Ram 1500 TRX, Ford has another option for you, and it’s unleashed a true beast in the form of the 2023 F-150 Raptor R.
Carl Widmann, Ford’s head of performance operations, does a masterful job of summing up the latest entry into the F-150 line-up: “When customers experience Raptor R in the desert and beyond, it will make the hairs on the back of their necks stand up — and they’ll love every second of it.”
Here’s what I learned After spending a week behind the wheel of this extreme machine.
What Ford is billing as the “ultimate” Raptor is designed to take on pretty much anything you can throw at it, from serious trail crawling to desert racing, as well as the drag strip.
Borrowing the “Predator” V-8 from the Mustang Shelby GT500, it’s hard to imagine needing any more power than you get here. But Raptor R is about more than just raw muscle. Ford engineers have come up with a surprisingly holistic package. Its active suspension keeps you under control when you’re flying down a Baja trail. But the system keeps your fillings from flying out while traveling down the freeway — something I quickly came to appreciate on Michigan’s potholed roads.
The overall look is menacing, but there’s a refinement to the Raptor R that you likely wouldn’t expect in such an extreme machine. While it’s not likely to be the sole vehicle in your life, this truck could manage everything from weekend adventures to daily commutes and even a weekend theater outing.
This is one massive beast, stretching 232.6 inches, nose-to-tail, with a 145.4-inch wheelbase. The 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R has a width of 87 inches and a height of 80.6 inches. It also boasts a 13.1-inch ride height, with knobby 37-inch off-road tires adding to its imposing appearance.
To accommodate the big V-8 under the hood, Raptor R adopts larger air intakes and a large power bulge on the hood. The menacing appearance is enhanced by the blackout grille and oversized black wheel flares.
Around back, you’ll find hefty 3-inch dual exhaust pipes. Distinctive “R” badges complete the look.
While designed for adventurers, the R picks up on some of the exterior features you find on other F-Series models, such as the multi-functional tailgate with its built-in rulers. It adds features you might find especially handy when you’ve strayed far from civilization, including bed lights and 120-volt power outlets in the bed.
The R package puts an emphasis on functionality, but it also adds some distinctively luxurious touches, such as Alcantara suede fabric, carbon fiber accents and contrast-colored stitching — in sharp contrast to the more plebian Ram 1500 TRX.
The Raptor R carries over features from more conventional versions of the F-150, including the pickup’s foldaway gearshift lever. When it retracts into the center console it creates a large workspace good for taking notes or opening up a laptop computer or tablet.
Unique leather-trimmed sport seats were developed for Ford by Recaro. They’re comfortable yet supportive enough to keep you from bouncing all over the cabin when rock crawling or racing along the Baja desert.
Ford has set aside plenty of space for storage, including two separate gloveboxes, as well as multiple cupholders and a large bin under the center armrest.
The heart of this beast is a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 punching out 700 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque. The current, 2022 Ford F-150 Raptor relies on a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that manages an otherwise impressive 450 hp and 510 lb-ft. This marks the first time a Raptor has been offered with a V-8 since 2014.
The new “R” outguns every other F-150 model in the pony column — though it does falls short when it comes to torque. The all-electric Lightning manages up to 580 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque.
If you’re only playing by numbers, Raptor R falls ever so slightly short of the 701 hp and 650 lb-ft that Ram’s brawny TRX weighs in with, but the Ford truck clocks better numbers once you slam pedal to metal. Ram claims a 4.5-second 0-60 launch, and a 12.9-second quarter-mile sprint, though real world tests generally beat those figures. Raptor R, however, shaves several tenths off the line and routinely crosses the quarter-mile trap in the low 12-second range.
The engine, incidentally, was lifted from the Mustang Shelby GT500, but has been customized for off-road situations. That means revised pulleys, upgraded exhaust manifolds, a deeper oil pan and enhanced cooling. A wider air intake increases airflow volume by 66%, meanwhile. Improved filtration also keeps the engine from sucking up dust. There’s also a modified dual exhaust system with a true pass-through muffler and active valving to control the exhaust note.
The 10-speed automatic transmission also has been upgraded to handle the tougher environment it will face. One nice detail: extra-long magnesium paddle shifters that make it easy to operate, even when jouncing down a Baja course, balls to the wall. Power is then fed to all four wheels through a beefed up transfer case.
As with the earlier F-150 Raptor, you can control engine, chassis and other settings by choosing any of an assortment of driver modes — including the new Baja option. There’s also a customizable “R” mode button the steering wheel.
Safety and Technology
The 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R’s most important technology is used to deliver power and handling. That includes the four-stage active exhaust system, and the Fox Live Valve suspension. All key systems, in turn, can be dialed in to best meet road conditions and driver demand using the truck’s driver mode selector.
There are several features that make it easier to handle off-road adventures, including Trail Turn which uses the inside brake to help the truck pirouette around a tight corner, and One-Pedal Mode which allows you to accelerate and decelerate simply by modulating the throttle.
The R gets an assortment of advanced driver assistance systems, such as forward collision warning with emergency autobraking. But you won’t be able to get the automaker’s hands-free BlueCruise system.
Twin video screens handle both the gauge cluster and infotainment system, the latter 12-inch display powered by the latest Ford Sync technology and adding wireless Apple CarPlay. There’s also an audiophile-grade Bang & Olufsen audio system.
I got a sneak peek at the 2023 F-150 Raptor R during a day out in the mountainous badlands west of Palm Springs with the Raptor R version of the Ford Bronco. It came blasting out of the desert like the Tasmanian Devil in a Looney Tunes cartoon, enveloped in a swirl of desert dust. I was hooked to try out what Ford officials described as “an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride.”
It clearly lived up to that expectation, taking on every obstacle I threw at it, from high-speed launches to a bit of rock-crawling. Yet what was equally impressive about the big truck was how surprisingly easy it was to manage, during less aggressive driving. The Fox Live Valve suspension is a truly impressive system, able to stand up to desert trail jumps, then smooth things out when you’re traveling down the freeway. That’s all the more striking when you consider Raptor R has a 13.1-inch ground clearance and rides on knobby, 37-inch off-road rubber.
That said, this truck really is designed for on-the-edge driving situations. And it’s got plenty of features that can help even an amateur use it like a pro. That starts with the rotary Driver Mode selector which lets you choose the best setting for a variety of different road conditions, from snow to rock crawling to Baja racing.
Despite its size and mass, the Raptor R is surprisingly maneuverable, Switch on the Trail Turn system and it brakes the inside rear wheel to let you turn like a subcompact. And the One-Pedal Drive system works somewhat like what you find in today’s latest battery-electric vehicles. It takes more familiar features like Hill Descent and Hill Climb systems a step further. Turn it on and you can accelerate or slow down simply by modulating the throttle. No need to jump back and forth from throttle to brake.
You can even tone down that roar of an exhaust note by switching to Quiet Mode. I have a feeling my neighbors appreciated that when I had to head out just before sunrise one morning.
2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R 4×4 Super Crew Specifications
|Dimension||L: 232.6 inches/W: 87 inches/H: 80.6 inches/Wheelbase: 145.6 inches|
|Powertrain||5.2-liter supercharged V-8; 10-speed automatic with four-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||10 mpg city/ 15 mpg highway/12 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||700 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $75,775; As tested: $109,740 including $1,795 destination charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
With the launch of the F-150 Raptor R, Ford comes as close as legally possible to putting a Baja racer in your driveway. And it’s not a one-note truck. The big rig is more than ready for desert racing, but it will handle serious off-road trails, as well as your local freeway.
The timing seems to be perfect. More and more American motorists are now demanding products that, let’s face it, come close to ludicrous extremes. There’s the Ram 1500 TRX, and General Motors has weighed in with both its GMC and Chevrolet division, the bow-tie brand recently upping the ante with the Bison upgrade for its already beefy ZR2 model.
After driving all three, it have to say I was mightily impressed by what Ford delivered. The F-150 Raptor R is up for just anything you could imagine putting it through, short of pushing it off a cliff.
That said, you’ll pay handsomely for all those features and capabilities. Our 2023 model came in at $109,740 including options, taxes and delivery fees. And if you’re still worried about your fuel bill, you might not want to read on. The truck slurps gas insatiably, the EPA rating it at 10 mpg around town, 15 on the highway.
If you’ve got the deep pockets and the desire for a no-limits pickup, however, the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R clearly deserves your attention.
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