2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R—Test Drive Review
It’s been nearly a decade since Ford offered a V8 in the F-150 Raptor. As good as the Raptor’s twin-turbo V6 may be, voices in the off-road community have been very vocal—they want a V8 Raptor again. Okay, but when you already have a V6 Raptor with nearly 500 hp, where does that put the V8’s output? Apparently right in line with archrival Ram TRX. Welcome to the new 700 hp Raptor R.
Ford not only brought back the V8 for the Raptor R but it’s delivering that motor with Shelby roots. Yes, the Raptor R uses a version of the supercharged V8, dubbed “Predator,” from the Shelby Mustang GT 500. And this truck-tuned version is making 700 hp even. That’s plenty to challenge Ram’s beastly 702 hp TRX. Better still, the Raptor R comes standard with massive 37-inch tall BFGs. In case you haven’t noticed, this is a very good time to be shopping for a high-performance off-road super truck. Naturally, we couldn’t wait to get our dirty little paws on one.
So Ford freed up some time in a $111,935 Code Orange Raptor R and we jumped at the chance to kick up some dust (well, thanks to near non-stop rain it was more like mud) in the most powerful and capable F-150. Southern California has had a rough winter with loads of wet weather over the past few months. So the trails around Hungry Valley SVRA were a little torn up and muddy with deeper gullies than normal. And that provided some fun challenges for the beastly Ford. In total, we logged over 450 test miles in our Raptor R both on pavement and off. So, is the thrill of the V8 and its rowdy exhaust note worth the hefty price premium over a standard-issue Raptor? Let’s find out.
Under the blistered fenders and that tall one-inch higher hood bulge sits a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 that delivers 700 hp at 6,600 rpm and 640 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm with 12 psi of boost. As mentioned before, this is a modified version of the motor that powers the 760 hp Shelby GT500. And that means there’s a forged cross plane crankshaft dual overhead cams and forged pistons. There’s a deeper oil pan, plus a new oil cooler and filter too. Sure, there’s less power than the ‘Stang but the truck makes 15 more lb-ft of torque. The Raptor R engineers installed a new pulley for the blower which gets the boost on tap sooner. They also found that the intake ductwork for the V6 Raptor wasn’t up to the task of gulping enough air for the V8—so that was upgraded too. Ford claims that it flows 66 percent better than the one used in the V6. The R exhales through stainless steel manifolds and dual exhaust. The system uses a muffler system with an active valve to control sound and offers Normal, Sport, Baja and Quiet modes.
Just like the V6 Raptor, this new R utilizes a 10-speed automatic. However the transmission has been upgraded for R duty with a new torque convertor and heavy-duty turbine damper. Plus, there’s a new four pinion output assembly and new driveshafts.
Up front, the Raptor R suspension remains largely the same with a few important modifications. The big V8 weighs around 100 pounds more than the Ecoboost V6, so the spring rates have gone up by 5 percent to carry the weight. Ford’s venerable 8.8-inch front diff uses a higher strength carrier casting and has a new finned aluminum diff cover to shed heat. Ford installed a new pinion snubber as well as firmer front axle bushings with travel limiters. Sadly, Ford is no longer offering the Torsen limited-slip front diff on any Raptor for 2023. So the new R goes without one too. Like all V6 Raptors that wear the 37-inch tire package, the R (which comes standard with 37s) has its travel up front limited to 13-inches.
Out back the R uses the same 9.75-inch rear axle as the standard-issue Raptor, complete with 4.10:1 gears and electronic locking rear differential. The coil-spring, multi link suspension hasn’t changed much either and is limited to 14.1 inches (instead of 15-inches) to allow the 37-inch tires to clear the blistered fenders. And like the V6 models, Ford uses Fox Live Valve internal bypass dampers at both ends that are specific to managing the 37-inch tires.
Thanks to those giant tires, the R shares clearance specs with non-R Raptors with the 37-inch tire package. The R has an approach angle of 33.1 degrees, departure angle of 24.9 degrees and a breakover angle of 24.4 degrees. We measured 11-inches of clearance under the rear differential and nearly 14-inches under the front skidplate. Those numbers all mean the Raptor R can confidently and quickly tackle some fairly large trail obstacles without touching bodywork. Although the Raptor R is has essentially the same suspension as other 37-inch tire-equipped Raptors, the performance isn’t. Our pals at Car and Driver (https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a43274636/ford-f-150-raptor-r-vs-ram-1500-trx-suspension-video/) have ramped a whole bunch of high performance off-road trucks. A Raptor with 35-inch tires scored a 559—the flexiest of the bunch. A V6-powered Raptor with 37-inch tires scored 537. And the Raptor R performed slightly worse with a score of 525. All these numbers trail the Ram TRX which they found to deliver a score of 602.
When it comes to work, our R had a GVWR of 7450 and a max payload 1,400 lbs. Not too shabby. Better still, the R can tow 8,700 lbs. That’s 500 lbs. more than V6 Raptor and 600 lbs more than a Ram TRX.
On the Street
The deluge of rain from the latest atmospheric river to hit California made for treacherous conditions for some—but not those of us fortunate enough to be piloting a Raptor R. The slick streets around Los Angeles provided plenty of fish-tailing fun for us. Unlike its rival the TRX, Ford’s Raptor R has a 2WD mode so it will get as loose as you dare on public roads. To be fair, we actually preferred Sport mode in these conditions which automatically puts the transfer case in 4A (all-wheel drive). It puts most of the R’s power down. But there are plenty of moments under full throttle where you can feel the front tires wiggling and clawing for traction on the wet tarmac. And as we found, there are certain conditions the R will really break the front tires loose. It’s wild.
It’s fun to toggle through the individual modes on the steering wheel for exhaust, suspension and steering. The exhaust has four modes ranging from “Quiet” to “Baja”. Baja isn’t technically street legal but we tried it anyway. It sounds absolutely beastly like an old Class 8 truck. Toggle down to quiet and you hear almost nothing, perfect for stealth missions around the neighborhood at 5am.
Mash the throttle from a stop and the R practically rears back on its haunches and rockets ahead. The force is enough to make you feel slightly sick. Our pals at Car and Driver tested one to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds, ripping though the ¼ mile in 12 seconds flat. Those numbers are bonkers quick and just one tenth of a second quicker than the Ram TRX. The difference here is that the Raptor doesn’t need any kind of launch control system to hit those numbers. Simply brake torque the Ford in Sport mode and prepare to be catapulted into the next county.
The R is so intoxicatingly quick you find yourself using the full force of that V8, any chance you can. Challenge that new Corvette to a little stoplight drag race? Sure why not. The Vette is a little less than a second quicker to 60 mph but if the driver sleeps—they’ll get stomped by one very large, very loud and very orange truck riding on 37-inch tires. The whole experience of piloting such a big 4X4 on the street with so much power is pretty strange because no matter how often you drive it, your brain doesn’t expect it to be that quick. Drive the R with a slightly more sane right foot and it’s fun too. It’s easy to squirt through holes in traffic in this big guy.
The R’s acceleration may be startling but the feel of the suspension is familiar. The R tackles sharp-edged potholes without fear. In fact it’s amusing to hit some of the worst ones head on because that soft, long travel suspension and massive 37-inch tires just swallows them up. The ride quality here is just as cush as any other Raptor. The road might be torn up, but in a Raptor you’re fearless. Toggle the steering wheel suspension button up to Sport and the ride does get a bit stiffer. Unless you want to tackle some canyon roads, the softest default suspension setting is the best one for the street. On the freeway, the R’s plush suspension feels great for long trips. But unlike the turbocharged V6 Raptor, this one is more eager to downshift and put the motor in the meat of the powerband. Dipping your toe into the power on the freeway brings quick shifts and instant thrust that pushes you deep into the seats. Merging onto the freeway uphill? With your foot buried, you’ll hit nearly triple digits before you realize it.
Inside, the R isn’t a whole lot different from the regular Raptor. Yes, there’s some sweet carbon fiber on the face of the dash and Raptor with a red “R” is stitched into the wonderful heated and ventilated Recaro seats and on top of the padded center console. But aside from that, the R’s interior feels like a loaded Raptor. Indeed, when you spec out a new Raptor, the R package adds $30,575 to the sticker. So as one might imagine just about everything you can option on a regular Raptor comes standard on the R. Our truck added only added the Moon and Tailgate package ($2,195) which includes a glass roof and Ford’s tailgate step as well as a spray-in bedliner for $595.
Show of hands, who here is expecting the Raptor R to return descent fuel economy? No one? That’s good because those numbers are predictably dismal. The EPA rates the Raptor R at 10 mpg city and 15 mpg on the highway. And during our 465 miles with it, we averaged 11.1 mpg. To put that into perspective the Rams TRX’s fuel economy is nearly equal to the Ford at 10 mpg in the city and 14 mpg on the highway. And when we tested one, it returned an even more dismal 9.8 mpg. In contrast, the last V6 Raptor we tested with 37-inch tires was rated at 15 mpg city and 16 mpg highway. And on our test it averaged almost 14 mpg. So when you check that very expensive box for the R’s powertrain, you essentially give up about 3 real world MPGs, depending upon how hard you drive it.
On the Trail
The recent rains have made some sections of the off-road park more challenging than normal and others a bit easier. One definite plus is that we kicked up precious little dust in these damp conditions. But no matter the state of the terrain, one thing was for certain—the Raptor R made short work of nearly everything we threw at it. This rig is an absolute blast in the dirt.
The most entertaining area of the park was the sandy wash. Normally, this is an area of deep sand that when dry, drives very much like a sand dune or beach sand. Not this time. The wet sand and mud created a slick and controllable surface that perfect for fishtailing fun. In 2WD, the R just spun the rear tires and dug a pit. So we backed out of the hole and switched right to Baja. Baja clicks the transfer case into 4A, dials up the suspension with improved damping, tunes the transmission for snappy shifts and turns the exhaust pipes into NHRA-class megaphones. In the R, this Baja really feels like the truck’s spirit animal. The R simply rips in this terrain, shooting roosts of wet sand and easily and gracefully drifting from corner to corner with plenty of right foot. Overcook that corner and rotate the chassis too much and the R will respond with some stability control intervention. It’s just enough to keep the truck from hitting something big but never too much that it kills the fun. We could drain an entire tank of fuel sliding through washes like this.
Locked into low range, we attempted our test hill climb. Normally it requires a bit of momentum with any truck that doesn’t have two lockers. But in the R, in Normal mode and the transfer case in low range, we made it to the top with a bit of throttle and an average speed of about 6 mph. Very impressive even considering the soil probably had a bit more traction than normal. In Rock Crawl mode, with the truck in low range, rear locker engaged and traction control optimized, we basically idled up the hill at 3 mph. It was fairly easy for this big truck. The low end torque of the supercharged V8 is incredibly helpful. Of course, the hill still had some big ruts and that’s where those big balloon 37-inch tires come into play, providing the clearance necessary to keep moving in areas that typically hang up rear axles on lesser trucks.
On the deep mogul test course the holes were deep enough to make the R lift a rear tire on the way up. In Normal mode in low range, the truck could make the climb with a bit of throttle but it wasn’t the most elegant performance. There was a bit too much tire slip for our tastes. Rock Crawl mode made tackling this section much more controlled. This area has gotten a bit worse over the years and these holes were deep. So the R had to work hard to make the climb, running out of flex often and exhibiting a bit of front wheel slip. We wish Ford hadn’t canceled the Torsen front diff option. However thanks to those big 37s, the R only kissed one of the running boards on the way down.
On the fire road section of the park, the R (in Baja mode) was able to maintain 50 mph over the whoops without breaking a sweat. We never felt the truck bottom out. The Fox dampers are so well calibrated. Our only criticism here is that the R has a noticeable amount of cab shake as it hits the worst bumps. It’s likely that our truck’s massive glass roof contributes to this condition. We’d love to try an R without a moonroof to see how different it feels. This section was dry and had a bit steeper bumps when we took a Ram TRX here about a year ago, and on this road the TRX was comfortable at a pace about 10 mph slower. Again, the terrain wasn’t the same. So it would be fun to test this truck back to back with a TRX on the same day to find out which one handles the high speed terrain better.
Later in the week, we headed out to a desolate part of the desert to experience the R on higher speed dirt roads. And man, this truck is just point and shoot fun and provides all the sensations of a legit desert pre-runner. It absolutely melts washboards and hooks up nearly instantly with bullet-quick acceleration. Everyone needs to experience an R in the dirt at least once.
The Bottom Line
It’s clear, this is the Raptor we’ve all been waiting for. It’s a completely addicting experience. This machine is a total blast. Yes, at over $30,000 the V8 premium over a V6 Raptor is hard to swallow. But the performance is certainly transformative. Does this truck unseat the TRX as the high-speed fullsize 4X4 of our dreams…perhaps. The only way to know for certain is to test each truck back-to-back. And if we can make that happen—you’ll certainly see it here.
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