2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R Review & Test Drive
This article was originally published HERE
The Ford F-150 has been at the top of the sales food chain for countless years, and to keep things interesting in the battle of horsepower wars for some of the most off-road capable trucks, they bring us a new Raptor R. The new Ford F-150 Raptor R finally gives many V8 purists exactly what they wanted – a V8-powered Raptor. Only this V8-powered Raptor is monstrous as it touts 700 horsepower and the proper bits to go along with that added horsepower instead of just being a normal Raptor with the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500’s engine stuffed up front.
The collective of what you find in the new F-150 Raptor R, after spending a week with such a beast, is respectfully worth the price of admission at six figures. However, with a quick glance, you won’t find that extra cost in what you see as the Raptor R looks just like a normal Raptor 37, having the 37-inch tires, bulging fender flares, menacing-looking front end with underbody skid plates, and even the similar-looking dual exhaust out back that happen to be quite loud and rumbly as you expect in a supercharged V8-powered lifted truck. More on that later.
Performance and Driving Character
There’s no doubt of the stout nature of the Ford F-150 Raptor. With the Raptor R, things are elevated a bit, mostly because you’re now working with 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque from a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 engine. The Predator engine, while derived from the Shelby GT500, is slightly reworked to handle truck duty flattening the torque curve a bit. Power is sent through a 10-speed automatic transmission that is surprisingly remapped with shift points that respect the power output of the supercharged V8. I found situations where the 10-speed fired off snappy shifts in single-second successions just to keep the engine in a sweet spot delivering smooth power. The transfer case offering either rear-wheel drive, automatic four-wheel drive, high-range four, or a low-range four setting quickly switches to your desired drive. You can also manually lock up the rear differential in the four-wheel drive settings only while the high range physically locks up front to rear and is designated for off-road use. The multiple drive modes automatically setup each vehicle feature from the transfer case and suspension, to the throttle response and steering effort.
Everything about the Raptor R works in harmony in the way it handles itself either on the road or on a couple of light off-roading trails I was able to hit. In boasting about its remarkable suspension setup, the Raptor R exudes the smoothest ride quality yet in any truck when going off-road in my opinion. The Fox shocks, with their live valve damper setup, and three mode settings (normal, sport, Baja), have a subtle change in their characteristic, but even in Normal mode the suspension is quite adaptable to most driving situations. In trying to jump the vehicle going over a rather large rock-covered hump, the truck just took the abuse with no fuss or unexpected upset in the wheels barely catching air and the landing. It was almost like magic – the Raptor R just lands smoothly – provided you don’t hit the elongated bump stops, which is difficult to do unless you’re getting pretty extreme using up the long suspension travel.
The way the Raptor R feels is almost luxurious in some ways. That’s a funny thing to say, but the body felt rigid but well dampened with no odd creeks and sounds, it was almost eerily quiet with the one exception being the exhaust sound. The supercharger whine is kept to a minimum, and the trick exhaust has four modes, Quiet, Normal, Sport, and Baja, you can basically dial up your level of irritation for your neighbors. The loudest mode, Baja, is loud and left with a permanent digital gauge cluster readout of the mode being for ‘off-road use only,’ which I totally get because it can be a little drone-sounding out on the road traveling at highway speeds. Sport and Normal modes are almost just right for the amount of sound you hear rumble and scream out the dual exhaust. Quiet mode is very quiet, like spooky quiet, where you wonder if the engine is even spinning up as you softly hit the accelerator. One innovative feature of the quiet exhaust mode is that there is a quiet startup setting that can be set for a time slot, so you don’t end your relationship with your neighbors early in the morning. You can simply set the exhaust to start up quietly at your desired times, so you never have to worry about it. Clever, Ford!
Getting down to the business, the Ford F-150 Raptor R is a performer and one that has a slight edge over the RAM 1500 TRX. I couldn’t help but to compare the two trucks during my time with the Raptor R because they are so similar in purpose, and Ford homed in on competing with the TRX during development. Even though the Raptor R has ‘just’ 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque compared to the RAM TRX’s 702 ponies and 650 lb-ft of torque, the Raptor R is a hair faster than the TRX in both a run to 60 mph and in the quarter mile, and that’s with the Raptor R having the larger 37-inch beadlock tires. The Raptor R takes just 3.6 seconds to hit 60 mph, while the TRX does it in about 3.9 seconds. The two are closely matched, but immediately after jumping into the Raptor R it felt lighter than the TRX, which it is, by nearly 500 pounds (5,950 lbs. Raptor R vs 6,440 lbs. RAM TRX). That difference, thanks to the aluminum body of the Raptor R, is where Ford has the slight edge, which may not matter to some – but someone must win, right? With either truck, you’re driving some of the most off-road capable vehicles around, especially with that much power on tap.
With that power, the Raptor R is able to tow up to 8,700 pounds or haul a payload of up to 1,400 pounds, which is short of the max of many ‘normal’ F-150 trims. Moreover, those who tow will have to be mindful of the lower tongue weight limits on the Raptor R, which come to about 500 pounds or up to nearly 1,400 pounds if you use a weight distributing tow hitch. This is where the suspension setup may be a slight hindrance as the Raptor R may sag a bit much for towing a heavy load with a high tongue weight.
As you would expect, fuel ‘economy’ is non-existent here. Just like the TRX, the Raptor R drinks copious amounts of premium fuel with no shame, matching what I saw in the TRX at about 10 mpg on average. I did manage to muster out about 14 mpg on the interstate, but who wants to keep such a beast caged? Ford doesn’t even bother with an annoying start/stop system here. What would be the point? Let’s go visit that gas station one more time and fill that 36-gallon tank, all for nearly $135! Fun Times!
Interior and Technology
Just like you find in a new loaded-up top-trim F-150, the Raptor R has an inviting cabin that’s somewhat unique, starting with the sporty but extremely comfy seats with heating and ventilation up front. The back seats are very comfy as well, with heating on the outboard seats and enough room to feel like you’re at home on the couch watching TV. While there’s no TV in the Raptor R, there is a quiet large 12-inch infotainment touchscreen up front running Sync 4 with wireless or USB-connected Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latest Sync system from Ford is good, and I didn’t find any fault with the operation as it was always responsive and mostly user-friendly after a very short learning curve.
The interior of the Raptor R has a few unique characteristics, with its carbon fiber trim and accented stitching color placed in select areas. There’s a welcomed ease of usability of the physical controls and knobs throughout that surprisingly don’t seem overwhelming like some of the onscreen controls of the RAM TRX.
There’s an abundance of space, and the adjustability of the power front seats, power telescoping steering wheel, and power pedals are accommodating for people of just about any size.
Having just one size that the Raptor R comes in with its crew cab setup, there’s not much guessing in configuring a new F-150 Raptor R. In fact, Raptor R options are very few leaving you to choose from the major option package of a Moonroof and Tailgate Package, graphics delete option, and several select bed add-ons. Otherwise, the Raptor R is a one-trick pony, which isn’t a bad thing until you see the starting price in comparison to the competition.
Ford keeps with tradition in giving the F-150 Raptor R a full array of active safety features but does not make the semi-autonomous BlueCruise system available. I do enjoy having the multi-angle camera system that can be brought up for viewing the bed or trailer when you’re driving. Otherwise, the 360-degree view is clear and necessary when you need to park the big Raptor R.
Things get a little interesting when comparing the new Raptor R to the TRX when it comes to pricing. The TRX has a much lower starting point (just over $70K) than the Raptor R, but the Raptor R already bundles up all its equipment, only leaving one major package as an option. The starting price of $109,335 is up there, but you do get a lot for that price, which is about where my test vehicle lands in not having the optional Moonroof and Tailgate Package. Not to mention, with the Raptor R possibly marking the very last generation of a 700-horsepower internal combustion engine truck, there’s an unforeseen value in just that. Get it while the getting is good – and this Raptor R is GOOD!
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Automotive, Ford, Ford F-150, ford f-150 raptor, Ford F-150 Raptor R, Test Drives