The day started with weather that gave Gordon Lightfoot a scare as November squalls hit the dunes of Michigan’s Silver Lake early. Eventually the rain let up, but the high dunes were so wet that the draft was too much. Not too much for a guy in a rental Buick Encore, we guess, but enough to make even the steepest dune a little uncomfortable 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R. When you have 700 horsepower and 37-inch tires with tires, wet sand can also become a foot-thick strip of interstate.
The Raptor R is the long-awaited, but perhaps inevitable, zenith of the Raptor brand. In a world with no Ram TRX, would Ford throw a Shelby GT500 engine into the Raptor? Science tells us that the simple act of observation affects results, and we’re supposed to think that Ford watched Ram sell every $90,000 truck he could build and said, “You know, maybe we should do that.” And while Ram won’t say how many TRXs it sold, the Stellantis trophy truck had a nice head start Raptor R– We are approaching 40,000 miles our long term TRX.
So it’s a little surprising, given the Raptor R’s obvious competition, that Ford didn’t brag about horsepower. Along with the TRX giving 702 horsepower, why not give the Raptor R 703? That would be fun and probably something Ram could do. Instead, Ford managed an even 700 horsepower at 6,650 rpm, and its powertrain engineers have a point when they say you can’t tell 700 horsepower from just over 700 horsepower. But trucks like this don’t make sense unless you’re going to Mike Sky’s ranch in Baja. They’re about big numbers and loud noises and taking the dirt that was here and throwing it there and then making some nice jumps. The Raptor R is perfectly equipped to handle all of this, even without boasting horsepower.
For Raptor duty, Ford’s supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 gets a truck boost that ramps up the torque curve, delivering 640 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. The blown 5.2 gulps air so ferociously that Ford had to beef up the Raptor’s intake system because the EcoBoost-spec plumbing warped under heavy throttle. The new supercharger pulley builds momentum faster, all the better for spinning those four 37-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires. Since the V-8 adds 100 pounds to the front end, spring rates are increased and there are some stronger frame brackets, but the suspension is mostly carried over. The base Raptor comes with a 450-hp 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6. available with 35-inch tires or 37s, but the Raptor R only gets 37s. It costs an inch of front suspension travel, but provides 13.1 inches of ground clearance, which Ford admits just helps it look great. 35s are rational, but 37s say it’s “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!” And even if your ticket buys the whole seat, you only need the edge.
The Raptor R, like its EcoBoost counterpart, adapts perfectly to whatever terrain you want to attack. The transfer case offers rear-wheel drive, automatic all-wheel drive, high-range all-wheel drive (physically locked front and rear), and low-range four-wheel drive. You can also manually lock the rear differential, though not in two-wheel mode. Steering effort, Fox Live Valves and exhaust sound are all adjusted independently via steering wheel buttons that include an R button for your favorite preset modes. And there are plenty of driving modes to adapt your response to the situation. Bach is our favorite. Switching to tow/haul mode gives you a shock of recognition — oh yes, it’s a truck, a useful thing that can tow and/or haul! It’s not just for sending the Raptor R into low orbit near the Silver Lake Dunes, although it’s pretty good at that too. But so is the EcoBoost Raptor.
The Raptor R stands out when you hit the gas pedal and the twin four-inch exhaust guns fire V-8 fury, and your shoulders dig into the Raptor R’s quilting on the upper seatback, and the 10-speed automatic shuffles gears faster than a blackjack shoe shuffles cards in Golden Nugget. The front end lifts into the sky and the steering wiggles a bit in your hands as the Raptor searches for traction. Even on sand it feels extremely fast. What you feel, really F-150 Lightning Extended Range with much more noise and drama. In fact, when we asked Ford engineers whether the Lightning or Raptor R would be faster to 60 mph, they frowned and admitted it would be a good race.
With the dunes well watered, rear-wheel drive was required to indulge our childish urge to throw sand. So we discovered that in addition to electronic locking, there is a brake-based limited-slip function for the open rear differential. The brake-based system works when one side or the other senses a flash of wheel speed, and the brake on that side applies compression to send power back to the other side. This system works in the background even when the AdvanceTrac stability control system is completely disabled. So if, say, you want to sit on the dunes in a two-wheel drive where you can’t engage the rear locker, the rear brakes will get a workout.
It is true that Car and driver staffed by a bunch of wild, half-crazed maniacs, and that no normal driver would ever encounter this problem (we’re paraphrasing what Ford told us). To which we say that pickups with a capacity of 700 hp. doesn’t exactly appeal to the left-brained thinkers among us, and Raptor R owners will want to ride it in rear-wheel drive mode, probably on the way out of a dealership parking lot. So why not just let the locking differential engage two-wheel drive? Ford says that’s not the case now, but the company always listens to its customers. So, if you want a differential lock in rear-wheel drive mode, check with your local Ford dealer. What do we want? Rough skids! When do we want them? As often as possible!
If you want to spot the Raptor R in the wild, it won’t be easy. First of all, except for the bulging hood, the Raptor R is very similar to the EcoBoost Raptor with 37-inch tires. The trucks at Silver Lake were also decked out in a graphics package that riffs on the Raptor’s “digital dirt” pattern, creating a black portion of tiny figure-eight graphics. On the driver’s side of the truck, the Raptor logo features a second “R” in Raptor Orange, which looks great when the truck isn’t the same color, in which case it looks like you’re driving a Rapto. (On the passenger side, the first R is orange, so you have an “apter” on that side.) But you can remove the graphics for free if you want to let the 5.2-liter Predator speak for itself.
There won’t be a million Raptor Rs either, given that the base price is a cool $108,960. Whether that sounds about $30,000 more than the base Raptor (and $26k more than the TRX) is worth it or completely ridiculous depends on your perspective and maybe if your neighbor has a TRX and is overdue for an answer FoMoCo until 6am Hellcat cold start. It’s tempting to conclude that since Ram built the TRX and Ford built the Raptor R that’s the end of it, but we suspect not. GM, what do you say?
2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, Rear/4WD, 5-Passenger, 4-Door Pickup
Supercharged intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 315 inches35163 cm3
Power: 700 horsepower @ 6650 rpm
Torque: 640 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm
Wheelbase: 145.4 inches
Length: 232.6 inches
Width: 87.0 inches
Height: 80.6 inches
Passenger volume: 136 feet3
Curb weight (C/D estimate): 6150 lbs
EFFICIENCY (C/D EST)
60 mph: 3.7 sec
100 mph: 9.5 sec
1/4 mile: 12.1 sec
Top speed: 114 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 13/11/15 mpg
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