Until recently, there was only one Ford Raptor – no Rangerno Broncojust that F-150, or as its engineering team likes to call it, “The Big Predator.” OG. King. In a small corner of the Great Raptor c Ford In the world of performance, the return of the V8 has always been a matter of when, not when. But the realities of the market prevailed and other projects became a priority, including capital repairs a truck‘s suspension. Then TRX happened.

For a long time, Raptor actually had no competitors. We need look no further than the Stellantis line to see what loneliness in the market is doing to innovation: the Bronco has clearly woken up Jeep from similar numbness. As the old saying goes, competition makes the breed better. Simply put, we now have an alternative to the 702-horsepower supercharged Ram in the form of the 700-horsepower supercharged F-150. What a world.

Unlike the TRX, however, the 2023 Ford Raptor R took advantage of the existing structure. It’s often disparaging to describe a performance variant as simply a base car with a bigger engine, but in this case, that’s literally the truth. Aside from some visual details and swapping out a few suspension components to account for the weight of the V8, the Raptor R is really just a more powerful Raptor with 37-inch tires as standard. Specifically, the addition of the GT500’s 5.2-liter supercharged V8 boosts output to 700 hp. 640 pound-feet of torque from 450 hp. and 510 lb-ft from the 3.5-liter turbo V6.

Stiffer springs maintain ground clearance identical to the V6 Raptor’s 37s (13.1 inches), and the same goes for all other important off-road performance. Approach, breakaway, and departure angles remain at 33.1, 24.9, and 24.4 degrees, respectively, and the R offers identical suspension travel (13 inches up front and 14.1 out back).

Raptor engineers tinkered a bit with the drive modes for the R, changing the default powertrain setting in Sport mode to automatic 4WD (it’s 2WD in the standard Raptor) to put all that power to good use. The stock 37s on the Raptor R don’t do the truck any favors, and in fact can keep drag races between the R and TRX dangerously close, but the V8 can still rip that off-road rubber to shreds if that’s what you’re going for. We were only given the opportunity to practice sand sprints – useless for gathering information, but extremely it’s fun.

In practice, the differentiation is also minimal. Aside from the Raptor R’s sharp acceleration, the drivetrain is virtually identical. That’s a good thing, and at least in part it’s because minimal change results in minimal weight gain. The R weighs about 5,950 pounds—about 100 pounds more than the V6 Raptor with 37s (or 200 pounds more than without). Yes, that’s a lot of curb weight, but remember that the Hellcat V8 iron block in the TRX helps push this all-steel truck to 6,350 pounds. The Raptor’s relatively light aluminum body gives it some serious advantages.

The Raptor never feels small, but Ford’s efforts to control the R’s diet have paid off. When riding around town, the R doesn’t really make itself felt what different from a Coyote-equipped F-150 unless you start learning the bottom 2/3 of the throttle travel, which results in wonderful noises and fast fuel consumption. Official EPA estimate is 15 mpg combined, which can exceed the TRX’s 12 mpg combined, but a few hours spent cruising to and from the sand dunes of Michigan’s Silver Lake resulted in averages of 10 to 12 mpg for our caravan from a dozen trucks. Perhaps the TRX would have performed better against its ratings in the same ride, perhaps it would have been single-digit, but either way, our experience with the Raptor R on sand was even more dependent on oil.

Not that we were paying attention to fuel consumption while blasting around Silver Lake. The park’s huge dunes and generous (read: almost no) limits make it the perfect playground for four-wheelers. Except on busy roads, there are no speed limits. Instead, it’s organized as a giant one-way loop designed to keep everyone pointed in roughly the same direction, limiting the potential for catastrophic collisions over blind ridges—of which there are plenty.

And Ford let us do it all, from dune climbs to drag racing and everything in between. It was easy to lose count of the number of times trucks noticeably picked up air long before most of America had finished making their morning coffee. Ford engineers and test drivers kept saying, “It’ll do it all day.” And they were right. No supercharged V8, no brakes showed no signs of letting up despite the​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​a fish market with hot friction surfaces floating behind us. The traction control system works on that surface, but the brakes grip these 37s it is difficult even on loose sand. This is not a joke.

The secret is really great super truck there is in suspension. Off-road driving requires a fine balance between movement, comfort and control – mind you, not your ability to steer the truck where you want it to go, but control over the truck’s body movements, especially the vertical jack lift that comes with moving quickly over ruts and surfaces from the wash board.

If your shocks are too stiff, they will drag the truck down over every bump, resulting in a paint-like ride. Too soft and it doesn’t settle, leaving you in a constant state of slow undulation that robs you of grip and invites you to spend a lot of time riding the suspension bumps. That’s how the shocks break and the control arms bend and break, or worse, you land the soft belly of the truck on a not-so-soft rock and puncture something critical like the oil pan of the 5.2L.

Ford’s five-link coil-spring rear suspension works wonders both on and off-road. As tough as the Raptor is, it’s a kitty that can ride even on bad surfaces. The rear suspension is a dream, so on asphalt the Raptor feels more like an SUV than a truck. But while it rides small, it’s inescapably big — and I mean it wide. And that’s exacerbated by the fact that the R rides so tight despite its size and material. It is not so to feel like a car, you need to be careful going through construction zones, but its width will hook you if you’re not careful. I’ve had more R lane departure warning hits than I’ve ever had driving a Super Duty. Keeping him between the lines is more difficult than sticking to a landing after he breaks out of a sand dune, I kid you not.

And there is also a cabin. Like the look, it’s mostly a carryover. Unless you can guarantee distribution and special order the Raptor R, chances are this is the only way you’ll see it loaded, because Ford says it is dealers ask them. Even so, it’s still half a step behind the Ram in terms of materials and design. The upgraded seats look nothing like the sculpted buckets found in a Mustang Mach 1 or GT500, but they’re supportive and comfortable enough for what you’d expect from an F-150 — even this one.

The Raptor occupies a lonely corner of the pickup truck landscape. For a long time, it was the only full-size pickup trying to play in the Baja enthusiast space. It’s a niche that Ford carved out for itself more than a decade ago. Although Ram was the first to take the super truck wars to their current level of absurdity, this really looks like Ford’s losing battle. It has a tighter, lighter and more focused truck, but it also has the most likely alternative in the standard Raptor. Both are very good at what they do. In fact, I can’t help but think Cadillac‘s Blackwings; the best argument against the purchase is that another one exists.

The Raptor R is everything it seems. It’s big, boisterous, and eager—it’s fully (at least) similar to Ram’s Hellcat TRX. The V8 is downright nasty, with an off-road exhaust that would flatten a child’s eardrums. It will do everything the V6 Raptor does, just a little faster and with a lot more pump. If this meets your requirements, then you are in business. Let’s hope things go well, because you’ll be shelling out six figures to get one — $109,145 to be exact, at least without any dealer shenanigans.

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