2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R Review: Completely Unnecessary, but Tons of Fun
No one needs a Raptor R. But it's the truck plenty of Ford fans have been waiting for.
Ford debuted the high-performance, off-road capable F-150 SVT Raptor back in 2009. It was unlike anything anyone had ever seen from a production pickup. And it has been profoundly influential, redefining expectations for both the pickup truck and the off-roader. The Raptor was the undisputed apex predator in the stock pickup truck world...until Ram launched the 1500 TRX.
The Ram 1500 TRX packs a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8. It put out 702 horsepower, 252 more than the Raptor’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. And it did not just steal the dinosaur motif; it launched with a graphic of a T. rex chomping on a smaller dinosaur with a distinct resemblance to the raptors from Jurassic Park.
Ford had to respond, if not for the honor of the Raptor nameplate but because the market dictated it. And they did so, a year after the new F-150 Raptor launched, with the V8-powered, 700-horsepower Raptor R.
Ford brought me out with other media members to drive their new super-pickup — not in some exotic desert locale in Arizona or Africa, but in the sand dunes of cold and rainy western Michigan. After spending the day driving it on and off-road in the prettier part of my home state, I can confirm the F-150 Raptor R is not a truck that anyone needs. But it’s exactly the truck a significant chunk of the Ford Truck family has been waiting for.
Pros: Smooth ride, supremely capable off-road, looks badass
Cons: Poor fuel economy, Really large for real life
- Powertrain: Supercharged 5.2-liter V8; 10-speed automatic; 4x4
- Horsepower: 700
- Torque: 640 lb-ft
- Ground Clearance: 13.1 in
- Tire Size: 37 in
The Raptor is Ford’s off-roading super-truck version of the F-150. The Raptor R is an even more extreme version of it. It packs the supercharged 5.2-liter V8 from the Shelby GT500 that puts out 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque. Riding high on standard 37-inch tires with 13.1 inches of ground clearance, the Raptor R is the most powerful and capable Raptor truck Ford has produced.
Affirmative. The Ram 1500 TRX offers 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. I thought Ford would exceed those numbers just so the marketing team could shout “best-in-class” from the metaphorical rooftops. But they didn’t.
Ford didn’t get into why they stayed at 700 and didn’t add an extra three horsepower. But their response is basically that it doesn’t matter. Power-to-weight is more important than power. And the F-150 Raptor R is more than 400 pounds lighter than the TRX.
Like any vehicle, the Raptor R has physical limitations. But most owners will never approach them. Boundaries for the Raptor R are set by external factors. There’s the driver: What is your personal risk threshold? (Ford made us wear racing helmets and HANS safety devices.) And there’s the geography: this truck will be too big for most “trails.” You need enough space — likely only to be found in a desert — to find out what the Raptor R can do.
Ford took us out to the Silver Lake sand dunes in Michigan. We popped the truck into Baja Mode and went up and down the aforementioned dunes. We drove high-speed over bumps. We did a short trail ride. Ford even let us jump the truck, with the pleading caution to do so at a speed not exceeding 45 mph. My wave of media members had favorable conditions for traction, with overnight rain compacting the sand right before we went out. And the Raptor R with deadlocked wheels and aired-down tires handled pretty much everything the sand could throw at us.
The overarching concern with the dunes was not getting up it, but sending it too hard over the lip and going on an unplanned aerial adventure. Things that would be considered “events” in other off-road vehicles just aren’t in the Raptor R, as the suspension travel eats the bump without it registering too much in the cabin. You get about an inch less of suspension travel than you do with the standard Raptor (a tradeoff for the 37-inch tires), though you will seldom if ever be at a limit where that would make a difference.
The ultimate question is whether the added 250 horsepower from the powertrain does anything. The answer...is probably not. I only used about half the throttle at any point during off-roading.
Surprisingly well. Custom-built monster trucks can be onerous to drive. But Ford does an excellent job making riding on 37s feel smooth, seamless and remarkably F-150-like. It was perfect for the on-road driving we did, which was two 45-minute stints, mostly cruising from Muskegon to Silver Lake and back on U.S. 31 with a 75-mph speed limit. And it felt stable even in heavy rain and fairly substantial winds coming off the lake.
700 horsepower sounds overwhelming. But with the long travel on the gas pedal with the F-150 you aren’t going to tap the full brunt of it unless you intend to.
One thing to note about the Raptor R is...it’s LOUD. The V8 is why you buy the Raptor R, and Ford wants you (and whoever is in a fairly large radius around you) to know you have it. It’s noisy when you’re driving. Hell, Ford actually started our trucks for us in the morning so we wouldn’t all do it and wake up our entire hotel.
The Raptor R is also very wide. This didn’t come into play in our driving, which didn’t involve any intricate urban maneuvering. But the faint buzz from the lane centering warning became a more or less constant feature of driving on the highway.
Spacious and comfortable. The Raptor R has broadly the same interior as the standard F-150 Raptor, which carries over pretty much the same interior from the F-150. You get some fancy stuff like Alcantara-and-leather Recaro sport seats and carbon fiber accents. Being inside the Raptor R while off-roading on a rainy, blustery 40-degree felt like glamping with the comfortable heated seats.
My one slight quibble was the drive mode kob. Turning left or right changes the drive mode; pushing the button locks the differentials; and it’s also surrounded by buttons to override the drive mode to shift into Four-high, Four-low, Four-auto and two-wheel-drive. I inadvertently grazed the 4-low button while trying to lock the rear differential before going up a hill, which led to me not having enough momentum, getting stuck and having to back down the hill. It’s not the easiest setup to use without looking.
Not great. The standard F-150 Raptor on 37-inch tires without auto stop/start is rated for 15 mpg combined. The eventual rating for the Raptor R will likely be worse than that. My road test vehicle, with about 1,200 miles on the odometer, had an 800-plus mile trip stored as Trip 1. I can only vouch for my portion of that driving, but the Raptor R averaged 10.8 mpg over that span.
You could use the sports car defense here. The Raptor R is the truck equivalent of a high-end sports car. It will be sold in low volumes. And removing every Raptor R from the streets won’t resolve global warming. But that argument works much better for a sports car that is used sparingly; few masochists out there are daily driving V12 Lamborghinis. But a lot of people will drive a comfortable pickup truck daily.
The Raptor R starts at $107,350, which comes out to $109,175. That is a hefty premium over the standard F-150 Raptor, which now starts at $76,775. The main rival Ram TRX begins at $80,490. But that price point gets you a very spartan verison of it.
The F-150 Raptor R does not meet a practical need. The standard F-150 Raptor on 37s was already more than enough truck for just about everyone. If you’re leveling up to the Raptor R, it’s because it looks cool, it sounds absolutely maniacal and you have a lot of cash to spare — for both the monthly payments and the fueling. And really, that's the basic justification for any car purchase over $100,000.