The judgment: If the 450-hp twin-turbo V-6 F-150 Raptor isn’t powerful enough for you, the fully muscled Raptor R and its 700-hp supercharged V-8 should do the trick—assuming you can walk its six-figure price tag.
Against the competition: The Raptor R’s obvious rival is the Ram 1500 TRX, and while the R performs well on most specs, it also costs around $26,000 more than a TRX.
When it debuted for the 2010 model year, the Ford F-150 Raptor more or less reinvented the concept of the modern, high-performance, off-road pickup truck. It was a muscle truck outfitted for Baja 1000-style off-road racing right out of the showroom, with a seriously beefed-up chassis and suspension, a healthy dose of horsepower under the hood, and beefy looks to match .
Related: 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor Review: Better, but with one big problem
The first-generation Raptors offered V-8 performance, but with the introduction of the second-generation model for 2017, the Raptor switched to a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6. Carried over to the third-generation Raptor that debuted for 2021, this engine is very bold: It makes 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. However, Ford is no longer the only player in the off-road supertruck game: there’s the nuisance of the Ram 1500 TRX, which debuted for 2021, and its supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 with (ahem) 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.
More horses under the hood
To meet the TRX challenge, Ford had to outfit the Raptor with a monster V-8, and it’s done just that with the new-for-2023 Raptor R model. The automaker already had a perfectly suitable engine in its stable: the supercharged 5.2-liter V8 from the Shelby GT500 sports car. In the GT500, that engine makes 760 horsepower and 625 pound-feet of torque, but a few changes were needed to outfit it for off-road pickup use, including cast stainless steel exhaust manifolds, a deeper oil pan better suited to steep grades, and a new one Supercharger pulley that optimizes low-end and mid-range power delivery. Check out our F-150 Raptor R preview article for more details.
In the Raptor R, the supercharged 5.2-liter engine makes 700 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque; that’s 2 horsepower and 10 pound-feet less than the Ram TRX’s 6.2. The TRX put down an impressive 0-60 mile run of 4.1 seconds and a 12.55 second quarter mile time in our own drag strip test, but Ford hasn’t released estimated acceleration numbers for the Raptor R, and we did. We didn’t have the opportunity to do our own timed runs.
Ford hasn’t released fuel economy estimates for the Raptor R yet, either, but…come on: they’re going to be bad. With 37-inch tires, the regular V-6 Raptor is EPA rated at 15/16/15 mpg city/highway/combined and the TRX is rated at 10/14/12 mpg.
manners on the street
The Raptor R is a truck built to go over, around, and through off-road terrain, and that’s exactly what I did with it. At Ford’s media preview, I blasted one around the nearly 2,000-acre sand dunes at Silver Lake State Park in Mears, Michigan.)
I was immediately reminded of how big and wide the Raptor is as we set off. Road construction meant that some of the four lane roads around the hotel were reduced to fairly narrow single lanes in each direction, marked with orange traffic barrels. The alleys were narrow enough that I worried I might bump into a barrel or two if I wasn’t careful. The Raptor’s extreme width (96 inches including rear-view mirrors) means you have less room to maneuver on the road, in parking lots, in your garage, and more.
You also sit very high off the ground in a Raptor R, thanks in part to its standard 37-inch tires – the largest of any regular production truck. (The 37s are optional on the regular Raptor.) The extra-tall tire sidewalls and seating position contribute to a slightly wobbly, top-heavy feel on the road, though the steering is direct and responsive. Steering feel can be set to one of four modes (Normal, Comfort, Sport or Baja); I prefer the added weight and feedback of Sport mode. While the Raptor R isn’t as silly as a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392, its towering height, off-road-optimized suspension, and flex tires can create a wrinkle factor that should discourage most drivers from maxing out its 700 horsepower at the wrong time unleash on the street.
Luckily, the massive BFGoodrich all-terrain tires were a lot quieter on the highway than I expected. Wind gust was actually a more noticeable source of noise when cruising at a constant speed. The exhaust note is loud too (imagine that). In addition to the extra 250 horsepower you get by choosing a Raptor R over a regular Raptor, the main part of the R’s appeal is the good old V-8 noise it makes. The NASCAR-quality soundtrack can also be set to one of four modes via a button on the steering wheel: Quiet, Normal, Sport, or Baja (the last one is loud enough that it’s only good for off-road use). As delightful as the beefy exhaust note is, it can get tiring on a longer freeway drive, so I appreciated the Quiet mode – it quashed the engine’s intrusive roar at constant speed, but still allowed plenty of rumble under acceleration.
It’s hard not to hit the gas a lot when riding a Raptor R. Acceleration is confident at any speed and the 10-speed automatic transmission is well matched to the engine. I’ve driven a few nine-speed transmissions that sometimes seem to shake when selecting the right gear, but this automatic was always on its game. The steering wheel paddle shifters also work well, but I didn’t feel the need to resort to them.