2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R First Drive Review: The V8 Is Back

First Drive / Comments

The Raptor R epitomizes American excess.

700 horsepower, 37-inch tires, $109,000 starting price. These are BIG numbers that describe the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R, a new eight-cylinder version of Ford's popular off-road truck. The original Raptor debuted more than a decade ago powered by a V8 engine, but downsized to a twin-turbocharged V6 for the second generation and carried it over into the current third-generation model. We thought the latest Raptor was fantastic, V6 and all, but a small contingent of Ford fans pleaded with the automaker to bring back the sweet-sounding V8, especially after Ram delivered the TRX.

Not only did Ford oblige, it dropped in the 5.2-liter supercharged Predator V8 from the Shelby GT500. It produces 700 hp in this application (250 hp more than the base model) and a meaty 640 lb-ft of torque. Eagle-eyed readers may point out that the Ram 1500 TRX hastwo whole horsepower more than the Raptor R. Big fail by Ford, right? Well, after driving the Raptor R through Michigan's Silver Lake Sand Dunes, we found out there might be more to this truck than its power output.

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Minimal R Details

Ford didn't go overboard trying to distinguish the Raptor R from the standard EcoBoost model. It's already an outrageous machine, so why fix what isn't broken? R-specific touches include a power bulge hood that sits an inch higher and helps extract warm air, an optional decal package made up of little number eights (a nod to the engine), and a few Code Orange R badges. That's it. Eight color options are available, including Avalanche, Azure Gray, Carbonized Gray, Agate Black, Antimatter Blue, Code Orange, Iconic Silver, Oxford White, and Code Orange.

This truck is massive, riding on 37-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain KO2 Tires tires as standard wrapped around 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels. It's worth noting the Raptor's main rival, the Ram TRX, only offers 35-inch tires. There's 13.1 inches of ground clearance up front with a metal skid plate underneath, just in case you manage to smash into a boulder.

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A Premium Truck Interior

The Raptor is not the most luxurious F-150 trim level, but it's certainly not lacking on features. Aside from a few creature comforts like massage seats and hands-free BlueCruise, the Raptor gets almost every cool piece of tech that's currently offered in the F-150 lineup. Standard features include a 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a fully digital gauge cluster, heated/ventilated suede/leather Recaro seats, heated rear seats, and a power-folding shifter that frees up room for a flat work surface. As a nod to the Raptor's sporting capability, the interior includes genuine carbon fiber trim and a few Code Orange accents. The only available option inside is a panoramic glass moonroof.

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The V8 Is Back, And Better Than Ever

Under the hood, the 450-hp V6 gets subbed for a 5.2-liter supercharged V8 producing 700 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, still going out to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. No Raptor has ever been this potent. Ford doesn't quote a 0-60 mph time, but the Raptor R will handily outmatch the standard truck's 5.6-second time. Will it be quicker than an F-150 Lightning, though? We'll have to line them up for a drag race to find out.

Ford made some huge strides to make the EcoBoost sound better for this latest generation, and to the company's credit, those changes were effective. But next to the Raptor R, the V6's exhaust note just can't compare. This V8 fires to life with a menacing roar and shouts down the road like a muscle car. There's a quiet mode if you care about not disturbing the neighbors, but we imagine owners will put the exhaust in Baja Mode (recommended for off-road use only) for maximum loudness.

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Drives Like A Raptor, But MORE

The base Raptor is one of the most well-rounded trucks money can buy. It features some of the most sophisticated suspension on the market, giving unparalleled off-road capability and on-road comfort. The Raptor R takes that formula and elevates it. Everything you can do in a Raptor, you can do quicker in the Raptor R. Need to climb a massive sand dune? Right up it. Want to have a drag race on the beach? Good luck to whatever truck feels brave enough to line up next to you. This truck explodes out of the hole with such ferocity it feels like the engine wants to escape from under the hood. Was all this extra power strictly necessary? Absolutely not. But it's hilarious.

Ford includes several on- and off-road drive modes, but we left it in Baja Mode for our day of fun in the sand dunes. Aside from minor R-specific tuning, the FOX Live Valve shocks are mostly the same as in the standard Raptor. Combined with the huge tires, even a frightening impact in the Raptor becomes nothing more than a soft jolt. And since there's so much power, no obstacle seems too imposing to overcome.

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Remember how we mentioned that the TRX's two-horsepower advantage isn't worth stressing about? That's because the Raptor R weighs 489 pounds less than the Ram. The weight advantage is noticeable, especially when maneuvering the truck around at high speeds. It may be the size of a house, but the Raptor R feels spry like a WRX on loose sand. The steering is surprisingly precise, with Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes to change the weight for various driving situations. And if you happen to find yourself airborne, a built-in jump detector will limit wheel spin and the impressive suspension will bring you back down to Earth in a controlled fashion.

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Massive Truck, Massive Price

The F-150 Raptor has become a status symbol amongst pickup trucks, so much so that it's become difficult to find one at the $76,775 starting MSRP. Load one up with the 37-inch tires and all the other goodies, and it's easy to approach the $90,000 mark. That sounds like a huge amount for a pickup truck, but based on the crazy dealer markups we've seen, customers are willing to pay a lot more.

Ford realized this is the case, which is why the Raptor R equipment group is listed as a $30,575 option. In other words, the V8-powered Raptor starts at $109,000. A Ram TRX is considerably cheaper, starting at $80,590, but it can easily surpass the six-figure mark when equipped as well as the Raptor R.

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Verdict: The Perfect Display Of Excess

Does anyone actually need an F-150 Raptor R? We doubt it. But if someone has nearly 100 grand to spend on an off-road toy, chances are the $30,000 up-charge for the R is just a drop in the ocean. And if that person can afford the price tag, they can definitely afford to fill it up. Though we love the EcoBoost Raptor, the excess of the R is so intoxicating we wouldn't hesitate to shell out the extra cash.

But is the Raptor R better than its closest rival, the Ram TRX? We'd have to drive them back-to-back, but based on our experience in both trucks, the Raptor R gets the nod thanks to its weight advantage and superior handling characteristics. If you're in the market for a supercharged V8 super truck, there are now two amazing options.

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