UPDATE 12/27/22: This review has been updated with instrumented test results.
The day began with weather to scare Gordon Lightfoot, when the gales of November came early at Michigan’s Silver Lake Dunes. Eventually, the rain abated, but the towering dunes were so thoroughly soaked that there was almost too much traction. Not too much for the guy in the rental Buick Encore, we guess, but enough to make even the steepest of dunes but a minor inconvenience to the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R. When you’ve got 700 horsepower and 37-inch beadlocked tires, wet sand may as well be a foot-thick lane of interstate slab.
The Raptor R is the long-awaited but maybe not inevitable zenith of the Raptor brand. In a world with no Ram TRX, would Ford drop a Shelby GT500 engine in a Raptor? Science tells us that the mere act of observation influences outcomes, and we have to think Ford observed Ram selling all the $90,000-ish trucks it could build and said, “You know, maybe we should do that.” And while Ram won’t say how many TRXs it has sold, the Stellantis trophy truck had a healthy head start on the Raptor R—we’ve already wrapped up our 40,000-mile test in our long-term TRX.
So it’s a little bit curious, given the obviousness of the Raptor R’s competition, that Ford didn’t go for horsepower bragging rights. With the TRX making 702 horsepower, why not give the Raptor R 703? That would have been hilarious, and probably something Ram might do. Instead, Ford arrived at an even 700 horsepower at 6650 rpm, and its powertrain engineers make complete sense when they say that you can’t tell the difference between 700 horsepower and a little more than 700 horsepower. But trucks like this aren’t about making sense, unless you commute to Mike’s Sky Ranch in Baja. They’re about big numbers and loud noises and taking dirt that was over here and throwing it way over there, and then doing some sweet jumps. The Raptor R is spectacularly well equipped to handle all of that, even without horsepower bragging rights.
For Raptor duty, Ford’s supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 gets a truck tune that fattens up the torque curve, delivering 640 lb-ft at 4250 rpm. The blown 5.2 gulps air so ferociously that Ford had to reinforce the Raptor’s intake ductwork because the EcoBoost-spec plumbing was distorting under heavy throttle. A new supercharger pulley gets the boost ramped up sooner, all the better for spinning those four 37-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires. Because the V-8 adds 100 pounds to the front end, spring rates are increased, and there are some beefier frame brackets, but the suspension mostly carries over. The base Raptor, with its 450-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, is available with either 35-inch tires or 37s, but the Raptor R gets only the 37s. That costs it an inch of front suspension travel but delivers 13.1 inches of ground clearance and, Ford admits, just helps it look awesome. The 35s are rational, but the 37s say it’s “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!” And even though your ticket buys the whole seat, you’ll only need the edge.
The Raptor R, like its EcoBoost counterpart, is gloriously adaptable to whatever terrain you care to assault. The transfer case offers rear drive, auto four-wheel drive, high-range four-wheel drive (physically locked front to rear), and low-range four-wheel drive. You can also manually lock the rear differential, though not in two-wheel drive. The steering effort, Fox Live Valve dampers, and exhaust sound all are independently adjustable via steering-wheel buttons, which include an R button for your favorite preset modes. And there are drive modes galore to tailor responses for the situation at hand. Baja is our favorite. Wandering into Tow/Haul mode occasions a shock of recognition—oh yeah, this is a truck, a useful thing that can tow and/or haul! It’s not just for sending the Raptor R into low orbit off Silver Lake Dunes, although it’s mighty good at that too. But so is an EcoBoost Raptor.
Where the Raptor R distinguishes itself is when you flatten the accelerator, and the twin four-inch exhaust cannons fire a fusillade of V-8 fury, and your shoulders are buried into the Raptor R embroidery on the upper seatback while the 10-speed automatic shuffles gears quicker than a blackjack shoe rearranges the cards at the Golden Nugget. The front end climbs toward the sky, and the steering wiggles a little bit in your hands as the Raptor searches for traction. Passing power is explosive, with the towering Ford leaping from 30 to 50 mph in 2.2 seconds, the same time we recorded from the 2019 Ferrari 488 Pista. Even on sand, it feels violently quick. What it feels like, really, is an F-150 Lightning Extended Range with way more noise and drama. The Ford engineers on hand agreed that Raptor R versus Lightning would be a good race.
But Raptor R versus TRX is an even better one, and the Ford holds a narrow edge in acceleration tests. The Raptor R hits 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds, 0.1 second ahead of the TRX, and blazes through the quarter-mile in 12.0 seconds at 112 mph, nipping the TRX’s 12.3-second run at 111 mph. And those numbers don’t fully communicate the Raptor’s advantage, since Ford’s 114-mph speed limiter begins shutting down the party before the quarter-mile is complete. Rewind the tape and we see that at 110 mph, the Raptor has a wider lead, requiring just 11.1 seconds, compared with the Ram’s 11.8 seconds. Also, the Raptor lacks a launch-control mode and says no to brake torquing. Instead, oddly, the quickest launches happen using the auto-hold function. These two things explain why there isn’t a wider gap from a truck that weighs 6077 pounds—which is 704 pounds slimmer than the TRX. That relatively lithe curb weight didn’t translate to stinginess at the pumps, though, with the Raptor R merely matching the TRX’s 10-mpg observed fuel economy.
Given the well-watered state of the dunes, indulging our juvenile urge to throw sand required running in rear-drive mode. Which is how we discovered that, in addition to the electronic locker, there’s a brake-based limited-slip function for the open rear differential. The brake-based system works when one side or the other experiences a flare in wheel speed, and the brake on that side gives a squeeze to send power back to the other side. This system is operating in the background even when the AdvanceTrac stability-control system is completely disabled. So if, say, you want to roost some dunes in two-wheel drive, where the rear locker can’t be engaged, the rear brakes will be getting a workout.
It is true that Car and Driver is staffed by a pack of feral, half-mad maniacs, and that no normal driver would ever experience this particular problem (we’re paraphrasing what Ford said to us). To which we say that 700-hp pickups don’t exactly attract the left-brain thinkers among us, and Raptor R owners will want to drift it in rear-drive mode, probably on the way out of the dealership parking lot (maximum lateral acceleration is a mere 0.71 g). So why not just allow the locking diff to engage in two-wheel drive? Ford says that’s not the way it works right now, but the company is always listening to its customers. So if you want a locking diff in rear-drive mode, petition your local Ford representative. What do we want? Roosty drifts! When do we want them? As often as possible!
Out on the pavement, the Raptor’s stopping power is—surprise, surprise—very close to that of the TRX. Halting the Raptor R requires 205 feet at 70 mph and 430 feet from 100 mph, both of which are slightly lengthier than the TRX’s stops. The Ram betters the Ford by seven feet from 70 mph and three feet from 100 mph.
If you’re looking to spot a Raptor R in the wild, it won’t be easy. First of all, except for its bulging hood, the Raptor R looks very much like an EcoBoost Raptor with the 37-inch tire package. The trucks at Silver Lake were also emblazoned with the graphics package that riffs on the Raptor “digital mud” pattern by constructing the black part of the graphic out of tiny 8s. On the driver’s side of the truck, the Raptor logo renders the second “R” in Raptor Orange, which looks great unless the truck is the same color, in which case it looks like you’re driving a Rapto. (On the passenger’s side, the first R is orange, so on that side you’ve got an “aptor.”) But you can delete the graphics for no cost if you prefer to let the 5.2-liter Predator speak for itself. Which, at wide open throttle, it does at an 83-decibel bellow—the same number we measured from a certain other supercharged four-by-four mega-pickup.
There also won’t be a million Raptor Rs to spot, given that the base price is a cool $109,145. Whether that roughly $30,000 more than a base Raptor (and $26K more than a TRX) sounds worth it or totally ridiculous depends on your point of view, and maybe whether your neighbor has a TRX and is overdue for a FoMoCo riposte to those 6 a.m. Hellcat cold starts. It’s tempting to conclude that since Ram built the TRX and Ford built the Raptor R, that’s where this ends, but we suspect not. GM, what say you?
2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup
Base/As Tested: $109,335/$112,125
Options: moonroof and power tailgate, $2195; spray-in bedliner, $595; graphics delete, $0
supercharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 315 in3, 5163 cm3
Power: 700 hp @ 6650 rpm
Torque: 640 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Suspension, F/R: control arms/live axle
Brakes, F/R: 13.8-in vented disc/13.2-in vented disc
Tires: BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
37×12.5R-17LT 116S M+S 3PMSF FP
Wheelbase: 145.4 in
Length: 232.6 in
Width: 87.0 in
Height: 80.6 in
Passenger Volume: 136 ft3
Curb Weight: 6077 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 3.6 sec
100 mph: 9.1 sec
1/4-Mile: 12.0 sec @ 112 mph
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 4.1 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.2 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.7 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 114 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 205 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 430 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.71 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 10 mpg
75-mph Highway Driving: 14 mpg
75-mph Highway Range: 500 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 12/10/15 mpg
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#Ford #F150 #Raptor #Brings #Fury