Ford created the off-road super-truck category over a decade ago, launching the original Ford F-150 SVT Raptor in 2010 to a passionate fan base. The first-generation Raptor offered a powerful V-8 engine, advanced suspension, aggressive off-road tires and unique exterior panels. In 2017, when Ford introduced the second-generation Raptor, the automaker made a few changes. It dropped “SVT” (Special Vehicle Team) from the name, and dropped two cylinders from the engine, leveraging a detuned version of the Ford GT’s twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6—with 450 hp—instead of a V-8.
That decision had some Raptor fans balking, claiming a Baja-racing-inspired high-performance truck must have an eight-cylinder engine. Whether it was because of those voices or the 702 hp Ram TRX rival introduced in 2021 (probably a bit of both), Ford decided to up the Raptor’s game for 2023, introducing the Raptor R with a 700 hp, 5.2-liter supercharged V-8. This is essentially the same engine powering Ford’s high-performance Shelby GT500 coupe, though slightly detuned from that model’s 760 hp.
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When asked about the differences between these two power plants, Ford told Robb Report it wanted the engine’s 640 ft lbs of peak torque to hit at a lower rpm than that of the GT500’s 625 ft lbs. In the Raptor R’s case, peak torque occurs at 6,750 rpm versus the GT500’s arriving at 7,300 rpm. Given the Raptor R’s more rugged intentions versus the Shelby’s focus on paved track performance, that makes sense. A smaller supercharger pulley and different exhaust-system tuning are among the subtle changes made to the Raptor R’s mill to alter its power and torque numbers.
The V-8 also adds about 100 pounds to the Raptor R’s front end, which necessitated 5 percent stiffer front springs. Surprisingly, that was the only chassis modification needed for the Raptor R, confirming the durability and capability of the previous Raptor’s V-6 platform. For the 2021 model year, the standard Raptor benefitted from front and rear suspension improvements, including an upgrade to a five-link, coil-spring rear suspension from its predecessor’s leaf springs. Ford clearly knew the V-8-powered Raptor R was coming when it made these updates to the standard Raptor chassis.
Additional changes specific to the Raptor R include a stronger driveshaft, standard 37-inch all-terrain tires (the V-6 version uses 35-inch tires standard, with 37s optional), orange front tow hooks and exterior styling tweaks. The latter mostly involve a new power bulge hood and “R” badging (presented in the Code Orange color scheme) throughout the interior and exterior. Ford also tweaked some of the drive modes for the Raptor R, such as putting the drivetrain in 4-high instead of the V-6 Raptor’s 2-high when using Sport mode. A wise move given the Raptor R’s additional 250 hp.
That extra output is evident long before you engage the Raptor R’s throttle. A deep, resonate exhaust note erupts from underneath the truck as soon as the V-8 comes to life. Depending on which drive mode you’re in, the engine continues its baritone song as the tachometer swings right and the truck eagerly lunges forward. Ford hasn’t released zero-to-60 mph figures on the Raptor R, and was quick to point out that off-the-line prowess is not the truck’s purpose, but everyone is wondering how it will stack up against the TRX, which hammers out a zero-to-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds.
We didn’t have a Ram TRX to drag race during our time in the Raptor R, but we did have access to the vast Silver Lake Sand Dunes along the coast of Lake Michigan. This is the exact terrain the Raptor R was engineered to conquer, leveraging its two-speed 4×4 transfer case, locking differential, FOX “live valve” active shocks, 13 inches of front suspension travel, 14.1 inches of rear suspension travel, over 13 inches of ground clearance and a Baja mode for high-speed, off-road driving.
As expected, the Ford F-150 Raptor R feels right at home powering up steep sand dunes and splashing through deep puddles the day after a Michigan downpour. The truck’s Baja mode samples terrain conditions hundreds of times per second, modulating the truck’s power delivery and constantly retuning its active suspension based on speed and conditions. The result for the driver is a high degree of confidence in conquering challenges encountered over a variety of terrain while enjoying the Raptor’s gloriously raucous exhaust note.
In the time we spent at Silver Lake State Park, we conquered dozens of sand dunes, blasted and power-slid across open planes and even jumped the Raptor R at 50 mph, clearing at least 20 feet. The truck executed these maneuvers without complaint, providing a level of confidence bordering on a sense of omnipotence. About the only real challenge encountered with the Raptor R was maintaining driver restraint, as applying too much throttle in deep sand can quickly dig four holes and bury even the most capable vehicle.
When not playing in the dirt, the F-150 Raptor R remains quite civilized, with responsive steering and a relatively relaxed ride quality. Its interior includes standard Recaro seats—covered in Alcantara—carbon-fiber trim and a 12-inch touchscreen with Ford’s latest Sync 4 interface that features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Beyond the Baja driving mode, the Raptor R offers Normal, Sport and Quiet modes, the latter a blessing when leaving your neighborhood for early-morning adventures at o-dark-thirty.
Of course, the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R is still a Ford truck, with impressive specifications that include a 1,400-pound payload capacity and 8,700-pound towing capacity. It also includes tech for the backcountry, like Trail Turn Assist and Trail Control, as well as on-road features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist—all as standard equipment in its $110,000 starting price. A sunroof is the only extra-cost option, while eight exterior color choices include a new Avalanche Gray and Ford’s trademark offering for high-performance models, Code Orange. The 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R should already be arriving in showrooms.
Click here for more photos of the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R.
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