Review: An Off-Road Test of Ford’s 700-Horsepower F-150 Raptor R

Whose idea was it to put a Mustang Shelby GT500 engine in a pickup truck?

November 1, 2023 6:45 am
Testing the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R Pickup Truck
No one consumer pickup truck should have all that power. No, really, it probably shouldn't.
Geoff Nudelman

Trying to rationally understand the Ford F-150 Raptor R is a fruitless exercise. Is there any sane reason why a four-door pickup truck needs 700 horsepower and just about every possible piece of finesse and tuning under the sun? 

Of course there isn’t, but sanity is not the driving factor behind Ford’s end-all, be-all Raptor offering. The F-150 Raptor R — several steps up from the Bronco Raptor, which I drove earlier this year — is smooth on the outset, making any driving surface feel like fresh pavement, and brash on the drive, capstoned by a gruesome growl unleashed after every red light.

Vehicle2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
Starting Price$107,350
Price of Model Tested$111,935
Vehicle TypeFive-passenger four-door pickup
Engine5.2L supercharged V8, 700 HP
Transmission10-speed automatic
Fuel Economy10 mpg city, 15 mpg highway, combined 12 mpg
AvailabilitySome dealership availability, mostly special order

Where the standard Raptor was originally conceived as a “desert racer” of sorts, the Raptor R turns the bass up at least four notches, giving anyone with the purchasing power an instant Baja 1000 competitor. Save for the Ford GT and a few limited-run Mustangs, this is the current pinnacle of Ford’s engineering capabilities. 

Almost all of that engineering is in the framework of the truck: an extra lift, tuned suspension, et cetera, et cetera. Inside, there’s still a fairly democratized cockpit layout, primarily adopted from a regular Raptor, with six auxiliary switches uniformly set in the center of the top console for all of those extra add-ons Raptor buyers undoubtedly want to add (a winch comes to mind almost immediately).

Above all, this is a pickup truck with a Mustang Shelby GT500 engine. It roars as such, and demands just about everything its driver can muster.

A Raging Raptor

It’s pretty clear why the Raptor R exists: Ford saw an opportunity given the success of the RAM TRX series, which launched in mid-2020 for the 2021 model year, and sold several thousand examples through a four-year run ending this year (including a 4,000-unit “Final Edition”). This presented a challenge for the Ford Performance division to take the current F-150 Raptor to unneeded heights to capture a piece of that market. 

The Raptor R was a little late to the party, only announced in July 2022, but it will be the solo top-end option for truck buyers who want to live on a throne of juiced-up excess that’s nearly 700 pounds lighter than the TRX. GM hasn’t announced a true competitor, and it’s unclear what’s next for RAM. The buyer looking for one of these burly rigs is likely already used to demanding performance, and wants the excuse to have a statement-maker on call no matter how often (read: how rarely) they decide to go off-road. 

There’s no denying the grin-producing noise that bellows (and boy does it bellow) from the 5.2-liter supercharged V8 engine at ignition. The one powertrain choice for the Raptor R howls, waking up anyone within a block of it. That noise ramps up to near-piercing level when you mash the accelerator. The front end picks up and you’re off with all the pace and muster of 640 lb-ft of torque and 700 horsepower.

Ford F-150 Raptor R Test Drive
Oh, you’ve got an F-150 Raptor? That’s cute.
Geoff Nudelman

Obviously Off-Road

You don’t need a deep understanding of trucks to know that the Raptor series is meant for off-pavement driving. Clocking in above 6,000 pounds, the Raptor R sits on 37-inch BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A KO2 tires explicitly to tear through your local off-road tracks, which is exactly where a friend and I took it to try and push it to its limit. 

One glaring issue with a truck that costs over $100,000 is that we didn’t even get close to its capability threshold. A pickup this engineered and tuned is built for a lot more than even our intermediate 4×4 trails can throw at it. Even if we had gone straight to the toughest dirt paths we could find, it’s pretty clear the Raptor R would have eaten them all for lunch. 

The Secret Sauce Behind the New Era of Off-Road Trucks
The hood may say Ford or Chevrolet, but there are aftermarket fingerprints all over these dune-bashers

Our day was cut short by an odd leak in a rear tire, which meant changing it at a campsite, moving two weighty wheels around to get us back home. Siding with caution and not pushing our luck for a second flat, we drove back to the highway. For the time we did spend on gravel and some minor rock obstacles, the ride was smooth and truly forgiving. You could spend hours off-road and barely feel it.

On pavement, however, the Raptor R wore me out in the same ways the Bronco Raptor did. A truck this large and powerful is exhausting to drive as it requires so much attention. Each time you haul yourself in and out of the lifted cab, it gets a little more difficult. Simple errands will leave you aching for a nap afterwards. While the Raptor R is identical in overall dimensions to a “normal” Raptor, trying to get this truck into a normal parking spot on the first try is nearly impossible. This is more than 19 feet of truck at full length with more than six feet of width. A regular F-150 SuperCrew is actually similar in dimensions, but the massive tires make the Raptor R feel much larger. Remarkably, the 2023 RAM 1500 TRX is almost a foot wider. In any case, this class of truck gulps up the majority of an average driveway. 

Ford F-150 Raptor R Tire
The Raptor R didn’t fail on the off-road terrain, but a tire did.
Geoff Nudelman

Throw Practicality Out of Those Large Windows

In a rapidly warming climate, the other obvious glaring issue with the Raptor R is the breathtakingly bad gas mileage. In my week, the instrument gauge never read an average of more than 13 mpg. More often than not, it hovered around 10.5. Going off-road and climbing hills will drive that number into the single digits. If you can swallow the six-figure price tag, you probably don’t care about mileage, but it’s also another reason why the Raptor R is unrealistic for daily driving.

What the Raptor R ends up being is less of an imaginative exercise and more of an adult Tonka truck for the crowd that has a cool $107,350 to spend. A base Raptor starts at $75,775, and the R trim adds another $31,575. My tester added another few thousand for the moonroof, electronic tailgate and spray-in bedliner. For 2024, pricing jumps up to $79,975 for a standard Raptor, and $111,550 for the R. 

“Costly” doesn’t begin to describe the resource intensity here. The Raptor R is a feat of engineering that reckons you to take it as far as you’re willing to go, and then some. There’s no doubt that showing up at the local off-road course with one of these instantly puts you near the top of the pecking order, but even then, that use case is extremely limited. 

What we can do is appreciate that the Raptor R happened, and that it might stick around for a couple of years as the lone stallion post-TRX (awaiting a potential GM entrant). It’s one of those rare vehicles that sears an experience into your mind, never letting you forget that its melodic howl is never more than a mash of the gas pedal away. 

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