Like with hilariously overpowered SUVs, the recipe of throwing massive power and absorb-anything suspension at an enormous pickup makes for a silly and enjoyable meal, albeit rather gluttonous and best served in small doses. Perhaps it’s a good thing then that there aren’t many options: Only the Hellcat-powered Ram TRX and “Predator”-powered Ford Raptor R duel for smile-on-your-face super truck supremacy. Recently I put about 800 miles on a bright orange Raptor R, almost entirely with a half-ton’s worth of Polaris ATV in the bed, and came away with some realizations and revelations about Ford’s newest monster.
Battle of the beasts
The super truck is an odd prospect. Sporty versions of mundane pickup trucks aren’t a new novelty, but the general automotive world’s relatively recent obsession and its impact on bigger, badder, more powerful and capable versions of these vehicles is. Ford’s been building the F-150 Raptor in some guise since 2010, but it was really when FCA, now Stellantis, introduced the RAM 1500 TRX for the 2021 model year that a new class of performance truck came alive. With a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 making 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, enormous fender flares, and a weight of about 6,400 pounds, the only thing more imposing than the TRX itself was (and still is) the whine of its supercharger. As is tradition with anything Hellcat-powered, the Ram TRX proved to be excess for the sake of excess. Furthering the tradition of the pickup space, a truly wild offering from one manufacturer means another needs to step in to share the spotlight. Enter Ford, and the Raptor R.
Ford’s standard F-150 Raptor uses a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. Clearly not enough to fight the TRX, Ford upped the ante for 2023 by dumping in the outgoing Mustang GT500’s engine, which in this guise makes 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque. Though the R and TRX are nearly identical on the power fronts, each has a totally unique character. The TRX is always in your face about wanting to tackle the biggest, baddest guy out there. It feels heavy and enormous. On the contrary, the Raptor R feels and drives smaller. It’s playful, willing you to misbehave. Credit to the Ford’s ~400 pound lighter curb weight and selectable 2WD/4WD versus the Ram’s full-time 4WD.
Not a one-trick pony
Thankfully, the Raptor R is just as great on a road trip as it is playing around in Baja mode in the dirt. The seats provide lounge chair levels of comfort, the cabin is quiet, and the engine helps it eat up highway miles with the best of them. Speaking of best, the Raptor’s suspension is unbeatable on the front of ride quality. It’s simply incredibly plush, capable of making even the awful roads that line cities in the Northeast feel smooth. Seriously: The Raptor R rides damn-near as well as the BMW X7, if not even better over potholes. And in true Raptor fashion, going faster makes the ride even smoother.
Most of our time with the Raptor R was spent using it to shuttle the ATV around on a road trip and the subsequent travels getting to and from the trailhead. The Raptor R was unflappable, devouring the long trek to north Maine and making a long drive feel like a short one. Better yet, the R proved genuinely fun to drive even in normal conditions. The endless power, direct steering, inimitable suspension, and general demeanor make for a vehicle that is somehow as comfortable as it is playful, and plain old entertaining.
Great on the dirt, so-so at the hauling
We did also spend a few miles worth of time blasting along in the dirt decent clip. While this was nowhere near approaching the limits of the truck’s suspension, these rips were done with the heavy four-wheeler on board. The Raptor R is so well sorted that it simply didn’t care about any amount of extra throttle or, at least in this regard, the weight it was managing. This truck is excellent at what it was built to do and it actually likes doing it.
Where the Raptor falters isn’t as much a detriment as it is a known entity. The Raptor’s strengths are as a high-speed off-roader and not so much as a true heavy hauler. Evidence: The payload capacity is only 1,440 pounds. For reference, an F-150 Tremor has a payload capacity of 1,885 pounds. With the Polaris in the bed, copious gear and tools in the cabin, and yours truly in the driver seat, the truck was right at its payload capacity. Any more weight would necessitate a trailer for towing the quad instead of taking the easy path of hauling it in the cargo box.
The other bits
Obviously you have to pick and choose your battles; the Raptor isn’t meant for working like this. The super soft Fox Live Valve suspension comes at expense of payload, and it was noticeable with the back of the truck squatting substantially, but the R still drove and handled nearly the same as if it was being driven empty. Still, let’s just say that if you want to haul regularly there are trucks that mind the weight less. The bed could also use better, bigger tie down points as the bottle opener-sized hooks it has in each corner suffice, but just barely.
Also on the front of being too small, the truck’s HVAC controls are truly tiny and thus hard to use. We appreciate that they’re physical versus all via touchscreen, though there’s a ton of unused real estate on the center stack. Our only other complaint about the truck is the price. Given, this is a class of two and both are (or at least were) selling for quite a bit over MSRP, but the $111,935 sticker price of our test truck is a pretty hefty number. Then again, if you’re in the market for a truck like this and are comfortable with an average 12 MPG on premium fuel, money isn’t an issue of concern.
Top of its class
Fast, overpowered super trucks are as much if not even more fun than comparably-powered cars, as the limits are lower and you can explore the breaking point of grip and hilarity in more regular circumstances than, say, a supersedan. The F-150 Raptor R is a showstopper even with the exhaust valve closed, and the way it drives is well worth the lofty price of entry. The Raptor R is the new best of its class, and even though that class isn’t a big one, the bar is so high that this is a true achievement in what a factory-built pickup not only is capable of, but what it’s like to drive and live with.
- Fantastic engine
- Unbeatable suspension
- Low payload capacity
- Frustratingly small HVAC controls
- Too wide for some tight parking spots
- The 2023 Ford Raptor R is everything it needs to be and more.
Configured our way
- Our Raptor R would be painted in Antimatter Blue. We’d add the Moonroof and Tailgate package for a total MSRP of $112,185.
Info, Stats, and Price
Model Year: 2023
Model: Raptor R 4×4 Super Crew
Engine: 5.2L supercharged V8 – 700 horsepower, 640 lb-ft. of torque
Drivetrain: 10-speed automatic; selectable 2WD/4WD
Base MSRP: $75,775 (F-150 Raptor, as the R is technically a package)
Options on test vehicle: Equipment Group 802A (aka the Raptor R package, $31,575), MoonRoof & Tailgate Package ($2,195), Spray-In Bedliner ($595)
Total MSRP of test vehicle: $111,935 (Including $1,795 Destination & Delivery Charge)