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First Drive

Ford F-150 Raptor R review: like having a large, prehistoric beast as a best friend

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Published: 23 May 2024
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What in Jurassic Park is this?

This is the 2024 Ford Raptor R, the latest version of the most ferocious truck in Ford’s performance paddock. The mad scientists at Dearborn have tinkered even further with the F-150’s DNA to make this Raptor the most powerful one yet.

How much more power can they add to this thing?

At least 20hp, apparently. The 5.2-liter supercharged V8 sitting under the hood now squeezes out 720hp and 640 lb ft of torque, powering all the wheels by way of a 10-speed automatic. What difference does 20hp make, you may ask? Oh, wait, go ahead and just ask.

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What difference does the extra 20hp make?

Great question. On top of an already hefty 700hp, another 20 is akin to adding one more voice to an already large, shouty chorus, and you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish the difference between this version and last year’s in terms of pure output.

So why bother? Ford will tell you that there’s no reason not to improve upon something where there’s an opportunity to do so. Performance is all about incremental improvements after all, so why not take an extra 20 horses if the new air induction upgrades offer them? We do have a sneaking suspicion that there was another motivator in the endeavor.

I bet it has to do with another Dinosaur-sounding truck.

That’s what we’re thinking. This is pure speculation of course, but we get the sense that the power jump is, in some small part, a parting shot at the Ram 1500 TRX.

In brief, Ford’s Raptor had been the undisputed powerful pickup truck champion ever since its debut in 2009, a legacy somewhat soured when the automaker dropped the V8 for an EcoBoost V6 when it was time for the truck’s second generation. Stellantis’ Ram trucks seized the opportunity to cater to the displacement-hungry and power-mad crowd to produce the TRX, a version of its 1500 series pickup laden with a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 capable of producing 702hp.

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The TRX (or T-Rex) was not subtle about being a Raptor-eater, and Ford got the message. Ford subsequently fired back with the Raptor R, which returned the V8 and brought 700hp along with it. Now, with the TRX’s short production lifecycle concluding, the extra 20hp on the new Raptor smacks of Ford topping it in the stat department while it’s still technically in the competition.

Interesting. So what is the Raptor R actually capable of?

Quite a bit. You know the old saying “if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”? Well, the Raptor is a 720hp sledgehammer smashing any obstacle in front of it with supercharged might. Big sand dune? Throw power at it. Rough terrain? Hit it with power. Rocky hill that needs surmounting? Who needs finesse, let’s throw more power at it!

Surely it’s not just brutish, though, is it?

You’re right, we’re really only half-joking. While most traversal issues are simply deleted with a heavy foot, there’s more to the Raptor than sheer brawn.

While its power gets most of the attention, it would be nothing without the engineering underneath to utilize it properly. Built upon the already rugged F-150 bones, the Raptor R sports a double-wishbone front suspension and fink-link coil rear. It’s supported with FOX racing dampers, what they’re calling dual live valve shocks that improves the rebound control provided over the outgoing set.

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This works in tandem with Ford’s desert control module, a brainy computer that knows drivers are going to be hopping and bopping all over the outdoors, so it endeavors to make the ride less punishing.

How does it fare as the desert truck it purports to be?

Oh, it does just fine, don’t worry. With the hardware to handle it, the Raptor also includes a Baja mode, which is essentially a mash-up of the F-150’s Sport mode and off-road terrain mode. Basically, it’s dialed in for rough surfaces but it’s far more aggressive.

Given enough room to play, the Raptor feels exhilarating pushing 100mph over a sun-blasted desert path. It still takes work to keep the truck pointing straight as it slides laterally, struggling to dig its 37-inch all-terrain tires in where it can, but you can spot when the underbits are helping out. It’s particularly noticeable - and helpful - when the terrain splits the vertical travel of the front wheels while the system retains its composure.

When it’s forced to slow things down, it has the capacity to carefully scramble over that which it cannot destroy as deftly as its F-150 Tremor counterpart, as well as gently descend down steep slopes, cross gullies, and chatter its way through deep sand.

Can you still do normal truck stuff with it?

You sure can. The Raptor R has the same spacious F-150 SuperCrew cab that fits five people comfortably, with a 5.5-foot box in the back for 14,000 lbs of cargo. It can also tow 8,700lbs-worth of stuff behind it. The truck also comes packed with all the tech the latest F-150 comes with, so it’s quite comfortable in-between dune jumps.

On the road, the Raptor R suffers a bit from its all-terrains but sport mode can really lay it all down in under four seconds, topping out electronically at 114 mph, which does take the wind out of your sails a bit until you realize it’s probably for the best.

Can you really jump it, though?

Don’t let the Raptor R’s nearly 6,000lbs of heft fool you, this sucker can fly. Hit the right embankment, and it sails through the air like an angrily hurled brick, though it lands with a relatively lighter touch. Our run off of a particularly leap-worthy hillock started at 60 mph and touch down felt like we’d just gone over a speed bump. At 70mph, things got more interesting.

How much will it cost to leap one over into my driveway?

The starting price for a Raptor R of your own is $77,980, without certain accessories or destination fees. There’s also the cost of feeding it, which you have to consider. The EPA rates the combined economy at 12mpg, and that’s not taking wide-open-throttle adventures into account.

With that said, there’s no truck as satisfying on the market today. The ‘Raptor’ name aside, it does feel like having a large, prehistoric beast as a best friend. Sure, it has some practical aspects but those are ancillary features here. Any time spent actually working with the Raptor R could be spent in a dried-up lake bed hooning it up ‘til the sun goes down.

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