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Driven: The 700-Horsepower V8 Raptor Is an Off-Road Superhero

This is the best Raptor that Ford has ever built

Ford Raptor R
  • The Ford Raptor once again has V8 power thanks to the 2023 Raptor R.
  • The truck makes 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque.
  • Starting at $109,145, this is the most expensive Raptor ever.
  • Order books are now open for the 2023 Raptor R, alongside the V6-powered Raptor.

After eight years of absence, there is once again a thunderous V8 under the hood of the Ford Raptor. Enthusiasts begged and the company answered with the 2023 Ford Raptor R, an unapologetic hell-raiser for the ultimate off-road experience. I traveled to Michigan to try the truck in the dirt for myself and came away with an overwhelming sense of bewilderment. This is the most entertaining truck I've ever driven.

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700 reasons to fall in love

I want to clarify that I am a big fan of the V6 in the now "standard" Ford Raptor, both the previous generation and the current model. But from the moment I pressed the start button on the new Raptor R and heard the engine roar to life, I knew how special it was. Unlike the original Raptor's 6.2-liter V8, Ford went to its muscle car machinery to power the R.

Ford Raptor R

Powering the R is a supercharged 5.2-liter engine making 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft. It's the same engine used in the Shelby GT500, but with modifications for off-road duty. Ford engineers adjusted the torque curve to deliver more power down low where it's needed, though the trade-off is less power at high rpm. You won't be doing track days in a Raptor R, so it seems like a worthwhile trade to me.

Even with the tuning changes, you can feel the Mustang's soul with every accelerator press in the Raptor R. Revs climb fast, with the supercharger coming into its own at around 4,000 rpm. Even with nearly 6,000 pounds of truck to propel, the brute force coming from the V8 is astounding. With most of our drive time relegated to the sand, I barely had the chance to break the Raptor R free on the pavement; I'm dying to see the numbers when our test team gets the truck later this year. This is a seriously quick truck.

It's also L-O-U-D. Ford modified the standard Raptor's exhaust for R duty, adding some insulation in the tips to make the truck noise-compliant. But don't go thinking that they ruined the party — the Raptor R's most extreme setting is for off-road use only because it's just too loud for the streets. On the other hand, it's the perfect solution if you really hate your neighbor.

Ford Raptor R

Supremely capable in the sand

It was a no-brainer for Ford to bring us to the stunning sand dunes of Silver Lake in Michigan. It's a natural playground for the Raptor R and the perfect place to demonstrate its off-road prowess. The only modifications made for our drive were airing down the 37-inch tires to 15 psi to prep the tires for working in deep sand and throwing on orange spotting flags. Otherwise, the Raptor Rs were in stock form.

A series of vertical dunes were the first major test for me and my truck. Right away the engine stole the spotlight with ample torque reserves and smooth power delivery. For such a rambunctious powertrain, it's easy to modulate the power as needed. I also came away very impressed with the software turning in the Baja drive mode. It kept the 10-speed transmission in the right gear at all times, both during climbs and descents.

Just south of the dunes were some whoops in the sand big enough to injure most trucks on sale today. But equipped with the Fox adaptive shocks that scan terrain hundreds of times per second, and 24-inch coils with a unique spring rate, the Raptor R made quick work of them. Here's a visual demonstration to show just how much articulation is achievable.

From dunes to doughnuts to jumps, the Raptor R was nothing shy of heroic in its most comfortable setting. Admittedly, I have less sand-driving experience than I do on the rocks and trails, but the Raptor R turned me into a pro. Its ability to tackle terrain changes — at high and low speeds — felt like a cheat code. I'll reserve judgment on its everyday livability until our team gets the truck in for a full round of testing. But as a desert runner, this is the best you can buy.

The cost is something to consider

All that ability has to come at a cost. Like any good attraction, the Raptor R asks big money to ride. Ford has priced the Raptor R at $109,145 including destination — a massive $30,575 commitment over the V6 Raptor. That starting price also eclipses chief rival Ram TRX by a sizable margin. A comparably equipped TRX is around $95,000, making the Raptor R a clear loser in the price category. And of course, presumed dealer markups could make that even worse.

Then there is the obvious downer, fuel economy. The EPA has yet to officially rate the Raptor R, but we can expect worse numbers than the V6 Raptor's 14 mpg city/18 highway and 15 mpg combined. An early indication is my test truck's 11.1 mpg figure after mostly driving at normal highway speeds. For what it's worth, we're getting 13.6 mpg lifetime out of our own 2020 Shelby GT500. We've driven it more than 20,000 miles as part of our long-term test program. So take that and reduce it for whatever effect an additional 2,000 pounds and a less aerodynamic shape will have.

Ford Raptor R

Edmunds says

The 2023 Ford Raptor R is the pinnacle of what a gas-powered truck can do. The upgrade from six to eight cylinders makes a world of difference when it comes to personality, and makes an already fun product even better. V8 monsters like this won't be around for much longer, so if you feel inclined to pay the six-figure price, now is the time.