Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Ford Raptor R

Ford Raptor R – R stands for Reality-challenging!

By Jim Bray
August 10, 2023

Forgive me if I write this column while hunkering down under my desk, because I'm afraid I might get struck by lightning for actually liking a full-sized pickup truck.

Of course, Ford's F-150 Raptor R isn't your garden variety pickup truck. No, indeed. It's an outrageously in your face vehicle that lets you cut a swath through traffic while also waking the neighbourhood with its outrageous exhaust bellow.

And it's an absolute blast!

Click on the image to open a slideshow.

And all this truck goodness and fun – all 700 horsepower of it – can be yours for a paltry $150,000 CDN, if you can find one for that price. Apparently, there's a waiting list and the trucks are selling for much more than list. I haven't heard that officially, but I was told that by someone who would know.

Anyway, Ford's Raptor has been around for several years now, but to compare that original Raptor with this one isn't really fair. This is an "UberRaptor" that eschews the regular Raptor's EcoBoost V6 (which works very well) with a big, supercharged V8 – the sort of engine you might imagine in a high-end Mustang (and where I imagine it would be even more of a blast!).

As Ford says, it's "the fastest, most powerful, most extreme high-performance off-road desert Raptor yet."

I didn't go anywhere near off road, let alone off pavement, so my comments deal with having the truck on city streets and paved highway. And as such, it provided the most fun I've had in a pickup truck. Not only is that supercharged V8 powerful and loud, you can tweak it via buttons on the steering wheel to make it "sporty" and that can tighten up the suspension and steering (there are other settings, too, such as for off road and just plain "comfort") as well as make that outrageous exhaust blat even blattier, if there's even such a word. Yep, you can go from impressing your neighbours to making them really mad, all at the push of a button.

I wonder if that's why my next-door neighbours suddenly decided to list their house…

That supercharged V8 displaces 5.2 litres and cranks out 700 awesome horsepower and 640 lb.-ft. of torque. Needless to say, even a heavy vehicle such as this tends to leap to attention when you prod it with your right foot – and I don't mean giving it a swift kick to the tailgate! Ford says its Performance folk brought to the task the most powerful engine in the company's lineup –seen previously in the Mustang Shelby GT500 (I hope they send one of them to review, too – that would be more up my alley), but tweaking it for "Raptor-level off-road performance and Built Ford Tough durability. The result is the most torque-dense supercharged V8 yet in a production pickup."

The supercharger was recalibrated and a new pulley was added "to optimize its power for off-road use, increasing torque delivery at the low-end and mid-range. These changes help Raptor R offer more performance at the speeds where customers spend most of their time driving."

That loud and proud exhaust system has been upgraded as well, switching to a cast stainless steel design. They've also included "a unique oil cooler and filter, plus a deeper oil pan enabling it to tackle aggressive grades while keeping the engine oil cool. To help the engine breathe better, air intake volume is increased 66 per cent via a wider air intake inlet and a higher-flow, higher-efficiency conical air filter."
That's just the engine stuff, too. To enhance the off-road performance, Ford Performance upgraded the base truck's 10-speed transmission and driveline to help ensure the "R-trageous" Raptor can handle whatever beastliness the V8 can put out.

I'm not a fan of 10-speed transmissions generally. I find they upshift too quickly if you don't keep the gas tromped (to save the Earth from evil carbon) and they also have to downshift through too many gears when you're pulling out to pass or carving some interesting on ramps with abandon. The Raptor R's SelectShift transmission has been recalibrated and I found that made a huge difference.

Or maybe I just had the gas pressed so much that it forgot about the economic and environmental stuff. However you slice it, I didn't find this 10-speed lacking at all.

Ford also slapped (well, carefully installed, I suppose) a new front axle it says has a more robust, higher-strength carrier casting and an aluminum-ribbed structural cover "to manage the powertrain's added torque", as well as a "unique larger-diameter aluminum driveshaft." There's also a new, specially tuned torque converter with heavy-duty turbine damper and four-pinion rear output assembly that the company says "makes the truck even better equipped to transfer torque and provide a smoother powertrain feel when driving both on- and off-road."

I can't comment on all that without tearing out my hair at my lack of technical prowess so I'll take Ford at its word.

Ah, but it's the truck's suspension that really spoke to me (well, that and the engine!). One of the reasons I generally eschew driving pickups is that the rear ends of the ones using the traditional leaf spring suspension tend to chitter and slide sideways over frost heaves and other road irregularities (stuff I imagine you never see in bike lanes) and that really reduces the enjoyment of the drive. To me, anyway.

Ah, but Ford as figured that out. The Raptor's five-link rear suspension features "extra-long trailing arms to better maintain axle position on rough terrain, a Panhard rod and 24-inch coil springs – all optimized for outstanding stability while traversing desert terrain at high speeds." The shocks are tuned to tread a fine balance between ride quality and roll control both on and off the pavement. According to the company, "these electronically controlled dampers use suspension height sensors and other sensors to monitor terrain conditions independently, hundreds of times a second, while adjusting suspension tuning accordingly."

Despite its being a big truck, the Raptor R drives more like a big SUV. It can probably be put down to that suspension, whose long travel – while meant to enhance off-road performance – works really, really well on the pavement, even if that pavement is typical of today's deteriorating infrastructure. 

The bottom line is that, while you won't confuse driving the Raptor with driving a Mustang (and other truckish caveats still apply), it's one heckuva ride.

Other truckish things? Well, while I found getting into the Raptor R pretty simple, thanks to its (non-retracting) running boards and grab handles,but getting my short and fat carcass out of it made me grateful for gravity and hopeful that no one was videoing my graceful exits. So far I haven't seen anything on YouTube, which is encouraging.

Inside, it's pretty much a Ford truck, and that's fine. There's a very nice view through the generous greenhouse, and all the controls, etc. are laid out well and work as they should. Ford still has one of the easiest LCD centre screen interfaces that I've seen and, even with more recent upgrades, it continues to work very well without pissing off the driver. And instead of overloading the screen with a bunch of functions (such as HVAC) that would work better using conventional buttons, knobs and the like, Ford continues to use conventional buttons, knobs and the like.

See, competitors, you don't need to jump on every new tech/interface bandwagon to stay competitive.

Another thing I absolutely loved about the Raptor R was its Bang and Olufsen audio system. It is nothing short of sublime, one of the best I've heard in any type of vehicle. And here it is in a big and brawny truck!

I'd love to hear such a system in a car! My car, especially!

The R is differentiated from the "non-R" with styling cues inside and out. Outside, you get a big and aggressive power dome on the hood (Ford says it's nearly an inch taller than on the base Raptor), which the company says helps extract warm air from underneath. There's also some badging and other cosmetic upgrades.

Inside, the standard Recaro seats (in a truck?! Wow!) wear black leather and Alcantara suede. There's real carbon fibre on the doors, the media bin door and upper parts of the instrument panel as well. It's very cool.

Ford says the F-150 Raptor R will be available in eight colour options, including new Avalanche and Azure Gray Tri-Coat exterior paint offered on the Raptor lineup for the first time.

However one might slice it, it's one heckuva beast.

Can I come out from under my desk now?

Copyright 2023 Jim Bray

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