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2023 Ford Raptor R – Return of the V8

Beginning with its inception in 2010, Ford’s most souped-up version of their classic F-150 pickup, the Raptor, has been nearly synonymous with American muscle trucks: big displacement and big power numbers out of a time-tested, crossplane V8. Following a facelift in 2017, that big V8 was replaced by Ford’s newest golden child, a high-performance variant of their 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost. While the EcoBoost (which is so beloved by Ford that they chose it as the power plant for their new Ford GT supercar) is undeniably a great engine for any application, especially behind the new 10-speed automatic transmission, many would say the ol’ Raptor just isn’t the same without its big V8 powering it across the bajadas. It’s perhaps possible, then, that the V8’s absence was always intended to be temporary while Ford worked through the embryonic stages of its most powerful Raptor ever – the brand-new Raptor R which makes its debut for model year 2023.

Detroit’s Finest?

Right off the bat, the Raptor R makes absolutely no apologies about its origins – according to Ford, it’s an “adrenaline-fueled, supercharged thrill-ride” of a truck. The 5.2L forced-induction V8 makes an insane 700 horsepower at the crank, and a full 640 lb.-ft of torque. Thought big internal combustion performance motors were dead in the year 2023? Well, think again.

The motor itself is Ford’s new “Predator” mill and is the same one sitting in the Shelby GT500 Mustang, albeit downturned and tweaked for better performance in a truck platform. In this Raptor, you’ll be able to pull 8,700 pounds, and carry up to 1,400 pounds in the bed. This is perfect if you like to haul your camper or fifth wheel behind you, and you can carry any other supplies you’d need to keep you sustained off-grid.

These power numbers are slightly less than those of the Ram TRX, but while the TRX is powered by a cam-in-block or “pushrod” motor, the Raptor R’s cutting-edge V8 uses overhead cams to provide a more even delivery of power across the rev range. The overhead cam design and also enables higher payload and towing ratings than the competition (which is why pushrods have largely gone the way of the dinosaur). The Ford is also shaping up to be the quickest to 60 mph, at an estimated 3.8 seconds.

Rugged Adaptations

Like the other Raptors that came before it, the Raptor R was designed for the desert, and it now rolls on 37” tires dampened by custom Fox shocks. Having the option to order a vehicle with 37” tires straight from the factory (and covered by a factory warranty) used to be nigh unthinkable, but Ford has brought what used to be a backyard, shade-tree-esque modification to the production line. In order to accommodate this, the underpinnings are essentially bespoke to the 37” tire models.

You’ve got a trailer hitch (of course) and winch mount, as well as front tow hooks on the bumper. The chassis has been reinforced all around, and so has the engine for maximum reliability. Under the hood, you’ll find the Predator V8 has been outfitted with a larger oil pan for increased capacity, and integrated oil cooler tailored for towing and pulling. Overall? If you’re pleased with the off-road performance of the previous Raptors, including the EcoBoost models, you’ll be more than happy with how the Raptor R handles the dunes.

Next Generation Looks

While the Raptor R doesn’t present itself as a tremendous departure from the aesthetics of its siblings, it does update the fascia and interior a bit. On the outside, a (relatively) subtle orange “R” denotes the V8 under the hood, as do the corresponding orange tow hooks. All of the exterior lighting has been upgraded to LEDs at this point, and you naturally retain the trademark “RAPTOR” branding on the rear bed sides, but overall, the Raptor R presents a handsome and chiseled visage.

Moving into the cabin, the orange “R” accents are tastefully sprinkled throughout the inside, including on the center console. An orange centerline at 12:00 on the steering wheel is also reflected on either side of the cockpit, which frames the blacked-out console and gauge cluster and the ample race-inspired carbon fiber touches that are woven throughout the cabin. The seats are covered in gorgeous leather and Alcantara upholstery, and also sport the orange “R” crest right under the headrest. Yes, it’s still a truck on the inside, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more thoughtfully-appointed interior than this one

Gasoline Lives

With other auto manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, planning to entirely nix their internal-combustion fleets in the next decade, some enthusiasts are likely breathing a fairly major sigh of relief at the mere existence of this wild truck. Why? It’s a small glimpse into the future – a glimpse that gasoline can’t be counted out just yet. Especially in the pickup truck, the most American of all vehicles, the convenience and proven track record of gasoline remains a comfort to many buyers. Perhaps they live in the remote mountain states, where a charge isn’t always guaranteed. Perhaps they’re looking to haul their toys or work equipment, and the fully-electric alternatives like the new Ford Lightning simply can’t offer enough range or payload capability to replace their old standbys. Or, perhaps they simply want to buy the new race truck of their dreams. Whatever the reason, this super-premium and exciting next entry into the Ford Raptor series is great news all around.

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