For decades now, we’ve seen Ford, Chevy, and Ram (or Dodge if you go back a few more years), battle for pickup truck supremacy on basically every kind of surface imaginable. We watch as they tow airplanes and tractor-trailers, or horses and yachts, while the kids sit in back watching a movie and the air conditioning is blowing as they traverse uphill both ways. Then, we’ve also seen them racing down the track, trying to outgun one another in acceleration and top speed – because who wouldn’t want to run their half-ton pickup into triple digit speeds? And now, it seems that those two worlds have collided and the newest dueling ground is still racing, but off-road. Up until now the Ram TRX has been the king of that hill, but that was before the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R stormed onto the sandy scene.

The numbers tell most of the story with the new Raptor R, which is based on the previous Raptor 37 (named for its 37-inch tires by the way). The Raptor R takes everything we loved about the Raptor 37 and cranks it up to 700, no literally. Gone is the old (but effective) 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine with its paltry 450-horsepower and easily 510 pound-feet of torque. Ford was out to take back its off-roading crown, and decided to take a page from the TRX handbook by yanking out the biggest engine they have in their warehouse and stuffing it into their most Baja-ready chassis. The Raptor R is powered by the GT500’s 5.2-liter Predator DOHC, flat-plane crank V8 engine that makes a ridiculous 700-horsepower at 6,650 rpm and monstrous 640 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm.

Savvy readers will notice that the Raptor R is down on horsepower versus the GT500’s 760 hp at 7,300 , while torque is up from the Mustang’s 625 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm, and that is very intentional. Having more torque at a lower rpm allows the Raptor to not only tow an impressive 8,700 pounds, but also take on a payload of 1,400 pounds as well. Beyond that, Ford engineers were smart enough to realize that top speed isn’t as valuable in a truck that is designed to bound over sand dunes with alacrity. So the Eaton TVS R2650 supercharger bolted to the Raptor’s engine is able to spin faster at lower rpm, allowing more torque through the bottom half of the power band. That power is then sent to a beefed-up version of the Raptor 37’s already tough 10-speed automatic transmission, and then through a larger aluminum driveshaft and on to all four-wheels where those massive 37-inch tires wait to try and put to the pavement, or sand, or whatever surface you might be trying to traverse.

Stronger Fox shocks, a stronger crossmember, and stiffer front springs all work to help maintain the Raptor’s newfound power. The result is an incredibly capable machine that can sprint from 0-60 mph in just 4.0 seconds flat, which is a full second and a half faster than the EcoBoost-ed version of the previous Raptor. While no EPA estimates are out yet, we can reasonably expect the Raptor R to put up numbers similar to those of the Ram TRX, which is to say, they aren’t good. The TRX manages a best of 10/14/12 city/highway/combined mpg, but then, no one is buying these trucks because they initially wanted a Toyota Prius.

There is good news and bad news for those Ford guys that want to go take back their hill from the mighty TRX. The bad news is that Raptor R comes in with a steep (no pun intended) premium in base price over the TRX at $109,145 versus the TRX’s $72,020. But, the good news is that with the Raptor, that base price basically comes with every available feature standard issue, while the TRX requires many add-ons and optional features to match what the Ford comes with out of the gate. All those extras land the TRX at a much closer $102,000, and suddenly, equal footing with the Raptor R.

So the choice once again comes down to preference, and much like politics or sports teams, very rarely do we see anyone jump ship to go to the other side, unless something so special comes along that it changes the hearts and minds of the opposition. The Ford F-150 Raptor R might just be one of those trucks.

Raptor R

Photos: Ford Media

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