The 2023 Ford Raptor was already a very capable truck in its own right thanks in part to its capable platform, suspension, and the 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6 that lurked under the hood. However, what would happen if Ford decided to add a V8 back into the Raptor? The answer is one of the most exciting off-road trucks we have ever experienced, the 2023 Ford Raptor R and it could be the TRX rival that we have all been waiting for.
Minimal Changes Hide The Beast Lurking Within Raptor R
At a glance, the 2023 Raptor R might look like, well, a typical Raptor model with the V6 version’s exterior styling and core DNA carrying over largely unchanged. That includes the large front grille with large FORD script, the beefy wheel flares and the massive 37-inch off-road tires (35s are reserved for the V6 only). But look past the similarities and some of the differences do make themselves apparent with he front grille featuring a small red R in the bottom corner as well as a color matching R in the Raptor graphics package. The hood also gets a larger hood bulge to accommodate the V8 and it is arguably our favorite styling highlight on the truck.
When compared to the TRX, the R is the slightly subtler one of the two (the TRX will always look like its leaping off the cover of a wild off-road magazine, but in a way that’s not a bad thing since it allows the Raptor to embrace its own inner personality and allows the truck to please Ford enthusiasts that want to make a styling statement but don’t want to go too over board in doing it. The interior is also largely carried over but R models do get slightly more bolstered seats, trim differences and a handy R mode button that acts as a memory function for the preferred driving settings of various drivers.
Raptor R Is The Ultimate Fun Machine
Regardless of how you look at it, the 2023 Raptor R is all about having a blast off the beaten path and while cold gray Michigan weather kept us away from the sand dunes this time around, Ford had the next best thing in mind with a trip to the Holly Oaks Off-Road Vehicle Park in Holly, Michigan. Crafted out of old sand and gravel pits, Holly Oaks would prove to be a formidable test of the Raptor R’s capabilities while also allowing us to get to know the truck better.
With all the challenges that the park had to offer, we were glad to see that the Raptor R made short work of all of them. Powering the R is the same 5.2 liter supercharged V8 that also sees duty in the Shelby GT500 Mustang. While it makes 760 hp in that model, in the Raptor it makes and even 700 which is partially due to a revised tune that adds more meat to the low-end torque curve with the truck having 640 lb-ft of twist. While this is still less than the Ram TRX’s 702 hp, it is 250 horses more than a standard Raptor and allows the R to rocket its way to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The engine gets cool air through revised duct work, and Ford claimed that the new engine only added 100 lbs of extra weight to the truck. That extra weight did force Ford to beef up the front suspension and add some extra brackets in the rear to help the rear tires handle the extra power but other than that, the suspension and core essentials carry over from the V6 Raptor untouched.
That translated nicely to our time with it at Holly Oaks. When placed in Baja mode, our tester was able to stretch its legs on some of the open stretches at Holly Oaks and we even had the opportunity to get in some drifting on some of the sandy sweepers on our route. More demanding trails gave the Raptor R the chance to show that even though there’s a beast lurking under the hood, it’s still a very comfortable experience, with the Fox sourced off-road suspension doing a good job of soaking up all but the harshest of bumps while the articulation on hand helped the Raptor navigate extreme obstacles with ease.
With all of this performance on hand you might think that Ford has crafted the perfect off-road truck that can outshine some performance cars when it comes to sheer acceleration. However, there’s a weakness, and it’s the sheer width of the truck. This width plays a big role in The Raptor R’s off-road abilities but it’s also a doubled edged sword with its size forcing us to occasionally maneuver very delicately through narrower roads and some sections of trail. But when it has room to roam, the R is a thrill ride that’s definitely worth getting in line for again if you have the chance.
Unlike other performance off-road pickups, Ford is not treating the Raptor R as a stand alone model. Instead, buyers will have to go to the standard Raptor model in Ford’s online configurator first and formally select the V8 in the powertrains selection which will add $30,575 to the price of the Raptor for a revised base price of $109,245.
That’s a considerable premium over a base Raptor V6 and it’s also $26,000 more than the Ram TRX. But we suspect that many hardcore fans won’t mind especially once they have a chance to punch their ticket, get behind the wheel and blast over a sand dune, a rugged trail or even a narrow parking lot at your local Red Robin on the way to get a gourmet cheeseburger and impress the drive thru lane at the same time.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.