The problem with excess is that you can never get enough of it. Although awesome in its own way, the Euro-spec 288hp Ford Ranger Raptor already looks like very weak beer when compared to both the brawnier version sold in more permissive parts of the world and the American F-150 Raptor, a vehicle that both shocked and awed me when it was new back in 2017. But for Ford Performance even the 450hp V6-powered behemoth clearly wasn’t quite mad enough, hence the arrival of the even brawnier F-150 Raptor R that I’ve now had the chance to drive in the ‘States. A truck that is encapsulated by two numbers: a 2,760kg kerbweight and a 700hp peak power output.
Much of the reason for the Raptor R’s creation was doubtless down to corporate pride. The most recent F-150 Raptor was one-upped in spectacular style by the Dodge Ram 1500 TRX, this using a supercharged 6.2-litre ‘Hellcat’ Hemi V8 to deliver 702hp with jump-friendly Bilstein separate reservoir dampers. The Raptor R is a response to the Dodge – and its success in the U.S. market – being upgraded a 5.2-litre supercharged V8 which combines 700hp with 640lb ft of torque. The R also rides on colossal 37-inch diameter BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres which give 330mm of ground clearance. It also gets even more serious Fox Dual Live Valve shock dampers designed to keep its mass under tight control when both travelling on the ground, and – especially – when landing after taking off. Not that there was any monster air on my drive, which took place on public roads in rural Michigan rather than Baja deserts. But that didn’t make the R (much) less impressive; beneath the steroidal hugeness and cartoonish shape this is a talented, well-engineered performance machine.
The size is, briefly, intimidating. By U.S. standards the regular F-150 isn’t an especially large pick-up truck – XL rather than XXL – but the Raptor R’s increase in track and height means it fits snugly onto one side of a Midwest two-lane highway and low-down frontal visibility over the bonnet is poor. You could draw up behind a Sinclair C5 at a stoplight and forget it was there; fortunately a small risk in Michigan. The ride is also busy at lower speeds, the very serious shock absorbers seeming to regard urban undulations as being beneath their damping abilities. On Ford’s numbers, the V8 adds 50kg of mass to the front end over the regular Raptor’s Ecoboost V6; no part of the dynamic experience feels light or dainty.
But adding speed quickly makes it better. The dampers need bigger loads to wake up and start performing, and it doesn’t take long to realise that the Raptor R’s huge mass is under assured control, pretty much regardless of what is underfoot. On twisty backroads that were rough and often awkwardly cambered the R refused to be thrown off-line, responses staying accurate and the steering dialled-in as velocity rose. It feels so composed when pushed that it effectively creates its own reality, one where doing something so unlikely starts to seem completely normal. I got the chance to also drive a V8 diesel Ford F-250 Super Duty over the same roads; a truck that wobbled, heaved and shuddered where the Raptor R saw barely breaking sweat.
While the R’s chassis delivers a very similar experience to the regular Raptor, performance is in a different league. The supercharged engine sounds much more purposeful than the turbocharged Ecoboost, especially given the ability to choose between four different exhaust modes. The loudest of these, Baja, brings a warning admonition to the digital dashboard that it is for off-road use only and basically turns the world into a V8 amphitheatre, but even the supposedly gentler Sport and Normal modes are only slightly less violent. (There is also a stealth Quiet mode, which does cut the volume considerably.) Turning a ten-speed transmission, the V8 can rip through gears at a serious rate – one U.S. magazine figured it from 30mph to 50mph faster than a Ferrari 488 Pista - but there is absolutely no need to take the engine anywhere near its redline to be feeling serious G-forces. Indeed in the R’s default rear-wheel drive mode that’s a tough challenge in its own right.
Much of my drive in the R was on damp roads, and although the chunky BF Goodrich tyres managed to generate bigger turning forces than I remember from the standard Raptor in similar conditions, they still struggled with longitudinal loads. Struggled as in the unmistakeable sense of the rear wheels spinning up in fourth gear with the accelerator pressed barely half way. Switching the selector to the 4A intelligent all-wheel drive mode calmed the power delivery by doubling the number of driven wheels, but full throttle is still an occasional treat, certainly with the transmission in Drive and willing to kick down at a moment’s notice to light the touch paper. I didn’t confirm the presence of the 112mph speed limiter that Ford says is necessitated by the wheels and tyres, but it definitely wouldn’t take very long to get there.
The R’s different steering, suspension and exhaust modes can be separately selected by buttons on the steering wheel, but there are also switchable dynamic modes, most of which are intended for various off-road terrain - the full list is Normal, Sport, Tow/Haul, Slippery, Off-Road, Baja and Rock Crawl – as well as the ability to select low-range gears and to separately lock the rear differential for mud-plugging, although this can only be done in one of the four-wheel drive modes. The obvious challenge of delivering the full output through the rear axle without a limited slip differential has been answered with a brake-biased torque redistribution system, this slowing a spinning wheel to save R drivers from the indignity of painting 1s rather than 11s. On road this system can be felt working in tighter corners, and it gives the ability for effortless power oversteer on loose surfaces. But the system does have to work hard, and if used for longer periods of hoonery it will turn the outer rear brake disc glowing hot.
Beyond ridiculous performance, the Raptor R scores high on sensibleness and the liveability that has made the basic F-150 America’s best-selling vehicle practically since records began. The Super Crew cabin is spacious both front and rear and comes laden with kit, the front sports seats including both heating and ventilation. Another intelligent detail is a button next to the central gear selector that motors it downwards to allow the big centre armrest to be folded out into a sizeable work table, this next to a conveniently sited 110-volt U.S. domestic power socket to power laptops or similar. I’m pretty certain you could live in a top-spec F-150.
As Ford’s top truck, in terms of performance if not towing capacity, the Raptor R carries a correspondingly serious price tag – $109,740 before sales tax, which works out at £88,935 at current exchange rates, or £106,700 if you imagine it with virtual VAT. Obviously, any examples that actually reach the UK through unofficial channels will be substantially more than that. Even the Raptor R’s base price makes our Ranger Raptor seem suddenly affordable, but also small and weedy. In the States that means the Raptor R is $30,000 more than the regular Raptor. In experiential terms, it entirely justifies the supplement.
SPECIFICATION | Ford F-150 Raptor R
Engine: 6153cc V8, supercharged
Transmission: 10-speed automatic, switchable four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 700 @ 6650rpm
Torque (lb ft): 640 @ 4250rpm
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Top speed: 112mph (limited)
MPG: 12mpg (US), combined
Price: $109,740 (base, U.S., without sales tax)
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