Don’t let anyone tell you that, even on the eve of mass electrification, we’re not living in the golden age of horsepower. After the loons at Ram launched their psychotic TRX, off-road gearheads knew the Blue Oval would be feverishly working on a direct rival – if they weren’t already.
Introducing the 2023 Raptor R – a V8-powered off-road pickup truck with a GT500 engine shoved up its nose. ‘Murica, indeed.
In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a refresher: That mill is a 5.2-liter supercharged DOHC monster with four valves per cylinder and cast aluminum construction. In this application, it’s tuned to belt out 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque, sums which should be more than sufficient to churn every sand dune at Glamis into a sandy mist. Fun fact: This thing takes 11.5 quarts of oil compared to the six quarts contained in a 3.5-liter EcoBoost. Speaking of, the former top-dog Raptor (whose owners are assuredly either busy measuring negative-equity for a trade-in or simply running the thing through an industrial-sized shredder) makes 450 hp and 510 units of twist. Handling the power in a Raptor R is a ten-speed automatic.
It wasn’t a simple plug-and-play from the GT500, apparently. Ford Performance is said to have fettled the V8’s supercharger and rejigged its pulley to optimize its power for off-road use, increasing torque delivery at the low-end and mid-range – precisely where most off-roaders spend most of their time driving. In the R, the 5.2L now has exhaust manifolds of a cast stainless steel design to help the things endure the inevitable sandblasting they’ll get from enthusiastic drivers. Also on tap are a unique oil cooler and filter, plus a deeper oil pan which enables it to tackle steep grades while keeping the engine oil cool (also helps explain the 11.5 quarts). To enhance engine breathing, air intake volume is increased by two-thirds thanks to a wider inlet and better conical filter. And before you carp – this infographic was the only engine image provided in the embargo materials. Yeah, weird, I know. We’ll take plenty of shots for ya on the first drive.
Its five-link rear suspension features extra-long trailing arms to better maintain axle position on rough terrain, plus a Panhard rod and 24-inch coil springs. Those are Fox-branded Live Valve shocks at its corners, tuned to balance ride quality and roll control thanks to suspension height sensors which dictate adjustments for suspension tuning on the fly. Wheel travel of 13 inches in front and 14.1 inches out back approaches that of which some off-road side-by-sides are capable. Pedants will note those figures are about an inch less than a standard Raptor on 35-inch tires but the 37-inch shod R makes up for it with 13.1 inches of ground clearance, 1.1 inches more than a base Raptor on 35s.
Other figures for those of us who like to rhyme off stats in the pub or on Discord? The R’s approach and departure angles jump to 33.1 and 24.9 degrees respectively compared to 31.0 and 22.7 on the base non-R. However, opting for 37-inch tires on the base non-R will provide R-like angles and ground clearance – though no one will mistake it for an R thanks to that truck’s V8 exhaust note.
“We’ve heard our customers demanding the sound and power of a V8 back in Raptor,” said Carl Widmann, Ford Performance chief engineer. This author will note here he expressed these same thoughts back in 2017 and was regarded with the type of suspicion one would reserve for a lump of enriched uranium that’s suddenly appeared in your refrigerator’s lettuce crisper. I’m glad to be vindicated. R’s dual exhaust system is said to have a true pass-through muffler and active valve system, with modes for Normal, Sport, Quiet, and Baja. These can be adjusted by thumbing a button on the steering wheel, allowing drivers to access multiple settings.
The R does have some unique styling cues compared to the now worthless non-R Raptor, including a hood whose codpiece power dome is an inch taller than its brethren plus a smattering of Code Orange accents. Most notable are the numerous ‘R’ badges in said color, some of which are stand-alone and others which are part and parcel of the Raptor name itself.
Inside, there are standard Recaro-branded seats shod in black leather and Alcantara, top shelf infotainment, and the expected off-road toys like Trail Control and Trail 1-Pedal Drive. As predicted, the tremendous Trail Turn Assist was too good of a trick for the Bronco to keep all to itself. It’s a trick bit of tech which emulates the ability of some off-road racing machines to lock one rear wheel in a tight turn to perform a so-called ‘rear dig’. Here, traction control and other computer gubbins do the work in specific low-speed conditions to significantly reduce the truck’s turning circle when trying to navigate a tight trail. I’ve used it on the Bronco, and it works a treat. With an estimated 50-foot turning circle, the R will need it.
Order books open today with trucks showing up in late 2022. Get cracking, hoss.