In the supertruck horsepower war, there’s no Han-versus-Greedo-style argument to be had: The Ram 1500 TRX shot first. Sure, Ford‘s F-150 Raptor pickup has been on the hunt for more than a decade, but history has it down as the balanced desert-runner, its power level-450 horses today-more or less in equilibrium with its dirt-dashing chops. In contrast, the TRX roared onto the scene two years ago as a ballsy, 702-hp beast with a bad attitude and a mission to rooster-tail sand in the face of Ford’s “wimpy” off-road pickup. No more. The 2023 Ford Raptor R is here to fight back with 700 horsepower of its own, and it has its blaster set to kill.
Once we took the new Raptor R to the test track, we discovered its aim is pretty damn true. It trips up the TRX in the 0-60-mph sprint, clocking an astounding 3.7-second time, thumping our best existing result in the Ram by a significant 0.4 second. (No doubt aided by the 6,000-pound Ford weighing an incredible 700 fewer pounds than the Ram.) And it feels every bit that quick, charging off the line like a rhino with an ICBM up its rear on the way to a 12.1-second quarter-mile run at 111.8 mph. The TRX’s best? 12.7 seconds at 107.3 mph. For further reference, the last non-R Raptor we tested with the 450-hp twin-turbo V-6 and 37-inch tires checks in at 5.6 seconds to 60 and 14.3 at 94.0 mph through the quarter.
Credit the R’s absolute brute of an engine, a version of the 5.2-liter supercharged V-8 found in the Mustang Shelby GT500, which is appropriately dubbed “Predator.” Tuned to have a meatier, more truck-friendly torque curve thanks to software tweaks and a smaller supercharger pulley, it delivers its fusillade of power and torque on a whim even on the move, the 10-speed automatic adroitly shuffling between its abundance of ratios. This is a truck that can spin all four of its big-blocked off-road tires on pavement as easily as you can turn up the A/C.
The exhaust has four adjustable sound levels that range from basically quiet (your neighbors will love you for widening the time window in which this operates at startup, done via the touchscreen) to omigod I think I just summoned Cthulhu. Really, though, in any of the three angriest settings the noise is ragged and deep and glorious and delivered with far less supercharger whine than in the TRX. The Raptor R is blown, but it doesn’t really want you to know it’s blowing.
Also unlike the Ram TRX, there’s a two-wheel-drive mode for even more goofball shenanigans, if you dare. 2WD could be called the squirreliest setting-obvs-albeit if the squirrel in question could powerlift 2,000 pounds and had done time for attempted homicide. We kid, mostly; the Raptor R’s chassis is so dialed in and offers enough fidelity that corralling this beast when the rear steps out is easier than you might think. Still, maybe keep it in 4A unless you have plenty of room for error.
Should you think Ford Performance just stuck a big ol’ motor in the Raptor and four-wheel-peeled into the sunset, don’t. The R’s holistic tuning delivers fantastic ride quality on the road without getting floaty, while at the same time serving up outstanding rebound performance and body control when humping over the gnarliest stuff you can find. This is a Raptor through and through, and it feels like the excellent chassis was waiting for this engine.
If there’s a weak spot in how the 2023 Ford Raptor R drives, it’s that the steering is just vague enough-and the steering wheel thick and large enough in diameter-that the truck rarely feels like putty in your hands. You never, ever forget its size, whether that’s maintaining a lane on the highway or dodging rocks and trees on forest paths. This isn’t the case with the Ram TRX, which is actually an inch wider and a skosh longer but somehow manages to drive smaller.
Outside of the V-8, the rest of the package is familiar from the Raptor 37, a sort of Raptor R Lite introduced for 2021 as something of a stopgap while Ford readied the 2023 Raptor R’s engine. The R and 37 share their larger tires, body add-ons, and pretty much everything else outside of the engine bay. So, the Raptor R has comfy, well-bolstered seats; a relatively high-quality but extremely busy interior; an infotainment system that gets the job done (with some annoying quirks, such as requiring you to spin the tuning knob to get to the direct input for satellite radio stations); and all the various cubbies, bins, and features-the power-folding shifter, flip-out console-lid table, and rear underseat storage, for example-that make non-Raptorized F-150s so practical.
Downsides? The turning circle is big enough to fit a football field, you might crush a small sedan while parking it, and the “8” pattern in the bedside graphics is corny. (Find the one “V” and win a prize!) Well, all that and the fact it costs $109,145 to start, enough to buy a regular Raptor and any number of sporty cars to go with it. Heck, it’s enough to buy a base TRX and a Ford Maverick.
But in a fight-and make no mistake, Ford and Ram are in a pitched battle-often it’s not who shoots first who wins, it’s who shoots last. With the 2023 Ford Raptor R, the Blue Oval just may have landed a crippling strike.