The Venn diagram of “technology” and “enthusiasm” overlaps at “awesome.” Awesome isn’t always good, but it’s always memorable. For example, Nederland, Colorado, is an idyllic mountain town just up the canyon from Boulder and it’s the type of place you’re likely to find more flavors of blunt wrappers than soft drinks if you catch my drift. It’s awesome for that, and other reasons.
It's famous for its annual “Frozen Dead Guy Days,” a festival that celebrates, of all things, the frozen dead guy in Nederland. The short of the long: In the 1990s, a cryogenically frozen man was transported to Nederland by his relatives, which is a bad idea for many reasons and illegal in many places. A judge ordered the relative to remove the body within 10 days, except there wasn’t a law specifically outlawing the practice. The body has remained since, and Frozen Dead Guy Days celebrates the whole affair, culminating in a multi-person race down the hill in a coffin. It’s fantastic.
Nederland and its spaghetti-strand trails nearby like the Switzerland Trail felt like the right place for the 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R, not because I planned on driving it into a lake. Instead, the super-powered truck is a moment-in-time vehicle, an awesome machine in every literal and figurative sense of the word. Like relatives must’ve said when the sheriff knocked, or when Ford asked its engineers to build the F-150 Raptor R: “We didn’t know we couldn’t do that.” Me neither.
2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R Specs
- Base price: $109,245
- Powertrain: 5.2-liter supercharged V8 | 10-speed automatic transmission | four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 700 @ 6,650 rpm
- Torque: 640 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm
- Seating capacity: 5
- Curb weight: 6,077 pounds
- Towing capacity: 8,700 pounds
- Payload capacity: 1,400 pounds
- Ground clearance: 13.1 inches
- 0-60 mph: 3.6 seconds
- Off-road angles: 33.1° approach | 24.4° breakover | 24.9° departure
- EPA fuel economy: 10 mpg city | 15 highway | 12 combined
- Quick take: There won’t be anything like the Ford F-150 Raptor R for the foreseeable future. That’s probably best for all of us.
- Score: 6.5/10
The Raptor R takes everything about the Raptor and turns it up to 700. Its nominal competitor is, of course, the Ram TRX. The Raptor R’s actual competitor is physics. That’s what makes the Raptor R unique and special, for now: Something this big has no business going this fast. Calling the Raptor R a pickup truck is a disservice to the downstream F-150s that spend days on the job. The Raptor R is a pickup in its bed alone; the rest is a desert sports car.
On appearances alone, not much differentiates the Raptor R from the Raptor. There’s no obvious outward indicator aside from some red R badging and a different bulge in the hood you sprung for the spicier version, which should irk some owners who’ve forked over $30,000 above the price of a Raptor to buy a Raptor R. Of course, the Raptor R rides on 37-inch tires from the factory, which is an upgrade over the Raptor’s stock 35s (although 37s are an option). But whether you opt for the medium or super-size meal from McDonald’s doesn’t matter to the person behind you; the bags look pretty much the same.
Inside, the Raptor R dazzles with a big screen and gee-whiz features that are available in most of the F-150 lineup already. Aside from the graphics and a steering wheel-ready “R” button, which quickly toggles the Raptor from “Stun” to “Slay,” what’s unique about the Raptor R is more about what you can’t see.
That would be the intoxicating 5.2-liter supercharged V8 pumping out 700 horsepower and an exhaust that sounds like King Kong clearing his throat. Its thirst is equally profound: single-digit fuel economy isn’t only possible, it’s likely. More on that later. Plucked from the Mustang GT500, the 5.2-liter hooks up in the Raptor R to a 10-speed automatic that’s better than it needs to be and pushes power down the driveline through an aluminum driveshaft that’s bigger than the Raptor’s into a rear differential tough enough for the end times.
Using napkin math, I calculated the weight delta between the EcoBoost V6 and the Voodoo V8 to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 70 pounds, which means the Raptor R has no hesitation sending its nose skyward when you mash the fun pedal. Ford estimates the Raptor R’s 0-60 mph acceleration at 3.6 seconds. I would estimate that time is possible on any surface including the surface of any Himalaya. Pick one.
Driving the Ford F-150 Raptor R
You could skip all that and treat the Raptor R like any off-road-oriented truck sold on the market today. You could also pretend the sun doesn’t exist. Neither one is a lasting strategy for fun, nor would I recommend either. Hammer down, music up, windows open in the Raptor R everywhere. Because if you’re not doing that, then you’ve wasted all $109,245 (or likely more) that you spent on the truck. The F-150 Raptor R is wholly impractical as a daily commuter and is almost wholly irresponsible as a machine. I also believe true art exists only to serve itself and private collections of historically significant work from the public is a crime. Make of that what you will, but I must acknowledge the planet-warming-size lump in the room.
Still with me? Good. The inescapable feeling behind the wheel of the Raptor R is: Easy. It’s easy to hit triple digits, it’s easy to sprint up that trail, it’s easy to drain its 36-gallon tank, and it’s easy to drive. This generation of supercars, which the Raptor R could arguably be one of, will be defined by how easy they are to drive—for better or worse. The only giveaway that you’re driving something that’s meant for off-road rooster tails is the onerous climb into the tall truck and the prodigious nosedive and rear squat for hard braking and acceleration, which happen often dontchaknow.
Aside from the width, which made for some clenching moments on the Switzerland Trail in Nederland, the Raptor R is a breeze off-road. The off-road mode made the most sense for me and offered a helpful array of cameras from which to negotiate the deep ruts and big rocks I wanted to dominate. The Raptor R tips the scales at more than three tons—which is inescapable in every respect other than acceleration—but it’s nimble for its heft. Tight turns on the trail were straightforward, and its length with a short box but four full doors wasn’t a hindrance.
Beyond Baja mode, which I only engaged out of curiosity and not necessity, the Raptor R goes from mild to wild with configurable settings for everything including exhaust. The Raptor R cold-starts the neighbors from sleep with alacrity; you’ve been warned. Again: it’s just that easy.
The Highs and Lows
What piqued my interest in the Raptor R should have captured your attention, too: It’s a vehicle that could only exist now, and only for a short period of time. On paper, the electric F-150 Lightning can achieve similar results on pavement, and it’s only a short time until it can off-road, too. We’re living in an era of peak horsepower from internal combustion, and it won’t last forever. Considering that, the best part about the Raptor R is what’s above: It’s a moment in time and a unique offering from one of America’s largest automakers.
It's also a low point for the very same reasons. Excess—not need—got us here, and aside from a handful of Raptor R’s locked away in car dungeons only to resurface at auction in a few decades, these will be driven daily by many people who are flexing its muscle only in their driveways. It’s not for me to tell people what they can do with their money, but I’m absolutely allowed to ask if they should.
Ford F-150 Raptor R Features, Options, and Competition
Spend $109,245 to start and get a special pickup. At least, you’d hope so. Ford follows through with a very well-equipped truck in the F-150 Raptor R. The headliner is a 12-inch touchscreen that’ll be a magnet for dust, fingerprints, and, occasionally, fingers coated in ketchup. The Alcantara shod-leather Recaro seats are all-day comfortable, and I’d like to give a special shout-out to the 360-degree camera system that’s a must-use while clambering up trails.
That is to say that the best F-150 Raptor R is the one that comes closest to the base price. It’s the party under the hood that’s rockin’, but if you must, there are other ways to spend even more. There’s a litany of exterior graphic packages and blue interiors if the exhaust isn’t loud enough for you. I might consider the twin moonroof to open up the cabin a little more, but that’s it.
I’ll take mine Antimatter Blue, thank you very much.
The short of the long: It’s not great. In fact, the Ford F-150 Raptor R is one of the poorest performers on sale to the public today, and if its price weren’t prohibitive to most new-car shoppers, then our collective conscience should be. The EPA rates the Raptor R at a lousy 10 mpg city, 15 mpg highway, 12 mpg combined. The reality is worse. Single digits around town are the norm, and the 5.2-liter’s prolific grunt is equally matched by its prolific thirst. (Good thing it’s rated for regular unleaded, I suppose.) For more than roughly 200 miles, I managed 10 mpg combined with a very light foot.
Put simply, the Raptor R can pass just about anything on the road, but it can’t pass many gas stations.
Value and Verdict
With the rosiest glasses on, I can see the Raptor R’s value as a significant engineering feat. As a daily driver, it’s not great. While it’s true other light-duty pickups can crest six figures now, it’s not entirely clear why. The Raptor R’s huge price points to a clear culprit: nothing like this will likely ever exist again. It’s awesome in that way.
So, let’s leave it there and not ask for more. Frozen Dead Guy Days eventually outgrew Nederland and was moved to nearby Estes Park, which can better handle tens of thousands of visitors at a time. Estes Park is also a great place to buy a T-shirt with the town you’re in written on it. Nederland never could be like that.
At its basic level, the festival and spectacle poke fun at themselves and embraces every ounce of absurdity that freezing a relative in your backyard requires. I’m glad it exists, and I’m also glad it’s just once.
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