Why I’d Take a $60,000 2023 Ford F-150 FX4 V8 Over a $110,00 Raptor R
You can still order a naturally aspirated V8 in the new Ford F-150. Its power claim is pretty close to the old Ford F-150 Raptor’s.
The first 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R reviews have dropped today and the main takeaway is largely universal: "Yep, sure is fast!" If you read my take, you saw my conclusion was that fast does not necessarily equal fun. After thinking about it even more, I have to admit the earlier Raptors are still my favorites, and realized that a 700-horsepower Raptor R isn't even the current F-150 I'd get if I was spec'ing one out for off-roading. Luckily, you can still build yourself a nice, V8-powered, off-road F-150 with Ford's existing options if you feel the same way I do.
Raw speed is rarely the best ingredient to a happy and healthy off-road driving experience. This may cause some head-scratching since it contradicts most 4x4 video commercials and everything Forza Horizon teaches us. But as real off-road instructors and expedition leaders will often say, the pace you want to move through most obstacles in a truck is "as slow as possible, as fast as necessary."
Sand dunes, the terrain that the Raptor's optimized for, are indeed the exception—driving in sand is like skiing, and big power can be key for maintaining momentum at critical moments. But many of us don't exclusively drive in wide open desert. (And even if you do, the original Raptor's 411 hp is still plenty.)
That's why a 2023 F-150 XLT with the optional 5.0-liter V8 (400 hp; 410 lb-ft of torque), medium SuperCab and medium 6.5-foot bed, FX4 off-road package, high numerical rear gearing with a locker, and a few other luxury amenities is the prime pick for a better-value, high-capability, off-road-oriented F-150 you can get new right now. My recommended setup, which I'll detail out below, rings up at just under $60,000 with options and destination charges.
A bare-bones F-150 work truck, the XL, is the least expensive but so heavily de-contented that it'd be tough to live with on long trips. The XLT gets you just enough amenities and extra safety features that it's worth springing for. A SuperCab (extended cab; small rear doors) with a 6.5-foot bed is the optional F-150 body configuration because the rear seat is still absolutely large enough for three people or cargo, and the bed's long enough to sleep in or carry an ATV/dirt bike/go-kart.
The 5.0-liter V8 is not the top-tier option for the non-Raptor 2023 F-150; the 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 is. But the big boy is going to give you better low-end grunt, sound better, and, most importantly, present fewer failure points. Looking at air filters that have done just a couple of hundred Baja miles has forever convinced me that naturally aspirated is the move when you do a lot of real off-road driving. You still get a 10-speed automatic, and of course, you'll want to spec four-wheel drive.
The XLT High option is tough to swallow because it's so expensive ($6,000!) but the package includes really high-utility items like heated seats, a 400-watt outlet, and mirror spotlights which are great for late-night trail running and looking for campsites.
The optional 3.73 rear gear with an electronic locker would be worth going for to give your V8 as much oomph as possible. Once you've got that stuff selected, the FX4 package is a no-brainer at just about $1,100 for a full set of off-road shocks and skid plates.
Other options like a 36-gallon fuel tank and cargo bed lighting might also be on your list. I personally would jump for the two-tone exterior with a blue body and Baja Tan seating. But of course, the sky's the limit when it comes to decorative features.
All this to say: after driving the 2023 F-150 Raptor R I found myself thinking: "I really just miss the old Raptor." But based on Ford's build-and-price tool, it looks like you can pretty much still get that by just ordering a SuperCab V8 and a few specific options. The 6.2-liter V8 Raptor from a decade ago claimed 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque. You're practically there with the current V8. Plus, you'd be able to break into double-digit fuel economy figures and drive through town without anybody rolling their eyes at you.
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