2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
(Photo/Paul Eisenstein)

RAM TRX Fighter: Ford Shows Off the New F-150 Raptor R

The F-150 Raptor has long been a name to be reckoned with — until RAM rolled out the 2021 1500 TRX. Now, Ford is ready to strike back hard and, during a media preview, it offered up a brief sneak peek at its updated Baja beast, the V-8-powered Raptor R.

The air is filled with the dry, swirling dust of the Johnson Valley desert. Suddenly, a deep roar shakes the very ground we’ve lined up on, as a pickup punches its way through the thick, brown cloud. It’s a grand, Hollywood-style entrance for the new Ford F-150 Raptor R.

The original Raptor was a street-legal version of Ford’s domineering Baja racer, and it was something the competition couldn’t ignore. Not until 2021, anyway, when RAM changed the balance of power, rolling out its monstrous 1500 TRX.

Delivering 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, the TRX not only outmuscled the Raptor but also came with a more aggressive suspension that kept it moving fast over even the roughest off-road trails.

2023 Ford Bronco Raptor
2023 Bronco Raptor review coming soon. Our sneak peek at the F-150 Raptor R was at the Bronco Raptor media drive; (photo/Paul Eisenstein)

V8 Raptor Once Again

Now, a year after introducing a makeover of the F-150, Ford is finally ready to up the stakes with the Raptor R. Well, almost ready. The brief preview — which followed a media drive of the new Bronco Raptor — raised more questions than it answered. Ford officials said they won’t be able to offer up details and specs about the R model until later this year.

About the only thing they’re willing to confirm is that the new Raptor R will try to level the playing field by swapping out the 2022 Raptor model’s turbocharged 3.5L V-6 for a V-8. Which eight-banger? The Blue Oval brand isn’t saying. But informed speculation centers around the beefy Predator. That’s the supercharged 5.2L V-8 that powers the Mustang Shelby GT500.

In the pony car, it serves up 760 horsepower and 625 pound-feet of torque. It’s anyone’s guess what it might muster under the hood of the Raptor R.

2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
(Photo/Paul Eisenstein)

Almost certainly, the R would trade out the 10-speed automatic found in the 2022 Raptor for the Shelby’s seven-speed Tremec dual-clutch gearbox. It’s a lightning-fast alternative and able to handle all that extra torque for mile upon mile of Baja-class racing, serving it up through all four wheels.

Ultimate Off-Road Factory Suspension

2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
(Photo/Paul Eisenstein)

When you’re running flat out on the desert, it takes more than muscle to win the race. A keen eye studying these pics might find evidence that the Raptor R gets some much-needed upgrades to its suspension, as well, most likely trading out the current live rear axle setup for a five-link independent rear. Currently, the only F-150 model using an IRS layout is the new battery-electric Lightning.

Expect that Ford has matched, or perhaps exceeded, some of the other tricks on the TRX, with Fox Live Valve shocks likely, and dual-rate coil springs.

F-150 Raptor Updates

With the F-150 Raptor R partially hidden by dust, it proved difficult to get a clear sense of what else might be updated. The front end looks virtually identical to the less potent 2022 Raptor.

A side view suggests the Ford has been widened a bit and sits a bit higher. From the back, there appeared to be larger exhaust pipes, as well.

The modified F-150 package also appeared to boast larger wheels and tires. Some sources suggest the R will get 17-inch forged wheels shod with 35-inch all-terrain rubber.

Raptor R Availability & Pricing

2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R
(Photo/Paul Eisenstein)

Officially, the order bank for the F-150 Raptor R won’t open until the new truck is formally introduced — the debut is expected to take place sometime mid to late summer. But a number of dealers have already begun taking advance reservations, it seems.

The wholly unofficial word is that the R could be all but fully accounted for by the time the first of these beasts reaches showrooms in the early 2023 model year.

Of course, these aren’t normal times. Semiconductor chips are in painfully short supply and other shortages keep cropping up. Ford has repeatedly trimmed production of the F-150 lineup over the last 18 months. So, it might take longer to fill the Raptor R pipeline than Ford hoped.

As for pricing, one should certainly anticipate a premium over the 2022 F-150 Raptor, which starts at $69,905. Something more in line with the RAM 1500 TRX seems reasonable. If you can find a TRX and the dealer doesn’t try to saddle you with a premium — expect that it will — it lists for a starting price of $77,780.

Paul Eisenstein
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Paul A. Eisenstein is an award-winning publisher, photographer, editor, and one of the world’s most widely published automotive journalists. His work appears in a wide range of print, broadcast, and electronic outlets, including AutoWise, GearJunkie, NBC News, Forbes Wheels, and his own automotive website, TheDetroitBureau.com. He’s a North American Car and Truck of the Year juror, and board member and past president of the Automotive Press Association. J.D. Power also named him a “Pioneer of the Internet."