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Supertruck Ford Raptor R is King of Beasts

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

JOHNSON VALLEY, California — Supercars conquer the Earth’s most challenging race tracks. Supertrucks conquer the Earth.

At 90 mph, my 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R cyborg skimmed the sandy, undulating surface of the Johnson Valley desert miles from civilization. With its electronic brain making millisecond calculations, the Baja racing-developed, dual-valve Fox shocks negotiated the terrain with remarkable agility for a 6,000-pound beast.

With 13.5 inches of suspension travel, the V8-powered Raptor R put its massive 720 horsepower to the ground with four, aired-down-for-maximum-traction, 37-inch all-terrain claws. That’s McLaren 720S supercar-sized horsepower. On sand.

The trail narrowed to a 90-degree turn into the desert’s low brush and I stomped on huge 14-inch brakes to slow the 720 horses. I hurtled a washed ravine. WHUMP. Over a series of washboard ruts created by bike trails crisscrossing the desert. KA-KA-KA-THUMP. Back into the throttle. ROAAARRR.

Comfortably removed from the violence outside by a seat belt, bolstered heated-and-cooled Recaro seats and generous headroom, I focused on the beautiful landscape rushing past — one of a half-dozen Raptor Rs on a desert adventure.

Pinch me.

The $112,895 R (one-third the price of that McLaren 720S, while seating five comfortably) is the world's premier production supertruck. It sits atop a Raptor food chain that now includes the $57K Ranger Raptor, $80K twin-turbo V-6 “base” Raptor and $92K Bronco Raptor.

Like its supercar peer the Mustang GT500, Raptor R stuffs a 5.2-liter, supercharged V-8 “Predator” engine into the front bay of a $35,000 base production vehicle to push the limits of production performance. Unlike the GT500, the Raptor R is built on a ladder-frame truck. Is there anything that has the bandwidth of a Ford pickup?

No wonder the F-series is the best-selling vehicle in North America. It can do everything from landscape a house to tow a race car to shred a desert race course — taking first place in the 2023 Baja 1000 Stock Class.

When 720 horsepower meets sand, sometimes Mother Nature gets the upper hand.

Scaling a skyscraper dune, I pitched the Raptor into the soft sand to begin a long, lefthand drift turn. Too much pitch. Overwhelmed by the side-G-forces and the Raptor R’s three-tons, the BF Goodrich tire bead popped off the rim, instantly expelling its 25 pounds of air pressure.

Who needs four wheels? But for the rattle of the rim I barely noticed, the truck charging along on three-wheel-power like a determined grizzly bear pursuing its prey. A Ford team member flagged me down. Like a NASCAR pit stop in the middle of the desert, a pair of Baja race veterans hauled a spare out of the bed of another truck and went to work. They raised the beast’s prone right paw into the air with a common “scissor” jack. Dug out a hole of sand underneath. Spin off the lug nuts. Replace the tire. Check the air pressure for (sand-running-friendly low 25 PSI). Get back on the dunes, kid.

Those off-road veterans could be you.

For all of its technological marvels, the Raptor R has been through the paces of Baja to not only absorb punishment, but to quickly fix any boo-boos on the way. Like supercars, you can’t imagine the capability of the Raptor R supertruck until you have taken it off-road. And there are plenty of groups willing to accompany you — whether the Ford-sponsored Raptor Assault School in Utah (open to Raptor buyers) or private shops like Raptor Adventures in Southern California or regional Raptor Club-organized RaptorRuns. Find them, and you’ll enjoy parts of the planet like never before.

Out in the desert, everything is trying to kill you. Raptor R is armed to the teeth. Jacked high in the air, its underbelly is further protected by bash plates. Brobdingnagian parallel steel frame rails shrug off rock impacts, and a modular front bumper can be equipped with a winch to drag your buddies out of (name your obstacle here) .

Only those soft rubber tires are exposed. Sheath them in bead locks (warning, some assembly required) to protect them from mishaps like mine. Or accept tire flats as an inevitable part of the adventure and load your bed with a tire rack and ready-for-action spares.

Like Mad Max remounting his indestructible Mack R-600, I was back on top of my cyborg in 10 minutes and churning sand. There are few vehicles I’ve driven that instill so much confidence. Had William Wallace’s troops rode Raptors into battle, the enemy would have turned tail and run.

Velociraptor, T-Rex and woolly mammoth skeletons inspire awe in the natural history museums, and the Raptor’s skeleton would fit right in. It’s a study in brute force with its reinforced steel bones and coiled orange springs the size of pythons.

Its aluminum top hat adds menace to its steely purpose. Like all Raptors, the fascia is stamped F-O-R-D and is now enveloped with a bold black grille. Signature orange LEDs bracket the grille, and the beast is branded with a small orange R so you know it’s the bull of the herd.


The hood is rippled with air vents like the spines of a stegosaurus. They contribute to an increase in airflow to the monster within. For 2024, the V-8 pumps out 20 more horsepower than the 2023 model while packing 650 pound-feet of torque so you can fling sand from here to Nova Scotia.

The interior bristles with tech to complement both off-road performance and on-road comfort. A head-up display has been MIA in the F-150’s Swiss Army Knife of tools — ‘24 models rectify that, including Raptor R. Choose Baja mode for maximum off-roading and Raptor R — like a BMW M3 — will project a digital tachometer on your windshield so don’t have to take your eyes off the desert.

For on-road commuting, Raptors are the only F-150s equipped with an independent rear suspension and coil-over springs (think Ram 1500), which makes for a smoother ride than its stablemates. My tester was complete with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot assist, 5G Wi-Fi hotspot, moonroof, a console work table and other amenities should you want to turn your desert racehorse into a worksite office. All of it is easily connected to the world by wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so you can navigate to the nearest off-road playground carrying three pals, three spare tires in the bed and a 120-volt plug so you can bring along an air compressor in the bed.

How many supercars can say that?

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

Vehicle type: Front-engine, four-wheel-drive five-passenger supertruck

Price: $112,895, including $1,995 destination fee ($113,640 as tested)

Powerplant: 5.2-liter supercharged V-8

Power: 720 horsepower, 550 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.6 seconds (Car and Driver); towing, 8,700 lbs.; payload, 1,400 lbs.

Weight: 6,077 lbs.

Fuel economy: EPA, 10 mpg city/15 highway/12; range, 540 miles

Report card

Highs: Astonishing off-road capability; comfortable cabin

Lows: Won’t fit in your garage; affordable to a few

Overall: 4 stars


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