Review: 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R rips

Imagine a desolate desert path of loose rock and sun-scorched earth rising from a dried out lake bed into the sun, creosote bushes turning into themselves, the once happy and hopeful prickly pear drooping its pads from the heat. Now imagine a truck ripping past at near triple-digit speeds, dust clouds filling the rearview mirror like a storm. In this Mad Maxian scenario, the truck thunders into a hard brake and a harder left, bounds over a berm, slides laterally, grinds into deep sand dirt ruts, whoops over whoops, then pitches downslope, the creosotes leaning in and prickly pears waving like rally spectators. 

It’s easier to imagine this improbable reality in a 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R. Reflecting back on it, I’m compelled to check my notes, check my phone, check my head to ensure that it was really real. 

The Raptor R is a mad machine, an engineering marvel dancing over desert terrain at high speeds, the frenetic wheel travel pumping like the pistons of a 720-hp V-8 yet the cabin remains oddly still. No real head bobbing or back cracking—a human shouldn’t be so comfortable going in so many directions at once.

On the plane ride to Palm Springs, Calif., I broke a crown on a problematic molar. I expected an assault on dentistry and chiropractics during my three hours desert thrashing a full-size factory truck near the King of the Hammers off-road course in Johnson Valley. Instead, the Raptor R kept the cabin stable enough for me to run my tongue over the absence in my mouth without biting it. 

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2024 Ford F-150: What’s new?

Every 2024 Ford F-150 benefits from a mid-cycle refresh that digitally upgrades the interior with a 12.0-inch digital gauge cluster and a 12.0-inch touchscreen. Don’t worry, Ford still employs large dials for drive modes, towing assist, volume, tuning, and climate control. 

Changes to the exterior are modest but notable. A new wrap-around grille curves into the fenders and houses slightly modified C-shaped LED headlights. An available modular bumper hangs below, hiding the active grille shutters on some models, and enabling the use of a factory-installed Warn winch (with a rating of 12,000 pounds for the Raptor) or a Rigid LED light bar and other accessories. It has end caps that expose more tire—the better for the Raptor R’s 37-inch BFGoodrich K02s. 

In the off-road modes, the small fog lights alternate based on wheel position, so if you’re turning right the right fog light illuminates the way; if it’s on center, they both remain on. The taillight design bends like an elbow and occupies more of the fender than the tailgate to better account for Ford’s available Pro Access two-way tailgate with a center door that swings open to the passenger side. It’s not available on the Raptor R. 

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2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R: What’s new?

The Raptor R benefits from a slew of improvements, and the 5.2-liter supercharged V-8 is a great place to start. The 3.5-generation Raptor R now makes 720 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, up from 700 hp. The 2024 Raptor still uses the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 that generates 450 hp and 510 lb-ft. For context on displacement, in 2009 when the F-150 Raptor first appeared, its available 6.2-liter V-8 topped out at 411 hp. 

Yes, the 2024 Raptor R now makes more power than the 702-hp Ram 1500 TRX. The bigger bragging right, however, is that Ford still sells the Raptor R. The gain of 20 hp comes from Ford wedging what essentially acts as a big snorkel right under the front part of the Raptor R’s hood.

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“We suck so much air to make that power,” Ford Performance chief Carl Widmann told Motor Authority. “It’s easier to pull more air into the system at wide-open throttle so you can get to 720 hp.”

The glint in his eye and curl in his smile were not just from it being his birthday. This wizard captained a mean machine that, in Baja mode, opens the baffles and fills the cabin with the kind of measured roar that matches your heartbeat. 

The 10-speed automatic holds gears longer to tap into peak torque at 4,300 rpm, but in my testing it never worried about hitting the redline, giving me more confidence to keep going until Ford wouldn’t let me go anymore. 

On the road, the commanding driving position and 74.3-inch track width (73.9-inch rear), which is a good six inches wider than an F-150, reminded me of its size; at more than 86 inches wide, the Raptor R sports three amber lights as a safety halo in the upper grille because the government classifies it the same as a commercial delivery vehicle. Out on the desert, away from the relativity of road markings, regulations, and other vehicles, it felt smaller and much more manageable. 

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A 0-60 mph time is irrelevant on a raised suspension in desert terrain that swaps hard earth to loose sand in an instant, but the way the front lifted on takeoff matched the lift in my guts.

On one tabletop launch, the power was almost too great. The trailing arms, which are about a meter long and tie into the five-link rear suspension and giant 24-inch coil springs, helped keep all that power down from a start. When approaching the tabletop, I had to let off a little from 70 mph just to goose it again through takeoff. It was my nerves, though, not the truck. Had I hit it at 80 mph, I might have gotten some Michael Jordan machine air, but I more likely would have been sent home without hitting the feral off-road course. Performance driving is all about living to drive again. 

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Suspension upgrades to the 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

Still, getting some air in a 6,077-pound truck is a dream-state kind of thrill: unsettling and awesome at once. In reality, the launch is only as good as the landing. Having the front wheels dip as the rears land, then regaining straight-line control before tapping the pedal for the 13.8-inch ventilated discs and drifting into a 180.

The R upgrades from the Fox Live Valve shocks on the standard Raptor with new Fox Dual Live shocks that tighten up the rebound stroke for greater control to recover quicker after hitting the ruts and bumps and berms and other Johnson Valley stuff.   

A position sensor on each wheel is monitored by a control module for more responsive damping based on how you’re driving and, critically, what you’re driving over. Combine this with NTN half shafts pitched to 35 degrees (on the inner shaft; outer shaft is 45 degrees), which is a 2.5-degree improvement, netting an extra half-inch of wheel travel. That brings it to 13.5 inches in front and 14 inches in back. More tightly controlled wheel travel leads to more confidence at speed. 

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

That’s especially important for someone who has never flirted with near triple-digit speeds on a technical off-road course complete with a hard left over a berm, and another descending into a series of rollicking whoops. The dust cloud cleared enough from my ascent to see the serpentining rally course down on the dry sea bed below. 

To navigate the twists and turns, it helped that Ford sped up the steering ratio to 16:1 from 17.2:1. Even when the course tried to jerk the wheel away, it quickly re-centered and I could better whip the end around into the next turn with a measured quarter turn of the wheel.

The lateral balance created by all these upgrades gave me a confidence that outpaced my ability. By the third lap up into the desert highs and autocross lows, I kept getting better, reaching higher speeds, bounding from the obscure apexes, grinning like a madman, missing tooth be damned. 

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

The Raptor R’s $31,895 question

This is the painful part. At $112,220, including the $1,995 destination fee, the 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R costs $31,895 more than the 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor. You could almost get an F-150 XL for that price difference. You could also get a GMC Hummer EV pickup or SUV for the price of a Raptor R. (You can’t get a Ram TRX, not new, anyway.) But the Hummer EV almost feels like a different class of vehicle, a tech showcase that’s as off-road capable but not at speeds such as these. 

For high-speed off-roading, ideally in a dystopian desert far from humanity, the question has an easy answer. Raptor R.

Ford paid for airfare and lodging for Motor Authority to present this firsthand review.

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