The 2021 MotorTrend Truck of the Year-winning, 702-hp Ram 1500 TRX caught Ford a little flat-footed, appearing out of nowhere when the third-generation F-150 Raptor was too far along in its development to order a supercharged V-8 course correction. So for 2021, the F-150 Raptor gets a 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 engine that carries over with mild revisions and (yet to be finalized) output figures that won’t much close the 252-hp and 140-lb-ft gaps relative to TRX. That job will fall to the Raptor R, which is expected to arrive in a year.
Powerful V-8 Confirmed for Raptor R
Ford F-150 marketing manager Brian Bell confirmed the Raptor R will get “a powerful V-8” in an interview. So, which one? The Super Duty’s new 7.3-liter pushrod Godzilla V-8 isn’t a revver, and thus would be a poor fit for the racy Raptor. Our intel continues to point to a truck-ified version of the Mustang Shelby GT500’s Predator 5.2-liter supercharged V-8. In the Mustang, it’s rated for 760 hp and 625 lb-ft—those numbers compare favorably with the TRX’s 702 hp, 650 lb-ft. But the Raptor’s expected duty cycle is, shall we say, “markedly different” from that of the Shelby ‘Stang, and rumor has it that development trucks have experienced durability problems with the blown V-8 whenever the wick gets turned up to somewhere in the high 600-horse range.
How Powerful Does the Raptor R Need to Be?
In a January 26 interview with CNBC, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis admitted that the Hellcat engine, a version of which powers the Ram TRX, is an endangered species due to mounting compliance costs. He expects to maintain Hellcat performance with smaller, more efficient, partially electrified drivetrains. So, with the TRX as we know it on its way out, how great is the pressure for the Raptor to trump the 2021 TRX’s horsepower and torque figures? Might a lighter, aluminum-bodied truck with marginally lower output, two more transmission ratios, and demonstrably better desert-racing suspension chops legitimately claim (or possibly even achieve) Baja-bashing superiority with 50 or so fewer horses and pound-feet? Maybe. Especially if there’s only to be minimal overlap between the top-dog Raptor R and the 6.2-liter TRX. And note that we expect Ford’s smaller displacement, all-aluminum, DOHC 32-valve V-8 to have a longer useful life than Ram’s 6.2-liter iron-block, pushrod 16-valve, supercharged Hellcat.
Was the Raptor 37 Triggered by TRX?
While the Ram TRX’s arrival timing meant Ford didn’t have time to ready a competing V-8 engine for launch, many believe the engineering program to modify the frame, shocks, and tuning to suit the 2021 Raptor’s industry-leading 37-inch tire package was triggered by the TRX. The Raptor 37 certainly bests TRX in all the key off-roading measurements with running ground clearance of 13.1 inches versus the TRX’s 11.8, and approach/breakover/departure angles of 33.2/24.4/24.9 degrees to the TRX’s 30.2/21.9/23.5 degrees. We don’t yet have ramp-travel-index numbers, but even the Raptor’s rear springs measure 0.4-inch longer than TRX’s, ranking them as the longest on a production passenger vehicle, so the Raptor may also prove to be the articulation champ.
Range-Topping Raptor R or TRX?
Obviously, we expect Ford to equip the R with even more aggressive bodywork and, in the cabin, all the sporting luxury it can muster, with an interior at least as nice as the 2021 Raptor 37’s. That would mean Recaro seats with contrast stitching, genuine carbon-fiber trim, a wrapped and stitched dash, an all-digital cluster and big infotainment screen, etc. But having sat in a TRX just days after sampling the Raptor 37, the Ram still stands out as more opulent and better appointed inside. We’re eager to learn whether Ford will counter Ram/SRT’s performance goodies such as the Performance Pages app, launch-control programming, and other items. We certainly hope so.
Will the Raptor R Be Street-Legal/Drivable on Public Roads?
Despite a report to the contrary, yes, you’ll be able to drive the Raptor R wherever you damn well please, including on your local highways and byways.