“Competition whose motive is merely to compete, to drive some other fellow out, never carries very far.” Henry Ford’s wise words are fitting, considering he experienced numerous failures before finally finding his footing with the Ford Motor Company and the Model T in the early 1900s. Even then, he competed with himself, always working toward perfection. While that perfectionism caused Henry Ford many setbacks in his career, it also contributed to his eventual success and the foundation on which the Ford Motor Company and every Ford F-150 dealer operate today.
While Ford’s competition was initially personal, it evolved into something more. Ford joined the race to put the world on wheels, fueling the company’s ambitions as it competed with rivals like Chevrolet and Chrysler. Today, that competitive spirit permeates the industry, but as Ford said in the 1920s, it isn’t intended to drive others out. Instead, the competition challenges rivals to deliver more power, capability, and value. In turn, drivers reap the benefits, as we can see from models like the 2023 F-150 Raptor R.
The Raptor and the Race for More
The F-150 has been America’s best-selling truck for decades, tracing its roots to the F-Series of the late 1940s. It’s praised for its capability, performance, and value-oriented packaging, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking for more from the workhorse. This insatiability and the ongoing rivalry between Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram has created a breeding ground of ingenuity that’s given us exceptional road warriors like the new Raptor R.
The Raptor nameplate debuted in 2010 as Ford’s high-performance version of the F-150. Its unprecedented off-road features turned heads, and Ford gave the truck the heartbeat of a warrior with its 6.2L V8 engine. Producing 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque, the first-generation F-150 Raptor was more than anyone imagined. It embodied the “more is better” mentality and transformed the best-selling F-150 into an adventurer with a penchant for high-speed thrills in extreme conditions.
Over the years, the Raptor has evolved in the Ford fleet to meet changing performance demands. However, some might argue that Ford got a little too comfortable with the Raptor’s initial success when it discontinued the potent V8 engine for the second and third generations. The exclusion seemed unthinkable, especially since the Raptor name is synonymous with performance. Yet, with little competition, the Raptor maintained its status by relying on the proven high-output 3.5L EcoBoost V6 to deliver 450 hp. For years, it seemed like enough.
With the EcoBoost delivering adequate power, it wasn’t like the F-150 Raptor failed to impress. However, many questioned why Ford wouldn’t push the envelope. That question became even more poignant in 2021 when Ram beat Ford to the punch, debuting the fastest and most powerful mass-produced truck in the world with the Ram 1500 TRX. Ironically, the TRX’s debut coincided with the introduction of the third-generation Raptor, which had its 450 hp V6 engine overshadowed by Ram’s 702 hp supercharged HEMI V8.
Competing to Improve, Not Necessarily to Win
After its debut in 2021, the Ram 1500 TRX was untouchable, igniting a new level of competition in the industry and encouraging rivals to respond. Ford returned to the drawing board to deliver a rival worthy of the Raptor name and one that would ultimately give the TRX a thrilling race. However, the resulting 2023 F-150 Raptor R embodies the heart of what Henry Ford said about healthy competition over a century ago. The Raptor R isn’t meant to oust the TRX from the industry but to introduce another chapter of innovation and ingenuity.
The Ram 1500 TRX and F-150 Raptor R are on the same playing field, sharing center stage. Where the Ram 1500 TRX earned its title as the quickest and most powerful mass-produced truck in the world, the 2023 Raptor R is lauded as the most powerful F-150 Raptor in history. Both are incredible accomplishments and usher the truck segment into a new era, one that Henry Ford never imagined.
To compete with the Ram 1500 TRX, the Raptor R reintroduces a V8 to the Raptor family in a development Ford fans have awaited since the first-generation Raptor was discontinued in 2014. The return is celebratory, with the Raptor R’s heartbeat coming from a 5.2L supercharged V8 engine borrowed from the Mustang Shelby GT500. This incredible addition pushes the Raptor R to new heights as the Predator V8 churns out 700 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque. Its output is comparable to the Ram 1500 TRX, which produces 702 horses and 650 lb-ft of torque. The difference is nominal when you realize the TRX weighs more and lags behind the lighter Raptor R in every test run.
Even with the difference in weight and other stylistic details, the F-150 Raptor R and Ram 1500 TRX are the same breed of truck. They’re designed for desert-racing thrills and for those with deep pockets and an insatiable need for speed, luxury, and the bragging rights of driving the fastest off-road truck in the world. These similarities prove a significant point in Henry Ford’s wisdom from 1922. Competition isn’t always about winning; sometimes, it’s about advancing in the race.
Doing it Right
When Ford debuted the Raptor R in 2023, the automaker answered a long-awaited plea that it was well aware of. However, the brand was committed to doing it right. “We’ve heard our customers demanding the sound and power of a V8 back in Raptor,” Ford said. “That’s not something we were going to rush. This supercharged 5.2L V8 is the ideal fusion of high-density power paired with the third-generation Raptor’s all-new rear suspension and shocks to deliver a one-two punch that goes far beyond the sum of its parts.”
Ford answered several critical points by using the 5.2L V8 engine in the Raptor R. First, the automaker heard the grumblings in 2017 when the second-generation Raptor debuted without a V8 under its hood. Ford wasn’t deaf to the shock and upset that left its loyal fans wondering about the future of the Raptor name. Second, Ford could have increased the Raptor’s potency when the Predator V8 debuted in 2020 but chose to take its time with the build. Getting it right was more important than rushing to the finish line, which speaks volumes to Ford’s legacy and commitment to delivering only the best to its customers. However, we may always be left to wonder how much longer it might have taken for a V8 to return without the competition from the Ram 1500 TRX.
Foretelling the Future
With the 2023 Raptor R, the nameplate returns to its roots as a performance-inspired road warrior that feels just as comfortable racing in the desert as it does navigating a weekday commute in the city. Your commute will never be the same, with 700 horses rumbling and ready for adventure. However, the Raptor R also embodies the healthy side of competition in the automotive industry and Henry Ford’s astute awareness that rivalry should not be detrimental but constructive. In a sense, Henry Ford foretold the future of the industry he helped launch and the rivalries that inspire the best automakers in the world to strive for more.