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Dunes, donuts, and dipping out at 102: We took the 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R off-road

It can tow a dirt bike to the dunes, but you may not need to

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R

The 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R is an impressive piece of engineering. You really realize this as you zip across a gravel-like surface at 102 miles per hour — as I recently did when Ford invited The Manual out to experience the vehicle’s offroading capabilities. The vehicle itself can allegedly do a lot more than that, with Ford’s people claiming that testing goes up to 112 mph in similar circumstances. However, the main thing holding it back was my fear of an untimely end.

While controllable at 102, there is a lot of movement, and you have to work to ensure everything stays in check. This, coupled with a hard left turn at the end of the track, was enough to rein me in in terms of speed. As good as the F-150 Raptor R is, and as well as it handled what I dished out, I definitely didn’t want to find out where the limit actually is.

The straight bit of rough dirt road was only one section of the day’s activities. There was an entire program of events pieced together to show off what the third-generation Raptor can do. With an output of 720 horsepower, the Raptor R is the most powerful vehicle in Ford’s F-150 lineup. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as Ford has adapted the vehicle to make it extremely offroad-capable and adept at tearing through sandy environments in particular.

The F-150 Raptor R is built for Baja

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R climbing a dune

The trail that I got a bit speed happy on leads to a small Baja course that Ford’s team had laid out for us. I encountered a very confusing bush, which got the better of me a couple of times, but the Raptor itself was very much at home on the hillside course, just as you would expect it to be. The course ended on a lake bed with a series of constant radius turns, which the Raptor handled at speed and without issue. It finds grip very easily on the dry surface, and even if you put it in two-wheel drive mode and try to lose the back end of it a little, the F-150 Raptor R will find grip and straighten you out again before you know it. If you really punch it in two-wheel drive on a loose-ish surface you’ll find yourself doing donuts without much effort. However, no one will see this as you’ll be lost in the dust tornado you’ve created.

The Baja course was followed by a short break and a drive to a different lake bed. From here, the group I was in headed up to the mountains and navigated a light rock crawl in an area commonly used for the King of the Hammers off-road race. Despite being mainly desert focused, a switch from Baja Mode to Offroad Mode made the F-150 Raptor R just as capable of tackling the rocky, technical sections as it was the loose, gravelly stuff on the Baja course. There is also a selection of driver aids available on the Raptor, which make tackling a rock crawl a lot simpler, including a front-facing camera that can show you exactly where you’re putting your tires and help you out immensely during those periods when the view through the windshield is naught but hood and sky.

Showcasing the Raptor R’s skills

2024 Ford F-150 Raprot R mid jump

I believe the Ford Raptor showcased its skills the most on the dunes. We were taken to a medium-sized sand pile with nothing too steep about it. The idea was to angle the truck right, crest across it close to some conveniently placed cones, and then come out at the bottom with sand spraying everywhere. I did that, but I also went a bit further—taking the truck across a dune entirely and heading down the steeper part on the outside. The truck handled it just fine.

While it won’t drive on dunes like a side-by-side, as Ford’s engineers still have to grapple with physics, it does manage surprisingly well for a vehicle of its size. You can power up at a surprisingly steep angle, on an incredibly loose and sandy surface, without becoming stuck. The day ended with a jump, as throwing the vehicle up in the air and dropping all three tons of the Raptor R down is a fantastic way to test the robustness of the “Ford tough” suspension components. The jump was performed at both 60 and 65 miles per hour, with the truck ramping off a small sandy ridge and remaining airborne for a second or so. Nothing went wrong with the truck.

The price tag, which is just over $80,000 for a “standard” F-150 Raptor and a shade over $109,000 for the Raptor R, demands a lot. Fortunately, Ford really delivers with its 2024 model, offering one of the best off-road vehicles you can currently find. It’s definitely a toy; you can get practical pickups for less than half of the price, including a base 2024 F-150. But if you are one of the few people who actually need to travel offroad at a cheek-clenching speed, or you have six figures in your fun budget, then this is the perfect mix of practical on the weekdays and party on the weekends.

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Dave McQuilling
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