My Sizzling Spring Fling with the Ford F-150 Raptor R

The 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R has all the qualities you'd seek in a boyfriend, er, pulse-pounding, wholly capable, astonishingly powerful, awfully sexy full-size pickup truck.

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R
You will be very comfortable in this Ford F-150 Raptor R, whether in front or in back. Credit: Gigi Leonard

The Movie Star Rugged Good Looks Kept Me Captivated

The attraction was palpable the day I first met the 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R. And I feel it was mutual. I had no idea how enamored I would become with this rock star truck, or how quickly it would happen either.

Late spring in the Southern California desert brings lots of promise. You see brightly colored wildflowers dotting the landscape, sharply contrasting in nature with sandy trails and cooler temperatures. They serve as a reminder of renewal and curiosity and inspiration.

All that and the cooler temperatures, however, did not have an impact on the hot crush I was pursuing recently. You see, I have come to determine that I have a terrible crush on a truck. And that truck is the Ford F-150 Raptor R, which has a starting price of $110,225.

The Ford F-150 Raptor has been around since 2009, and the more powerful Raptor R debuted in 2022, outdriving others in its high-performance, off-road category. In fact, it is so well-received that its legacy now extends into the Bronco and Ranger models. It’s pretty clear I am not the only one dreaming of a truck like this, and with more passion than I realized.

Aside from some exciting new features, this truck has presence, confidence. This truck can do whatever you want it to do. And the best part? You’re in for a hell of a good time.

Related: The 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor: When a Pickup Truck is Meant to Make You Feel Alive

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R
The rear end of the Ford F-150 Raptor R. – Credit: Gigi Leonard

The Superior Components of the Ford F-150 Raptor R

The Ford F-150 Raptor is in its third iteration now. It’s clearly established itself as a sand-racing demon that takes no prisoners. I got to experience this firsthand in the beautiful and vast Johnson Valley in the Southern California desert. This is where Ford Performance development roads are located, as well as the racecourse for the Ultra 4 truck race. It is sand dunes and craggy brush as far as the eye can see, and it is quite striking.

To be honest, there really is no terrain or location that this truck could not handle, except maybe super tight passageways that don’t allow a spread for a full-size truck to pass. The 5.2 L supercharged V8 generates 720 hp and a substantial 640 lb.-ft. of torque, and sits on 37″ tires.

Related: 2023 Ford F-150 Raptor R – So Extra, So Wanted

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R
Precise compass points and sharp cameras in off-road mode in the Ford F-150 Raptor R help make the trip more fun. – Credit: Gigi Leonard

What’s new for the 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R?

The most significant development in the Ford F-150 Raptor R is the addition of Fox live valve shocks with dual valve technology. For those of us who aren’t gearheads, this means the performance team has created a cushy ride to optimize comfort and control. The dual valve technology doesn’t just apply to articulating wheels on deeply rutted trails; it also applies to your comfort on the highway.

Combined with the five-link rear suspension system, this truck was built for superior traction, stability, and control, no matter the location, but especially in challenging off-road terrain.

On the front, they’ve lowered the hood just a little bit more to allow for maximum visibility. They’ve also included a modular bumper in front for marvelous aftermarket accessories, an improved performance view screen in the driver panel, and a head-up display for tech lovers to enjoy.

Related: The 2024 Ford F-150 Tremor Kicks Butt (and the Platinum Rocks)

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R
The front end of the Ford F-150 Raptor R and the new modular bumper is ready to hit the trail. – Credit: Gigi Leonard

How did the Ford F-150 Raptor R Do in the Sand?

I was assigned the Ford F-150 Raptor R in my favorite Shelter Green finish. Feeling snug and comfortable in the Recaro leather seat with Code Orange stitching, we slowly proceeded in our caravan which was about an hour away from the base camp. And I started to get really excited.

At one point, I owned a Jeep Renegade, which I had bought after a rental car experience in Colorado. I wanted access to off-road adventures after my week with that small SUV, so I bought one. However, at the time, I was living in the city of Chicago, and there really aren’t very many convenient places to take trucks and jeeps to test their capabilities. So until I traded her in, she stuck to the paved roads that I knew so well.

I always wanted to drive it off-road, though I couldn’t. So, I take it whenever I get an experiential opportunity like this. There’s something very freeing, a little dangerous, and always exciting about taking your ride off the asphalt. Kind of like a hot summer romance.

After creating a trail of dust deep into the desert, we had finally arrived at the course. We were put through our paces on the way there to get a feel for the terrain, which was sandy and rocky and rutted on the way to the race course.

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R
The rugged 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R in hard pack and soft sand dunes in Johnson Valley, California. – Credit: Gigi Leonard

Wait. How Fast Can I Go?

I did the race course and a fun speed jump multiple times, and I definitely can say two things: 1) this was one of the best off-road courses I’ve ever been on, and 2) I tested the capabilities of this truck; oh yes, I did. They were tight 90° turns, soft sand curves and corners, and lots of elevation changes. It was glorious, and the best part was that I was allowed to go as fast as I wanted.

When I did that, maybe I did over-correct my steering a skinch because I did not expect the truck to handle so well when I hit a hard left turn. Maybe I straddled a bush or two. Maybe, just maybe, I knocked a few cones down on the racecourse… but I wouldn’t know how well I could drive the truck and how well the truck could handle me and my driving until I tried, right? I can thank Ford Performance for developing off-road algorithms that constantly monitor the truck and driver to ensure things don’t get too out of hand for my security behind the wheel.

Just like getting a crush, the Ford F-150 Raptor R made me sweat. Coming back down after the initial run, I felt hot and breathless. I noticed beads of sweat on my forehead. I had a death grip on the steering wheel. I received lots of good-natured feedback from the professionals standing by. And I got a feeling of relief and just a little sadness, crossing the course’s finish line. It made me want to do it over again, which I was able to do. What a thrill.

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R
I hit the jump, and the Ford F-150 Raptor came through for me brilliantly. – Credit: Gigi Leonard

It Was a Total Chick Fantasy

A dear friend and longtime California resident mentioned to me that the desert is cleansing. Well, I can tell you this much—it’s totally true. This experience completely swept away all of my previous notions about being neat and tidy, tooling around town in my performance vehicle, which I love dearly. But this truck. Well, it’s something special.

The Ford F-150 Raptor R has a starting price of $110,255. It’s a truck for a badass who loves being a road boss. Incredible performance, incredible control, incredible comfort. More than a few times I flew up out of my seat testing the capabilities of the truck (and of me!) with my seatbelt on. I was the only one in the truck, so only the Raptor heard me laugh loudly and squeal whenever it happened. It was an amazing ride, altogether too brief, and left me wanting more. And isn’t that what a substantial, powerful and playful summer lover should do?

2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R
The 2024 Ford F-150 Raptor R swept me off my feet. – Credit: Ford

Disclosure: I was a guest of Ford for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

Raconteur, bon vivant, and Managing Editor of A Girls Guide to Cars, Oklahoma-based Gigi Leonard has vivid memories of... More about Gigi Leonard