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Trail-Prepped Pony Car with a 5.0L V-8

From the May 2023 issue of Car and Driver.

This infatuation with turning everything into an off-roader has gone off the trails. Porsche turned the iconic 911 into the dirt-spewing Dakar. Lamborghini is ready to get down and dirty, not with the Urus SUV, but with the 602-hp Huracán Sterrato. Even Toyota’s Sienna Woodland Edition, a lifted minivan, has found a new way to make kids regurgitate chicken nuggets. Now Ford is adding to the craze.

Deep within Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, there’s a mindset to Raptorize everything. Going full desert racer with the F-150 was the godfather of the concept. The Bronco Raptor that followed was a no-brainer. That the philosophy trickles down to the upcoming Ranger Raptor makes sense. Even giving the treatment to the Explorer and Expedition doesn’t seem far off. But to turn the Mustang into a trail-prepped coupe seems like a stretch. Or is it?

We should’ve seen this coming years ago when we noticed splined front hubs on the sixth-generation Mustang. Naturally, we anticipated all-wheel drive in the future to enable blistering acceleration, not to turn the backwoods into rally circuits.

Though just about any of Ford’s many engines will nestle into the Mustang’s engine bay, the Raptor’s offering will be what Bronco enthusiasts are pining for: a nearly 500-hp 5.0-liter V-8. Sorry, folks, no manual-transmission option here. Also, don’t expect a two-speed transfer case. To make the most of the limited space in the drive tunnel, a 10-speed automatic will route torque to all four wheels through an electronically controlled center differential. Of course, a Mustang Raptor R with a 700-plus-hp supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 will arrive sometime later—because why not?

Keeping true to the Raptor heritage, Fox Live Valve dampers will pad the landings when it’s time to get all Bo and Luke Duke. Bespoke suspension components and elongated springs will provide a 2.0-inch lift, and an abundant number of underbody bash plates will protect the Mustang’s vitals from harm. All-terrain tires will tuck into the cladding-protected fenders.

As the seventh-generation Mustang reaches dealerships later this fall and the inevitable street-oriented performance models follow, the Raptor variant should arrive in 2026. Like all Raptors, it won’t come cheap, but it’ll cost a lot less than a lifted Lamborghini. The limited run of off-road Mustangs should start around $90,000, expect to pay more for mudflaps.

mustang horse vs mustang car


In February 1992, long before anyone at Ford dreamed of an off-road Mustang, C/D conducted a mustang-versus-Mustang test that pitted an equine member against a Fox-body Mustang GT convertible on a dirt track. Tang the mare ran the quarter in 34.3 seconds at 25 mph; the Mustang GT did it in 17.0 seconds at 89 mph. Based on its as-tested price, the horse won.

Headshot of David Beard

Senior Testing Editor

David Beard studies and reviews automotive related things and pushes fossil-fuel and electric-powered stuff to their limits. His passion for the Ford Pinto began at his conception, which took place in a Pinto.

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