Ford's F-150 Lightning Strikes
We recently got our hands on Ford’s new all-electric pickup truck. With over 200,000 orders for the Lightning, it is a big success for the venerable automaker and changing the way many Americans think about electric vehicles. Mainly because it’s shockingly good (pun intended). Interestingly, more than half of those who have reserved a Lightning have never owned a Ford vehicle. That’s saying something.
The sturdy F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for an astounding 43 years. Introduced in 1948, the F-150 was Ford’s first post-war truck. The faithful work wagon has evolved through thirteen generations and now the all-electric Lightning joins the automaker’s family. It debuted by pulling a one-million-pound freight train just to get the Ford truck faithful on board. And it worked.
Ford is building 150,000 of the EV trucks per year at its expanded Dearborn, Michigan plant. All Lightnings come as four-door crew cabs offering generous room inside and a five-and-a-half-foot bed in the back. Because there is an electric motor at each axle, all-wheel drive is standard, and it will tow 10,000 pounds with the extended battery. Payload capacity is 2,000 pounds.
Peak horsepower is limited by the output of the battery pack and the Lightning offers two options. There’s the standard 98-kWh battery that produces 452 horsepower, and the upgraded 131-kWh pack that pushes 580 hp. Both versions give you a meaty 775 pound-feet of torque and you can actually power your house with the Lightning’s batteries for three days or more.
The standard range battery pack will take you 230 miles before you need a charge, and the extended range battery will take you an EPA-estimated 320 miles. EPA estimates also give the F-150 up to 78 miles per gallon equivalent in the city and 63 MPGe on the highway. Being that it is an electric truck, Ford engineers thought, “Why not put a whole bunch of electrical outlets on this thing.” They did just that and you’ll find eleven plugs, some in the cab, some inside the very large Mega Frunk that is under the hood, and some, including a 220-volt outlet, in the bed in back. Just imagine the tailgate parties you could have with all those outlets (Watch our “Cruisin’” YouTube video to see all the things you could power).
Inside the Cab
Stepping inside the Lightning, you’ll find the same quality interior as with any Ford F-150 but with the addition of a new, very large infotainment screen that is much like the one in the Mustang Mach E. The twelve-inch screen connects you with Ford’s excellent Sync 4 software and higher trim levels come with an even bigger fifteen-inch screen. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, in-dash navigation, and a Wi-Fi hotspot are all standard. Also standard are such driver assist features as automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and available adaptive cruise control with hands-free driving mode.
The only things we found odd are that there are parts of the dash and detail trim in the cab that looks like leather, even including clever faux stitching, that are actually just hard plastic. That’s a shame in a vehicle that has a base MSRP of $46,974 in standard trim, $59,454 in XLT, and $74,474 in upscale Lariat trim. The top-of-the-line Platinum trim will set you back a whopping $93,609 MSRP. There’s also the issue of the power fold down shifter knob. It is clever that the whole thing stows away by way of a hidden motor with the touch of a button. When it is down and out of the way you have a nice work desk for your laptop. However, when it is in upright and locked position, it feels a bit loose to the touch when putting it in drive. It feels kind of “wobbly.”
On the Road
No doubt you’re reading this to find out how the Lightning is to drive. In one word, it is AMAZING! Sure, it is big and heavy (curb weight is 6,015 pounds with nothing in the back) but it is the fastest pickup truck we’ve ever been in. Zero to 60 miles per hour happens in just four seconds with a quarter mile time of 12.7 seconds. That is seriously quick! It’s a truck that is as fast in the quarter mile as the GT version of the Mustang Mach-E.
The Lightning is the most aerodynamic F-150 ever created with four percent better coefficient of drag, requiring ten percent less power to get to 75 mph than a regular gas-powered F-150. Simply put, this is a big Ford F-150 that can do burnouts. It chirps the tires with the greatest of ease and does it while just looking like any stock F-150. Pretty cool.
While it is devilishly quick, it also still feels quite a bit like a standard F-150. There’s the lofty body-on-frame looseness around corners despite its independent rear suspension. It’s a bit floaty and bouncy at times, especially off-road. On the other hand, having an electric motor at each axle and four drive modes including normal, sport, tow/haul, and off-road means independent front and rear suspension will handle ruts and rough roads without spilling your coffee.
On the highway, the Lighting is sure-footed thanks to the low center of gravity provided by its low-slung battery packs. Put it in Sport mode and it feels like a really big car, surprisingly nimble and light behind the wheel for such a big boy. With 452-horsepower on tap and instant, lighting-like torque, you can blast by slower trucks… which is everybody else on the road.
Braking is also impressive. In Sport mode you’ll definitely feel the regenerative braking when you take your foot off the accelerator. Step on the binders at 70 mph and you’ll come to a stop in just 180 feet.
This silent storm is also one very smart truck. It offers real-time range estimates, traffic and weather conditions, even an onboard scale that measures payload and towing weight. Speaking of, pulling a heavy load will definitely reduce your range. Ford says the Lightning with the smaller battery pack will take you an EPA-estimated 240 miles before you need a charge, but with a medium size load, that range can easily be cut in half. Something to think about if this is your work truck.
The Bottom Line
We think that one of the reasons that the F-150 Lightning has so many fans and followers is that it is an intelligent evolution of America’s favorite and best-selling truck. It’s not some sci-fi Cybertruck that no one can relate to. In fact, the 200,000 consumers who are on the list for the first Lightnings plunked down their deposits before they could ever actually sit in or drive one of these all-electric wonders. And there would have been a lot more future owners, but Ford capped the number of people who could pre-order to 200,000 because, as the company’s CEO Jim Farley told the press, “We had to stop taking reservations because we had so many.” That’s a very good sign for the future of Ford.