Ford's F-150 Lightning EV has a lot of attributes and abilities, with some shortcomings
It’s been the best-selling truck for 45 years and now it’s the top selling fully electric pickup with over 4,400 sold to date when compared to GMC’s Hummer and Rivian’s EV pickups.
Ford’s AWD Lighting EV pickup has been named World Car of the Year even though it’s a truck. It’s offered in Pro, XLT, Lariat and Platinum and in super cab only configuration. We tested the XLT version that came with a host of safety, technological and electrical features, one of which is it’s able to operate power tools or power a household in the event of a blackout with its onboard generator.
While Lightning looks like a traditional F-150, only its smoked LED taillights and running lights lenses are a bit different. Both offer a visual clue of its EV power.
Inside the cabin, the only major difference from a traditional F-150 is the digital gauge cluster that doesn’t have a tachometer, but two power gauges and a speedometer along with a driver information display for a myriad of operating information.
Seating wise, heated cloth/leatherette front seats are heavily padded and nicely supportive. Standard power pedals are nice since they can accommodate tall to short folks.
A 12-inch infotainment touchscreen (a 15.5-inch is available on top-end models) serves a host of features and functions that includes a multi-view camera, navigation, audio, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, some voice commands, Wi-Fi hotspot and drive modes of Normal, Sport, Off-Road, Tow-Haul plus locking rear differential.
HVAC controls are large and easy to use even with gloved hands. There’s a large, deep bin below them that would have been ideal for a wireless phone charger, but the Lightning didn’t offer one, merely receptacles for wired charging. That’s surprising since Lightning is an EV.
But the most unique cabin feature is the power folding gear selector that allows the console box top to flip out over it to form a 21x13.25-inch desk of sorts. It’s a very handy surface for writing or for laptop use.
The rear seat can easily seat three large adults in comfort after a bi-level step-in of 14.5 inches to the running board, or 23 if bypassing it and slipping right in. Power retractable boards are available on higher trim models. The seat bottoms flip up against the bulkhead exposing a full-width bin for hidden, small item storage.
Back in the 5.6-foot cargo bed, that has a 35.5-inch liftover, power down tailgate, and most impressive, the pull-out from the top of the tailgate step and assist handle that make ingress very easy. It’s the most simple, best design on the market. The bed wall has three 120-volt outlets plus moveable and lockable tie-downs along with courtesy lights above the outlets.
Because it’s an EV and no engine, the front trunk (called a frunk), offers 14.1 cubic feet of space that can accommodate two golf bags or two medium size roller luggage bags. There’s also a smaller bin beneath the trunk space. On the inner wall are four 120-volt outlets for AC use and the back wall holds a 12-volt battery. The system consists of a 2.4-kilowatt Pro Power Onboard package, however there’s a 9.6-kW package that’s optional.
Now for the powertrain. There are two transversally-mounted AC electric motors, one for each axle that creates the AWD system. There are no 2WD, 4WD-High and 4WD-Low switches or shifters in the cabin. The AWD system provides traction to the wheels that need it.
Lightning has 8.4 inches of ground clearance for modest snow depths or light off-roads, and is less when compared to a gasoline powered F-150 at 8.8 inches.
Another point here, I was informed by Ford tech support that the truck should not be driven in water that goes over the axles. Not good for the areas that we recently saw on the news that got terrible flooding. I had also planned on photographing the Lightning driving through a creek ford at our local zoo to show its capabilities, but subsequently nixed that idea. I could just imagine calling for a tow truck in the middle of a creek when the battery shorted-out.
Power wise and with a standard range battery (a longer range one is optional), Lightning generates 452-hp and 775 lb/ft of torque for 76 MPGe city, 61 MPGe highway mileage. With a full charge that would be 234 miles of driving range. With the extended range battery, the numbers would be 580-hp and 775 lb/ft of torque for 78/73 MPGe respectively and 320 miles of range all coupled to a single-speed transmission.
Full pedal acceleration was push-you-back-in-the-seat, head-snapping quick. Its been 0-60 tested at 4.5 seconds. Use Sport mode and full pedal runs too often and the battery depletes quicker.
Lightning is tow rated for 5,000 pounds or 7,700 with the Max Trailer Tow package. And with this plus the extended battery, Lightning can pull up to 10,000 pounds.
The miles of range can change significantly depending on utilities used and towing. During a below freezing day and with the heater, fan, seat heaters and steering wheel heater on, I had 120 miles of range remaining. But after a 12-mile trip, that decreased to 90 miles. While driving to a charger I received a notice on the gauge cluster that read “Driving Range Low, Reduce Climate Use For More Range.” Another alert said “Active Air Dam System Fault, See Manual.” Unfortunately, the truck only comes with a quick reference guide and a brief supplemental owner’s manual that didn’t address the latter topic. The complete manual is online and requires entering the trucks VIN number for access.
While charging the Lightning at an Electrify America charger, another Lightning pulled up next to me so the driver and I chatted about the trucks. He said that from his home to his shop which is only 5 miles away, and with all the heaters on, he loses 20 miles of range. And when he has to tow a work trailer, he uses his gasoline engine F-150 as he doesn’t trust the range to a job site with the Lightning.
As for charging the Lightning, I was down to 42 miles of range. After 51 minutes on a 350w charger (I lucked-out as the two 350s are often taken leaving the slower 150s open which takes considerably more time), range went to 241 miles at 90 percent charge. That cost a mere $16.19, much less than at the Sunoco gas station across the street but where I could have filled-up and been on my way in five minutes.
Lightning is offered with a host of nifty features such as an On-Board Scale that can judge the estimated payload of the vehicle and warns when it’s overloaded. It does this with sensors mounted on the suspension to calculate the vehicle’s payload.
There’s also Smart Hitch that shows the load placed on the vehicle’s hitch by a trailer so that it’s balanced either too high or too low. And along with this, Trailer Hitch Assistance helps the driver align the hitch ball to a trailer coupler via a rotary switch on the dash.
Then there’s Smart Key that allows you to use your smartphone to unlock/lock, start the truck, a Massage Seat option and an Active Park Assist that parks it for you.
Ford’s Bluecruise works with adaptive cruise that keeps the truck centered hands free between the lines. The system monitors your eyes and head position to detect if you’re distracted and if so, alerts you to put eyes back on the road.
As for ride, Lightning is smooth. Even smoother than some luxury sedans and SUVs we’ve tested. Load up the bed with mulch or topsoil and the ride can be even smoother.
Handling is superb as the heavy electric battery beneath the truck keeps the Lighting planted in sharp turns and quick maneuvers.
With a full complement of the latest, most desired safety features, Lightning carried a base price of $52,974. It came with Equipment Group 312A ($9,500), dual EMotor Extended Range Battery ($10,000), Max Trailer Tow Package ($825); and bedliner ($595) for a bottom line of $75,589 with delivery. The top-shelf, full-loaded Platinum comes in at $96,874.
Warranty wise, the basic covers 3 year/36K; electric vehicle component, 8/100K; aluminum body panels, 5/unlimited; paint adhesion, 5/unlimited; and roadside assistance, 5/60K.
Until there are more public charging stations or if installing a home charger, the F-150 Lightning is superb for localized driving. If planning a lengthy trip, a flight plan like pilot’s use is needed to pre-locate charging stations. Because of this, the truck has its limitations, but it’s a hoot to drive – and it’s hush quiet.
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