Monday, November 28, 2022

IN THE DRIVEWAY: The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

It's back - but totally different.

Gearheads may remember the Ford F-150 Lightning as being a performance-oriented truck - one not necessarily meant to haul cargo, but to haul something else. First out in 1993, the Lightning was a product from Ford's in-house performance team known as SVT (Special Vehicle Team) and it made a bold statement. The first-generation Lighting was powered by a 351 cubic inch V8 making 240 horsepower. But things didn't really get excising until the second-generation Lightning made the scene in 1999. Based on the then all-new and quite radical 1997 F-150, the 1999 Lighting featured a 5.4L Triton V8 with an Eaton supercharger and produced 360 horsepower and 440 ft·lb of torque. A few years later, it would receive a bump in power to 380 hp - making it capable of achieving 0-60 times in the mid 5 second range. The SVT Lightning would eventually die off in 2004, after seeing 28,124 being built (not including the 11,563 first generation models).

For 2022, the Lightning is back, this time, though as an all-electric truck. The basis of the Lightning is an F-150 SuperCrew with a 5.5-foot bed. But rather than a powerful V8 under the hood like in the Lightnings of the past, this new Lightning is powered by two electric motors and comes with all-wheel drive. And the spec sheet is far more impressive than any other Lightning: up to 580 horsepower and 775 lb-feet of torque. These are numbers that SVT, which is now long gone, could have only dreamed of.

Driving range, a new and very important figure when it comes to EVs, for the Lightning is a decent 230 miles with the base battery and 320 miles with the larger, optional battery.

The F-150 Lightning is available in four different trim levels. The Pro is the base model, meant for work use, and includes 18-inch wheels, vinyl seats and floors, a 12-inch infotainment screen and an electronic-locking rear axle. Step up to the XLT and the Lightning gets cloth seats and floors, power driver's seat and a 360-degree camera. The Lariat adds in a leather interior, larger, 15.5-inch infotainment screen, power folding side view mirrors as well as power-sliding rear window, and LED cargo bed lighting. Getting it all is the Platinum, with its 22-inch wheels, upgraded leather interior and trim, massaging front seats and an 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

The Pro, XLT and Lariat all come with a 98-kWh battery pack that enables the truck to produce 452 horsepower and 775 lb-ft of torque and have an EPA-estimated 230 miles of range. The Platinum, however, comes with a larger 131-kWh extended-range battery pack and bumps power up to 580 hp (with the same amount of torque) as well as increasing the range to 320 miles. This larger extended-range battery pack is optional on the XLT and Lariat trim levels.

With the exception of some badges and unique wheels, the exterior of the Lighting is identical to that of any other 2022 F-150. But under the Lightnings skin reveals one main difference. Up front, where a normal F-150 would have its gas engine, the Lightning has a frunk (front trunk). Capable of storing up to 14 cubic feet of luggage, it also has a drain so it can be used as a giant ice chest.

Inside the Lighting is an interior much like other F-150s and features a very comfortable cabin and intuitive layout. The tester is decked out in the Platinum trim level, so it has all the goodies including the huge touchscreen that dominates the dashboard.

Ford offers the Lightning with many of the cool features offered on regular gas-powered F-150s like the Pro Power Onboard feature that consists of household-style electrical plugs that you can use to power tools and other electronic devices, Blue Cruise, Ford's hands-free driver assist system and the interior work surface that allows the center console become a flat surface to work on.

Driving the Lightning is like no other F-150 yet is similar to other EVs - power from the electric motors is instant and the massive about of torque will slam you into the seat. And it does it with no fuss, commotion or other noise - it's just quick and quiet. With the extended-range battery pack, the Lightning can hit 60 mph in just 4 seconds.

With a range between 230 and 320 miles (depending on the battery), the Lighting is ideal for daily duty. But towing a trailer, which the Lightning has a maximum towing capacity of 10,000 pounds, can easily deplete the battery and will require frequent stops to charge. This is a known issue for EV trucks as the GMC Hummer EV SUT and the Rivian R1T, the Lightnings main rivals, also experience the thing, proving that there is still work to be done when it comes to EV trucks.

For now, though we have the Lightning, and it's quite good. As Ford celebrates the F-150 being the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the past 45 years, it hasn't turned its back to the changing market that we are in. Proof of that is the Lightning. Now, thanks to the Ford F-150 Lightning, if you tow infrequently or only for short distances, your workhorse truck can be an EV.