Dozens of new battery-electric vehicles will reach U.S. showrooms this year. None has generated as much interest as the Ford F-150 Lightning, reviewed here, that’s just gone into production.
There’s good reason for all the excitement considering this all-electric version of America’s bestselling truck starts at less than $40,000. Yet it offers extended range, plenty of muscle, and lots of features, especially on premium versions like the Lightning Platinum.
Here’s our hands-on first-drive review of this hotly anticipated vehicle.
A personal disclosure: I have a Lightning on order. So when I got the chance to fly down to San Antonio for my first drive, I jumped at the chance — not only to review the new pickup but to decide whether I was making the right choice. A little hint before I get into the details: I’m not canceling my order.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Review
A brutal Texas sun had sent temperatures soaring to record highs as I climbed into my dark-blue Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum edition. I’d been waiting for this opportunity for more than a year, ever since Chief Engineer Linda Zhang took me out for a ride at the Ford Proving Grounds north of Detroit.
Ford was early to electrify its lineup, offering up a mix of hybrids, plug-ins (PHEV), and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). But the original offerings didn’t fare all that well, especially all-electric models like the Focus EV. They were slow, stodgy, and offered marginal range.
But the automaker found religion a few years back when company officials created Team Edison, which, essentially, was assigned the task of taking on Tesla. Its first project, the Mustang Mach-E, is now one of the bestselling BEVs in the U.S.
Ford Struggles to Meet Demand
Like most manufacturers, Ford will eventually go all-electric with its entire lineup. But it’s starting by focusing on icon models like Mustang and, now, the F-150.
It’s been the bestselling pickup in America — indeed, the bestselling vehicle — for three decades, sales at times nearing 1 million a year. That said, Ford entered the project cautiously, gearing up a new production facility in Dearborn, Mich., to produce just 25,000 Lightning pickups a year.
It now has more than 200,000 advance orders and has repeatedly upped those production plans, which now have climbed to an annual 150,000.
“Just when we finished the walls [at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center], we’ve had to knock them down,” Darren Palmer, Ford’s VP of Electric Vehicle Programs, told me. “We put them back up, and now have to knock them down again.”
Obviously, I’m not the only one making a leap of faith. But if my first drive is any indication, the new Ford Lightning is going to satisfy its buyers — and could get a lot of those waiting for the repeatedly delayed Tesla Cybertruck to rethink their plans.
A Cautious Approach to Design
At first glance, you might confuse the Lightning for a conventional F-150. That’s intentional, Zhang explained. The goal was to make clear it can go head-to-head with any existing version of the pickup.
A closer inspection does reveal a few unique details, starting with the blue Lightning badges on the front fenders, more aerodynamic wheels, and the grille. It’s actually a sealed panel, as there’s no need to send air under the hood.
Instead, Ford has transformed the engine compartment into what is now the world’s largest frunk. You’d have trouble filling it up after a run to your local Costco. And you even can seal it and use it as a mega-cooler for camping or tailgating. Just pull a plug to let it drain.
The real benefit of the frunk is having a completely sealed compartment to store purses, luggage, or laptop computers, something lacking on conventional pickups.
There are small air intakes down by the bumper. They send cooling air to the electric propulsion system tucked inside a heavily modified version of the classic F-150’s body-on-frame platform.
It’s been revised to make room for the battery pack — the long-range edition having a usable capacity of 131 kWh and the standard range having 98 kWh. All versions of the Lightning rely on twin electric motors, one mounted on each axle.
An Inside View
Inside, the Lightning is a classic F-150 — at least, for the most part. There are a few unique controls, such as the button popping open the power-operated frunk. But, as with the exterior, Ford designers intended to stick with the familiar layout and features, including the optional, foldaway e-shifter that allows a motorist to use the center console as a workspace.
The gauge cluster on all models is digital and adds a handful of readouts unique to the all-electric F-150, including range and state-of-charge. On base models, like the $39,974 Lightning Pro, you’ll get a 12-inch infotainment display, or, as Ford prefers to call it, a “productivity screen.” There are also analog controls for some key vehicle functions, including climate.
Top trim levels, like the Platinum I started with, feature a vertically oriented 15.5-inch touchscreen that handles virtually everything and dominates the center stack. It’s an impressive display and Ford techs did a solid job of making it easy to operate. Still, I’d prefer to have some analog controls as well, especially for climate.
And do be aware that you’ll face a somewhat steep learning curve to operate the multitude of unique functions built into the infotainment system, from finding public charging stations to turning on or off vehicle features like 1-Pedal driving.
A Luxury Pickup
As with conventional, gas-powered models, the Platinum is the ultimate version of the F-150, down to its heated, cooled, and massaging seats. It’s not cheap — the Lightning Platinum starts at $90,874 and jumps to around $95,000 when fully loaded — but it’s currently as close as you’ll get to an all-electric luxury truck.
That became even more obvious as I climbed inside my Lightning for the day, done up in Antimatter Blue paint, with a dark black leather interior. As I “fired” it up, the gauge cluster and infotainment screen came alive. But there was nary a sound until I shifted into gear and a chime reminded me to buckle up.
Even when I pulled onto the I-10 freeway, the Lightning was as silent as any luxury sedan I’ve ever driven. Only the slightest bit of wind noise from the oversized mirrors entered the cabin.
Ford does offer the ability to turn on an artificial soundscape that provides a sense of speed and acceleration. Similar to what’s available in the Mach-E, some drivers will welcome the feedback.
I’m not fond of it and chose to turn it off, preferring the feedback I get through the seat of my pants. And the Lightning provides plenty, especially if you stomp the throttle from a standstill.
The Lightning offers two basic powertrain configurations. You can order it with either the standard-range lithium-ion battery pack or the extended-range option.
With the 98kWh pack, the two motors deliver a peak 452 horsepower, the 131kWh pack bumping that up to 580. Both versions punch out a maximum 775 pound-feet of torque. Ford, it seems, has under-promised and over-delivered. The “SR” models are making 26 more ponies than originally expected, the “ER” an extra 17.
Range also comes in higher than Ford originally announced for the extended-range models. Most trim packages now manage up to 320 miles between charges, according to the EPA, and the heavier Platinum is rated at 300 miles. Standard-range versions retain the original 230-mile estimate.
With the increase in power, all versions of the Lightning now put the Ford F-150 Raptor to shame. And the numbers really don’t tell the full story.
Pulling up to a stoplight, my foot hovered over the throttle, slamming it to the floor as the light turned green. My Lightning launched like a scared cat thanks to the instant torque electric motors can deliver.
Here’s another place Ford appears to have over-delivered. It originally promised 0-60 times of around 4.5 seconds but most recently said it’s closer to 4. And unlike some battery-electric vehicles, the power just keeps coming on. Even at 70, expect to find yourself sinking deep into your seat when executing a fast pass.
F-150 Lightning: A Sports Car With a Bed
The Lightning is as close as you’re likely to come to a pickup muscle car, except for maybe the mind-bendingly fast Rivian R1T. But what proved equally impressive was how the truck handled once I got deep into the Texas Hill Country and had the chance to take it on some torturously twisted backroads.
This is one big rig, measuring 232.7 inches from nose to tail with a wheelbase of 145.5 inches, a height of 78.3 inches, and a width of 96 inches at the tip of the mirrors. Even the base SR Pro model comes in around 6,200 pounds, and my Platinum pushed north of 6,500.
According to Zhang, about 1,600 pounds of that is in the battery pack on long-range models. But that pack sits as close to the ground as possible, which means the Lightning has a notably lower center of gravity than gas-powered models.
And that’s something I quickly came to appreciate as I whipped around corners far more smoothly than I would have expected. Even in the tightest corners, the Lightning exhibited only modest body roll. Steering was surprisingly precise and predictable.
No, it’s not a sports car, but owners are likely to be surprised by just how much fun it will be to flog this beast through tight turns.
I switched on 1-Pedal mode for my first day’s trip. Like all EVs, the Lightning uses regenerative brakes that help recapture energy normally lost to braking and coasting.
1-Pedal works something like downshifting a manual transmission several gears. But instead of revving up the engine, it increases regen. And that means that, in many situations, you simply have to modulate the throttle rather than flipping over to the brakes.
I drove an entire 32-mile run down one twisty road, touching the brakes only when I reached the T-stop at the end.
The Lightning is absolutely loaded up with driver-assistance technology. That includes active cruise control and lane centering.
Buyers will also be able to order Ford’s new Blue Cruise. It’s a hands-free system that the automaker claims will allow drivers to go hands-free on up to 100,000 miles of limited-access roadways. It’s similar to, if a bit less capable than, General Motors’ Super Cruise.
You can order it now, meaning Ford will install the necessary hardware. But here’s the catch: It’s a work in progress and the automaker doesn’t actually plan to remotely download the necessary software — using Lightning’s smartphone-like, over-the-air update capability — until later this year.
My Lightning Platinum had a beta version of Blue Cruise installed. It’s a promising technology, but it’s definitely not ready for prime time. While it kept the truck within its lane, the system allowed it to drift uncomfortably close to the lines when going through sharper turns. I have to hope Ford techs will address that before the software is activated for Lightning buyers.
2022 F-150 Lightning Utility Trumps All
Of course, there are more utilitarian reasons to buy a full-size pickup. While plenty of owners will likely use this for the daily commute or to run errands, Ford’s data show a significant share of buyers will also tow or haul cargo, even if only occasionally. And, yet again, Ford has upped its original numbers.
Payload has jumped to as much as 2,235 pounds depending on the model, a 235-pound increase from the original target. And its tow rating is now a max of 10,000 pounds with the optional Max Trailer Tow Package.
I fell a bit short of that when I headed out to Singing Waters Winery, a couple hours outside San Antonio, for a second day’s drive. Still, the 8,500-pound electric Arc boat I hitched up to a Lightning Lariat was a good chance to test things out.
With its instant torque, the 2022 F-150 Lightning easily launched into motion. And it was able to accelerate much more quickly than I expected. One thing I hadn’t anticipated was the smoothness of the ride. The battery pack gives the truck a nearly 50-50 weight distribution, unlike the typical nose-heavy pickup. As a result, there was less of the yanking back and forth you’d normally feel when towing a heavy trailer.
One of the more interesting features of the Lightning is its built-in scales. The truck automatically measures the mass in its cargo bed as well as the weight on its hitch. It uses that in several ways — among other things to get an estimate of how much of an impact that will have on range.
The truck’s cloud-based navigation system also factors in things like the terrain along your route. And whether or not you’re hauling a load, it can provide guidance showing you how far you can drive and where you can find a charger.
Charging the F-150 Lightning
Plugging in takes as little as 41 minutes to go from a 15% to 80% state of charge with the extended-range pack when hooked up to a 150kW public quick-charger. Depending on how much current your home charger can muster, using a 240V Level 2 system will require anywhere from 8 to 19 hours.
Ford is offering a home charger as part of the purchase price. It’s also partnering with SunRun to let buyers in some markets set up a more substantial system, including battery backup and even solar power. Some buyers will be able to drop off the grid entirely.
As with the hybrid version of the conventional F-150, the Lightning can serve as a mobile generator, providing up to 9.6 kW of 120V and 240V current. Ford showed it off powering both a worksite and a mobile entertainment center.
But it also can be used as a home backup power source for up to 10 days using something like the SunRun system. You can even use it to give a jump to another electric vehicle that might have run out of power.
Heading Off Road
Before wrapping up my time with the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning review, I wanted to put it to one last test, taking it on a hilly and rutted off-road course on the Singing Waters property.
Like any pickup, vehicle length places some limits on what you can manage. But the Lightning is reasonably well-suited to off-roading, with 8.4 inches of ground clearance — and plenty of armor to protect the battery pack.
It boasts an approach angle of 24.4 degrees, a breakover angle of 17.6 degrees, and a departure angle of 23.6 degrees. I can’t attest to how the Lightning will handle Moab. But if my run at Singing Waters was any indication, it should be able to handle pretty much anything you could throw at a regular Ford F-Series model, short of the FX-4, Tremor, or Raptor models.
F-150 Lightning First Drive Wrapup
After spending several full days behind the wheel of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning reviewing it, I came away with one unambiguous conclusion: I’m eagerly looking forward to putting the truck in my driveway. If anything, this all-electric pickup does everything the conventional F-150 can —but better, besides range and ‘re-fuel’ time.
There’s already competition, of course, starting with the Rivian R1T, as well as the $112,000 GMC Hummer Edition 1. And there’ll be more coming, including the oft-delayed Tesla Cybertruck, the Chevrolet Silverado EV, and the RAM 1500 EV. By my count, there could be a dozen or more midsize and full-size EV pickups by 2025.
But Ford’s first offering sets a benchmark that will be a challenge to beat. There are plenty of reasons why the F-150 has dominated sales charts for three decades. The Lightning could find itself a similar benchmark in the EV market going forward.