2022 Ford F-150 Lightning First Drive Review: Nailed It
If you think batteries can’t match gas or diesel, this truck would like to have a word.
At this point, the concept of a mass-produced electric vehicle isn't novel or new anymore. People have been driving and charging them for more than a decade now, and we've heard the arguments for and against them time and again. Electric pickups, however, aren't fully proven, with only the Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV playing in that space before this. Even then, those are toys. That leaves the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning to convince the multitudes that battery-powered trucks can match—and possibly even beat—gas and diesel.
Of course, it boasts the right numbers to do exactly that. The impressive spec sheet will be more than enough for some, and the truck's huge power figures already put 200,000 people on the waiting list. But others will need seat time to learn the worth of something so radically and fundamentally different from what they've always owned, no matter their age or location.
After driving it in just about every scenario—loaded, unloaded, on the road, and off it—I've gotta say that the performance is there, 100 percent. Not only that, but the sweat Ford put in to make this as livable, usable, and workable as a gas model puts it on that next level. It was a years-long job with literally billions of dollars dumped into related projects, and this is the ready-for-primetime result. The F-150 Lightning is the truck that proves electricity can be as good as—and sometimes way better than—internal combustion in ways that matter to real people.
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Specs
Base price: $41,669 (including destination)
- Pro as tested: $56,109
- XLT as tested: $77,029
- Lariat as tested: $81,434
- Platinum as tested: $93,508
- Powertrain: 98- or 131-kWh battery | dual permanent-magnet motors | 1-speed transmission | four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 452 or 580
- Torque: 775 pound-feet
- Seating capacity: 5
- Towing capacity: 7,700 pounds for SR | 10,000 pounds for ER
- Payload capacity: 1,800 pounds for ER | 2,000 pounds for SR
- Onboard power supply: 2.4 kW standard on Pro and XLT | 9.6 kW available on all trims, standard on Lariat and Platinum
- Curb weight: TBA for SR | 6,590 pounds for ER
- Range: EPA-estimated 230 miles for SR | 300 miles for ER Platinum | 320 miles for ER
- Quick take: The tide-turning electric truck for people who can't help but question such a thing.
- Score: 9/10
What to Know About Ford's First Electric Truck
While Ford has built a zillion F-150s in the past, give or take, the Lightning is the first to rely entirely on batteries and electric motors. With that in mind, even the 98-kilowatt-hour Standard Range battery pack gives this truck more horsepower than a brand-new F-150 Raptor—by two horsepower, actually, but still. Regardless of whether you pick that spec or the even more potent Extended Range model with 131 kWh of capacity, every Lightning has dual inboard motors with one at the front and one at the back, giving it full-time four-wheel drive.
That's great news because you'll want every possible tool working to get traction when you floor it. All the trucks I tested had the Extended Range pack, which meant I got the full 580 hp as opposed to the tamer but still respectable 452 hp. F-150 Lightnings with the entry-level battery manage an EPA-estimated 230 miles of range, while the upgraded pack should net 320 miles in every trim except the hefty Platinum, which is rated a little lower at 300 miles flat.
The F-150 Lightning's absolute max tow rating, according to Ford, is 10,000 pounds. Its absolute max payload rating, according to Ford, is 2,235 pounds. Those figures aren't achieved by the same model; instead, the more powerful ER variant claims the towing crown while the base SR can handle more in-truck cargo, given its lighter weight when empty. They're two different variants for two different customers, and variations like these aren't exclusive to electric trucks—they're commonplace on already existing ICE-powered models, too.
Oh, it also has independent rear suspension, which is even more unique for a full-size truck than electrification. More on that in a bit.
It Looks Different Than the Gas Truck, But Only Sorta
It's pretty clear Ford didn't want to deviate too far from the traditional F-150 in terms of styling. As such, the Lightning isn't the craziest thing to look at. You'll notice that every grille design is solid and closed rather than open because it doesn't have to funnel air into a radiator for cooling. That's unique to the electric truck, as is the illuminated brow that runs from one headlight to the other on models higher than the Pro.
Out back, the bed is dimensionally the same on purpose so folks who already own an F-150 with accessories like camper shells can transfer them over. The Lightning's Chief Engineer Linda Zhang told me at last year's Los Angeles Auto Show that this was a huge undertaking since almost everything underneath is specific to this truck. Even still, they pulled it off, all without losing interior space and keeping the floor at the same height despite hiding batteries underneath it.
Given the huge difference in equipment and price from the bottom to the top of the range, you'll find all kinds of F-150 Lightning interiors. Two infotainment displays are available: a 12-inch horizontal screen and a 15.5-inch vertical unit. The former is standard on Pro and XLT, while the latter comes with every Lariat and Platinum, and they all get 12-inch digital instrument clusters. Aside from that, these trucks more or less mirror their gas counterparts, save for the Pro since that trim is Lightning-specific.
Driving the Dang Thing
Since the F-150 Lightning will be a lot of people's first EV, they'll find the startup process kinda odd. Of course, you're greeted not by a roaring engine but rather a chime that simply tells you you're good to shift into drive if you want. Just make sure your seatbelt's buckled because, after that, it's fully in your power to go fast.
It zooms down the interstate in a way that's totally untaxing thanks to silent electric motors and that fully independent rear suspension I mentioned earlier. That suspension helps keep the pickup planted, whether it squats briefly on a hard launch or hits a Texas-sized pothole with a load on. It keeps you comfy, which is no doubt important, but it also builds the experience when you floor it.
I'd liken the acceleration to a seriously modified diesel truck if such a rig could spin the tires with less than half a second's notice. If you think I'm kidding, I'm not—that's the world I come from—and the Lightning is my new quickness benchmark for work-capable machinery. And it's stock!
Now, none of this would matter if it fell flat any time you hooked it to a trailer. Fortunately, it doesn't. These same attributes that make it comfortable and intoxicatingly entertaining also contribute to its ability to tow and haul its listed max without flinching.
The load you see attached to this F-150 Lightning Pro clocked in at 9,500 pounds. But the truck still squealed the tires for what had to be a full second after I punched it at 30 miles per hour. For real.
It'd be one thing for a tuned gas or diesel truck to do this, but unless the other guy downshifted beforehand, he'd already be five truck lengths behind you in the F-150 Lightning. Even given the time to do that, he'd be two or three back while you sip a 32-ounce Diet Coke from 7-Eleven. It really is that spunky and easy to go fast in.
Let me rein it back in a little. You won't always be competing for bragging rights, nor should you play around like that in traffic, especially with a trailer. Once I got past the acceleration—which took a while—I found the Ford working intelligently to boost my confidence as well as its own range. I'll be straight up in saying I didn't have enough seat time to get a comprehensive read on battery usage, but I noticed it was always steadily working to recover spent energy.
Regenerative braking plays a big part here, as it does on any EV, and the bite varies as you dial up different driving modes. One-pedal drive is an option, though it's disabled when you flip on Tow/Haul mode, as it's more or less baked in at that point. The F-150 Lightning uses its motor-generator unit to slow you down in that case, whereas a traditional truck would downshift to lighten the wear on its friction brakes. If you want deceleration to be a little less abrupt, Sport prioritizes regen without bringing you to a full stop when off the accelerator. And Normal is just that—normal.
The truck's Off-Road driving mode does a good job of mitigating the power rather than just letting it dig a hole in the sand, gravel, mud, and what have you. While I didn't do any truly gnarly four-wheeling with it, I thought its ability to navigate through the aforementioned terrain was respectable, especially with relatively tame all-terrain tires. Don't be fooled; it can sling a 10-foot rooster tail if you provoke it, but slow and smooth accelerator application is the name of this game anyhow.
When you're behaving yourself, the F-150 Lightning is just as chill as you'd expect a truck to be and then some. It's nice knowing it can do more than anyone needs it to from a power standpoint, but in all, that's not what will keep butts in seats for the lifetime of the truck. That's the job of its cabin, suspension, and one admittedly huge aspect that we're yet to see play out—reliability.
How It Compares to Other F-150s in Terms of Value
This is normally the part where I compare the vehicle in question to competitors in the same segment. However, since the only other electric pickups on sale right now are the Rivian and GMC Hummer EV, that wouldn't be so relevant. Instead, I think we're better off pitting the F-150 Lightning against its in-house counterparts.
These won't be the most straightforward since we're talking gas and electric. With that in mind, I'll be as fair as possible. The Ford F-150 Lightning Pro with the Standard Range battery starts at $41,669 after destination, which gets you 452 hp, about 230 miles of range, and a pretty basic interior with rubber floors and vinyl seats. Pit that against a crew-cab Ford F-150 XL with the 3.3-liter V6 that makes 290 hp, has 4x4, and a 5.5-feet bed, and you'll find the gas truck is actually more expensive at $44,865. That's nuts.
Flip it to the other end of the spectrum and the fancy trucks can go mono e mono, Platinum versus Platinum. In the F-150 Lightning's case, its highest trim starts at $92,569—a whole lot no matter how you shake it. You get the big battery with 300 miles of range for that money, plus 22-inch wheels and the 15.5-inch center stack that's unique to the electric truck. Whether or not that's enough to justify the big delta to the gas-powered Platinum is questionable, though. A 4x4 F-150 Platinum with the 5.0-liter V8 costs $67,600; upgrade to the 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 and you're still way under the Lightning at $70,160. What's more, you can travel around 700 miles on a tank in the F-150 hybrid—my coworker Jerry found that out for himself last year.
You can't even option a gas F-150 Limited or Raptor up to the Lightning Platinum's nearly six-figure price point. That means electric power has got to really be worth it, and in most cases, it is. I'd rather have the Pro model with the Extended Range battery, but Ford's only selling that model to fleets.
With the F-150 Lightning being an electric pickup, it has a certain level of eco-consciousness built-in. That said, it'd be wrong to call heavy trucks with humongous batteries entirely green as battery manufacturing in itself can be a dirty process. Take into account the flurry of other factors like insufficient parts recycling and you'll recognize that the crossover point where EVs become more environmentally friendly than their ICE counterparts might not even come until tens of thousands of miles later. As they say, the greenest car is the one you already have.
Nevertheless, Ford dumped roughly $1 billion into its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center before starting F-150 Lightning production in April. We've written about that facility quite a bit in the past, and its number one purpose is to manufacture enough EVs for anyone who wants one. Ford CEO Jim Farley noted at the F-150 Lightning launch event, "Right now the world needs zero-emissions vehicles and more importantly, it needs us to bring them to the many, not the few."
A colossal complex called BlueOval City is being built as we speak in Tennessee, and that's where the next generation of electric F-Series trucks will be built. By that time, Ford will be manufacturing a lot more of its own batteries, and greener assembly procedures should be in place when production starts there in 2025.
I'd say my feelings on the F-150 Lightning are clear: It's as good as we'd hoped for. Critics harsher than myself will pick apart the fact that it's really not that environmentally friendly, which is true in some respects. Others will say certain versions cost too much, in which case I'd also agree. But one concept we should all be able to see eye to eye on is that once public charging infrastructure improves, particularly for pickup trucks, it will be capable of fully replacing fossil fuel guzzlers.
Anybody who wants one and doesn't have their order in yet will be waiting a while, but that should give Ford time to work out any early bugs. Trust me, that's more of a good thing. And once the Blue Oval starts building 150,000 a year like it says it will, expect to see these suckers everywhere.
As for me, I'll probably hold out for a secondhand Lightning Pro Extended Range. Rest assured, though, the want is serious, and I know I'm not alone in that.
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