It's dominant - but will it still lead the pack when the competition arrives?
Now in its second model year, the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning still exists in a sparse segment of electric pickup trucks that currently only includes the GMC Hummer EV Pickup and Rivian R1T. Both are more niche and expensive than the Lightning, and neither appeals to the core truck audience in quite the same way; they are lifestyle trucks for people who want a Tesla Model X Plaid and F-150 Raptor in one vehicle. The Lightning is a different story, offering the same features owners already love about the F-150, just with an electric drivetrain - and until the GMC Sierra EV and Chevrolet Silverado EV arrive, it's the pick of the bunch for many.
Ford already had the best-selling pickup truck in the world, and it's not far behind with its electric truck. Demand is so high, Ford recently needed to deploy extra workers to its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center to build more. Despite some early hiccups affecting production, the F-150 Lightning remains one of Ford's most compelling products. It offers up to 580 horsepower, 320 miles of range, and 10,000 pounds of towing capacity, all without burning a single drop of gasoline. CarBuzz spent a week in a 2023 F-150 Lightning Lariat to find out if it's still the best all-around electric truck money can buy.
Aside from the closed-off grille and blue lettering on the bed, it's tough to tell this truck apart from its gas-powered equivalent. In a universe where other automakers want their electric trucks to look as though they belong in a movie about a post-apocalyptic future, we think Ford made the right decision to play it safe with the styling. The grille changes a bit depending on trim level, and stepping up to the XLT adds a connected headlight bar that runs the width of the truck. Go one trim beyond to the Lariat, and the taillights are also connected.
The tester Ford sent us didn't rock the boat with its Iconic Silver Metallic Paint, a color that looked more visually impressive on the Mustang Mach-E's curvy body. We also weren't the biggest fans of the Lariat's mono-tone 20-inch grey wheels. The smaller 18-inch wheels on the base XLT look more rugged, and the Platinum's 22-inch wheels are more premium looking.
Just like the exterior, the Lightning's cabin will look familiar to anyone who's driven a new F-150... with one notable exception. Pro and XLT trims get the same 12-inch infotainment screen found in upper-level gasoline F-150 models, but the Lariat and Platinum adopt the 15.5-inch display from the Mach-E and Expedition. We originally liked this setup because it prominently presents the volume knob right on the screen. In addition to controlling the volume, you can now click on the temperature, seat heating/ventilation, or fan speed to adjust those functions using the knob. It's slightly more distracting than physical controls, but not by much.
It may lack luxuries like the massage seats found only on the Platinum, but the Lariat comes with most of the features well-to-do trucks owners could ever want. Heated/ventilated front seats come standard, as does an eight-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, wireless charging pad, a 360-degree camera, and more. Optional extras include hands-free BlueCruise and a panoramic moonroof.
There are two ways to order an F-150 Lightning: a Standard Range with a 91-kWh battery pack and an Extended Range with a 131-kWh pack. The former is the only option on the Pro trim and comes standard on XLT and Lariat models. Ford only offers the Extended Range battery on XLT and above and as standard on the Platinum.
All Lightning models have two electric motors, but the output changes depending on the battery size. Standard Range models produce 452 horsepower, while models equipped with the Extended Range get bumped to 580 hp. Both versions deliver 775 lb-ft of torque. These trucks are aptly named because they go like lightning, hitting 60 mph in around four seconds, although some have claimed lower figures still. That's not far off a supercharged Raptor R.
In terms of range, the Standard Range can only manage around 240 miles on a full charge. The Extended Range takes that up to a more acceptable 320 miles, or around 300 on the Platinum. It can tow up to 10,000 pounds, but expect the driving range to take a hit of around 50% if you do, which is a similar efficiency hit as a gas-powered truck.
Ford says the Lightning can recharge at up to 155 kW on a DC fast charger, but we noticed the truck hit over 160 kW when plugged into a 350 kW charger. Even without a preconditioned battery at around 45%, the truck quickly ramped up to its peak speed and held it until the charge reached 80%. It then dropped to around 50 kW, which is still impressive. It may not have the most impressive charge speed on the market, but a consistent charge curve helps the Lightning go from 15-80% battery in as low as 44 minutes. In our testing, we went from 45-90% in 40 minutes.
The die-hard ICE fans who want to be buried with their V8 engines may take more convincing, but the average truck owner would be blown away by a test drive in the Lightning. This thing puts any truck that doesn't have a Hummer or Rivian badge to shame. No gas-powered truck gets off the line like the Lightning, including supercharged behemoths like the Raptor R and Ram TRX. That instant torque hits like a gut punch, and there's no transmission shifts to delay the acceleration.
Since the battery is mounted low in the floor, the Lightning also handles better than its gas-powered sibling. There's a greater sense of confidence that you can take a high-speed corner without flipping over, thanks to the low center of gravity. It still feels very much like an F-150 from behind the wheel, but the absence of an engine improves the experience in every way (except it doesn't make any growly V8 noises).
Our only complaint is that the Lightning's turning circle is the size of Texas, and parking it is a chore even with the 360-degree camera. The Hummer's rear-wheel steering would do wonders here.
All F-150s are practical on account of their pickup body style, but the Lightning takes it to a new level. In addition to the standard 5.5-foot bed, the Lightning also includes a gigantic 14.1 cubic feet "frunk" where the engine would normally sit. This area includes a cargo net, grocery hooks, 110-volt outlets, USB ports, lighting, and underfloor storage with a drain (making it perfect to store ice during a tailgate party). The bed is pretty clever, too, with Ford's ProPower Onboard generator that can power an entire house for up to 10 days.
The cabin is also usable thanks to collapsable storage under the rear seats and plenty of little cubbies up front. There's also a folding shifter design that enables a flat workspace to flip out from the armrest. It's perfect for a laptop or a drive-thru meal.
The Lightning was a screaming deal when it debuted for less than $40k, but the truck has seen several price increases since it first went on sale. The cheapest Lightning Pro now costs $59,974, around $20,000 more than when it arrived on the market. Stepping up to the XLT brings the price to $63,474 ($80,974 for the Extended Range), and the Lariat starts at $75,974 ($85,974 for Extended Range). Going all-in on the Platinum brings the price to nearly six figures at $98,074. These prices exclude the $1,895 delivery charges and any options.
Clearly, the Lightning isn't meant for the worker who wants bare-bones transportation with a bed - not at these prices. But if you look at sales records for 2022, most F-Series truck buyers spent upwards of $60k on their trucks anyway, so the Lightning's sticker price isn't outside the realm of possibility for many truck buyers.
It's worth comparing the Lightning to what else is available. The cheapest Rivian RT1 with a dual-motor setup costs $73,000, and GMC recently announced its Hummer EV Pickup 3X trim, which costs a whopping $106,645. Both of these trucks offer more power and superior range, but at a price. Upcoming electric trucks like the Chevy Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV, and Ram 1500 REV will challenge the Lightning on price and range, but they aren't here just yet. By the time they arrive, Ford may have an update ready to remain competitive.
For now, The F-150 Lightning is the most well-rounded electric truck money can buy.
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