The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup made its debut on Wednesday night in Dearborn, Michigan, but even before President Biden’s spin in it on Tuesday, Car and Driver got the opportunity to take a ride and check out the new truck. Here are some early impressions.
The first thing we noticed, while cruising at 75 or 80 mph, was that there is just a whiff of wind noise penetrating the aluminum cabin. Impressive, considering this EV has the aerodynamics of a thick two-by-eight Lego brick. Tire noise, too, is absurdly low for rolling stock in size XL. I guess it makes sense that the Lightning isn’t loud. After all, it isn’t named “Thunder.”
When the F-150 Lightning goes on sale, however, it has the potential to make a ton of noise. Even if the headline-grabbing $40K-plus price is just for a “commercial base” truck, there are still going to be a metric crap ton of takers for a $55K EP—that’s for “electric pickup”—that can get to 60 in about five seconds, or even quicker if you spend more and get the big battery. We felt it, and while the big pickup masks its speed with relative silence and pickup height, there is no denying what two electric motors with a combined 775 pound-feet of torque feels like off the line. The truck will go 105 mph, a governor set due to tire limitations, not driveline hardware.
Those tires, size 275/50R-22, wrap around dorky looking but aero-friendly wheels, which in addition to a blocked-off grille are the only exterior hints that this isn’t a normal F-150. Behind those wheels is a fully independent suspension, something no F-150 has ever had, no matter how sporty Ford’s SVT division could make the Lightnings that came before.
Among other dynamic advantages, the independent rear suspension (IRS) also reduces the unsprung mass, and for a stick-axle pickup, that’s usually a substantial amount of weight. The semi-trailing-arm IRS didn’t sag inappropriately with a 6000-pound trailer on the bumper. Granted, this was probably the trailer equivalent of a corner-weighted Le Mans prototype, because we didn’t so much as hear the ball-and-hitch interaction while climbing a moderate grade. Nevertheless, the motors didn’t seem stressed, either. At least, there is no audible increase in powertrain noise when load increases like you’d get with an engine.
No one has ever said, “Jeez, look at that truck. I bet it handles like a car.” But the Lightning has potential to change that. In addition to the IRS, this EP will have the lowest center of gravity (CoG) ever measured for a half-ton pickup. The 1800-pound-plus battery and both motors live between the rails of a strengthened ladder frame, and above that is the aluminum body Ford spent so much money launching in 2015. And not only will the CoG be low, it will be further aft, too. Ford may have to pay Easy Spirit a royalty, but it could launch an ad campaign around “Looks like a boot, feels like a sneaker,” and it wouldn’t be lying. There was almost no body roll during moderately paced S-turns on a wide-open proving ground oval, a maneuver in a normal pickup that would make passengers feel like they were on the final voyage of the Golden Ray.
Ford engineers point out that starting lighter with the aluminum body really helped with developing the Lightning and that it’s about 1000 pounds heavier than the gas equivalent, or about 6500 pounds at the curb. But even off-road, on a two-track, there is little sense that the Lightning is dragging around that much heft. The battery case is essentially one giant skidplate that can take fairly significant hits. How hard? Well, if we were going slower, the truck may of high-centered itself, but momentum kept us moving and unstuck. In off-road mode the accelerator mapping gets a bit longer at tip-in, affording the driver a little more control over the pace at low speed.
While it is clear the Lightning isn’t supposed to carry its namesake’s performance torch, it inadvertently might, because of the impressive performance numbers it can generate and the underpinning hardware. When the Lightning goes on sale in about a year, there will be a lot more electric-truck options, from Rivian, GMC, and maybe even Tesla. This truck felt finished. While we’re sure Ford isn’t waiting around for the competition to catch up, the buzz those others are currently making may very well be drowned out by some unobtrusive wind noise.
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