2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Review:Driving Impressions

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | May 11, 2022

Introduction

The Ford F-150 Lightning is a battery-electric version of the full-size pickup that's been the best-selling truck in the United States for the better part of the last half-century. It's also been the best-selling model in the U.S.—car or truck—for more than three decades. By electrifying a version of its best-selling model, Ford stands a better chance to pull more people into an electric vehicle (EV).

From a competitive standpoint, Ford's position as a first-mover among established high-volume domestic producers in the full-size pickup segment is significant. Volume production of the Chevrolet Silverado EV (and the GMC Sierra EV) is nearly two years away, and the electric version of the Ram 1500 is farther out still.

Although it is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit for those buyers who qualify, the F-150 Lightning is no exercise in emissions regulatory compliance. The company is placing big chips on vehicle and battery capacity running in the billions of dollars—bets it fully expects to generate healthy profits from satisfied customers over the next decade and longer.

Recently, I had the opportunity to drive the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning on the city streets and freeways of San Antonio, Texas, as well as the winding ranch roads north of town in Texas hill country.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Price and Release Date

The F-150 Lightning is currently on sale. Including the $1,795 destination charge, the 2022 F-150 Lightning trim level lineup consists of the fleet-oriented, basic $41,769 Pro, volume-model $54,769 XLT, well-equipped $69,269 Lariat, and range-topping $92,669 Platinum.

All F-150 Lightning trims come standard with the SuperCrew 4-door crew cab, 5.5-foot bed, and 4-wheel drive from a pair of electric motors. Although Lightning models run a few to several thousand dollars more than their gas-powered F-150 counterparts, they offer a higher level of standard equipment.

There are two big lithium-ion batteries from which to choose. According to Ford, the standard-range 98-kilowatt-hour unit can deliver up to 230 miles of range. The extended-range battery has 132 kilowatt-hours of juice capable of propelling the Lightning 300 to 320 miles, depending on trim level.

Ford rates the Lightning at a robust 452 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque with the standard-range battery. Upgrading to the extended-range power source boosts horsepower to an exhilarating 580 with the same 775 pound-feet of torque.

Ford says the Lightning can tow up to 7,700 pounds with the standard-range battery and 8,400-10,000 pounds with the extended-range one.

I drove an F-150 Lariat equipped with the 511A package. The package includes 580-hp dual electric motors; the extended-range battery; Ford Charge Station Pro; Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 (with Active Park Assist 2.0, Phone as Key, and Ford BlueCruise); partitioned and lockable fold-flat storage; rain-sensing wipers; power tilt/telescopic steering wheel with memory; heated rear seats; dual-panel moon roof; and Tow Technology package (with forward sensing, a 360-degree camera, ProTrailer reversing assist, a trailer brake controller, smart hitch, onboard scales, trailer reverse guidance, and smart trailer tow connection). Ford also equipped the test truck with 275/60R20 all-terrain tires, a Maximum Trailer Towing package (added cooling for battery and motors), and a spray-in bed liner. The total came to $81,184, including the $1,795 destination charge.

Independent Expert Opinion: Design, Comfort, and Utility

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

If you like the looks of the regular-issue gas-powered F-150, you'll be happy with the F-150 Lightning. The significant differences are the grille, which on the Lightning is a textured, crosshatched facsimile that admits no air into the truck but gives a family resemblance, as well as a translucent light bar capping the grille and headlamps and another light bar connecting the tail lamps across the tailgate. Aside from a few Lightning badges, streamlined hood, LED-lit running boards (except on the base Pro trim), aerodynamic Lightning-specific wheels, and a charge port door on the front fender instead of a gas-filler door at the rear, that's it.

Instead of making an all-new truck from the ground up as Chevrolet is doing with its 2024 Silverado EV, Ford was able to save big money and time by adapting most of the existing gas-powered F-150's aluminum sheet metal and bodywork to Lightning EV duty. Same with the interior, where Lightning buyers will notice a familiar F-150 layout. The big difference is the Lightning's flatter floor for rear-seat occupants because there's no center tunnel for a driveshaft, exhaust pipes, and fuel lines.

Storage in the F-150 Lightning is in abundance. In addition to a large center console, there are two gloveboxes, a large tilt-out lower bin with interior shelving, and a smaller upper box with a flip-up door, handy for accessing smaller items more quickly. In the XLT, Lariat, and Platinum, there's also a flip-down work surface atop the center console that's great for working on a laptop or grabbing some lunch. Also, in XLT, Lariat, and Platinum trims, the 60/40 split rear bench bottom cushion flips up to access storage bins for carrying tools and stuff you want to keep close but not rolling around. It's lockable in the Platinum trim.

With no engine under the hood, Ford's front trunk—the Mega Power Frunk—offers considerable storage and convenience. It can hold 14.1 cubic feet of stuff and tote up to 400 pounds, so owners can now stow toolboxes and other heavy gear that used to live in a cargo box accessory in the bed under lock and key, out of sight, and right at waist height for easy lifting. Ford designed the frunk to accommodate golf clubs. The frunk lid is power-operated with the push of a button and offers four 120-volt outlets to power accessories and power tools.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

There are two infotainment systems available in the new F-150 Lightning: a 12-inch horizontal touchscreen adapted from the gas-powered F-150 in Lightning Pro and XLT trims, and a free-standing 15.5-inch vertical one (similar to that in the Mustang Mach-E) in Lariat and Platinum trims. The 12-inch unit is a Sync 4 system with traditional rotary analog volume and tuning knobs beneath the screen. In contrast, the larger one with a vertical screen is a Sync 4A system with a single volume knob with on-screen arrows for tuning. Both also feature steering wheel and voice controls. You can't upgrade from the 12-inch to the 15.5-inch system in the Lightning Pro or XLT.

Both systems offer wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring, connected (to the cloud) navigation (free for the first three years of ownership), and enhanced voice recognition that recognizes natural speech (and successfully so in several attempts to make calls from a paired Android phone and getting directions to destinations). The connected navigation reverts to regular embedded navigation after the 3-year trial if the owner doesn't sign up for a Ford Pass account.

With the large screen, recently opened or visited functions such as audio, navigation, and cellphone mirroring appear in large tiles at the bottom of the screen and are easy to call up with a single click without pushing the "back" button numerous times. The large screen also incorporates climate control functions that are separate, traditional hard buttons and knobs when equipped with the smaller 12-inch screen, so the amount of screen space available for navigation maps isn't that much greater in the larger 15.5-inch vertical screen.

Ford Pass Connect with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi in-cab hotspot for up to 10 devices is standard.

A simple 6-speaker AM/FM stereo in the Lightning Pro adds SiriusXM 360L for a Pandora-like genre-centric experience in the Lightning XLT. Moving up to the Lariat trim adds an 8-speaker B&O sound system with HD Radio. Platinum trim elevates to the immersive B&O Unleashed premium sound system with 18 speakers.

The Lightning incorporates the latest and greatest of Ford's driver-assistive technology. Even the commercial-oriented Pro trim gets a generous helping of standard Ford Co-Pilot 360 2.0 advanced driving assistance systems. These include blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, automatic high-beam headlights, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency brakinglane-keeping assistance, reverse sensing, and a reversing camera.

Moving up to the XLT nets buyers a 360-degree camera and forward sensing. The Lariat adds as standard Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist 2.0 and with it, adaptive cruise control, lane-centering assistance, speed sign recognition, evasive steering assistance, and intersection turn assistance. Platinum trim brings standard hands-free Ford BlueCruise, automatic parking assist, and Phone as Key.

Of all this technology, the reversing camera (360-degree on all but the base Pro trim) and blind-spot warning proved the most useful in two half-days of driving. Notably, Ford's blind-spot warning system works with most trailers, giving drivers towing trailers through heavy traffic another set of "eyes" where they're needed.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Red Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

At first, it's challenging to get your head dialed into a truck with obvious cargo, payload, and towing abilities that is also such a performance machine. With the standard-range battery and 452-hp EV motors, the truck can accelerate from rest to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds. Upgrading to the extended-range battery and 580-hp EV motors nets a zero-to-60-mph time under 4.5 seconds, which means a Lightning so equipped will smoke an F-150 Raptor from rest to 60 mph.

Those are giddy performance stats for a workhorse truck that weighs between 6,200 and 7,000 pounds—empty! If you dare, turn off the traction control, and it's easy to spin the tires at will. Adding the maximum-rated payload of 1,850-2,235 pounds to the bed has little effect on the sensation of performance. Towing a trailer loaded up to 9,500 pounds had a similar result, with a quick jab of the accelerator and the Lightning's instantly available 775 pound-feet of torque spinning the rear tires before the traction control intervened.

But as big and powerful as the F-150 Lightning is, it's easy to drive. The large, underfloor battery adds up to 1,600 pounds, but the weight is carried low in the chassis, giving a low-center-of-gravity feel. Gone is the jiggly, jouncy, choppy feel of full-size pickups of yore, even though the Lightning still uses body-on-frame construction, albeit a thicker frame, fully boxed, and made from high-strength steel.

The Lightning is the first full-size Ford pickup with independent rear suspension. Ride motions with the fully independent suspension and big battery are subdued and relaxed, even though no fancy adaptive dampers or optional air suspension upgrades are available.

The Lightning is quiet, too, and even though the masking sound of an internal combustion engine is gone, road sizzle from the tires and air rush sounds inside the cabin at speed are commendably low. There's no whirring from the electric motors, but buyers who long for some sort of powertrain sound can select a speed-dependent Star Trek-like impulse propulsion sound in the vehicle settings menu.

One positive side effect of eliminating the heavy, front-mounted engine and transmission is a near-ideal weight distribution balance of 50 percent front and 50 percent rear. This coveted specification, long a calling card of the BMW brand, helps make the big pickup more tossable, with less understeer on curvy roads, allowing each of the Lightning's four tires to carry out their traction mission in a balanced fashion.

Again, this is a big, heavy truck, but the Lightning's upgraded 4-wheel disc brakes are up to the challenge. As with all-electric vehicles, regenerative braking both extends the range and helps reduce the thermal load on the mechanical brakes. Selecting maximum regenerative braking in the Lightning's vehicle settings enables one-pedal driving under most circumstances. Also, it takes some of the angst out of reaching for the brake pedal when traffic ahead slows abruptly and suddenly.

Ford optioned the Lightning test truck with its semi-autonomous, hands-free BlueCruise system. This worked as advertised on the freeways around San Antonio, even when traffic got thicker during rush-hour driving. The Ford system doesn't have the fancy steering wheel rim that lights up to indicate system status as with Cadillac’s Super Cruise. However, it does indicate in large letters in the driver display when the system is ready for hands-free operation. This occurs mostly on previously mapped freeways, interstates, and other limited-access highways in North America with coordinates entered into the truck's system.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

As with other gas- and diesel-powered F-150 pickups, the Lightning can do big jobs, but the new EV pickup does so quietly and efficiently and with brilliant acceleration when called upon. More importantly, the Lightning can fundamentally change how a buyer uses their pickup: as a home power source during a blackout, a rescue vehicle for another EV with a depleted battery, or a power station for all manner of tailgate parties, camping, or worksite electrical needs.

Easy to drive and live with, Ford's F-150 Lightning takes EV pickups out of the science-experiment stage into the mainstream, forging new ways buyers can support their livelihoods and enhance their lives.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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