The US’s best-selling vehicle has gone electric: meet the 2021 Ford F-150 Lightning.
Reviving a name last applied to the supercharged V8-powered SVT Lightning of the 1990s and 2000s, the F-150 Lightning will go on sale in the US next year as Ford's rival to the Tesla Cybertruck, Rivian R1T and upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV.
Don’t hold your breath for an Australian launch though, as a factory right-hand-drive conversion program for the F-150 has previously been ruled out.
US buyers will have a choice of two battery options – Standard and Extended Range – paired to dual motors and all-wheel drive as standard.
Standard Range vehicles develop a “targeted” 318kW and 1051Nm, enabling an estimated driving range on the US’s strict EPA test cycle of 370km.
Extended Range models up the output to 420kW and 1051Nm, for 483km of estimated EPA range and a projected 0-60mph (97km/h) sprint time in the “mid four-second range” – though recent comments from US President Joe Biden suggest the benchmark dash could fall around 4.3 or 4.4 seconds.
F-150 Lightning buyers are offered four charging options, with the quickest of the bunch enabling a 15 to 80 per cent charge on a 150kW DC fast charger in 44 minutes with the Standard Range pack, or 41 minutes with the larger Extended Range option.
A 10-minute stint on the same charger can add 66km to the Standard Range battery, or 87km to the Extended Range pack.
15 to 100 per cent recharges on a 48-amp upgraded household socket can be completed in 10 or eight hours for the Standard and Extended Range batteries respectively, thanks to 11.3kW single or 19.2kW dual AC onboard chargers.
The switch to electric power hasn’t had a significant impact on towing capacity, with Ford targeting a 4536kg maximum braked figure with the Extended Range battery and Max Trailer Tow Package equipped.
Payload is rated at up to 907kg, when using the Standard Range battery and 18-inch wheels.
Practicality is aided by a large ‘frunk’ under the bonnet where a petrol engine would usually lie, offering a drain plug for easy cleaning, four electrical outlets, up to 181kg of payload, and 400 litres of capacity – the latter said to be the biggest on the market, and larger than the Ford Focus small car’s boot (with the rear seats upright).
The optional Pro Power Onboard system can feed up to 9.6kW of power to appliances, tools and other electrical items when on the work or camping site, while a new Ford Intelligent Backup Power system claims to be able to power a house for up to three days during a blackout (assuming an average of 30kWh is used per day).
Under the skin, independent suspension features on the rear axle for the first time, while Ford says an upgraded frame helps to support the portly battery pack, with the unit secured thanks to underbody skid plates and a waterproof casing.
Styling differences between the Lightning and the regular F-150 are few in number but significant in effect, headlined by new front and rear lighting signatures with a full-width light bar across the front grille, and tail-lights that stretch into the tailgate.
The front grille has been closed off for aerodynamics, while aerodynamic wheels fill the arches.
Inside, a 15.5-inch vertical touchscreen replaces the petrol-powered F-150’s 12-inch screen on flagship models, powered by Ford’s latest Sync 4A infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, over-the-air software updates, and a physical volume knob shared with the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV.
A 12-inch digital instrument cluster is standard across the range, while other available features include a fold-out interior work table, 180-degree reclining seats, and a drive mode selector to activate Normal, Sport, Off-Road or Tow/Haul settings.
Of interest to work buyers is the combination of Onboard Scales and Intelligent Range functions, which adjust the remaining range estimation in the instrument cluster based on the amount of weight currently in the tray.
A full suite of driver assistance technologies is available, including BlueCruise semi-autonomous driving capabilities allowing the Lightning to accelerate, brake and centre itself within its lane with the driver’s hands off the steering wheel on mapped sections of US freeway.
The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning will go on sale in the US in the northern spring of 2022.
Prices will start from US$39,974 (AU$51,300) for a base, commercial-focused model in the US – just a few thousand dollars more than an entry-level Tesla Model 3, which is priced from around $70,000 drive-away in Australia.
The mid-spec XLT costs from US$52,974 (AU$68,000).