The brand new electrical F-150 Lightning is a huge deal for Ford and, truly, for the automobile business at massive. The F-150 has been the bestselling car in The usa for over 40 years now, which means that an EV F-150 is a huge step towards electrifying vehicles, length.
However it’s basically a large step for Ford, which is abruptly present process an enormous transformation into an electrical automotive maker. Ford CEO Jim Farley lately restructured the corporate into two divisions: Ford Blue, which can center of attention on gas-powered vehicles, and Ford Type E, which shall be led by way of ex-Apple and Tesla exec Doug Box and expand EVs and device. Farley is chopping jobs from the fuel department and making an investment within the EV department; it’s no secret the place he thinks the long run lies.
However there are a large number of steps from right here to there, and Ford nonetheless has to deal with probably the most fundamentals, like increasing the charging community for the Lightning and Mustang Mach-E so it may compete with the Tesla Supercharger community. It’s additionally totally resetting its device technique in a partnership with Google, with a large transition to Android Car and Google services and products coming one day. And, in fact, there’s the little drawback of convincing American truck consumers that an electrical F-150 remains to be… an F-150.
Fortunately, the F-150 Lightning is an ideal F-150 — and an ideal truck. If you’ll be able to in finding one to shop for for an inexpensive value and also you’ve were given a deal with on charging for the way you’ll use it, it’s obviously a better option than a gas-powered truck.
However the Lightning isn’t with out its problems — Ford can’t make sufficient to satisfy call for, simply raised costs, and remains to be seeking to get sellers to prevent marking to be had devices up by way of tens of 1000’s of greenbacks. After which there’s the device. This can be a very speedy truck that also is a maddeningly gradual pc.
I communicate to a large number of automotive CEOs on the Decoder podcast, and there’s a large concept that comes up constantly in all of the ones conversations: the perception that vehicles are changing into smartphones on wheels. Ford’s Farley used to be particular about it in his final Decoder look, pronouncing that his objective used to be “a completely networked car… such as you mentioned, a pc on wheels.”
Reviewing the Lightning like a pc on wheels makes it transparent that whilst there may well be a large number of code in trendy vehicles, there nonetheless isn’t a large number of thought of what makes a perfect person revel in for a rolling pc. The Lightning is in many ways a blinding technical success — a competent industrially produced EV pickup truck that says 300 miles of differ and acceleration that permit me stay alongside of a brand new Corvette Stingray in an impromptu freeway showdown — but in addition a stopgap as Ford resets its complete device technique round Android in partnership with Google.
That new Android-based device isn’t transport on any Ford automobiles till someday subsequent yr, despite the fact that, and most certainly no longer in this technology of F-150s in any respect. That suggests, for now, we’re taking a look at Ford Sync, which, neatly, it’s Ford Sync. Common F-150s have a 12-inch panorama middle display working Ford Sync 4; the Mustang Mach-E and the Lightning have a fifteen.5-inch portrait middle display working Sync 4A, which is equal to Sync 4 with the addition of touchscreen local weather controls and widgets that fill out the vertical top of the show.
The result’s that the device revel in of the Lightning regularly feels trapped up to now, and not using a transparent trail to the long run as a result of Ford’s actual device efforts lie somewhere else. The software cluster options the similar cryptic icons and basic menu structure Ford has utilized in its vehicles ceaselessly. That vast portrait infotainment display is woefully underutilized and the menu structure can really feel like a randomly generated maze and not using a vacation spot. (I’m critical: the highest two menu panels are classified “Controls” and “Settings” however then the displays for person tabs below “Controls” have buttons classified “Settings,” as despite the fact that Ford’s designers all attended a seminar in regards to the relative and evolving nature of all language.)
The display is laid out into 4 zones: there’s a menu bar space; what it’s possible you’ll name the app window; the ones widgets; after which the local weather controls. When you get started the usage of Sync 4A within the Lightning, you briefly stumble upon two primary problems: one, the entire thing can really feel extraordinarily gradual; and two, the display is wildly underused in comparison to how giant it’s. You’ll do something at a time at the 15.5-inch display, and that’s truly it. There are oceans of pixels right here, however for some explanation why, you’ll be able to’t have the map and the radio open on the identical time.
There’s a snappy motion button to navigate again house at the map widget, however it simply opens the map app full-screen, defeating the aim of the widget fully. I’d like to have CarPlay open to deal with my telephone and messaging along the radio, however that’s no longer imaginable, even supposing the show is obviously sufficiently big to turn each directly.
All of this is made worse by way of how gradual the whole lot is. Switching between the radio and the map or the map and CarPlay is… gradual. Swiping alongside the playing cards is beautiful gradual. The show can be responsive, and the video games are indisputably playable, however in maximum cases, it’s simply gradual.
That is the purpose in any automotive evaluation the place many of us are already drafting emails to me about simply the usage of CarPlay or Android Auto as an alternative of the inventory device, however pals, CarPlay and Android Auto are no longer just right at serving to EV homeowners navigate charging. If you wish to plot out a path with correct differ estimates and an efficient charging technique, it’s important to use the integrated nav — particularly since Ford has taken the time to arrange charging stations by way of velocity, and looking for 150kW speedy chargers is a very powerful a part of the Lightning revel in for the reason that battery is so giant. Apple and Google are some distance at the back of in this entrance.
All of this slowness isn’t thus far out of doors of the world of auto device studies that it’s a deal-breaker, however Ford’s insistence on the usage of touchscreen local weather controls within the Lightning is an actual leave out. To start with, there aren’t any just right touchscreen local weather controls on any automotive; buttons are all the time higher. 2nd, Ford’s personal gas-powered F-150s have bodily buttons under the display for the local weather controls, as does the bottom XLT Lightning and the fleet-oriented Lightning Professional paintings truck. The issue used to be already solved, however Ford has taken just right and speedy buttons and changed them with a gradual and distracting contact interface this is fancy for the sake of being fancy.
Switching at the seat warmers calls for more than one faucets and swipes. There’s a slider keep an eye on to switch the fan velocity. Converting which vents are energetic opens an in depth render of the truck’s inner, which isn’t all that helpful. Different F-150s permit you to regulate all of this stuff with arduous buttons, which might be hugely more effective to make use of.
It’s the similar with the quite a lot of cameras. My very own past due fashion F-150 has a difficult button above the display to open the cameras, which I exploit all the time to park in tight spots and normally navigate the item, however at the Lightning, opening the cameras takes a couple of faucets at the display. And after you have the cameras open, the menu to modify between them assists in keeping remaining itself for some explanation why, even supposing there’s a variety of room at the show to simply keep open at all times.
I will be able to stay going. The menu bar on the best of the infotainment display is plagued by unlabeled standing icons, like an unloved Android telephone. Striking your telephone at the wi-fi charger reasons a telephone icon to seem within the menubar with none transparent indication of what it represents. And the usage of the superb driver-assistance techniques is an workout in working out knowledge the truck doesn’t appear occupied with telling you.
Ford’s complete suite of driver-assistance tech is named “BlueCruise,” which is deeply complicated as it implies that the whole lot from dull previous cruise keep an eye on to full-on hands-free using is technically “BlueCruise.” Whilst you activate adaptive cruise keep an eye on with energetic lane lend a hand and it feels just like the truck is using down the freeway in hands-free mode, that’s BlueCruise, even supposing it unhappily beeps at you if you are taking your arms off the wheel for quite a lot of seconds. Complete hands-free using is simplest to be had on primary highways mapped by way of Ford; the map is quite complete at this level.
However as it’s all known as “BlueCruise,” not anything within the Lightning tells you which ones explicit functions are if truth be told to be had at any explicit second; it simply says “BlueCruise.” To determine it out, you simply have to modify at the cruise keep an eye on and spot if the little “hands-free” icon seems. I needed to e-mail Ford to elucidate all of those quite a lot of modes; not anything at the huge 12-inch software cluster or the middle display truly made any of them transparent.
All that mentioned, the hands-free using gadget works nice when it’s to be had. I used it for 2 300-mile street journeys, and the gadget is assured and secure and normally made me wish to get a Lightning in an instant.
Glance, a few of this is sensible — converting how an iconic car works is hard to do, and the brand new pc simulating portions of the previous gadget to ease generations of F-150 homeowners into the long run is a protected trail. However maximum of it appears like Ford didn’t know what to do with the large quantity of display actual property within the Lightning, so it selected to not do very a lot in any respect.
Annoyances with the device apart, the Lightning is differently an ideal EV and a perfect truck. I did a number of truck stuff with it, together with hauling our trash to the unload, and it treated all of it with aplomb. In day by day use, it acts identical to a typical F-150, which is superb.
However press the pedal down, and it strikes. That is one of the crucial quickest manufacturing vehicles ever made: the respectable 0 to 60mph time is 4.3 seconds and Automotive and Motive force examined it at simply 4. That’s quicker than my F-150 Raptor and sufficient to overcome the ridiculous 700-horsepower Ram TRX in some checks. The one constantly quicker truck is the Rivian R1T, which will move from 0 to 60mph in 3 seconds.
My Raptor is a huge truck that may move speedy, however the Lightning is one thing else. It has that speedy, easy EV torque regardless of how briskly you’re going with not one of the downshifts or drama of a fuel truck. Riding a typical EV is a a laugh exchange from common vehicles, however using the Lightning is a big exchange from different vehicles: issues this giant don’t generally transfer this briefly, and the large battery and decrease middle of gravity blended with the impartial rear suspension stay it planted even over tough bumps that make the rear finish of my truck leap far and wide. It needs to be one of the crucial best full-size pickups on the planet to power, and you’ll be able to smoke any person in need of pricey sports activities vehicles and different speedy EVs principally on every occasion you wish to have. I like it.
After all, gunning the Lightning everywhere the town eats up differ, and that implies it’s important to handle charging, each at house and out within the wild. You completely desire a Stage 2 charger at house with the Lightning for the reason that battery is very large and seeking to payment it with a normal 110 outlet netted not up to one mile of differ consistent with hour, which would possibly as neatly be not anything.
Prolonged-range Lightnings like our evaluation unit include Ford’s 80-amp Fee Station Professional, which calls for skilled set up and permits the Lightning to function a backup energy supply for your own home in case of a blackout, however since I simplest had the item every week, I simply plugged Ford’s 30-amp shuttle charger into my 240-volt dryer outlet and it charged simply wonderful in a single day, at round 15 miles of differ an hour. Plugged right into a 150kW DC speedy charger, Ford says you’ll be able to move from 15 to 80 p.c in 41 mins. The truck maxes out at 155kW, so attempting to find the uncommon 350kW charger isn’t truly price it.
At one hundred pc payment, the Lightning stories its differ at 325 miles, however that quantity briefly drops as you power round, particularly the place I are living within the mountains. You’ll plan journeys within the FordPass cell app and ship them to the integrated nav, which can plot out chargers alongside your path. The ones charging stops are locked in while you set a path; it will be great if the gadget would come up with extra choices alongside the best way.
Charging at the street is most commonly treated thru Ford’s app and charging community; the corporate has been construction out its community for the reason that Mach-E got here out final yr, and issues are making improvements to however nonetheless from time to time spotty. You’ll type to be had chargers by way of charging velocity within the app and at the integrated nav. Chargers within the Ford community can also be activated to your telephone however no longer within the truck for some explanation why. Importantly, I had no issues the usage of plug-and-charge at supported stations, which routinely turns on a charger and handles billing simply by plugging in. And, in fact, you’ll be able to simply pay with a bank card if you wish to have. And whilst I charged at a number of Electrify The usa stations that labored neatly, there have been the standard damaged chargers and system faults in getting issues began. There’s nonetheless an extended technique to move, however issues have began making improvements to in significant techniques since we reviewed the Mach-E.
One of the most giant benefits and downsides for Ford is that it already makes and sells a large number of F-150s, and it may stay the prices of Lightning down by way of the usage of a large number of F-150 portions in it. Ford doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel: the Lightning makes use of the F-150 guidance wheel. The seats are simply the F-150 seats. The wipers have already been designed.
All that phase reuse method Ford can theoretically stay the prices of the Lightning down because it’s already scaled manufacturing approach up. However batteries are nonetheless arduous to supply, and the corporate simply reopened orders with newly raised costs to account for the availability problems. The bottom Lightning Professional that’s designed to be a piece truck now begins at $46,974. The XLT trim, which is the bottom client fashion, begins at $59,474. Our evaluation unit is a among the finest Platinum, which has each luxurious choice you’ll be able to recall to mind and a decal value of $96,874, which is $20,000 greater than a in a similar fashion optioned fuel F-150 Platinum. The ones are Ford’s costs, despite the fact that; sellers were marking Lightnings approach as much as $150,000 and extra.
That’s if truth be told the most important drawback with the Lightning: it’s kind of not possible to shop for. Whilst some consumers are beginning to get their early preorders and Ford is ramping up manufacturing as speedy as it may, Farley advised me that the corporate gained’t be capable to construct sufficient Lightnings to fill all the preorders, let on my own meet call for. The objective is to construct 150,000 Lightnings a yr, however at this time, there simply aren’t sufficient batteries to get there. Ford is making an investment in battery vegetation, increasing the Lightning manufacturing facility, and hiring extra folks, however it’s all simply going to take time.
Till then, both you’re caught ready at the preorder checklist till subsequent yr otherwise you’re combating it out with sellers. Ford’s seeking to get all of the ones sellers again in line, however there’s a large number of historical past there and a large number of demanding situations alongside the best way. But when the Lightning goes to if truth be told be as essential of an EV accurately, Ford’s were given to determine all of that out.
After all, there’s two techniques to have a look at the Lightning. First, it’s an ideal electrical F-150 that can ease a large number of truck homeowners into an EV. And in that approach, it’s an enormous good fortune. If I may if truth be told in finding one to shop for for an inexpensive value, I’d business in my gas-powered F-150, problems with the device apart. (I’d plan to in an instant business it in once more as soon as the model with Android-based Sync comes out, despite the fact that.)
However that device issues to Ford’s larger problem, which is that the Lightning every now and then feels stuck between two worlds. At this time, it’s very a lot a truck with a gradual pill in it. Letting this factor truly be a pc on wheels would take the Lightning from truly just right to traditionally nice.