Ford F-150 Lightning overview: quick truck, sluggish pc

The brand new electrical F-150 Lightning is an enormous deal for Ford and, actually, for the automotive trade at giant. The F-150 has been the bestselling automobile in America for over 40 years now, which implies an EV F-150 is an enormous step towards electrifying vehicles, interval.

Nevertheless it’s primarily an enormous step for Ford, which is quickly present process an enormous transformation into an electrical automotive maker. Ford CEO Jim Farley not too long ago restructured the corporate into two divisions: Ford Blue, which can give attention to gas-powered vehicles, and Ford Mannequin E, which will likely be led by ex-Apple and Tesla exec Doug Area and develop EVs and software program. Farley is slicing jobs from the fuel division and investing within the EV division; it’s no secret the place he thinks the long run lies.

However there are quite a lot of steps from right here to there, and Ford nonetheless has to deal with a number of the fundamentals, like increasing the charging community for the Lightning and Mustang Mach-E so it may well compete with the Tesla Supercharger community. It’s additionally utterly resetting its software program technique in a partnership with Google, with an enormous transition to Android Automotive and Google providers coming sooner or later. And, in fact, there’s the little downside of convincing American truck consumers that an electrical F-150 continues to be… an F-150.

Fortunately, the F-150 Lightning is a terrific F-150 — and a terrific truck. If you’ll find one to purchase for an inexpensive worth and also you’ve bought a deal with on charging for the way you’ll use it, it’s clearly a more sensible choice than a gas-powered truck.

However the Lightning just isn’t with out its points — Ford can’t make sufficient to satisfy demand, simply raised costs, and continues to be making an attempt to get sellers to cease marking out there models up by tens of hundreds of {dollars}. After which there’s the software program. It is a very quick truck that can also be a maddeningly sluggish pc.

The F-150 Lightning infotainment screen

The Lightning show can routinely swap between darkish and light-weight mode, which is good.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

I discuss to quite a lot of automotive CEOs on the Decoder podcast, and there’s an enormous concept that comes up constantly in all of these conversations: the notion that vehicles have gotten smartphones on wheels. Ford’s Farley was specific about it in his final Decoder look, saying that his aim was “a totally networked automobile… such as you mentioned, a pc on wheels.”

Reviewing the Lightning like a pc on wheels makes it clear that whereas there is likely to be quite a lot of code in fashionable vehicles, there nonetheless isn’t quite a lot of considered what makes an excellent person expertise for a rolling pc. The Lightning is in some methods a blinding technical achievement — a dependable mass-produced EV pickup truck that claims 300 miles of vary and acceleration that permit me sustain with a brand new Corvette Stingray in an impromptu freeway showdown — but in addition a stopgap as Ford resets its whole software program technique round Android in partnership with Google.

That new Android-based software program isn’t delivery on any Ford autos till someday subsequent yr, although, and doubtless not on this era of F-150s in any respect. Which means, for now, we’re taking a look at Ford Sync, which, effectively, 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 15.5-inch portrait middle display working Sync 4A, which is similar as 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 software program expertise of the Lightning usually feels trapped up to now, with no clear path to the long run as a result of Ford’s actual software program efforts lie elsewhere. The instrument cluster options the identical cryptic icons and basic menu format Ford has utilized in its vehicles endlessly. That vast portrait infotainment display is woefully underutilized and the menu format can really feel like a randomly generated maze with no vacation spot. (I’m severe: the highest two menu panels are labeled “Controls” and “Settings” however then the screens for particular person tabs below “Controls” have buttons labeled “Settings,” as if Ford’s designers all attended a seminar concerning the relative and evolving nature of all language.)

The display is laid out into 4 zones: there’s a menu bar space; what you would possibly name the app window; these widgets; after which the local weather controls. When you begin utilizing Sync 4A within the Lightning, you shortly encounter two important points: one, the entire thing can really feel extraordinarily sluggish; and two, the display is wildly underused in comparison with how large it’s. You are able to do one factor at a time on the 15.5-inch display, and that’s actually it. There are oceans of pixels right here, however for some purpose, you possibly can’t have the map and the radio open on the identical time.

The F150 Lightning flag badge with lightning bolt

If anybody needs to write down a narrative about how blue changed inexperienced because the symbolic EV shade, hit me up.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

There’s a fast motion button to navigate again residence on the map widget, but it surely simply opens the map app full-screen, defeating the aim of the widget solely. I’d like to have CarPlay open to deal with my cellphone and messaging alongside the radio, however that’s not attainable, although the show is clearly large enough to point out each without delay.

All of that’s made worse by how sluggish all the things is. Switching between the radio and the map or the map and CarPlay is… sluggish. Swiping alongside the playing cards is fairly sluggish. The show can be responsive, and the video games are definitely playable, however in most situations, it’s simply sluggish.

That is the purpose in any automotive overview the place many individuals are already drafting emails to me about simply utilizing CarPlay or Android Auto as a substitute of the inventory software program, however pals, CarPlay and Android Auto are not good at serving to EV house owners navigate charging. If you wish to plot out a route with correct vary estimates and an efficient charging technique, you must use the built-in nav — particularly since Ford has taken the time to prepare charging stations by velocity, and in search of out 150kW quick chargers is a vital a part of the Lightning expertise as a result of the battery is so large. Apple and Google are a great distance behind on this entrance.

All of this slowness isn’t to date outdoors of the realm of automotive software program experiences that it’s a deal-breaker, however Ford’s insistence on utilizing touchscreen local weather controls within the Lightning is an actual miss. To begin with, there are not any good touchscreen local weather controls on any automotive; buttons are at all times higher. Second, Ford’s personal gas-powered F-150s have bodily buttons beneath the display for the local weather controls, as does the bottom XLT Lightning and the fleet-oriented Lightning Professional work truck. The issue was already solved, however Ford has taken good and quick buttons and changed them with a sluggish and distracting contact interface that’s fancy for the sake of being fancy.

Switching on the seat heaters requires a number of faucets and swipes. There’s a slider management to alter the fan velocity. Altering which vents are energetic opens an in depth render of the truck’s inside, which isn’t all that helpful. Different F-150s allow you to regulate all of this stuff with arduous buttons, that are vastly less complicated to make use of.

The F-150 Lightning’s touchscreen climate controls

Touchscreen local weather controls are dangerous.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

It’s the identical with the varied cameras. My very own late mannequin F-150 has a tough button above the display to open the cameras, which I take advantage of the entire time to park in tight spots and usually navigate the factor, however on the Lightning, opening the cameras takes a number of faucets on the display. And upon getting the cameras open, the menu to change between them retains closing itself for some purpose, although there’s loads of room on the show to simply keep open on a regular basis.

I can maintain going. The menu bar on the high of the infotainment display is affected by unlabeled standing icons, like an unloved Android cellphone. Putting your cellphone on the wi-fi charger causes a cellphone icon to seem within the menubar with none clear indication of what it represents. And utilizing the superb driver-assistance methods is an train in determining info the truck doesn’t appear curious about telling you.

Ford’s whole suite of driver-assistance tech known as “BlueCruise,” which is deeply complicated as a result of it implies that all the things from boring previous cruise management to full-on hands-free driving is technically “BlueCruise.” Once you activate adaptive cruise management with energetic lane help and it feels just like the truck is driving down the freeway in hands-free mode, that’s BlueCruise, although it unhappily beeps at you if you happen to take your fingers off the wheel for various seconds. Full hands-free driving is simply out there on main highways mapped by Ford; the map is pretty complete at this level.

However as a result of it’s all known as “BlueCruise,” nothing within the Lightning tells you which ones particular capabilities are truly out there at any specific second; it simply says “BlueCruise.” To determine it out, you simply have to change on the cruise management and see if the little “hands-free” icon seems. I needed to e-mail Ford to make clear all of those numerous modes; nothing on the huge 12-inch instrument cluster or the middle display actually made any of them clear.

All that mentioned, the hands-free driving system works nice when it’s out there. I used it for 2 300-mile street journeys, and the system is assured and regular and usually made me need to get a Lightning instantly.

Look, a few of this is sensible — altering how an iconic automobile works is hard to do, and the brand new pc simulating elements of the previous system to ease generations of F-150 house owners into the long run is a secure path. However most of it seems like Ford didn’t know what to do with the huge quantity of display actual property within the Lightning, so it selected to not do very a lot in any respect.

Sure, I drove a $96,000 overview unit to the dump.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

Annoyances with the software program apart, the Lightning is in any other case a terrific EV and an excellent truck. I did a bunch of truck stuff with it, together with hauling our trash to the dump, and it dealt with all of it with aplomb. In day-to-day use, it acts similar to an everyday F-150, which is nice.

However press the pedal down, and it strikes. That is one of the fastest production trucks ever made: the official zero to 60mph time is 4.3 seconds and Car and Driver tested it at just 4. That’s sooner than my F-150 Raptor and sufficient to beat the ridiculous 700-horsepower Ram TRX in some tests. The one constantly sooner truck is the Rivian R1T, which may go from zero to 60mph in 3 seconds.

My Raptor is an enormous truck that may go quick, however the Lightning is one thing else. It has that instantaneous, easy EV torque irrespective of how briskly you’re going with not one of the downshifts or drama of a fuel truck. Driving an everyday EV is a enjoyable change from common vehicles, however driving the Lightning is a big change from different vehicles: issues this large don’t normally transfer this shortly, and the large battery and decrease middle of gravity mixed with the impartial rear suspension maintain it planted even over tough bumps that make the rear finish of my truck bounce far and wide. It needs to be one of many best full-size pickups on the planet to drive, and you may smoke anybody in need of costly sports activities vehicles and different quick EVs mainly everytime you need. I like it.

The F150 Lightning charging

Plug-and-charge labored nice at Electrify America stations.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

In fact, gunning the Lightning throughout city eats up vary, and which means you must cope with charging, each at residence and out within the wild. You completely want a Degree 2 charger at residence with the Lightning because the battery is large and making an attempt to cost it with a regular 110 outlet netted lower than one mile of vary per hour, which could as effectively be nothing.

Prolonged-range Lightnings like our overview unit include Ford’s 80-amp Cost Station Professional, which requires skilled set up and permits the Lightning to function a backup energy supply to your residence in case of a blackout, however since I solely had the factor every week, I simply plugged Ford’s 30-amp journey charger into my 240-volt dryer outlet and it charged simply wonderful in a single day, at round 15 miles of vary an hour. Plugged right into a 150kW DC quick charger, Ford says you possibly can go from 15 to 80 p.c in 41 minutes. The truck maxes out at 155kW, so attempting to find the uncommon 350kW charger isn’t actually price it.

At 100% cost, the Lightning experiences its vary at 325 miles, however that quantity shortly drops as you drive round, particularly the place I reside within the mountains. You may plan journeys within the FordPass cellular app and ship them to the built-in nav, which can plot out chargers alongside your route. These charging stops are locked in when you set a route; it could be good if the system would offer you extra choices alongside the way in which.

Charging on the street is usually dealt with by Ford’s app and charging community; the corporate has been constructing out its community because the Mach-E got here out final yr, and issues are bettering however nonetheless often spotty. You may kind out there chargers by charging velocity within the app and on the built-in nav. Chargers within the Ford community may be activated in your cellphone however not within the truck for some purpose. Importantly, I had no issues utilizing plug-and-charge at supported stations, which routinely prompts a charger and handles billing simply by plugging in. And, in fact, you possibly can simply pay with a bank card if you need. And whereas I charged at a number of Electrify America stations that labored effectively, there have been the same old damaged chargers and glitches in getting issues began. There’s nonetheless an extended strategy to go, however issues have began bettering in significant methods since we reviewed the Mach-E.

The F150 Lightning front truck open at an airport

Having an enormous frunk in a pickup truck is extremely helpful.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

One of many large benefits and downsides for Ford is that it already makes and sells quite a lot of F-150s, and it may well maintain the prices of Lightning down through the use of quite a lot of F-150 elements in it. Ford doesn’t should reinvent the wheel: the Lightning makes use of the F-150 steering wheel. The seats are simply the F-150 seats. The wipers have already been designed.

All that half reuse means Ford can theoretically maintain the prices of the Lightning down because it’s already scaled manufacturing manner up. However batteries are nonetheless arduous to supply, and the corporate simply reopened orders with newly raised costs to account for the availability points. The bottom Lightning Professional that’s designed to be a piece truck now begins at $46,974. The XLT trim, which is the bottom shopper mannequin, begins at $59,474. Our overview unit is a top-of-the-line Platinum, which has each luxurious possibility you possibly can consider and a sticker worth of $96,874, which is $20,000 greater than a equally optioned fuel F-150 Platinum. These are Ford’s costs, although; sellers have been marking Lightnings manner as much as $150,000 and extra.

That’s truly the most important downside with the Lightning: it’s roughly unimaginable to purchase. Whereas some prospects are beginning to get their early preorders and Ford is ramping up manufacturing as quick as it may well, Farley instructed me that the corporate gained’t be capable to construct sufficient Lightnings to fill the entire preorders, not to mention meet demand. The aim is to construct 150,000 Lightnings a yr, however proper now, there simply aren’t sufficient batteries to get there. Ford is investing in battery vegetation, increasing the Lightning manufacturing facility, and hiring extra folks, but it surely’s all simply going to take time.

Till then, both you’re caught ready on the preorder listing till subsequent yr otherwise you’re combating it out with sellers. Ford’s making an attempt to get all of these sellers again in line, however there’s quite a lot of historical past there and quite a lot of challenges alongside the way in which. But when the Lightning goes to truly be as necessary of an EV accurately, Ford’s bought to determine all of that out.

The F150 Lightning on a gravel road

My Raptor seems to be meaner, however the Lightning can depart it within the mud.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Ultimately, there’s two methods to take a look at the Lightning. First, it’s a terrific electrical F-150 that may ease quite a lot of truck house owners into an EV. And in that manner, it’s an enormous success. If I might truly discover one to purchase for an inexpensive worth, I’d commerce in my gas-powered F-150, points with the software program apart. (I might plan to instantly commerce it in once more as soon as the model with Android-based Sync comes out, although.)

However that software program factors to Ford’s larger problem, which is that the Lightning typically feels caught between two worlds. Proper now, it’s very a lot a truck with a sluggish pill in it. Letting this factor actually be a pc on wheels would take the Lightning from actually good to traditionally nice.