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2022 Ford F-150 Lightning first drive review: Denis Leary would approve

For what seemed like the longest time, Ford employed Denis Leary to provide the voice-over for its commercials. Some of them were quite memorable, and his name became synonymous with Ford F-Series and work.

Today, the F-Series looks a bit different. Especially with the F-150, which now comes in an all electric version called Lightning. Would Leary want his work truck to be powered by electrons? After spending some time in the new Lightning of various trim levels, we think it’d be the one he’d want.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning comes standard with all wheel drive, a slightly modified steel frame from normal F-150s, and a common cab with the rest of the F-Series lineup. The difference is the power is sent to each axle via an electric motor instead of a drive shaft.

Those electric motors are attached to a lithium ion battery pack. Standard range versions of the truck, good for 230 miles of range, have a 98 kWh usable battery pack that helps deliver 452 horsepower and 775 lb-ft of torque. Which is a lot.

Upgrading to the 131 kWh usable pack increases range to 320 miles — 300 miles on Platinum trims — and 580 horsepower. Torque remains the same.

When properly equipped, a Lightning can tow 10,000 pounds and carry a usable payload of 2,235 pounds. Those numbers, for those unfamiliar, are very similar to what most specs of the gas-powered F-150s achieve.

That’s where the Lightning is magical; it’s a F-150. When you walk into a showroom to order a truck — when order banks reopen anyway — you just say “I want the electric one.” Options are very similar. Features are nearly identical. If you have an F-150 now you’ll feel right at home in the Lightning.

The biggest change to the Lightning, aside from the battery power, is that the Lightning gets an independent rear suspension. That change means that the Lightning rides the best of any F-Series truck we’ve ever driven (and in a previous life, this author has driven them all).

At the entry level, Ford replaced the XL trim with a trim called Pro. All Pro models at a 12.1-inch Sync4 infotainment system lifted straight from the high-end gas F-150s. The system includes wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

The Pro gets a full digital instrument cluster. The Pro gets LED headlights and taillights. The Pro gets a version of the onboard generator as standard.

The vinyl seats are super comfortable, and while you get vinyl flooring instead of carpet, we actually prefer it on a work truck.

Optional extras include onboard scales and a surround view camera system, plus some other things. But basically everything you ever could want out of a pickup truck comes standard on Lightning Pro.

Moving up to XLT opens the door for more creature comforts, leather seats, and so on. Lariat trims open the door for even more features, and the Platinum model is a fully loaded powerhouse.

Some features you might want to upgrade for is a longer range battery (the long range battery is only available for fleet buyers for the Pro trim), the Max Recline seats, ventilated seats, and an even larger 15.5-inch infotainment system that is similar to the one in the Mach-E.

When we get the car in for a longer evaluation, we’ll further test towing and payload. But at the drive event just outside San Antonio, we had a chance to max tow and max payload.

Without having to shift, and with 775 lb-ft of torque, it’s effortless to accelerate with a 9,500 lb trailer. We hate to use the freight train analogy, but that’s exactly what it feels like when accelerating at max towing.

The same applies with payload — the torque conceals the weight — and really adds confidence to the drive. As long as, of course, you don’t forget you’re towing or hauling that extra weight.

Ford is doing some fun stuff with the Tow/Haul mode on the truck, too. The company adjusts the calibration for regeneration to help mimic the effects of engine braking with towing.

While there is no FX4 or off-road type package yet, the truck is still capable of handling most ranch work. There is even an optional electronically-controlled physical rear locker to handle low traction situations.

Here’s the thing, even before factoring in starting price this is the best F-150 we’ve driven. It’s approachable for people who’ve never driven a pickup truck, and it’s approachable for a truck owner who’s never driven an EV. It’s the first product that we feel is capable of bridging the gap in North America between EV customer and truck customer. That is exactly what we need if we want people to switch to EVs at any point in the future.

But then, we add back in the price. The Lightning Pro base truck, with tons of standard features, starts at $41,769 with delivery. Buyers right now, at least, will be able to take advantage of the $7,500 federal tax credit.

But with 200,000 preorders already amassed, that credit won’t be around forever.

From there pricing moves up as you add the bigger battery and more options. A Platinum edition of the truck only comes with the extended battery and nearly every box checked, and it starts at $92,669. That’s a lot of coin for a half-ton truck.

For us, the sweet spot really is that entry-level Pro model. We wish we could, as retail consumers, get a Pro with the extended range battery (a $10,000 up charge on the Pro). That’s our dream truck. But if you want the creature comforts you’re used to in your current F-150, or competitor truck, it’s all there.

If you’re into Ford trucks, you want the Lightning. You might not know it yet, but when you see it out on the streets, or on the job site, you’re going to want to drive it. Then you will, and you’ll place your order.

Ford’s first attempt at an electric pickup truck hits the nail on the head. Though, Denis Leary would say it hit the nail on the head, pal.

If you want one, contact your dealer. Order banks will reopen again soon, but keep in mind there are a lot of preorders. Lightnings are arriving to customers now.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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