Behind the Wheel

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning — Living Up to the Hype

2023 Ford F-150 LightningModel tested: Ford F-150 Lightning XLT SuperCrew 4×4

Engine: Separate front and rear 3-phase electric motors

Battery: Extended-range 131 kWh

Horsepower: 580

Torque: 775 lb.-ft.

EPA ratings: 78/city, 63/highway, 70/combined

Base price: $52,974

As tested: $76,384

Overview: There’s many reasons why the Ford F-150 has been America’s bestselling vehicle for decades. It does exactly what full-size pickups are supposed to and does it better than its rivals. The F-150 Lightning is just like any other F-150 — sort of. Kelley Blue Book rated the Lightning the best electric truck of 2023 and named it a Best Buy Award winner. According to Ford, it can tow up to 10,000 pounds and carry a payload of more than 2,000 pounds. All-wheel drive is standard and it’s fully electric. The extended-range battery in our test-driver is rated for up to 320 miles on a single full charge, while touting more horsepower, too. That wasn’t our experience. At full charge, the best we saw was around 275.

Walkaround: Most electric vehicles and hybrids feature aerodynamic styling to optimize efficiency. While pickups aren’t aerodynamic by nature, the Lightning does appear sleeker than its gas-powered siblings — especially the front end. The full-width LED bar also gives the Lightning a more futuristic look. The Lightning only comes with a SuperCrew cab and a 5.5-foot bed. The lack of engine opens to a 14.1-cubic-foot storage area beneath the hood, which will hold 400 pounds of cargo. There are also several power outlets under the hood and in the bed. The base Pro model is minus side steps, while a fixed set came with our XLT test-driver. The Lariat offers power-retractable side steps, which are standard on the Platinum. New paint colors offered this year are Avalanche Gray and Azure Gray metallic tri-coat.

2023 Ford F-150 LightningInterior: This generation of the F-150 was already quite refined, with a quiet cabin. The subdued sound from the electric motors makes it seem even quieter. The SuperCrew cab is spacious, offering a generous 43.6 inches of rear legroom. Ford offers a variety of trim levels for the F-150 Lightning, from the basic vinyl in the Pro to leather in the Platinum. Among the few features that aren’t standard in the Platinum are max recline front seats that fold almost flat, allowing for some personal recharging while the Lightning battery is being replenished. One thoughtful inclusion in our XLT test-driver and up is a retractable shift lever that can be covered by the center armrest, making a perfect surface for a laptop.

Behind the wheel: Both drivetrains in the Lightning boast a noteworthy 775 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s more than enough muscle for some serious towing. It also results in neck-snapping acceleration — a specialty of electric powerplants. The extended-range version can do the 0-60 drill in 4.5 seconds. The standard version is only half a second slower — amazing for a full-size pickup truck. There’s a one-pedal driving feature as well, allowing the driver to handle traffic by just pressing or lifting off the accelerator pedal — except for sudden stops. The one-pedal method is actually fun while helping regenerate a little more energy back into the battery. In spite of its muscle-car acceleration, the Lightning’s ride is comfortable and smooth, with steering that’s quick and precise. With a trailer connected, it remains stable, but does drain the battery quicker.

Bottom line: With the EV revolution well underway, it was only a matter of time before someone built an electric pickup. The F-150 Lightning is as desirable as an electric truck gets. However, like all higher priced, luxury EVs, driving range needs to seriously improve for this much money.