Every year, we see a collection of brand-new models hit the market. Most of them are run-of-the-mill transportation, designed to quietly carry people to work and school everyday with minimal fuss. However, some of them go beyond, appealing to those who see cars as more than a way to get from point A to point B. It was tough to narrow down a single new model to be our official 2022 Car of the Nation, but the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning stood out to us, not just for its raw performance and unconventional design but for how quickly it has changed the truck market. The Lightning is a truck that burst onto the scene, racking up over 200,000 pre-orders and selling out the entire first model year of production.
The Lightning name is also an interesting nod to the past. Ford has been an automotive icon for well over a century and has a wealth of historic models to draw inspiration from, but it is surprising how well this extraordinary name fits. Not only does it reflect the electric powertrain of the new truck, but it brings to mind the legacy of the SVT Lightning and the fun street trucks of the 1980s and 1990s. The new Ford F-150 Lightning has some big shoes to fill, but unlike the controversial Ford Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s electric pickup has proven that it is a brilliant successor to the original SVT Lighting street truck, offering the same type of speedy thrills.
What’s in a Name?
The original Ford F-150 SVT Lightning arrived in 1993, and at first glance, it couldn’t have been more different than the modern F-150 Lightning. While they were both pickups, the SVT Lightning was a low-slung street truck that was smaller than a modern Ford Ranger and powered by a rambunctious 5.8L V8 engine. It was only offered with a regular cab and rear-wheel drive, making it feel more like a sports car than a full-size truck. But while the SVT Lightning may have looked and felt the part, it was laughably slow by modern standards. Taking 7.2 seconds to reach 60 mph and completing the quarter mile in a sluggish 15.8 seconds, it would struggle to outrun a 2022 Ford Maverick––the front-wheel drive hybrid version, not the turbocharged EcoBoost.
The second-generation SVT Lightning used a supercharged V8 and shaved two seconds off that quarter mile time, but it took the 2022 F-150 Lightning to bring real speed to the Lightning name. Equipped with the larger of its two available battery options, the new Lightning boasts 580 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels through a standard dual-motor electric all-wheel drive. This powertrain allows it to rocket to 60 mph in four seconds and complete the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds. To give some perspective, that’s faster than the Mustang GT and only a hair behind the Ram TRX.
Even the base model Lightning, with its 452 ponies, would have had enough muscle to take the title of the most powerful F-150 ever, beating the 450 hp of the F-150 Raptor by a nose. Of course, the difference feels much larger than that from the driver’s seat because the base model Lightning also has an extra 265 lb-ft of instant electric torque to play with. When you factor in the extra power available from the Extended Range battery, the Lightning isn’t just the most powerful F-150; it’s the most powerful F-Series, providing more horsepower than a Super Duty with the Power Stroke V8. If that isn’t performance worthy of the Lightning name, we don’t know what is.
A Lightning You Can Live With
Everyone loves a fast truck, but the new F-150 Lightning is far more than just a speedy pickup. The switch to all-electric power makes it one of the most liveable vehicles on the market, offering all the benefits of a full-size truck and all the convenience of a battery-powered vehicle. The Standard Range model offers 240 miles of range, which is enough for an entire week worth of commuting for the average driver. Upgrading to the Extended Range battery boosts that to 320 miles of range, or almost five hours of driving at highway speeds. Advances in DC Fast Charging technology mean that when the battery is running low, the Lightning can be quickly topped off. Ford estimates that a 150 kW DC Fast Charger can fill the massive 131 kWh Extended Range battery from 15 to 80 percent in just 41 minutes.
One of the happy side effects of carting around a gigantic battery is that it can serve as a massive reserve of electrical power for whatever task you have at hand. Ford’s Pro Power Onboard system can provide 9.6 kW of exportable power through a collection of 120V and 240V outlets scattered around the bed, cab, and “Mega Power Frunk.” This allows you to power a campsite, a job site, another electric vehicle, or even your house, making the Lightning far more than just a vehicle. Everyone from adventurers to contractors is sure to enjoy the flexibility that this feature adds to their lives.
Returning to the Mega Power Frunk for a moment, this clever design feature highlights another advantage of electric trucks. Because electric motors are so compact, the space under the hood can be transformed into secure water-tight storage––the sort of thing truck owners have always longed for and that no one has ever managed to find a satisfactory answer to. With over 14 cu.ft. of cargo volume, the frunk lets you load up your tools, shopping bags, or suitcases without filling up the cab or leaving them unprotected in the bed. These unique features are a significant reason why the F-150 Lightning has attracted so much interest from truck buyers who want more than your traditional pickup can offer.
The Future of Pickup Trucks
As trucks have become more comfortable and capable, we’ve seen them become the vehicle of choice––not just for hard workers but for families and commuters alike. The SVT Lightning and the other street trucks of the 1990s helped trucks become recognized as being more than workhorses. The new F-150 Lightning has launched the next wave of incredibly practical pickups that go far beyond what the current crop of gasoline and diesel trucks can offer. With the switch to efficient electric motors, the high fuel consumption of full-size trucks is no longer a worry for drivers who spend their time on the road, and the addition of features like Pro Power Onboard and the Mega Power Frunk open up new opportunities for truck owners.
More high-performance electric pickups are in the pipeline, and models like the Rivian R1T, GMC Hummer EV, and Tesla Cybertruck are all putting their unique spin on this emerging segment, each taking a slightly different approach to building an electric truck. From the adventurous luxury of Rivian to the future-forward design of Tesla, we expect these trucks to cultivate enthusiastic fans. But no one knows trucks like Ford, and its first electric pickup has placed that expertise on full display, producing a vehicle that can work and play like no other, blending past, present, and future to define the segment. That is why the Ford F-150 Lightning is our 2022 Car of the Nation.