April 1, 2023

The new electric F-150 Lightning is a big deal for Ford and, really, with regard to the car industry at large. The F-150 has been the bestselling vehicle in America for over 40 years now, which means an EV F-150 is a big step toward electrifying cars , period.

But it’s mainly a big stage for Ford, which is rapidly undergoing the massive transformation into an electric car maker. Ford CEO Jim Farley recently restructured the company into two divisions : Ford Blue, which will focus on gas-powered cars, plus Ford Model E, which will be led by ex-Apple and Tesla exec Doug Field and develop EVs plus software. Farley is cutting jobs from the gas division and investing in the EV division; it’s no secret where he thinks the future lies.

But there are a lot of steps from here to there , and Ford still has to handle some of the basics, like expanding the charging network regarding the Super and Mustang Mach-E so it can compete with the Tesla Supercharger network. It’s also completely resetting its software strategy in a partnership with Google, with a big transition to Android Automotive plus Google services coming in the particular future. And, of course, there’s the little problem of convincing American truck buyers that an electric F-150 is still… an F-150.

Happily, the particular F-150 Lightning is a terrific F-150 — and a terrific truck. If you can find one to buy intended for a reasonable price plus you’ve got a handle on getting for how you’ll use it, it is clearly a better choice than a gas-powered pickup truck.

But the Lightning will be not without its issues — Ford producer can’t make enough to meet demand, just raised prices, and is usually still trying to get dealers to stop marking available units up simply by tens of thousands associated with dollars. Plus then there’s the software program. This is a very fast vehicle that is definitely also a maddeningly slow computer.

The F-150 Lightning infotainment screen

I talk to a lot of car CEOs on the particular Decoder podcast , and there’s a large idea that comes up consistently in all of those conversations: the notion that cars are becoming smartphones on wheels. Ford’s Farley was explicit about it in his last Decoder appearance , saying that will his goal was “a fully networked vehicle… like you said, a computer found on vehicles. ”

Reviewing the Lightning such as a pc on wheels makes it clear that while there might be lots of code in modern cars, presently there still isn’t plenty of thought about what makes a great user experience for a rolling computer. The Lightning can be in some ways the dazzling technical achievement — a reliable mass-produced ELECTRONIC VEHICLES pickup truck that claims 300 miles associated with range plus acceleration that will let me keep up along with a new Corvette Stingray within an impromptu highway showdown — but also a stopgap as Kia resets its entire software strategy around Android in partnership with Google.

That new Android-based software is not shipping on any Ford vehicles until sometime next year , though, and probably not on this generation of F-150s at all. That means, for now, we’re looking at Honda Sync, which usually, well, it’s Ford Sync. Regular F-150s have a 12-inch landscape center screen running Ford producer Sync 4; the Mustang Mach-E and the Lightning have the 15. 5-inch portrait center screen running Sync 4A, that is the particular same as Sync four with the addition of touchscreen climate controls and widgets that fill out the vertical height of the particular display.

The particular result is that the software experience of the Super often feels trapped in the past, with no clear path to the future because Ford’s real software program efforts lie elsewhere. The instrument cluster features the same cryptic icons and fundamental menu layout Ford has used in its cars forever. That will huge portrait infotainment screen is woefully underutilized plus the menu layout can feel like a randomly generated maze with no destination. (I’m serious: the top 2 menu panels are labeled “Controls” and “Settings” but then the screens to get individual tabs under “Controls” have buttons labeled “Settings, ” as though Ford’s designers all attended a seminar about the particular relative plus evolving nature of all language. )

The particular screen is laid out into four zones: there’s a menu bar area; what you might call the app window; those icons; and then the climate controls. Once you start using Sync 4A in the particular Lightning, you quickly encounter two main issues: 1, the whole thing may feel extremely slow; and two, the screen is certainly wildly underused compared to exactly how big it is. You can do one thing at the time on the 15. 5-inch screen, plus that’s really it. There are oceans associated with pixels right here, but pertaining to some reason, you can’t have the map and the particular radio open at the same time.

The F150 Lightning flag badge with lightning bolt

There’s a quick action button in order to navigate back home around the map widget, but it just opens the chart app full-screen, defeating the purpose of the golf widget entirely. I’d love to possess CarPlay open up to manage my phone and messaging alongside the radio, but that’s not possible, even though the display is clearly big enough to show both at once.

All of that is made worse by just how slow everything is. Switching between the radio and the map or the chart and CarPlay is… slow. Swiping along the cards is pretty slow. The display may be responsive, as well as the games are certainly playable, yet in most instances, it is just sluggish.

This is the point in any car review where many people are already drafting emails to me about simply using CarPlay or Google android Auto instead of the stock software, but friends, CarPlay and Android Auto are not good at helping EV owners navigate charging. If a person want in order to plot out a route with accurate range estimates and a good effective getting strategy, you have to use the particular built-in nav — especially since Ford has taken the time to organize charging stations by speed, plus seeking out 150kW fast chargers is an important part of the particular Lightning encounter because the battery is so big. Apple and Google are a long way behind on this front.

All of this slowness isn’t so far outside of the realm associated with car software program experiences that it’s a deal-breaker, but Ford’s insistence on using touchscreen weather controls in the Lightning is a real miss. First of all, there are usually no good touch screen climate controls on any kind of car; buttons are always better. Second, Ford’s own gas-powered F-150s have physical control keys below the screen meant for the environment controls, because does the base XLT Lightning and the particular fleet-oriented Super Pro work truck. The particular problem was already solved, yet Ford has brought good plus fast buttons and replaced them with a slow and distracting touch interface that is fancy for the sake of being fancy.

Switching within the seat heaters requires multiple taps and swipes. There’s the slider control to change the fan speed. Changing which vents are active opens a detailed render of the truck’s interior, which is not all that useful. Other F-150s let you adjust all of these things with hard buttons, which are vastly simpler to use.

The F-150 Lightning’s touchscreen climate controls

It’s the same with the various cameras. My own late model F-150 has a hard button above the screen to open the digital cameras, which I make use of all of the time to park in tight spots and generally navigate the particular thing, but on the Lightning, opening the cameras takes a few taps on the display. And once you have the particular cameras open up, the menu to switch between them keeps closing itself for some reason, even though there’s plenty of room on the display to just stay open all the time.

I can keep going. The menus bar at the top of the particular infotainment screen is littered with unlabeled status icons, like an unloved Android phone. Placing your phone on the wireless charger causes a phone icon in order to appear in the menubar without any clear indication of what it represents. And using the excellent driver-assistance systems is an exercise in figuring out information the truck doesn’t seem interested in telling you.

Ford’s entire suite of driver-assistance tech is called “BlueCruise, ” which is deeply confusing because it means that everything from boring old cruise control to full-on hands-free driving will be technically “BlueCruise. ” When you turn upon adaptive cruise control along with active lane assist and it feels like the particular truck is usually driving down the highway in hands free mode, that’s BlueCruise, even though it unhappily beeps at a person if you take your hands off the wheel for more than a few seconds. Full hands-free driving is definitely only available on major highways mapped by Ford; the particular map is fairly comprehensive at this point.

But because it’s almost all called “BlueCruise, ” nothing in the Lightning tells you which specific capabilities are actually available at any particular moment; it just says “BlueCruise. ” To figure it out, you simply have to switch on the particular cruise control and see if the little “hands-free” icon appears. I had in order to email Ford to clarify all of these various modes; absolutely nothing around the vast 12-inch instrument cluster or the center screen really made any of them clear.

All that said, the particular hands-free driving system works great when it’s available. I used it for two 300-mile road trips, plus the system is confident and steady plus generally made me want to get a Lightning immediately.

Look, some of this makes sense — changing how an iconic vehicle works is tough to do, and the new computer simulating parts of the old system to ease generations of F-150 owners into the future is a safe path. But most of it seems like Ford didn’t know what to do with the massive amount of display screen real estate within the Lightning, so this chose not to do very much at all.

Annoyances using the software aside, the particular Lightning can be otherwise a terrific EV and the great pickup truck. I did a bunch associated with truck stuff with it, including hauling our trash in order to the dump, and it handled this all with aplomb. In day-to-day use, it acts just like a regular F-150, which usually is great.

But press the pedal down, and it moves. This is one of the fastest production trucks ever produced: the official zero to 60mph time is certainly 4. 3 seconds and Car and Driver tested it at just 4 . That’s faster than my F-150 Raptor plus enough to beat the ridiculous 700-horsepower Ram TRX in some tests . The only consistently faster truck is the particular Rivian R1T, which can go from zero to 60mph in 3 seconds.

My Raptor is a big truck that can move fast, but the Lightning is something else. It has that will instant, smooth EV torque no matter how fast you’re heading with none of the downshifts or drama of the gas vehicle. Driving a regular EV is the fun change from regular cars, yet driving the Lightning is a huge change from other vehicles: things this big don’t usually move this quickly, as well as the big battery and lower middle of gravity combined with the independent rear suspension keep it planted even over rough bumps that make the rear end of my truck bounce all over the place. It has to be one of the easiest full-size pickups in the world to drive, and you can smoke anyone short of expensive sports cars and other fast EVs basically whenever you want. I love it.

The F150 Lightning charging

Of course, gunning the Lightning all more than town eats up range, and that means you have to deal with charging, both at home and out in the wild. You absolutely need a Level 2 charger in home with the Super since the battery is huge and trying to charge it with a standard 110 outlet netted less than one mile of variety per hour, which might as well be nothing.

Extended-range Lightnings like our review unit come with Ford’s 80-amp Charge Station Pro, which usually requires professional installation plus allows the Lightning in order to serve as a backup power source for your home in case of a blackout, but since I only had the thing a week, We just plugged Ford’s 30-amp travel charger into the 240-volt dryer outlet and it charged just fine overnight, from around 15 miles of range an hour. Plugged into a 150kW DC fast charger, Ford says a person can go from fifteen to 80 percent in 41 minutes. The truck maxes out at 155kW, so hunting for the rare 350kW phone chrgr isn’t really worth it.

At 100 percent charge, the particular Lightning reports its range at 325 miles, yet that number quickly drops because you drive around, especially where I actually live within the mountains. You can plan trips in the FordPass mobile app and send them to the particular built-in nav, which will plot away chargers along your route. Those getting stops are locked in once you set a route; it would be nice if the system would give you more options along the way.

Charging on the road is mostly handled through Ford’s app and charging network; the company has been building out its network since the particular Mach-E came out last year, and things are improving but still occasionally spotty. You are able to sort available chargers by getting speed within the application and on the built-in nav. Chargers in the Kia network can be activated on your phone but not within the truck for some reason. Importantly, I had no problems using plug-and-charge at supported stations, which automatically activates a charger and handles billing just by plugging in. And, of course , you may just pay with a credit card if you want. And while I charged at several Electrify America stations that will worked well, there were the usual broken chargers plus glitches inside getting things started. There’s still a long way to proceed, but points have started improving in meaningful ways since we reviewed the particular Mach-E .

The F150 Lightning front truck open at an airport

One of the big advantages and disadvantages for Ford is that it already makes and sells a lot of F-150s, also it can keep the costs of Lightning down by using a lot of F-150 parts in it. Ford doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel: the particular Lightning uses the F-150 steering wheel. The seats are just the F-150 seats. The wipers have already been designed.

All that part reuse means Kia can theoretically keep the costs of the Lightning down since it’s currently scaled production way up. But batteries are still hard to source, and the particular company just reopened orders with newly raised prices to account for the supply issues. The base Lightning Pro that’s developed to be a work truck now starts at $46, 974. The particular XLT trim, which is the base consumer model, begins at $59, 474. Our review unit is a top-of-the-line Platinum, which has every luxury option you can think associated with and a sticker price of $96, 874, which will be $20, 000 more than a similarly optioned gas F-150 Platinum. Those are usually Ford’s costs, though; dealers have been marking Lightnings way up to $150, 000 and more.

That’s actually the biggest problem with the Super: it’s more or less impossible in order to buy. While some customers are starting to get their early preorders plus Ford is usually ramping upward production as fast because it can, Farley told me that will the company won’t be able to build enough Lightnings to fill all of the preorders, let alone meet demand. The goal is in order to build 150, 000 Lightnings a year, but right now, there just aren’t enough batteries to get there. Ford is definitely investing in battery plants, expanding the Lightning factory, and hiring a lot more people, yet it’s all just going to take time.

Until then, either you’re stuck waiting on the particular preorder list until next year or you’re fighting it out with dealers. Ford’s trying to get all associated with those sellers back in line, but there’s a lot of history presently there and a lot of challenges along the way. But if the Lightning can be going to actually be since important associated with an EV as it should be, Ford’s got to figure all of that away.

The F150 Lightning on a gravel road

In the end, there’s two ways in order to look at the Super. First, it’s a terrific electric F-150 that will ease a lot of pickup truck owners into an ELECTRONIC VEHICLES. And within that way, it is a huge success. If I could actually find one to buy for the reasonable price, I’d trade in my gas-powered F-150, issues with the software aside. (I would plan to immediately industry it in again once the version along with Android-based Sync comes out, though. )

But that will software points to Ford’s bigger challenge, which is that the Lightning sometimes feels caught between two worlds. Right now, it’s very much a truck with a slow tablet inside it. Letting this thing really be the computer on wheels would take the Lightning from really good to historically great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *