- Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
- Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?
- Practicality – How practical is the space inside?
- What are the key stats for the motor and transmission?
- How much energy does it consume?
- What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
- What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
- Driving – What’s it like to drive?
Incredibly quiet cabin Immense performance Hugely practical
Still rides like a ute Big for Australian roads Not confirmed for Australian sale
The Ford F-150 is coming to Australia in 2023, with the 3.5-litre ‘EcoBoost’ V6 XLT and Lariat models set to be converted to right-hand drive by Ford Australia in partnership with RMA Automotive.
But I’m already interested in what could come next. That’s because CarsGuide was amongst a select group of Australian media to sample the all-electric F-150 Lightning near Ford’s global headquarters just outside of Detroit.
The company’s local representatives insists our drive of the Lightning wasn’t a commitment to bringing the electric pickup down under, but it has given us an understanding of what it’s capable of and whether or not it would suit Australia’s demanding ute market.
Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
Until Ford confirms the Lightning is coming to Australia it’s a mute point, but we can take a look at the US line-up to have an understanding of what we could get if Ford gives it the green light.
In its domestic market there are four variants to choose from – Pro, XLT, Lariat and Platinum. The range begins at US$39,974 for the Pro, which converts to approximately $60,000 – although, to be clear, a direct currency conversion is not a definitive price but does give an approximate idea of a starting point.
Next up is the XLT for US$52,974 (approx. $80,000), the Lariat from $67,474 (approx. $100,000) and the range is topped by the Platinum, which is priced from US$90,874 (approx. $135,000).
What those prices don’t factor in is the cost of producing right-hand drive models. Presumably it would have to be a local conversion given that’s the case with the petrol-powered F-150. Using the F-150’s locally-available rivals – the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 – as a guide, both of these models start well above six-figures (before on-road costs) – $121,000 for the Chevrolet, and $111,950 for the newer Ram.
That could mean the entry-level Lightning could be as much as $150,000 and run above $180,000 for the fully-loaded Platinum.
The Pro is, as the name suggests, targeted at tradies and comes equipped with the standard-range battery, while some of the equipment highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, carbon black grille plus a strong suite of safety features and a 12.0-inch multimedia screen running Ford’s ‘SYNC 4’ system.
But we spent our time driving the XLT and Platinum, so we’ll focus on those two models.
Stepping up from the Pro to the XLT brings unique 18-inch wheels, leather trim, power adjustable seats and other creature comforts as well as the option to upgrade to the ‘Extended Range’ battery.
The Platinum feels on another level, though, particularly in terms of its cabin presentation and technology, with a huge 15.5-inch touchscreen that makes it look and feel a lot more hi-tech thanks to its newer SYNC 4A media set-up.
Other upgrades for the Platinum include unique 22-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers and the Extended Range battery and helpful features, such as an on-board smart scale in the tray and tailgate step that pops out (which we’ll detail later).
Obviously, it’s much too early to make a judgement on whether a six-figure electric ute would be good value in Australia given Ford hasn’t even confirmed it for local sale. But what we can say is that all the elements are there for Ford to create a compelling range for the local market. Because, for reasons we’ll explain as we go, the F-150 Lightning has the potential to blur the line between a ute and a luxury lifestyle vehicle.
Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?
Ford uses the same basic ladder frame chassis for the Lightning and the petrol F-150, but the body that sits on top is unique. Ford has shaped that body to have a familiar F-150 family look, but the details give the electric version a character of its own.
There’s a signature LED light element at the front as well as more rounded corners that give the Lightning a more aerodynamic shape, while still retaining the ‘tough truck’ look that defines all Ford utes.
What the unique body design has allowed Ford to do is maximise the design advantages of an electric vehicle, most notably by creating an under-bonnet storage area where the engine would typically be.
Ford calls it the ‘Mega Power Frunk’ and it can take up to 400 litres of luggage but also comes with a small under floor storage area for wet items. The removable floor piece can be positioned to split it in half so you can separate items, there are built in rulers (cm and inches) in the floor, as well as multiple power and USB (Type-A and Type-C) outlets in the side.
At the rear the tailgate doubles as a workbench because it also has rulers built into the non-slip floor as well as cupholders and the C-clamp slots we also see in the Ranger. But its biggest party trick is a pop-out step and handle that comes out of the tailgate and allows you to easily climb up into the tray. It’s not quite as simple as the Ranger’s in-built bumper step but it’s a clever feature.
Practicality – How practical is the space inside?
Obviously, the F-150 is a big ute, a size up from the Ranger we’re accustomed to, so the cabin in the Lightning is very spacious. In fact, ‘spacious’ may be an understatement.
The front seats are hugely generous, with vast amounts of head, shoulder and knee room. It’s not just big, too, it’s well laid out with plenty of storage spaces. This includes a huge centre console between the front seats, with a lidded box, cupholders and another small shelf.
But wait, that’s not all. One really nice touch, which we found on the Platinum but not the XLT, is the gearshifter can be stowed flush into the centre console with the press of a button and the lid of the console box folds out to create a ‘desk’ so you can work in the car.
The XLT features the same touchscreen as the ‘regular’ F-150, which is nice and large and easy to use with the SYNC 4 media system and a number of physical buttons. The Platinum takes it to the next level with its 15.5-inch display and more advanced SYNC 4A system, which looks more modern and has excellent functionality. It does away with most of the switchgear, with the exception of a dial at the bottom that is integrated into the screen.
The second row space is just as generous as the front, with enough room for three adults across the bench. Underneath the rear seats is another clever practical design feature, with a huge storage area that can hold longer items out of the way.
While the cabin may have the size and, at least in the case of the Platinum, the comfort of a luxury SUV, the Lightning is still a ute and that means the tray is a very important aspect.
In terms of dimensions, the tray measures 1704mm long by 1285mm wide between the wheelarches, with a total volume measuring just under 1500 litres – which is in addition to the 400-litre frunk. This is the same across XLT and Platinum.
While the size is the same, payload and towing capabilities differ between the two battery packs available. With the Standard Range battery the Lightning can manage a payload of 1013kg with a maximum towing capability of 2267kg.
For the Platinum and other models fitted with the Extended Range battery the payload drops to just 885kg but the towing capacity increases to around 3500kg. This is roughly on par with what the new Ranger can manage, which is slightly disappointing given the size of the F-150.
The good news is, there is a ‘Max Trailer’ towing package, which is fitted to selected Extended Range battery equipped models and can lift the towing capacity to 4500kg.
What are the key stats for the motor and transmission?
All F-150 Lightnings are powered by dual electric motors, one on each axle, with a single-speed automatic transmission.
For models equipped with the Standard Range battery the motors are tuned to make 337kW of power and 1050Nm of torque, while the Extended Range battery pushes those figures to 433kW/1050Nm.
The Standard Range battery has 98kWh of usable energy which gives the Lightning a 370km driving range, which is probably best described as adequate range without being exceptional. The Extended Range battery, as the name says, takes the driving range between charges to 480km thanks to its 131kWh of usable energy.
How much energy does it consume?
Ford doesn’t provide a figure on energy use but does give a guide to charging times. Using a 150kW DC charger the Standard Range battery will go from 15 per cent charge to 80 per cent in 44 minutes, while the Extended Range takes just 41 minutes. Using a 50kW DC charger the same amount of energy will take 91 minutes and 122 minutes, respectively.
But the Lightning doesn’t just use its battery’s energy, it has a bi-directional energy system that allows owners to draw electricity from the ute. In the US Ford has claimed owners have been able to power their houses for several days during blackouts. But the system can also be used for camping or to power tools, thanks to the multiple on-board power outlets.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
Ford has loaded the US-spec Lightning with safety features including its ‘Co-Pilot360’ suite of active safety and the Platinum has its mild-autonomous ‘BlueCruise’ system.
Both the XLT and Platinum come with a rear view camera, blind spot warning with cross-traffic alert and trailer tow coverage and airbag coverage for both rows.
BlueCruise allows for hands-free driving in select circumstances and includes a camera pointed at the driver to ensure they are concentrating on the road.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
Obviously we’ll have to wait for confirmation it’s officially coming to local Ford showrooms, but we can probably make some assumptions based on the Lightning’s overseas warranty.
In the US Ford covers the Lightning with its standard three-year/36,000 miles (approx. 60,000km) warranty but extends the coverage to ‘Electric Unique Components’ (i.e. the battery) to eight-years/100,000 miles (approx. 160,000km).
Given Ford Australia has a range-wide five-year/unlimited km warranty for all of its local models, it’s likely that would extend to the Mach-E, too, with the battery covered separately; as is becoming the industry norm.
Worth noting Ford in the US also connects its EV owners to multi-year complimentary access to its ‘Blue Oval Charge Network’ which links a range of providers including Shell Recharge, Electrify America and several others. So a similar alignment could ultimately be offered here.
Driving – What’s it like to drive?
The thing that immediately hits you, before you even unleash the full potential of the electric motors, is the silence. It’s not just a quietness that comes from not having an internal combustion engine, the Lightning is just incredibly well-insulated from the outside world.
It’s not hyperbole to say it may be the quietest car I’ve ever driven, and that includes Bentleys, Range Rovers and other luxury brands. It really elevates the Lightning above any other ute this reviewer has driven and blurs that line between a working-class ute and a luxury lifestyle vehicle.
The performance doesn’t disappoint either, because despite its size and weighing almost 3000kg (2948kg for the heaviest model) the Lightning lives up to its name. Ford hasn’t released an official 0-60mph (96km/h) time but testing in the US indicates it can manage it in just 4.0 seconds.
From our experience in the more powerful Platinum those figures sound believable. With 1050Nm of pulling power from the motors the big truck just launches forward whenever you put your foot down.
For all of the hi-tech details on top, underneath it’s still a body-on-frame ute and that means the ride and handling is compromised. Our test drive was without any payload but it still has that jitteriness that is common amongst these types of utes. On smooth roads it felt comfortable enough but on Detroit’s less-than-perfect roads the ride was choppy and the big ute shook around at times.
That’s not to suggest it was uncomfortable or unwieldy, far from it. In fact, for such a big vehicle it’s surprisingly easy to drive, with the combination of responsiveness from the powertrain and well-weighted, accurate steering.
The advantage of sticking with the ladder-frame chassis, aside from the design and manufacturing advantages of sticking with the F-150 platform, is it does allow for better capabilities in terms of off-road performance and towing. Unfortunately we didn’t get to test this out personally, so we’ll have to reserve any judgement on its capability.
Keyword: Ford F-150 Lightning 2023 review