Ford F-150 Lightning evaluation: quick truck, gradual pc

The brand new electrical F-150 Lightning is an enormous deal for Ford and, actually, for the automotive business at giant. The F-150 has been the bestselling car in America for over 40 years now, which suggests an EV F-150 is an enormous step towards electrifying vehicles, interval.

But it surely’s primarily an enormous step for Ford, which is quickly present process an enormous transformation into an electrical automotive maker. Ford CEO Jim Farley lately restructured the corporate into two divisions: Ford Blue, which can give attention to gas-powered vehicles, and Ford Mannequin E, which will probably be led by ex-Apple and Tesla exec Doug Subject and develop EVs and software program. Farley is chopping jobs from the gasoline division and investing within the EV division; it’s no secret the place he thinks the longer term lies.

However there are a number of steps from right here to there, and Ford nonetheless has to deal with among the fundamentals, like increasing the charging community for the Lightning and Mustang Mach-E so it could possibly compete with the Tesla Supercharger community. It’s additionally fully resetting its software program technique in a partnership with Google, with an enormous transition to Android Automotive and Google companies coming sooner or later. And, in fact, there’s the little downside of convincing American truck consumers that an electrical F-150 continues to be… an F-150.

Fortunately, the F-150 Lightning is a terrific F-150 — and a terrific truck. If you’ll find one to purchase for an inexpensive worth and also you’ve received a deal with on charging for the way you’ll use it, it’s clearly a more sensible choice than a gas-powered truck.

However the Lightning just isn’t with out its points — Ford can’t make sufficient to satisfy demand, simply raised costs, and continues to be making an attempt to get sellers to cease marking obtainable items up by tens of hundreds of {dollars}. After which there’s the software program. This can be a very quick truck that can be a maddeningly gradual pc.

The F-150 Lightning infotainment screen

The Lightning show can routinely swap between darkish and lightweight mode, which is sweet.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

I speak to a number of automotive CEOs on the Decoder podcast, and there’s an enormous concept that comes up persistently in all of these conversations: the notion that vehicles have gotten smartphones on wheels. Ford’s Farley was specific about it in his final Decoder look, saying that his aim was “a completely networked car… such as you stated, a pc on wheels.”

Reviewing the Lightning like a pc on wheels makes it clear that whereas there may be a number of code in trendy vehicles, there nonetheless isn’t a number of thought of what makes an important consumer expertise for a rolling pc. The Lightning is in some methods a blinding technical achievement — a dependable mass-produced EV pickup truck that claims 300 miles of vary and acceleration that permit me sustain with a brand new Corvette Stingray in an impromptu freeway showdown — but in addition a stopgap as Ford resets its whole software program technique round Android in partnership with Google.

That new Android-based software program isn’t delivery on any Ford autos till someday subsequent 12 months, although, and possibly not on this technology of F-150s in any respect. Meaning, for now, we’re Ford Sync, which, properly, it’s Ford Sync. Common F-150s have a 12-inch panorama middle display working Ford Sync 4; the Mustang Mach-E and the Lightning have a 15.5-inch portrait middle display working Sync 4A, which is identical as Sync 4 with the addition of touchscreen local weather controls and widgets that fill out the vertical top of the show.

The result’s that the software program expertise of the Lightning usually feels trapped previously, with no clear path to the longer term as a result of Ford’s actual software program efforts lie elsewhere. The instrument cluster options the identical cryptic icons and basic menu format Ford has utilized in its vehicles endlessly. That massive portrait infotainment display is woefully underutilized and the menu format can really feel like a randomly generated maze with no vacation spot. (I’m severe: the highest two menu panels are labeled “Controls” and “Settings” however then the screens for particular person tabs beneath “Controls” have buttons labeled “Settings,” as if Ford’s designers all attended a seminar in regards to the relative and evolving nature of all language.)

The display is laid out into 4 zones: there’s a menu bar space; what you would possibly name the app window; these widgets; after which the local weather controls. When you begin utilizing Sync 4A within the Lightning, you shortly encounter two essential points: one, the entire thing can really feel extraordinarily gradual; and two, the display is wildly underused in comparison with how massive it’s. You are able to do one factor at a time on the 15.5-inch display, and that’s actually it. There are oceans of pixels right here, however for some purpose, you’ll be able to’t have the map and the radio open on the similar time.

The F150 Lightning flag badge with lightning bolt

If anybody needs to write down a narrative about how blue changed inexperienced because the symbolic EV coloration, hit me up.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

There’s a fast motion button to navigate again house on the map widget, but it surely simply opens the map app full-screen, defeating the aim of the widget fully. I’d like to have CarPlay open to deal with my telephone and messaging alongside the radio, however that’s not doable, although the show is clearly large enough to indicate each directly. 

All of that’s made worse by how gradual every little thing is. Switching between the radio and the map or the map and CarPlay is… gradual. Swiping alongside the playing cards is fairly gradual. The show can be responsive, and the video games are actually playable, however in most situations, it’s simply gradual.

There are oceans of pixels right here, however you’ll be able to’t have the radio and the map open on the similar time

That is the purpose in any automotive evaluation the place many individuals are already drafting emails to me about simply utilizing CarPlay or Android Auto as an alternative of the inventory software program, however mates, CarPlay and Android Auto are not good at serving to EV homeowners navigate charging. If you wish to plot out a route with correct vary estimates and an efficient charging technique, you must use the built-in nav — particularly since Ford has taken the time to arrange charging stations by pace, and searching for out 150kW quick chargers is a crucial a part of the Lightning expertise as a result of the battery is so massive. Apple and Google are a good distance behind on this entrance.

All of this slowness isn’t thus far exterior of the realm of automotive software program experiences that it’s a deal-breaker, however Ford’s insistence on utilizing touchscreen local weather controls within the Lightning is an actual miss. To begin with, there are not any good touchscreen local weather controls on any automotive; buttons are all the time higher. Second, Ford’s personal gas-powered F-150s have bodily buttons beneath the display for the local weather controls, as does the bottom XLT Lightning and the fleet-oriented Lightning Professional work truck. The issue was already solved, however Ford has taken good and quick buttons and changed them with a gradual and distracting contact interface that’s fancy for the sake of being fancy.

Switching on the seat heaters requires a number of faucets and swipes. There’s a slider management to vary the fan pace. Altering which vents are lively opens an in depth render of the truck’s inside, which isn’t all that helpful. Different F-150s allow you to modify all of these items with arduous buttons, that are vastly less complicated to make use of.

The F-150 Lightning’s touchscreen climate controls

Touchscreen local weather controls are unhealthy.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

It’s the identical with the assorted cameras. My very own late mannequin F-150 has a tough button above the display to open the cameras, which I take advantage of the entire time to park in tight spots and customarily navigate the factor, however on the Lightning, opening the cameras takes a number of faucets on the display. And upon getting the cameras open, the menu to change between them retains closing itself for some purpose, although there’s loads of room on the show to simply keep open on a regular basis.

I can maintain going. The menu bar on the high of the infotainment display is affected by unlabeled standing icons, like an unloved Android telephone. Putting your telephone on the wi-fi charger causes a telephone icon to seem within the menubar with none clear indication of what it represents. And utilizing the wonderful driver-assistance methods is an train in determining data the truck doesn’t appear inquisitive about telling you.

Ford’s whole suite of driver-assistance tech is named “BlueCruise,” which is deeply complicated as a result of it signifies that every little thing from boring previous cruise management to full-on hands-free driving is technically “BlueCruise.” While you activate adaptive cruise management with lively lane help and it feels just like the truck is driving down the freeway in hands-free mode, that’s BlueCruise, although it unhappily beeps at you when you take your fingers off the wheel for quite a lot of seconds. Full hands-free driving is just obtainable on main highways mapped by Ford; the map is pretty complete at this level.

The hands-free driving system is nice when it’s obtainable

However as a result of it’s all known as “BlueCruise,” nothing within the Lightning tells you which of them particular capabilities are truly obtainable at any explicit second; it simply says “BlueCruise.” To determine it out, you simply have to change on the cruise management and see if the little “hands-free” icon seems. I needed to electronic mail Ford to make clear all of those numerous modes; nothing on the huge 12-inch instrument cluster or the middle display actually made any of them clear. 

All that stated, the hands-free driving system works nice when it’s obtainable. I used it for 2 300-mile highway journeys, and the system is assured and regular and customarily made me wish to get a Lightning instantly.

Look, a few of this is smart — altering how an iconic car works is hard to do, and the brand new pc simulating elements of the previous system to ease generations of F-150 homeowners into the longer term is a secure path. However most of it appears like Ford didn’t know what to do with the huge quantity of display actual property within the Lightning, so it selected to not do very a lot in any respect.

Yes, I drove a $96,000 review unit to the dump.

Sure, I drove a $96,000 evaluation unit to the dump.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

Annoyances with the software program apart, the Lightning is in any other case a terrific EV and an important truck. I did a bunch of truck stuff with it, together with hauling our trash to the dump, and it dealt with all of it with aplomb. In day-to-day use, it acts similar to a daily F-150, which is nice.

However press the pedal down, and it strikes. This is without doubt one of the quickest manufacturing vans ever made: the official zero to 60mph time is 4.3 seconds and Automobile and Driver examined it at simply 4. That’s quicker than my F-150 Raptor and sufficient to beat the ridiculous 700-horsepower Ram TRX in some checks. The one persistently quicker truck is the Rivian R1T, which may go from zero to 60mph in 3 seconds. 

My Raptor is an enormous truck that may go quick, however the Lightning is one thing else. It has that prompt, clean EV torque irrespective of how briskly you’re going with not one of the downshifts or drama of a gasoline truck. Driving a daily EV is a enjoyable change from common vehicles, however driving the Lightning is a large change from different vans: issues this massive don’t normally transfer this shortly, and the massive battery and decrease middle of gravity mixed with the impartial rear suspension maintain it planted even over tough bumps that make the rear finish of my truck bounce in all places. It needs to be one of many best full-size pickups on the earth to drive, and you’ll smoke anybody wanting costly sports activities vehicles and different quick EVs principally everytime you need. I find it irresistible.

The F150 Lightning charging

Plug-and-charge labored nice at Electrify America stations.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

In fact, gunning the Lightning throughout city eats up vary, and meaning you must take care of charging, each at house and out within the wild. You completely want a Degree 2 charger at house with the Lightning for the reason that battery is large and making an attempt to cost it with a typical 110 outlet netted lower than one mile of vary per hour, which could as properly be nothing. 

Prolonged-range Lightnings like our evaluation unit include Ford’s 80-amp Cost Station Professional, which requires skilled set up and permits the Lightning to function a backup energy supply on your house in case of a blackout, however since I solely had the factor every week, I simply plugged Ford’s 30-amp journey charger into my 240-volt dryer outlet and it charged simply high quality in a single day, at round 15 miles of vary an hour. Plugged right into a 150kW DC quick charger, Ford says you’ll be able to go from 15 to 80 % in 41 minutes. The truck maxes out at 155kW, so trying to find the uncommon 350kW charger isn’t actually price it.

Gunning the Lightning throughout city eats up vary

At one hundred pc cost, the Lightning stories its vary at 325 miles, however that quantity shortly drops as you drive round, particularly the place I reside within the mountains. You may plan journeys within the FordPass cellular app and ship them to the built-in nav, which can plot out chargers alongside your route. These charging stops are locked in when you set a route; it might be good if the system would provide you with extra choices alongside the best way.

Charging on the highway is usually dealt with by way of Ford’s app and charging community; the corporate has been constructing out its community for the reason that Mach-E got here out final 12 months, and issues are bettering however nonetheless sometimes spotty. You may type obtainable chargers by charging pace within the app and on the built-in nav. Chargers within the Ford community may be activated in your telephone however not within the truck for some purpose. Importantly, I had no issues utilizing plug-and-charge at supported stations, which routinely prompts a charger and handles billing simply by plugging in. And, in fact, you’ll be able to simply pay with a bank card if you’d like. And whereas I charged at a number of Electrify America stations that labored properly, there have been the standard damaged chargers and glitches in getting issues began. There’s nonetheless a protracted solution to go, however issues have began bettering in significant methods since we reviewed the Mach-E.

The F150 Lightning front truck open at an airport

Having an enormous frunk in a pickup truck is extremely helpful.
Photograph by Nilay Patel /The Verge

One of many massive benefits and drawbacks for Ford is that it already makes and sells a number of F-150s, and it could possibly maintain the prices of Lightning down through the use of a number of F-150 elements in it. Ford doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel: the Lightning makes use of the F-150 steering wheel. The seats are simply the F-150 seats. The wipers have already been designed.

All that half reuse means Ford can theoretically maintain the prices of the Lightning down because it’s already scaled manufacturing approach up. However batteries are nonetheless arduous to supply, and the corporate simply reopened orders with newly raised costs to account for the availability points. The bottom Lightning Professional that’s designed to be a piece truck now begins at $46,974. The XLT trim, which is the bottom client mannequin, begins at $59,474. Our evaluation unit is a top-of-the-line Platinum, which has each luxurious possibility you’ll be able to consider and a sticker worth of $96,874, which is $20,000 greater than a equally optioned gasoline F-150 Platinum. These are Ford’s costs, although; sellers have been marking Lightnings approach as much as $150,000 and extra.

The most important downside with the Lightning is that it’s unimaginable to purchase

That’s truly the most important downside with the Lightning: it’s kind of unimaginable to purchase. Whereas some clients are beginning to get their early preorders and Ford is ramping up manufacturing as quick as it could possibly, Farley instructed me that the corporate received’t have the ability to construct sufficient Lightnings to fill the entire preorders, not to mention meet demand. The aim is to construct 150,000 Lightnings a 12 months, however proper now, there simply aren’t sufficient batteries to get there. Ford is investing in battery vegetation, increasing the Lightning manufacturing unit, and hiring extra individuals, but it surely’s all simply going to take time.

Till then, both you’re caught ready on the preorder record till subsequent 12 months otherwise you’re preventing it out with sellers. Ford’s making an attempt to get all of these sellers again in line, however there’s a number of historical past there and a number of challenges alongside the best way. But when the Lightning goes to truly be as vital of an EV correctly, Ford’s received to determine all of that out.

The F150 Lightning on a gravel road

My Raptor seems to be meaner, however the Lightning can go away it within the mud.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

In the long run, there’s two methods to have a look at the Lightning. First, it’s a terrific electrical F-150 that may ease a number of truck homeowners into an EV. And in that approach, it’s an enormous success. If I may truly discover one to purchase for an inexpensive worth, I’d commerce in my gas-powered F-150, points with the software program apart. (I’d plan to right away commerce it in once more as soon as the model with Android-based Sync comes out, although.)

However that software program factors to Ford’s larger problem, which is that the Lightning typically feels caught between two worlds. Proper now, it’s very a lot a truck with a gradual pill in it. Letting this factor actually be a pc on wheels would take the Lightning from actually good to traditionally nice.

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