Dearborn has electrified its most iconic utility vehicle. European-market sales beckon

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Ford is banking on some bold decisions to make much-needed headway on electrification.

It’s the kind of boldness that resulted in the electrically powered Ford Mustang Mach-E of 2019, and that more recently gave rise to the zero-emissions reimagination of the world’s biggest-selling pick-up truck – arguably Ford’s greatest commercial asset of them all.

The F-Series – the most popular and best-known version of which is the F-150 – has a history going back to the 1940s. More than 40 million have been made to date, almost all for American and Canadian buyers, but none has yet officially been offered for sale either in the UK or mainland Europe, nor has any been the subject of an Autocar road test.

If the Lightning were only 90mm longer, it would need the sort of side marker reflectors you typically see on medium-sized goods vehicles in order to pass a UK IVA test. It’s whopping – a full foot longer than a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Until now. When it announced its intention to electrify the F-150, Ford made ears prick up the world over. The became known nine months before Tesla first showed its Cybertruck in 2019, its story building to the moment, in April 2022, when production started at Ford’s Rouge factory in Dearborn, Michigan. And it recently took a surprise turn when Ford of Europe announced that the car will be made available in Norway later this year, which invites us to wonder where else it might end up being sold.

09 Ford f150 lightning rt 2023 underneath 0

Range at a glance

It remains to be seen how much of the Lightning’s American model range Ford will offer to European customers, or exactly where orders will open on price. In the US, the Lightning comes with two battery sizes, though all versions of it are twin-motor, four-wheel drive.

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The bottom-rung Pro trim uses the smaller battery, has 2.4kW of ‘mains outlet’ power and has a more functional equipment level. XLTs are still kitted out like working cars, but Lariat and Platinum models are much more luxurious.

Version Power
Ford F-150 Lightning Standard Range 452bhp
Ford F-150 Lightning Extended Range* 581bhp

*Version tested


1-spd reduction gear   


02 Ford F150 Lightning RT 2023 front mild corner

Less than two years separated the start of production of the combustion-engined version of the current, 14th-generation F-150 (which was itself almost entirely new from the ground up) from the introduction of the F-150 Lightning in April last year. And this isn’t simply a regular F-150 with an electric motor where a big V8 was, though it isn’t so dissimilar.

The regular truck switched from steel to aluminium for its body panels, in pursuit of weight-saving, with the 13th-generation F-150 model in 2015. The Lightning sticks with an aluminium body, then, but also with a high-strength steel ladder-frame separate chassis, for the load-carrying benefits it confers.

DC rapid charging is rated at up to 150kW, but only through an American-market-typical CCS1 port. We would expect this to be swapped for a European-standard CCS2 port as part of European homologation.

Within that chassis frame, the F-150 Lightning carries twin drive motors and its lithium ion drive batteries. The latter are housed in a waterproof casing that’s protected from grounding damage by underfloor guard panels, and can be particularly easily accessed for repair or replacement, in a pack that offers either 98kWh or 131kWh of usable power storage. Range-topping versions like our specially imported Lightning Platinum test vehicle get the bigger pack, which offers a range estimated by the US Environmental Protection Agency to be an impressive 300 miles (320 miles for Lariat and XLT trims).

The motors are permanent magnet synchronous units housed directly on each axle, which drive the wheels through independent single-speed planetary transmissions for a combined 563bhp and 775lb ft (Ford announced a modest power hike to 581bhp for 2023-model-year Extended Range F-150 Lightnings).

And so to the fairground attraction part. Ford reckons ‘one-foot rollout’ 0-60mph standing starts (as is convention in the US) are possible in around 4.0sec. Far more importantly, it claims little-compromised, hard-grafting, truck-typical utility for the Lightning, too. While the toughest ICE F-150s have flatbed payloads ready to carry close to 1.5 metric tonnes of cargo and are rated to tow up to six tonnes, the Lightning is itself ready to carry a little over 800kg of load and can tow up to 4500kg.

The weight of the vehicle’s batteries is, of course, the biggest factor limiting its working capability. The F-150 Lightning is available exclusively with a ‘supercrew’ five-seater cab and a 5.5ft load bed. Our car weighed just over 3.1 tonnes, just over a tonne heavier than an equivalent V8.

But those batteries also grant the Lightning special abilities as a utility car – in serving as a high-output, de facto mobile power bank, which we will explore shortly – that other F-150s can’t match.

For suspension, independent axles appear front and rear, the EV junking the regular F-150’s live rear axle, and coil springs feature all round, with conventional passive gas-pressure shock absorbers (monotube at the front, twin tube at the rear) and anti-roll bars. 


10 Ford F150 Lightning RT 2023 dashboard

Wherever your vantage point, it is impossible to escape the sheer scale of the F-150.

Even taller drivers will clamber up into the driver’s seat via the running board to settle into a broad, soft and adjustable driver’s seat that is separated from its passenger-side equivalent by a centre console wide enough to convert into an effective picnic-table-cum-office-desk when you need it to.

The glasshouse around you feels vast but makes for great visibility. The door mirror tips outboard of it have a span of 2440mm (Rolls-Royce Cullinan, 2180mm). Room for extremities in the front row is well beyond generous, and in the back you will find only 10mm less knee room than we measured in the BMW i7. Added to all that, you get an adjustable pedal box to boost driver leg room, as only an NBA power forward would require, and enough cabin storage to make even the cleverest MPV seem under-provisioned.

Lid of armest cubby divides and folds to convert the transmission tunnel into this working area or picnic table, once the gear selector lever has folded down.

In terms of its cargo space at least, the Lightning is practical well beyond even the standards of its peers. And so, in addition to the 1.7-metre-long, 1.5-metre-wide flatbed in the back (which has a powered tailgate that doubles as a step), there is a full-width storage cubby under the flip-up back-seat cushions that’s big enough to swallow grocery bags and the like.

The crowning glory is the Lightning’s powered ‘frunk’, which opens up electrically to reveal a 408-litre storage area right where the burbling V8 would otherwise be. It will take full-size suitcases, and it’s waterproof and fitted with drainage holes, so you can use its lower recess to keep drinks cold when parked. And, like the cab and flatbed, it’s provisioned with a peculiarly generous number of ‘mains’ power outlets.

There are nine 120V outlets dotted around the F-150 Lightning, plus one 240V one in the flatbed. Between them, the vehicle can supply up to 9.6kW of power when parked on a work or camping site: enough for a number of power tools to draw from that 131kWh battery.

Back in the cab, the Lightning goes large with its 15.5in portrait Sync 4A touchscreen infotainment screen and its digital instruments. The cabin materials look and feel a little plain in places, but they don’t make it too hard to convince yourself that you’re travelling in a comfortable and very well-provisioned, modern luxury vehicle.

Multimedia system

15 Ford f150 lightning rt 2023 infotainment navigation 0

Upper trim levels of the F-150 Lightning get as standard the Sync 4A 15.5in portrait-oriented touchscreen infotainment system also seen on the Ford Mustang Mach-E, as well as the latest Ford Ranger Raptor.

When we have tested it on those models, it has attracted some praise for its usability, although it does integrate some controls on the screen that we would rather see physical switchgear for. In the case of the F-150 we tested, however, the system still had its North American settings for satellite radio and navigation, so we couldn’t explore it fully (hence the absence of a star rating).

The system does offer wireless smartphone mirroring for both Apple and Android handsets, as well as wireless device charging. It took a few attempts to connect to an iPhone, and suffered with a slightly glitchy connection thereafter, but worked okay for the most part.


21 Ford F150 Lightning RT 2023 charge port

This 3.1-tonne, 5.9-metre-long pick-up truck vaults into the realm of the absurd when taking off under full power. Like some elephantine, mechanised Thomson’s gazelle, it seems first to squat on its rear springs and then leap into motion, giving the traction control surprisingly little to do, but still launching to 0-60mph in just 4.5sec.

And the Lightning isn’t geared to start easing down from there. The standing quarter mile comes up in 13.3sec. You can buy a tuned, supercharged V8-powered Hennessey Velociraptor F-150 that’s marginally faster, but a single-motor Porsche Taycan is slower, believe it or not, as was the celebrated BMW E46 M3.

This ought to make a natural tow car, the kind you would probably park in among the caravans and campers at the motorway services even when there’s nothing coupled up to it, because of its size. A lightish trailer shouldn’t decimate its electric range.

When the Lightning hits its speed limiter at 104mph, it’s still accelerating strongly – although, for reasons we will come to, keeping it from reaching significantly higher speeds than that does seem like a sensible move. Because, even when it is accelerating that hard, the F-150 Lightning is what it is. It behaves like something that’s very large and very heavy, and tuned to a functionality-first luxury brief – just as it should be.

It has plenty of traction, progressive pedal response and, in dry conditions at least, outright stopping power reasonable enough to ease your most obvious worries about its sheer bulk. But it has motors and controls tuned for fine control of its momentum, and to judiciously keep its body movements from getting out of hand: something that can and will happen if you disregard its size, and even its unloaded weight.

It’s enjoyable, on a road wide enough, to simply sweep along in at everyday speeds, though, and is very simple to drive. Ford gives you Offroad and Towing drive modes in addition to its familiar Normal and Sport settings, and a selectable One-Pedal battery regen calibration – but no finer control of energy regeneration than that.

Like that One-Pedal mode, the car’s synthesised ‘propulsion noise’ is also switchable. It’s quite subtle when left on, though, and somehow reassuring if you’re at all unsettled by the idea of a vehicle of this heft and pace creeping up on nearby road users until it fills their mirrors like little else could.


22 Ford F150 Lightning RT 2023 front corner

If one particular statistic effectively previews what managing, guiding and manoeuvring this vehicle is like on UK roads, it’s the turning circle. The F-150 Lightning needs fully 15.6 metres to turn around between kerbs and, unlike their US equivalents, UK single carriageway roads are typically between nine and 10.5 metres wide.

While luxury saloons and SUVs of a comparable size might have four-wheel steering to mitigate that issue, the F-150 doesn’t have any tricks up its sleeve. And, yes, you become particularly aware of that when you’re nosing it out of tight T-junctions, teasing it around car parks and parking it pretty much anywhere.

Everywhere but on the motorway – and occasionally even there – the F-150 Lightning feels very large indeed. And because it’s also left-hand drive, positioning it within a lane requires plenty of concentration (a few testers were more than usually grateful for the car’s lane centring system).

The pictured 22in part-painted alloy wheels come with range-topping Platinum trim. They help to fill those enormous arches but do occasionally make the ride bristle slightly (lesser models get either 18s or 20s).

It has a large, fairly slow-geared steering system with plenty of weight, good handling stability, reasonable enough lateral roll control and a grip level on dry Tarmac that’s assured enough, but lends only the sort of response to the chassis, and creates the kind of road-holding, you would expect of something so huge.

If you do experiment with faster point-to-point speeds, it will be deteriorating vertical body control that checks your enthusiasm, assuming you can find a road wide enough to suit the F-150’s outright size. The cab begins to oscillate on its springs, in underdamped fashion, when the axles are dealing with rapidly changing cornering loads, which they do with a gathering amount of fidgeting as you press on.

So, while there are notes of pleasing sophistication about the F-150 Lightning’s ride at gentler speeds, there’s no great dynamic revelation to be experienced here simply for the replacement of this truck’s cart springs and live rear axle. Big is big, heavy is heavy – and, on UK roads especially, there’s no getting around either.

Comfort and isolation

23 Ford f150 lightning rt 2023 rear corner 0

You can still find surprising dynamic crudeness from some European-market pick-ups, many of which don’t approach a standard on ride comfort you would remotely associate with luxurious travel. The F-150 Lightning, however, isn’t so encumbered.

Rated as it is only to carry around 800kg of load, and running with coil springs and independent rear suspension, the Lightning clearly couldn’t be registered as a commercial vehicle in the UK in its current form, but that wouldn’t stop it serving as a fairly mild-mannered and pleasant passenger car.

Even in unloaded form, it feels soft and quite settled on the road, and in normal driving rides with little of the jostle and fidget of more ordinary pick-ups. There’s suppleness to the way the car deals with bumps and low and medium speeds, and quite good isolation from road surface noise too.

Bigger, sharper-edged inputs, as well as those taken at greater speed, remind you that you’re driving something with a separate chassis by clunking or shuddering just a little, however, and can also set up some gentle vertical body heave.

Off-road notes

The fitment of standard Continental ‘mud and sand’ tyres to our test car shows how committed the F-150 Lightning has been made to the right kind of off-road use.

Like most trucks it is intended for mixed surfaces, on dirt trails and when crossing fields, towing as necessary, but not for more extreme mud-plugging and rock crawling. You can see proof of that in the vehicle’s off-road clearance angles, which roughly equal those of a mid-sized SUV.

The Lightning’s sheer size and weight prevent it from go-anywhere-style off-road work. Its width is a significant factor in deterring you from narrower tracks and green lanes, and its weight a constant concern on steeper gradients with loose surfaces.

But traction was in generous supply when we tested the car on gravel and dry mud, the electric motors and electronics making it easy to mete power out accurately.


01 Ford F150 Lightning RT 2023 lead front driving

The only route for UK ownership right now is a ‘grey’ import – either from Norway or North America.

Using our test car over the course of a few days confirmed some of the pitfalls of bringing a car into a market for which it isn’t configured. It had a CCS1 DC rapid-charge port incompatible with European-market cables, while its DC rapid-charging software also refused to connect and charge from a CCS2 outlet even via an adaptor (itself only rated for up to 95kW of power).

These are problems Ford would no doubt address in advance of an official UK-market offering, of course – should it ever decide to undertake one. If it did, we would expect this model to come at a formidable price. Comparing Mustang Mach-E prices in North America and the UK as a basis, Platinum-trim Lightnings would be likely to push £120,000, with even lower-end derivatives (should Ford elect to offer them at all) unlikely to proceed far below six figures.

Our Extended Range Lightning averaged 2.2mpkWh on test, rising to 2.4mpkWh when touring at 70mph – proving the validity of its 300-mile EPA range claim in unloaded running. When loaded with passengers and holiday kit, or towing, that figure should drop significantly, though. Ford’s range-estimation software claims to accurately account for the influence of load, but we didn’t have the opportunity to test that particular element of its calibration.


24 Ford F150 Lightning RT 2023 rear static

Rarely has a car manufacturer permitted a full Autocar road test on a model that it has yet to decide whether or not to officially import to British roads.

The Ford F-150 Lightning would have merited our attention, of course, even if Ford of Britain had categorically rejected the notion that it would ever go on UK sale. Because, while it’s clearly too large to easily use habitually on UK roads, even here it’s not impossible to find routes, jobs and spaces on and in which it can work.

When you do find them, for all the other times that you roll your eyes at the Lightning’s colossal size and unwieldiness, you can do little but marvel at all that it can carry, power, haul and generally enable. It may be enormous, but the F-150 Lightning has equally huge potential as a brilliant family leisure vehicle. Plenty who see its many uses could probably justify a place for it in their lives. However, we fear that rather fewer would once they factor in an enthusiasm-checking, likely six-figure price.

Still, we reckon those who do buy one will get a surprising amount of use out of it, even on UK roads. And, but for the occasional moment, they will surely enjoy driving it too.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Ford F-150 Lightning First drives