Ford F150 Lightning
The beast from overseas
One look at the F150 is enough to understand why this model is not for sale in Europe: it is a pickup truck. Such vehicles are used here only by the occasional forester or construction worker who needs an open space for cargo that cannot fit in a van.
The few pickups available in Europe are already big. The F150, however, is very much bigger and therefore almost unmanageable on European roads. At almost 6 (!) metres long, the test driver was between always facing a choice when parking: either occupy several spaces or stick out considerably and obstruct traffic. With a height of 2 metres, the F150 does not fit in most garages and drivers must pay attention to height restrictions as if this were a lorry.
Made for America
Yet, the F150 is considered quite ordinary in America, even for families and business users. And for the gigantic exterior dimensions, owners do get a lot in return. Getting in requires a serious climb. After that, a cabin that is more spacious than that of the largest European SUV awaits. In fact, the front seat is so oversized that even large adults spontaneously feel small. Just to further illustrate how big the F150 is: the pedals are adjustable to prevent smaller drivers from not being able to reach them!
Once seated behind the steering wheel, one has a view over a huge bonnet and automatically gets a sense of power and even invincibility. In a country where people have little faith in politics or the police and it is therefore "every man for himself", that is a valuable commodity. Suddenly, it becomes clear why the F150 is so popular in America!
The space in the back is again larger than that in a large SUV or MPV in Europe. Should the back seat not be needed, it can easily be folded to provide space for tools, for example. If even all that is not enough, another cargo space can be found under the front lid. And that, again, is larger than the boot of the largest European car.
This would already make the F150 a hugely spacious and practical car, but in fact only half of it has been named! An open space can be found behind the cabin. Due to the height of the car, it can only be reached by means of a folding ladder. Next to the loading floor, sockets (110 volts) can be found to power electric tools, for instance. The car can also be used as a workbench, as the loading ramp includes measuring rods. Of course, illumination for working at night has not been forgotten.
The F150 does not do "modesty" and so no minimalist-designed dashboard here. Despite the fact that the F150 uses the same central display as the Ford Mustang MACH-E, the dashboard is still filled with buttons, levers and panels. The functionality therefore goes a whole lot further than usual. For instance, the F150 offers every conceivable feature for off-road driving and for "surviving" inside the car. For instance, the lever of the automatic gearbox can be folded up (electrically), creating a table between the two front seats. Of course, there are also sockets in the cabin to connect household appliances.
The built-in sat nav can show a map of Europe, but does not know any country by name. Seems like an American! Very European is the refined sound of the B&O audio system.
The reason for bringing this one example of the Ford F150 to Europe is the introduction of an electric-powered version: the F150 Lightning. As the F150 is Ford's best-selling model, new battery technology will be first featured in it, and that's what Ford wants to give Europe a taste of. The new cells are lighter than before, making the battery lighter. In the process, the battery can charge and discharge faster. The former is useful for fast charging on long trips, the latter provides a lot of power to perform.
Ford has utilised the entire length of the F150 for batteries. That is why the "long range" version driven here has a battery with a capacity of no less than 130 kWh. That is not only good for a range of more than 500 km, but enough to power three homes for three days. According to Ford, the latter is the decisive argument for many buyers to make the switch to electric driving.
And to make sure buyers don't miss out on the performance of their "V8 big block", Ford has given the F150 Lightning a serious amount of power. Every F150 Lightning is fitted with two engines (one on the front axle, one on the rear axle). Those combined in the test car accounted for 580 hp and no less than 1,050 Nm of torque. Equally important: the battery can deliver the massive amount of energy needed to generate that engine power in one go. The name "Lightning" was chosen for a reason!
Tap the accelerator and the F150 responds by immediately raising its nose and moving with brute force. Even during intermediate accelerations, the electric motors are like sledgehammers. While accelerating, the numbers on the digital speedometer change so fast that they are barely readable! At the same time, it is hard to fathom that a car so big and so heavy (3 tonnes) can be so fast. And yet this is just the beginning!
There is, in fact, a sport mode. Then the F150 Lightning changes from lightning fast to improbably brutal. Now the response to the accelerator is even more aggressive, with all four wheels regularly spinning because the engine power is too overwhelming! It will therefore come as no surprise that the electric F150 is faster than even the fastest internal combustion engine version.
During braking, this big structure dives deep into the springs and although that doesn't do the handling any favours, it makes the experience even more spectacular. By alternately brutally hitting the brake and power pedals, the driver can even make the F150 dance! Despite the fact that the F150 Lightning managed to completely engross the normally calm test driver, consumption remained stuck at 27 kW per 100 km. That is very high, but quite decent considering the car's performance and size. We conveniently overlook the fact that the F150 Lightning can hardly be charged in Europe due to its anomalous charging connector.
Not only during acceleration and braking does the F150 dip into the springs. When cornering, too, the F150 Lightning tilts like a true American. This seems like a problem at first, but given its huge width, gigantic wheels and low centre of gravity, it only adds to the thrill in practice. Even when deliberately pushing the limits, the F150 Lightning remains stable for a very long time.
The F150 has one last talent: off-roading. And even that is something this American does differently than usual. Because of the size of this pickup, slopes seem smaller than in other cars. Its weight is enough to crush obstacles first and, if there is really no other way, climb them. In off-road mode, the F150 offers difflocks that requires only one wheel to grip to keep going. Even off-road, therefore, the F150 Lightning gives a great sense of invincibility. That may not be justified everywhere, but the European flat lands hardly offered a challenge to this American.
Not for sale
For those looking to buy the F150 Lightning, bad news awaits. In America, sales are exceeding all expectations and this electric pickup is therefore completely sold out. There is now even a lively trade in "production spots", so those willing to pay substantially extra on top of the sticker price of $90,000 can get their hands on their F150 sooner.
The market for pickup trucks is very small in Europe, and for the European market Ford offers the Ranger. This is partly why the F150 will not be delivered in the Europe and there are no concrete plans to do so. Nonetheless, after some urging, Ford Europe says it has not completely ruled out ever importing a small series of F150 Lightning if demand in the home country is past its peak.
During a day of driving the Ford F150 Lightning, feelings of lust for power and megalomania surfaced that the normally docile test driver did not know he had! The Ford F150 is extremely large, unprecedentedly versatile, exceptionally spacious, peerlessly fast and therefore seemingly invincible. That may seem very nice, but it also accurately reflects what the F150 Lightning actually is: a cutting-edge solution to a problem no one has. Certainly not in Europe. Even as an ultimate toy, the F150 is hardly desirable because the car is unmanageably large on our roads.
So it stands to reason that the F150 is not sold in Europe. Still, the test drive did make sense, because because the F150 is so popular in America, Ford chose this model to be the first to feature the latest generation of electric drive. Compared to the previous generation, the batteries are lighter, stronger and quicker to charge. That actually makes a lot of sense, which is why that technology is coming to Ford's European models soon.
- Mighty fast
- Comfortable and luxurious
- Overwhelmingly large and spacious
- Awkwardly large in Europe
- American plug, difficult to charge in Europe