Ford F-150 Lightning: Early Impressions, Purchase Journey

We purchased a F-150 Lightning this past weekend. My dad is the primary driver of that vehicle, but I think I drove it more than him so far, by mile at least.

Of course, now that the truck is on our driveway, I can exhale and focus on writing the purchase journey. As people who know, knows, having one of these in your garage or driveway today is part luck and a lot of work/skill. Most first-hour preorders have been converted, but unless you splurged like we did, odds are you are hemming and hawing between buying the 2023 Pro or dropping it entirely. Probably less than 30% of the intended Pro trim buyers from day 1 were able to get a 2022 order in, since it has the highest demand.

Before I get too far, we purchased a Rapid Red (metallic clear coat) Lariat Extended Range (511A) with Max Tow and Tech Tow package. We got the stock spray-in liner but that turned out to be a mistake (because it delayed delivery and it’s better to do it aftermarket).

Anyways, enough inside talk. The hotly demanded F-150 Lightning is the first real EV pickup truck for the masses (sorry Rivian/Hummer). It’s huge just like all the other F-150s today (more on that later). It packs a standard range battery of 98 kWh, and goes to 131 kWh for the extended range. For a point of contrast, my Model 3 Long Range has 75 kWh (and goes about as far as the ER truck on a single charge, maybe 5% less?). Demand for the truck was so high that Ford stopped preorders at around 250k. There were 20k preorders as of 24 hours since it started. They also announced the production numbers for 2022 to be up to 25k units or so.

The ordering process for this vehicle is different than most. First you register with plus a $100 refundable deposit, and this is called a “reservation.” During this time you need to associate the reservation with a dealer. Then you wait until your dealer figured out this new preorder process, and then invites go out from Ford to reservation holders (in some secret order) to make an order. Once you get that email, you can go into the order portal and config your truck for order directly from Ordering also takes a $500 non-refundable deposit and your truck is locked in to be purchased for all practical purpose (and for tax rebate purposes). At that time your dealership is locked and can no longer be changed. If you had read up on all this you would know to talk to the dealer between reservation and order period to confirm the price and if ADM is going to occur. Some people made the dealer do it in writing (which is a good idea). Ford has said that they are going to go after ludicrous ADMs and dealers have the option to enter the ADM into Ford’s system so it shows up before you complete ordering the truck.

I picked actually one of the closest dealer to me, who turned out to be champs and took that MSRP deal and got us in and out with zero hassle and zero dealer markup. Well, zero as for paperwork purposes, but I think the doc fees are a bit higher than what I expect! I’m not bothered by an extra $100 or whatever in this 2022-inflation-minded economy though. More over, the horror ADM stories and shady dealer behaviors are what is truly worrisome and we were spared all of that. Probably a good half or more dealers in NJ are charging a markup today on the Lightning. Part of the luck was picking that dealer in the very early minutes of the reservation process (we were 3rd in line at the dealer and they honored our place in line).

Still, we preordered the hour the Ford keynoted ended on May 20th, 2021. And I ordered the truck the same day when the email for ordering came in on April 16th (a very memorable moment because I happened to be with my dad in Texas lol…and for other reasons). We were “wave 6” orders so the Pro and XLT standard range had already been sold out. In fact, for the 2022 builds, they were sold out since late March if I recall correctly. Lariat Long Range is actually the third most cost-efficient model I think, so we went for that one despite the higher cost (I mean it’s literally 2 2022 Pros).

According to Ford, they had a certain number of allocation for each trim in 2022, with maybe 20% going to the standard range XLT and Pro models. They were saying people would buy the Lariat trim the most, and they show us this afterwards. It’s only because you would only allow people to buy them based on that allocation… As you can see the number of Pros did not meet the demand. Standard Range XLT was in the mid 50ks. The 40k Pro 2022 model is now a unicorn, in that while it exists, nobody can buy it. It’s literally a half-luck, half-skill lottery, and probably involves bribery or something, or living next to a large Ford dealer (for allocation purposes) that doesn’t rip you off.

People who didn’t want to order the more expensive trims can defer their order for the 2023 model year. As we know recently, 2023 order emails have now starting to go out. Holdover reservation holders who got to defer their order, in the USA, get a private offer for their deferred trim that takes the price down to 2022 levels, but they can’t change it to a different trim in 2023 and maintain the same 2022 price. Everything went up by about $6-8000 in 2023 so it’s what it is. (Canadians got shafted since they didn’t get to have the private offer.)

It’s mid-September. When we picked up the truck, we were just the 3rd Lightning our dealership delivered. I don’t think they’ll be delivering too many more this year. They still have 20+ reservations in line when I checked in June. Again, we were also 3rd in line. Sometimes, it’s literally mostly about speed.

For those who aren’t familiar with the auto market in 2022, cars are expensive. Supply chain woes means many dealers are now selling fewer cars, but at higher prices. Used cars are going bangers, there has been many articles about this. It also means F-150 Lightning has some production issues. As I was following the news of this very expensive purchase from May 2021, I’ve seen the following rock others who were also following:

  1. The various EV tax credit changes from the President/Dems in power, BBB (or the chance thereof) and now IRA (more on this also later).
  2. Supply chain woes holding back power/massage seats in Plat trims; onboard scale for late 2022 builds
  3. Nonstop dealer horror stories, including a family friend who got sprung the ADM after ordering (but he didn’t do diligence)
  4. People flipping lol

It’s not surprising–the Lariat and Platinum ER trims are very expensive and you can’t even buy them unless you are a super lucky and savvy shopper, tracking these vehicles in their pre- and mid-production cycles, taking up all the Ford news and the buyers discussions online. Oh, you had to have ordered them in mid-2021. The Ford F-150 is a perennial best-seller doing many hundreds of thousands of units in North America every year, so lots of people buy these trucks. It also turns out these are one of the best, if not the best F-150s Ford has ever made (to date, of course), and as an aside they don’t even run on gasoline. The markups on these trucks are significant in the open market as a result.

So yes, I can confirm personally that these are great trucks. I have really only daily-driven a Chevy Silverado, a Honda Ridgeline, and now this truck. The Lightning zips, it has no right being this fast–at all speeds–for a half-tonner. It’s literally faster than my single-motor LR Model 3 by quite a bit. Unlike the Tesla it’s easier to spin out on the F-150, but the fresh all-weather tires tried their best. It’s “blink and you’re at 80mph” kind of fast–at least while you’re on the on-ramp to the freeway. Maybe the best way to put it is how some people say “once you go electric you never want to go back” and it’s super true for the Lightning, at least mechanically and in terms of pure driving characteristics. This much more drastic to me coming from a smaller truck even; and much more than when I swapped to the Tesla the first time.

That said, it’s one thing to enjoy the electric drive acceleration that we all have some experience with now in smaller cars, but the EV F-150 flies not like a roller coaster, it feels like a truck still. The lightning handles like a full-size truck unlike the Ridgeline, which drives stiffer and corners better actually, but not at this speed, acceleration and this weight…

We did like the Ridgeline a lot; it’s a light truck that did everything, easy to maintain, reliable, and easy to drive. It was getting very long in the tooth and it would have been on the weak side to tow the travel trailer we got some time ago. We sold the Ridgeline in anticipation of the truck in late July to a friend who needed a used car fast, hoping for a late August delivery. It took till mid-September. I think we definitely lost 2 weeks on the bed liner work, compared to other owners who were tracking their orders together with mine with the same blend date (the Ford factory build date basically) in late July.

Just to finish my thoughts on first impressions, here are all the real negatives on the truck so far. I think these are not critical on a practical sense, but they are all real problems that should be fixed.

The Ford Sync system you have to deal with is kind of bad. It’s not quite at the level of broken and unusable, but it definitely feels like a product that ought to have stayed in the 2010s. In terms of usability, UX styles, touch detection and input lag, and what you can even do with it. It’s got some signs of unpruned tech debt when its fairly extensive menus are stowed away in different places that you have to tease out. Most of these problems are not unique to the Lightning of course, but you do have to lean into its GPS for EV-based route planning if you’re going long distance. You still need to struggle through its menu to do basic things like program the radio presets a certain way, or to remember the driver profile presets, and what have you. The various towing features need this UI. The EV driving settings need this UI. The basic vehicle configs need this UI. Even with Apple Carplay and Android Auto it’s at most taking over half of the screen. At least they made it a bit easy with full wireless Carplay/AA and it’s easy enough to disconnect/reconnect when needed. Did you know the built-in GPS map searches using Yelp? LOL. Works fine if all you’re going to are public-facing businesses but it failed at searching a handful of things we wanted to go to–that is already one strike too many for its usability to be considered “good” in 2022.

The truck has a lot of buttons, you can probably get away with not using Sync much as long as you master the touch screen-based climate controls (which…I still quite have not yet? It’s not suppose to be this unintuitive). The companion app for the truck, FordPass, has some remote features like turning on/off the vehicle for up to 15 minutes, locking/unlocking it, and other basic stuff. I barely used it but they do work.

Lastly, there’s the charging situation. I’m guessing Ford made the whole battery management thing super simple. The only options you have are 1) a one-time charge limit, 2) preferred charge times (absolutely needed for TOU benefits–when utilities offer lower rates for late night charging), and 3) departure times for warming up the truck before you leave the house. (As an aside, I wonder if you can use Alexa to do the same, since this has Alexa integration.) Even where you can check the battery states is limited (and this is often called out by youtubers reviewing this vehicle).

What I really need is a current limiter, and a battery capacity limiter. A limiter because this truck is going to draw as much as the outlet is going to let it (up to 30 amp with the travel charger) and that might be too much depending on where I ended up charging. You don’t want to be unable to charge at a site because you trip its circuit. You also kinda want a charging limiter since the truck levels out on charge rate at 80%. Maybe Ford held back enough of spare battery capacity from you being able to “overcharge” it, so this is less of a problem to me. By “overcharging” it’s simply that fully charging these lithium ion batteries increases the rate of the battery degradation slightly. Tesla allows you to set it to max and gives you a warning (it recommends 90%). Ford lets you set a 1-time limit via the Sync console, which maybe it’s enough. I suppose there are the rare chance when your bank balance doesn’t pay for the price of electricity while you’re doing a DCFC session so you want to cap it? Anyways, these are 2 basic features needed features needed in any EV I think, and it is weird that Ford decides to omit them.

What we do know is Ford will eventually go to Android Auto completely and sunset Sync, and that’s good on them. What we can also infer from all the PR is that the 2022 F-150 Lightning is a first-to-market play where Ford tries to shoehorn all of that good EV engineering in the body of a gas F-150, complete with its last-decade infotainment system. It is not the future, and it’s a product that’s one foot planted in the present and one foot kind of in the future. That’s why things like CoPilot Active 2.0 or whatever they call their driver assist/safety suite, has a weird name like that, as it doesn’t even have full hands-free BlueCruise until sometime later this year after a software update? Yea, you buy the hardware first and wait for the software features later, so much for a legacy company’s way of doing business. It’s half-assed just like the way I had to go about buying this truck, I guess.

PS. Tax credits. With the Inflation Reduction Act, the old 200,000 cap and 7500 Fed income tax credit is gone. What replaces it is something similar but different in some key ways. Gone is the 200,000 cap. In are the “where it’s from” schemes, which applies to where the car is assembled (USA only), and where the batteries comes from (US allies), and even more so, where the material for the batteries come from (US allies). In addition there are cost and income caps to who can buy what car with what incentive. It is also a straight credit that eventually can be claimed at point of sale. The old system should still apply until the end of 2022 as far as tax credit goes. The new law while replaces the old one immediately after 2 weeks being signed into law, not every part of the new system kicks in at the same time. For 2022, only the made-in-the-US law kicks in. There are some other stuff that’s not clear for these transition times. It does mean Kia/Hyundai/Genesis EVs loses out on this, as well as some BMW/MB EVs. It’s great that VW has that US plant up and going strong already. What isn’t is most EVs made in the US use Chinese batteries (like the F-150 Lightning), except Tesla’s. Trucks and SUV gets a $80,000 limit meaning expensive SUVs/Trucks like Rivian are now out of luck most likely, as well as Lariat/Platinum Lightnings.