2023 Ford F-150 Lightning XLT Yearlong Test: Off to a Bumpy Start with “RangeLiar”

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning XLT Yearlong Test: Off to a Bumpy Start with "RangeLiar"

EV life in the Midwest is nothing like EV life in Southern California, and we’re gaining a keen appreciation for Middle America’s reluctance to go electric.

071 2023 Ford F 150 Lightning XLT front three quarters in action



Frank Markus Writer Andi HedrickPhotographer

ford f-150-lightning Full Overview

If you're sensing déjà vu, don't distress. This is indeed MotorTrend's second yearlong Ford F-150 Lightning arrival story. The Lariat model you've already read about is the one we specced, built, and paid for after dropping a $500 deposit on the day of its public launch. This more modestly equipped F-150 Lightning XLT model is the one Ford is loaning us for 12 months after winning Truck of the Year. If you're wondering how on earth we'll find enough to say about two such similar long-termers, fear not. We're already off to a starkly different experience with our new Michigan-based Lightning, and America's Water-Winter Wonderland will present entirely different opportunities and experiences than our Los Angeles-based Lariat.

Off To A Bumpy Start

This F-150 Lightning awaited us at the airport on a late March evening following a winter vacation in the tropics, but it warmed us quickly. The next morning, battery topped off at home with the cabin preconditioned, the range meter predicted 315 miles—way more than enough for a 130-mile drive north to retrieve our pooch from Grandma's house. We drove with traffic at the prevailing Michigan speed (10 mph over the 70-mph limit) and arrived with less than 120 miles of range remaining—nowhere near enough to get home. Grandma's house lacks a charger, and her town of Midland boasts just four—all of them 6.5-kW Level 2 chargers.

We talked ourselves into a perch dinner in nearby Bay City to avail ourselves of an Electrify America station boasting four 350-kW chargers, one of which got us from 31 to 67 percent charge (199 miles) in 24 minutes at a peak charging rate of 155 kW (though we've observed as high as 182 kW in our SoCal truck). Surely that's plenty? Nope. Driving 10 over the 75-mph limit on US-10 for the 15 miles back to grandma's consumed 49 miles of indicated range. Our attempt to creep home at 70 mph, traffic streaking by on the left, failed, forcing a stop at a 125-kW ChargePoint station curiously located inside the short-term parking lot at the Flint airport. It haltingly dispensed 20 miles of range in 10 minutes before faulting out, forcing us to complete the 58-mile run at 65 mph, arriving on electronic "fumes." Had I just purchased this $85,779 truck, I'd be asking for my money back.

060 2023 Ford F 150 Lightning XLT front view in action

Nickname: "RangeLiar"

For the first few weeks I made a point of noting the range estimation before various trips and then noting the range remaining at the end of the trip. Every trip consumed more miles of estimated range than miles traveled. Remember when you screwed up as a kid, deflected blame, and your parents told you, "It's not what you did, it's lying about it that disappointed us"? I'm that parent here, and in this age of machine learning and artificial intelligence, I'm disappointed that Ford is either unable or unwilling to give me the bad news about how far this truck will actually travel on a charge—especially when destinations are entered into the native navigation system. And yes, it was late winter, and we were running some heat. But we're also operating 20 miles from Ford's engineering headquarters, so this climate should be no surprise to the truck's computers. When pressed on the subject, Ford admitted programming the system to present EPA best-case range when charging via Level 2 chargers like we've got at home and the office, but an upcoming Intelligent Range feature coming via over-the-air update might soon change this.

Aerodynamic Brick

We get it (now). We're shoving a big barn door through the air. Because Ford repurposed its gas F-150 for EV duty, there wasn't much opportunity to optimize the Lightning for aero the way Rivian did its R1T. Drag force varies with the square of the speed, so while the difference in drag between 70 and 80 mph is 31 percent for any vehicle, the change in actual drag force as speeds rise is dramatically higher for the Lightning than in other long-term EVs our Michigan staff has experienced. And we Michiganders drive fast—posted freeway limits are 70 mph right through much of the Detroit metroplex, rising to 75 out in the sticks.

Drag Force.xlsx

Our Truck's Specifications

The Lighting XLT starts off at $65,369, but heaven help the truck buyer who passes on the $12,500 extended-range battery, which adds 33 kWh of usable capacity, 80 miles of range, and 128 peak horsepower. Of the other gear (listed in the specs) a noteworthy one is the tonneau cover. At $595, our soft tri-folding one is the cheapest of three offered (rigid folding is $1,200, retractable runs $2,200). It's noticeably lighter and easier to remove and store than the one we ran on our most recent yearlong Ram 2500 HD, but the spring-loaded latches at the rear seem cheap and fragile. Sadly, the chip shortage robbed our truck of the onboard scales feature.

001 2023 Ford F 150 Lightning XLT towing

Pure Michigan

Now that we've internalized the potentially counterproductive effects of high speeds (you'll arrive a lot later if that extra 10 mph forces an additional charging stop), we're starting to appreciate the quiet cabin, the creamy-smooth (for a pickup) ride quality, and the Sync 4 user interface. So far 65 percent of our charging has been Level 2 AC, resulting in lower per-mile energy costs than for our predominantly DC-fast-charged California Lightning ($0.17 versus $0.20). We'll be running to the lakes, using that Pro Power Onboard energy to power lawn and construction projects—not to mention the MotorTrend tailgate-party trailer—and lots more. The big question is, will we take it on enough long trips to accrue 20,000 miles, given that everybody in this office dreads the prospect of traveling around the nation's midsection, where chargers are fewer, farther between, and frequently FUBAR? Stick with us to find out.

MotorTrend's Michigan 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning XLT
SERVICE LIFE 1 mo/1,255 mi
OPTIONS Extended-range battery ($12,500), Group 312A ($5,000: Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0, ProPower Onboard, 10-way power driver's seat, heated steering wheel, power tailgate with step, 20" dark wheels, LED bed lighting), Max Trailer Tow package ($1,000), spray-in bedliner ($595), soft tri-fold tonneau ($590), mobile power cord ($500), under-seat storage ($225)

About the Author

Volta Automotive Ltd which imports and sells Electric Vehicles and Hybrids Car dealers New Zealand and Australia can list and sell on our website www.voltnz.autos

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