- I took Ford’s all-electric F-150 pickup truck off-roading.
- I’m a mediocre off-roader, but the F-150 Lightning filled in for my lack of skills.
- All F-150 Lightnings have all-wheel drive, an off-road driving mode, and tons of torque.
I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to driving off-road, I have almost no idea what I’m doing.
On pavement, I’m solid. Above average even. But put me face to face with scary ruts and big boulders and I regress into a shaky 16-year-old with a learner’s permit.
I’m learning. Slowly. But at this point, I’m basically winging it. So trust me when I say that Ford’s new electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, makes venturing off the beaten path remarkably easy and fun. During a recent off-pavement jaunt at a Ford media event, the truck’s helpful tech and ample power more than offset my mediocrity and made me feel like an off-roading pro.
What makes the Lightning good off-road?
The Lightning isn’t designed to be a hardcore off-road truck for the most unforgiving terrain. For that, you’re better off with its gasoline-powered, steroid-injected cousin, the F-150 Raptor. But the Lightning still has what it takes to hit some trails.
For starters, all Lightnings come with two motors and all-wheel drive, making it sure-footed and grippy on sketchy surfaces. All trucks, from the $40,000 base model all the way up to the $90,000 Platinum edition, promise to generate 775 pound-feet of torque. In layman’s terms, that’s more oomph for pulling trailers or climbing boulders than any other F-150 before it.
Better yet, unlike past Ford trucks, the Lightning can deliver all that torque instantly. In a conventional vehicle, an engine’s full potential is only unleashed when it revs up to a certain speed. In electric vehicles, however, every ounce of torque is available at a moment’s notice, which can come in particularly handy off-road.
All I had to do was point the Lightning’s tires at a big rock or ledge and nudge the accelerator. Its powerful motors would handle the rest without much of a struggle.
Then there’s the Lightning’s Off-Road mode, which adjusts the accelerator pedal’s sensitivity and makes it easier to modulate power at low speeds. I was able to slowly and gingerly tackle challenging obstacles without fear of suddenly overshooting or rocketing into a tree. Off-Road mode also allows drivers to activate the truck’s locking rear differential, which forces the back wheels to spin in lockstep and helps the truck find traction on slippery and uneven trails.
Seeing over the F-150’s tall, bulky hood is a perennial problem area. But the Lightning’s forward-facing camera came to my rescue, showing me the trail ahead and peering over the top of steep hills. I only wish there was an option to keep it on permanently; currently, it automatically shuts off above a certain speed.
During my half-hour adventure, I gleefully scrambled up technical climbs, tore down gravel paths, and took the Lightning for a little bath in a mud pit. Despite my initial trepidations, I felt totally in control and had a blast thanks to the Lightning’s thoughtful technology and tremendous capability.
I’m still not sure if I’ll ever embrace off-roading as a hobby, but every time I hit the trails I enjoy it more and more. At this rate, I should progress from nervy 16-year-old to overly confident 18-year old in no time.