America's continuing deep love affair with trucks has prompted veteran truck producer Ford to come up with the amazing SVT F-150 Lightning pickup truck. The 142-mph Lightning is simply the world's fastest pickup. Although quicker than many sports cars, it's derived from Ford's F-Series full-size pickup, which has been the country's top-selling vehicle for the past 23 years. The $31,745 Lightning was developed by Ford's elite special vehicle team (SVT), which turns Ford production cars and trucks into world-class high-performance vehicles. The first SVT Lightning was introduced in 1993 as a regular cab, rear-drive, limited-production model with a 240-horsepower V-8 that took it to 60 mph in a quick 7.2 seconds. It easily sold out, with 5,276 buyers.
Production continued through 1995, and then vanished until 1999Ñwhen a regular-cab, rear-drive Lightning could be based on Ford's new-generation, more smoothly styled F-150 pickup. The 380-horsepower Lightning has 20 more horsepower than the 2000 model, which grabbed 4,966 buyers. Its new rear-axle gearing (3.73:1) allows faster acceleration and the lowered suspension system has been fine-tuned for better handling with such things as gas-charged shock absorbers. Also, the huge, wide 45-series Goodyear tires have a new compound to improve road grip.
The Lightning is built on the F-Series regular cab short-wheelbase chassis for the lightest weight, best handling and fastest acceleration. It's lavishly equipped, with the only option being a $150 black soft tonneau cover for the pickup box. Exterior items that enhance the $31,745 Lightning's racy look include new upper and lower front grilles with a special horizontal billet-bar design. Rocker sill extensions visually link the front fascia and rear bumper.
And large, twin ceramic-coated exhaust tips with rounded ends tuck under a distinctive scallop in the rocker panel, just ahead of the right-rear wheel. All lights are new, with unique crystalline lenses, and there is a textured leather and cloth trim 40/60 split bench seat. Although big and brawny, the Lightning is reminiscent of a Chevrolet Corvette.
This trucks supercharged 380-horsepower V-8 generates only five less horsepower than the higher-performance Z06 version of the Corvette and produces lots more torque. And a Corvette doesn't have the Lightning's 800-pound payload or its 5,000-pound towing capacity. The Lightning hits 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and 100 in 13.9 seconds. The faster you go, the faster the Lightning wants to go, and its engine loafs at 2,400 rpm at 75 mph.
However, the fairly loud exhaust rumble might have some occupants reaching for ear plugs after an hour on the highway. And the supercharger makes a loud whine when it kicks in hard to increase horsepower during hard acceleration. Otherwise, the Lightning is commendably quiet. The specially developed, quick shifting four-speed automatic transmission helps make the Lightning about as fast as the Ford SVT Mustang Cobra; it has 320 horsepower, but is much smaller and lighter. The Lightning's improved supple suspension delivers a comfortable ride.
And the truck has been modified to steer, handle and stop like a sports car, although it weighs 4,670 pounds. The 5,556-pound turbocharged Bentley Arnage sedan handles much like a sports car, but costs more than $200,000. The Lightning is an EPA-certified low emissions vehicle. Even a regular 260-horsepower Ford F-150 delivers an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 19 on highways, so the Lightning's figures of 13 and 17 highway are respectable. A 25-gallon fuel tank allows a decent highway cruising range.
The Lightning sits fairly low, so little extra effort is needed to get in or out. Occupants sit high and the driver faces stylish gauges. The bench seat should provide more side support, but there's a big center fold-down armrest with a storage bin and cup holders. Most controls are easy to use, but those for the sound system are too small. The glove compartment also should be larger. The only exterior colors are red, black, white and silver. But, no matter what the color, a Lightning owner has the world's highest-performance pickup truck.
FORD SVT F-150 LIGHTNING
Very fast. Racy look. Sports-car handling. Responsive automatic transmission.
Low fuel economy. Average seats. Tiny radio controls. Tiring exhaust sound.