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Up Close With the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning: Substance Over Style

ford f 150 lightning 2022 01 angle  blue  exterior  front jpg 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning isn’t much to look at. I don’t mean that as an insult, but for a vehicle with such significance in the market, there isn’t much to see on the auto show floor. 

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Sure, there’s the Mega Power Frunk, which was on permanent display because the early prototype on hand was fixed in the open position, but we couldn’t operate the hood. I’m not sure what it is that captivates people so much about frunks (which is to say, front trunks), but once you get over it, they’re just another storage space that may or may not add to the total in a substantial way. Here, the frunk does seem to do that. And by virtue of being powered, it won’t have the shortcoming of Ford’s other electric star, the Mustang Mach-E — the frunk of which opens like a traditional hood, by pulling a lever in the driver’s footwell.

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Beyond the frunk, the near lack of a functional grille and aerodynamic running boards (they’re smooth underneath, if you bother to feel them), the Lightning isn’t much different from the regular F-150 and F-150 hybrid to the casual viewer. There are some lighting differences and not-very-subtle American flag symbols with incorporated lightning bolts.

Look into the 5.5-foot bed and you might as well be looking at Cars.com’s own Best of 2021 F-150 Limited hybrid, complete with Pro Power Onboard outlets.

Ditto for the interior. In our case, the prototype’s touchscreen was acting up, and if there was anything about it specific to the F-150, I couldn’t sample it. One unfortunate development, especially if it spreads to other F-150s, is that high-spec Lightnings employ Ford’s Sync 4A system with a 15.5-inch, vertically oriented touchscreen, similar to the Mach-E, which incorporates climate controls into a section of the touchscreen. Moving oft-used physical controls to a touchscreen (or touch-sensitive dashboard panels, for that matter) is unquestionably a step backward for usability; consumer surveys indicate drivers also agree. The good news? Lower trims of the Lightning can be had with Ford’s still-large 12-inch screen, which preserves physical climate controls.

The Lightning will get a lot of attention on the show circuit, as it should, but it will be more for what it is and what it represents than for the impression it makes up close. Stay tuned; we’re looking forward to driving it.

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Former Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a Cars.com launch veteran, led the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE. Email Joe Wiesenfelder

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