We don’t think all vehicles will be battery-only as soon as automakers and governments say they will, but it isn’t for lack of so many good ones coming to market. Our winner for Best Premium EV (electric vehicle) for 2023 is the Ford F-150 Lightning.
It faced stiff competition from other finalists: the BMW i4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Genesis GV60, and Porsche Taycan/Taycan Cross Turismo. Those are all cars or SUVs, and of course can’t be judged head-to-head against a full-size pickup truck. Instead, our jury of more than 20 expert automotive journalists assessed each vehicle on a range of factors including innovation, features, performance, user friendliness, and driver satisfaction. They felt the F-150 Lightning best checked all those boxes after considering every single vehicle in this segment.
The Lightning comes with a regular or extended-range battery, for a maximum range of 370 or 515 kilometres. Dual electric motors give it four-wheel drive, and peak power can be as high as 1,050 lb-ft of torque. It comes solely as a four-door crew cab, and starting prices range from $81,195 (including delivery fee) to $123,195.
Trucks are meant to be practical, and the Lightning’s maximum towing capacity ranges from 5,000 to 10,000 lbs, depending on how it’s equipped. In addition to its 5-foot-5 bed and generously sized cabin, its lack of an engine allowed Ford to put a 400-litre trunk under the hood. As with some other F-150 models, the Lightning offers an onboard inverter, up to 9.6-kW, that can run power tools, camping accessories, or even some household necessities in a power outage. Known as Pro Power Onboard, it won our Best New Technology Innovation award in 2022.
While the Lightning had to win on its own merits, our judges also realized the importance of an electrified truck. Pickups are the top-selling vehicles in Canada, and if you’re going to convince drivers to make the switch to EVs, popular models have to be offered with electric powertrains. Ford also offers a lower-priced work-truck version for commercial fleet customers, which may help drive the volumes needed to bring down the costs of building electric drivetrains.
But the Lightning still has to appeal to consumers. In his review, Dan Ilika found it quick on acceleration – as were all contenders in the category – but it really shines as a daily driver, “much better suited to serene cruising than kicking up dust from stoplight to stoplight.” In his drive with it, Stephen Elmer found that the placement of the heavy battery “has shifted the centre of gravity rearwards and downwards, giving the Lightning a stuck-to-the-ground feeling that provides good handling and confidence with a load.”
Elmer also liked the truck’s looks, saying, “Ford has blended just enough unique styling into the Lightning to set it apart from the traditional F-150, but it doesn’t look like a spaceship.” The interior is also close to that of its gas-powered siblings, offering such luxury touches as ventilated and massaging seats, 15.5-inch centre screen, and an app to use a connected phone as the truck’s key. Standard driver-assist safety features include emergency front braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlamps. An available feature is hands-free assist, called BlueCruise, which handles the driving on pre-mapped sections of highways. It isn’t yet as sophisticated as General Motors’ Super Cruise, but it’s getting there.
For its performance, technology and usefulness, Ilika said “the all-electric F-150 might well be the most important vehicle of our generation,” and while he wished he could say it’s every bit as good as the rest of the F-150 lineup, admitted “I can’t, because it’s better.” That’s why the F-150 Lightning is the AutoTrader Best Premium EV for 2023.