The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning strikes at the core of what a pickup truck has been and what it can become. The battery electric version of America’s longtime bestselling vehicle doesn’t reinvent the truck. Yet it makes the truck better in every way.

Quieter but more capable, quicker but more efficient, clever yet familiar, the Lightning eases the transition from gas and diesel to electric simply by being a damn good truck. The lack of tailpipe emissions is an added bonus.

The most daring thing about Ford’s electric gambit is its familiarity. After testing it in the Texas hill country outside San Antonio near Ford’s unofficial proving grounds, I was struck smitten by the Lightning. It looked like an F-150, felt like an F-150, worked like an F-150, yet was better by most measures except price and availability.

The road to the future is not without its potholes.

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It starts reasonably enough, with the Lightning Pro costing $41,660, including a $1,695 destination fee. But non-fleet customers can only get the 98-kwh standard-range battery pack with a range of 230 miles. To power up with the 131-kwh extended-range battery pack and get 320 miles, it will cost at least $72,474 for the Lightning XLT. That’s $19,500 more than the standard range XLT. It makes my knees buckle. The $77,474 Lariat represents a $10,000 price jump for the bigger battery. The Platinum only comes with the big battery (300-mile range) and the biggest price at $90,874.

For the price, the Lightning Pro is the best F-150 available. And it just got better.

Last week, in advance of the media first drives, Ford announced the standard-range max payload increased 235 lb to 2,235 lb due to weight reductions throughout the development phases of the truck. That payload is more than all but the base Silverado 1500 Work Truck and Ram Tradesman with rear-wheel drive.

The latest motor calibrations boosted power from 563 to 580 hp with the big pack, and from 426 to 452 hp with the standard pack. Regardless of pack, torque remains a whopping 775 lb-ft, more than any other F-150. It’s inconceivably quick, shooting from 0-60 mph in an estimated mid-four second range despite its boxy F-150 proportions and an estimated 6,590-lb curb weight. That’s lighter than the smaller Rivian R1T, and a featherweight compared to the 9,000+ lb GMC Hummer EV heavyweight.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

Part of that comes from its aluminum upper body that’s virtually the same as gas and hybrid F-150s from the windshield back. It sports the F-150’s front window kink, a standard voluminous crew cab, and a 5-foot-6 inch bed with tie downs, bed lighting, a retractable step and handle, as well as a work surface with a bottle opener. The 18- to 22-inch wheel designs are unique to the Lightning, as are the front and rear lightbars bookended by LED lights in the shape of a robotic seven.

But Ford didn’t just drop a familiar body on the same platform. The frame is wider than non-electric F-150s, with thicker high-strength steel crossmembers that gird and protect the battery packs. Brakes and motors are obviously new, but the independent rear suspension with coil-over springs and trailing arms had as much of an impact on the ride as the motors. With the big pack nestled within the frame for a low center of gravity, the independent suspension soaked up the road and kept the unladen bed planted, both at highway speeds and around the many construction projects on Texas state roads.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

The calm and quiet ride was as improbable as the acceleration. Large side mirrors and the 22-inch wheels on the Platinum trim made their impositions with wind and road noise, but the cabin was a place of serenity now unlike any other truck. It would be easy to mistake it for a crossover SUV if not for the bed in the rearview or the big slab of frunk out front.

Oh, the frunk. Every Ford rep referencing the Mega Power frunk sounded like they attended a master class in Mega Power branding. It’s pretty cool in real life, too. Because the hood dips down to the bumper, loading or unloading it with items from a Costco run or the worksite is easier than putting it in the bed or the cab. And it’s secure, so no need to fret over a tonneau cover. It can store 14.1 cubic feet—wide enough to house two sets of golf clubs—and carry 400 lb.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

The back proved even more impressive. A tightly secured payload of 1,500 lb of 4x8 plywood sheets didn’t cause the rear axle to sag. The front wheels scuffed from a slight incline before merging with the main road, but that’s expected with the onboard scales weighing in at 2,036 lb via the touchscreen display, 200 lb shy of the Lightning’s payload capacity. The onboard scales are a simple but brilliant feature.

The weight gets sent to the cloud and used to calculate range, same as how the towing range collects real-time data that factor in terrain, driving style, temperature, and elevation. Tow profiles also help exact a range estimate. Towing a 9,500-lb trailer loaded with casks of wine proved its strength, as well as the excellent capability of the motors. There was no denying the weight behind me, yet it never strained on uphills or felt like it was pushing on downhills.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

Its strong but silent type carried over to the off-road course. Normal, Sport, Off-Road, and Tow/Haul modes adjust torque delivery, and the frame as well as steel skid plates protect the packs and their waterproof casing, which allows for nearly 24 inches of water fording capability. Available front and rear camera views, as well as a bed camera while towing, add sight beyond the Lightning’s boxy corners. On a couple of ascents, one scattered with loose rock, the Lightning’s 4WD system and electronic locking rear-differential corrected tire slip and helped the truck climb effortlessly uphill. It plowed through mud pits, negotiated ruts, and handled all the common off-road obstacles expected from an F-150. Silently, yet familiarly.

The inside feels more familiar than the outside. Aside from the requisite electric battery gauges, it looked and felt like an F-150, down to the collapsible gear shifter in the console and the work tray in Platinum grades. I preferred the Pro grade and its 12.0-inch touchscreen. The horizontal display integrates with the dashboard better than the Platinum’s vertically oriented 15.5-inch touchscreen that houses all controls. Pro and XLT models have a band of climate dials and audio buttons that were refreshingly familiar.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

On road, I averaged about 2.0 miles per kwh in what was decidedly not an efficient driving style. Ford includes 250 kw of DC fast-charging on Electrify America’s network, which is good for about three to four charges. After that it costs $.43 per kw, unless you sign up for an annual $50 subscription between Ford and EA, at which point the rate drops to $.31 per kw. DC fast-charging at up to 150 kw will charge the battery from 15-80% in less than 45 minutes, with either pack size.

On a home Level 2 240-volt outlet, it can charge in as little as eight hours, or about 30 miles of range per hour. But, that’s with a Ford-installed 80-amp Charge Station Pro that’s included with the bigger pack (it’ll cost standard-pack owners $1,310 extra). A 30-amp feed will take up to 20 hours. The Charge Station Pro, however, is required if you want to use the truck as a backup generator for your home. It also requires the Home Integration System for an additional $3,895 to be installed by Sunrun for varying installation costs. This three-pronged system includes the Lightning, the Charge Station Pro, and a Sunrun box that includes an inverter, a disconnect switch, and a battery pack. It could help defray home electricity costs by putting juice back into the home circuit at peak hours around dinnertime, then could reverse charge the truck at off hours at night when some utilities charge less.

The Lightning is a lot of things. Mostly, it’s the best all-around F-150, but it has one big problem. For now, reservations are closed until the 2023 F-150 Lightning window opens this summer. Fortunately, Ford is nearly doubling next year’s production to 150,000 Lightnings.

Ford provided airfare and lodging for Motor Authority to bring you this firsthand report.