Trucks & SUVs

Ford F-150 Raptor Crushes All Hopes of an F-150 Lightning Resurgence

Since the Ford F-150 SVT Lightning went out of production in 2004, fans of the super truck have been aching for its return. As it stands, Ford’s current production souped-up F-150 is the off-roading Raptor. However, not all buyers want to go off-roading. Some are content with a high-horsepower pickup for the road. Unfortunately, Motor1 reports via Muscle Cars and Trucks that Ford has no plans to build a new F-150 Lightning thanks to the success of the Raptor.

What made the Ford F-150 Lightning so special?

The original Ford F-150 Lightning made its debut in 1993 as a high-performance version of the popular pickup truck. Under the hood lived a naturally aspirated 5.8-liter V8 developing 240 hp. Given its 4,480-lb curb weight, the original Lightning was quick but not revolutionary.

That’s where the second-gen 1999 Ford F-150 Lightning comes in. The naturally aspirated V8 got the boot, and instead, a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 powered the pickup. Total output increased by 120-hp for a total of 360 hp. In 2001, power got bumped up by an additional 20 hp to 380 hp.

The result was a 4,670-lb pickup truck that could reach 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. According to Car and Driver, the second-gen Lightning could tow up to 5,000 lb and carry up to 800 lb on its bed. Prices for the Ford F-150 Lightning started at $31,000 or about $48,431 in today’s money. Above all else, buyers could get some pickup truck capabilities with sports car speed. Sadly, times have changed, and it seems buyers are more interested in off-road capabilities.

Ford says buyers want to go off-road, not street racing

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Muscle Cars and Trucks recently got a chance to interview the 2021 Ford F-150’s Chief Engineer, Craig Schmatz. The Chief Engineer claimed that “We see more people do off-road rather than on-road street performance.” While this may be unfortunate for the Lightning, there is no denying the Ford F-150 Raptor’s appeal. Under the Raptor’s hood lives a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 developing 450 hp. The biggest draw, however, is its FOX off-roading suspension, capable of handling even sizeable jumps.

The F-150 lightning’s charm was too narrow, only largely appealing to speed-hungry buyers. While the Lightning had a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds, a regular F-150 of the same generation could tow up to 8,000 pounds, according to Cars. In contrast, the Raptor can tow up to 8,000 pounds or the same as a standard Ford F-150. The result is that buyers don’t have to give up towing capacity to have the high-horsepower truck. The Chief Engineer also made a point while saying, “very few people would want to buy a street truck that wasn’t capable of towing vehicles and going off-road.”

Since sales figures are king, Ford will likely never revive a pickup truck that isn’t commercially viable.

Why doesn’t the Lightning return as an EV?

The Ford Raptor at an auto show.
Ford Raptor | Visual China Group via Getty Images

If the Ford F-150 Lightning’s commercial viability is a major concern, why not revive it as an EV? Aside from the fact that the Lightning already has the perfect name for an EV, it would make complete sense. Since Ford already has plans for an all-electric F-150, building a more powerful variant shouldn’t be a stretch. Besides, the unreleased off-roading electric pickup truck segment is already crowded with the Rivian R1T, Tesla Cybertruck, and the GMC Hummer EV.

In this case, Ford could go the Tesla route and impress potential buyers with outright speed. A potential Lightning EV could also pave the way for a Raptor EV, spreading development costs evenly. So while Ford currently has no plans to build a new F-150 Lightning, even as an EV, it doesn’t mean we can’t daydream.