- F-150 Lightning vs R1T: Spec Showdown
- Living with the Rivian R1T and F-150 Lightning
- Which Pickup Is Better Off-Road?
- Battle of the Beds
- Towing Showdown
- Which Electric Truck Has the Better Driver Assist Systems?
- Charging the F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T
- Software Sweets
- Which Truck Has the Better Interior?
- Value and Verdict: Which Truck Wins?
- 2nd Place: 2022 Rivian R1T Launch Edition
- 1st Place: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Extended Range
Comparing the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning with the 2022 Rivian R1T makes little sense. Sure, both are electric pickups (the third and first to hit the market, respectively), but beyond that, these two pickups have about as much in common as we do with American Journal of Botany.
The Rivian R1T, our 2022 Truck of the Year, is an immensely capable pickup with a lifestyle-oriented bent. It’s great to drive on-road and damn near unstoppable off-road, and it can tow and haul far more than something just bigger than a Toyota Tacoma has any right to. That’s why it vanquished the 2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup—a similarly lifestyle- and off-road-oriented EV—in our first-ever electric pickup truck comparison.
The Ford F-150 Lighting is, well, different. If the R1T is aimed at “electrifying the outdoors,” the F-150 Lighting is aimed at electrifying the modern American full-size pickup truck—the bestselling one on the market at that. The F-150 Lightning is intended to work, with the definition of “work” left to the imagination of the owner—F-150s are just as likely to be found towing horses or exploring country two-tracks as they are hauling lumber or whisking families off on interstate road trips.
Although these pickups are built for different purposes, they’re priced similarly, which means they’re inevitably going to be cross-shopped. With that in mind, we got our hands on a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Extended Range—likely the most widely available Lightning for the foreseeable future—and snagged the keys to our long-term 2022 Rivian R1T Launch Edition (effectively an R1T Adventure with unique paint) to pit them against each other.
F-150 Lightning vs R1T: Spec Showdown
To most pickup buyers, the F-150 Lightning Lariat Extended Range ought to feel quite familiar. Solely available in the popular crew-cab, short-bed (5.5-foot) configuration, the subtle tells that this F-150 is electric are minor sheetmetal changes, the full-width light bars front and rear, some badging, a faux grille, and that the engine bay is now a massive 14.1-cubic-foot frunk (complete with four 120-volt outlets, no less).
The Lightning isn’t very different under the skin from gas-powered F-150s, either. It rides on a heavily modified version of the gas F-150’s frame, with an optional 131-kWh battery pack stacked neatly between and on top of the frame rails. Power comes courtesy of two permanent-magnet motors mounted where you’d find differentials in conventional four-wheel-drive F-150s; the two motors combine here for a healthy 580 hp, 775 lb-ft of torque, and 320 miles of EPA-rated range. (Lightnings with the smaller 98-kWh battery pack have 426 hp and 230 miles of range). The switch to electric motors also allowed Ford to rethink the F-150’s suspension, swapping the conventional F-150’s rear live axle and leaf springs for coil springs.
The Rivian R1T will likely look out of this world to the typical pickup buyer, but as far as EVs go, it’s fairly conventional. Rather than squeezing batteries around a frame, the Rivian’s 133-kWh battery pack (currently the only one available) is the frame. Nestled around the big battery are four motors (a two-motor version is planned), two at either axle, good for a combined 835 hp, 908 lb-ft of torque, and 314 miles of range. Like the Ford, the R1T’s four corners are independently sprung, though the Rivian uses air springs, active dampers, and novel cross-linked hydraulic anti-roll bars to help improve the truck’s capability. The tidy dimensions of the R1T’s mechanicals also allowed Rivian to think outside the box when it comes to the pickup’s design. Like the Ford, the Rivian features a frunk and a stubby bed—4.5 feet in this case—but it also features additional storage spots, namely an in-bed trunk and the pass-through Gear Tunnel sited between the cab and bed.
Living with the Rivian R1T and F-150 Lightning
If you’ve ever spent any time driving an F-150 built within the past decade, the Lightning feels like home. “What I like from the get-go is the instant familiarity,” senior editor Aaron Gold said. “This is like any one of the dozens of F-150s I have driven in my career, except it’s quieter and a heck of a lot quicker.” If you enjoy the conventional F-150’s twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6s but find yourself wishing for a touch more meat to its powerband, you’re really going to like the Lightning’s twin motors. Despite a touch of torque steer under hard acceleration, the Ford pulls effortlessly, with a seemingly endless supply of power. The closest internal combustion analogue would be if Ford somehow engineered a Power Stroke diesel with a 15,000-rpm redline and squeezed it into an F-150.
The R1T’s powertrain is that but more. With double the motors aboard, the R1T is both quicker and more sure-footed than the Lightning, never struggling for traction or grip, no matter the surface. Both trucks are so quick that it won’t make a difference to the average buyer, but you can jump down to the chart below to see how they performed at the track. It’s a shame electric vehicles have been politicized by those who clearly don’t understand them—the truth is, Americans are really going to like experiences like this.
Both trucks feature pin-drop-precise one-pedal braking modes. Should you need to use the brake pedal itself, the Ford’s feels more natural, though in panic-stop situations the Lightning’s brakes could sometimes be prone to surging as the truck bounced between its regenerative and mechanical systems.
Where the two trucks most differentiate themselves on the road is in how they ride and steer. America’s legions of full-size truck buyers will find familiar territory in the way the Ford goes down the road. Like the standard F-150, the Lightning’s ride is somehow firm but floaty, shuddering slightly over harsher impacts like most body-on-frame trucks do. It’s never punishing or harsh, but it couldn’t feel more different than the Rivian. The R1T in its default All-Purpose drive mode is firm and well-controlled, almost like it’s pushing back down into the road, attempting to flatten out the impacts it just encountered.
The same dynamic plays out in how the two trucks corner. The Ford steers far better than any conventional F-150 thanks to its lower center of gravity, but the steering itself is trucklike, with a slow ratio. But good weighting and feedback allow you to accurately place the Lightning on the road. The R1T’s steering is springy and precise, which, coupled with the instant torque vectoring provided by its four motors, results in a pickup that’ll likely surprise quite a few sports car drivers on a good back road. “I don’t think there’s any pickup truck that can match the entertainment value of the R1T in curves,” Gold said.
Which Pickup Is Better Off-Road?
It’s a similar story when the pavement ends.
Off-road, the Rivian is an order of magnitude more capable than the Ford. With five off-road modes (All-Purpose, Rock Crawl, Rally, Drift, and Sand—the last a recent over-the-air update addition), there’s very little that can stop an R1T off the pavement. Its height-adjustable suspension gives it a tremendous amount of ground clearance, while the hydraulic dampers help the Rivian keep all four all-terrains on earth. Its quad-motor system is incredibly impressive, too, combining the gearing of a low range, the traction of locking differentials, and the precision of electric motors to conquer the types of obstacles that’d make a Toyota Land Cruiser owner blush.
The Ford isn’t in its element off-road, but it’s not necessarily out of place, either. The Lightning doesn’t have the body control to move quickly when it’s away from asphalt, but at slower speeds the truck comfortably ambles down hard-packed dirt and through loose sand. On more technical terrain, the F-150’s rear diff-lock helps the truck maintain forward momentum, though it could use a locking front differential, too, as it tends to spin the driver-side front wheel quite a bit. Trying to keep pace with the R1T will result in nothing but frustration and body damage, but if you take things slow and choose your line carefully the Lightning will get you where you need to go.
Battle of the Beds
In the battle of the beds, the Ford scores some points back. With the Lightning rated for a 1,606-pound payload and the R1T a 1,760-pound load, both shrugged off our 1,500-pound standard payload test weight. The Rivian simply didn’t notice it had anything out back, while the Ford saw some minor improvements in ride quality. Range was unaffected by hauling.
But when it comes to the beds themselves, the Lightning’s is superior. Not only is it bigger than the R1T’s, but it’s also easier to work out of and access, with meatier tie-downs, an auto up and down tailgate, and a tailgate step and work surface. The Rivian makes up for its lack of real estate with its gear tunnel (the doors of which also double as steps), but the bed isn’t as easy to access, and the composite flap that bridges the gap between the bed and tailgate tends to collect debris. The Ford also has more powerful rear power outlets, the better for running high-draw tools and other items.
While the Ford had the better bed area, the Rivian surprised us with how much more confidence-inspiring it was with a trailer hanging off its hitch. Our load—Sassy and Corazon, two friendly horses loaded up in a 22-foot warmblood trailer, totaling about 5,200 pounds—didn’t come close to taxing either truck’s towing capacity (the Rivian can yank 11,000 pounds, the Ford 10,000), but it was representative of what the average full-size pickup owner tows.
Sassy and Corazon aboard, the F-150 Lightning felt much like the conventional F-150 we towed with on this same loop. “The Lightning towed as we expect a half-ton pickup to, except for having much better acceleration,” Gold said. “You can feel the trailer pushing the truck a bit on downhills, but it’s nothing excessive—good stability.”
Interestingly, engaging Tow/Haul mode in the Ford turns off one-pedal driving, which makes it more difficult to drive the truck smoothly— especially crucial when your load stands on four spindly legs. The lack of regenerative brakes when towing is also a negative, as regen provides an engine-braking-like effect that makes it easier to safely decelerate the trailer.
As we found when the R1T won Truck of the Year, the Rivian punches well above its weight with a trailer hitched. The R1T makes towing effortlessly smooth. Its buttery power delivery, heavy brake regen in Towing mode, long accelerator pedal travel, and well-sorted suspension give the Rivian the feeling of an understressed heavy-duty truck when pulling a load. “Better stability than the Ford, and a much better ride,” Gold said. “Great motor control, too, especially for starting on steep inclines.” Our biggest issue is that the R1T’s trailer brake controller—operated via the thumbwheel on the right spoke of the steering wheel—doesn’t allow for the same precise adjustments as the traditional trailer brake switch in the Ford.
Which Electric Truck Has the Better Driver Assist Systems?
It’s worth a quick look at both trucks’ advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), each of which allow for hands-free driving on highways and interstates. Rivian’s setup, Driver+, is the less polished of the two. It currently works in fewer areas (though Rivian is constantly mapping and adding roadways) and often hugs lane lines and gets “bumped” by traffic either driving too close or sneaking in front of the truck. Taller drivers also reported difficulty seeing the Driver+ status icon around the steering wheel rim. Ford’s system, dubbed Blue Cruise, is the better of the two. It drives as a human driver would, sends clear signals as to when it’s safe to have your hands off the wheel, and lets you know when it needs you to take control with plenty of warning. Neither system is as good as GM’s Super Cruise.
Charging the F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T
The biggest concern with an EV purchase is charging and range. Despite both trucks being comparable in battery size and range (130 kWh and 320 miles for the Ford, 133 kWh and 314 miles for the Rivian), we were initially apprehensive about the Lightning’s peak charge rate of 150 kW against the Rivian’s 220 kW. The slower your battery charges, the more time you spend tethered to a Level 3 DC fast charger while road-tripping.
Despite the Rivian’s initial higher charge rate, it underperformed at a 207-kW peak; the Ford overperformed (holding 172 kW) and was able to hang on to that higher rate for longer. The end result is that it took the R1T 44 minutes to go from 5 percent to 80 percent indicated state of charge, and the F-150 Lightning 50 minutes to do the same. However, neither result is particularly impressive in the big picture compared to the 350-kW charge rate capability of the Hummer EV pickup and upcoming 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV. Here’s hoping both truckmakers continue to improve their charge rates via over-the-air updates, as our long-term Rivian has already done once during its stay with us.
Of note: The Ford F-150 Lightning offers vehicle-to-load capability—the ability to run power to your home—via an included 80-amp charger. Although this is a neat feature, we’re skeptical of its utility given it will likely require most people to spend thousands of dollars on electrical upgrades to their homes, and early reports from owners on Ford’s installation partner, Sunrun, are largely unfavorable.
The ways we interact with these two trucks is just as important as charging. In most internal combustion vehicles, it’s fairly easy to ignore the automaker’s included software suite and use your phone or apps via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for most tasks, but in electric vehicles, the embedded software plays an outsized role in how the vehicle functions and how we use it.
Digital natives will likely take to the Rivian’s system. Operated via a large, Tesla-style 15.3-inch landscape display, the Rivian’s system is snappy, responsive, intuitive, and feature-rich, with functions like a native Spotify app and a Pet Comfort mode. (Pet Comfort keeps cabin temps between 68 and 74 degrees while parked, provided at least 50 miles of range remain. It also displays a bold message indicating your critter is safe on the central screen.)
It’s also tremendously easy to deal with recharging; the Rivian offers up a dedicated charging screen that allows you to set its charge limit (70 percent for daily use, 85 percent for extended range, and 100 percent for road-tripping), schedule charge times for off-peak hours, and see live and historical charging information, like the current peak charge rate or kWh of energy dispensed. With how finicky Electrify America (the nation’s largest fast-charging network) can be, that information can be the difference between a quick charge and a long one.
Still, it’s not perfect. The Rivian is overly reliant on soft buttons. Simple tasks in other vehicles, such as changing drive modes, are made complicated in the R1T as they require multiple taps and various menus to access and adjust. The most annoying are the fully digital HVAC vents, which turn something you can do in seconds with your eyes on the road in the Ford to a distracting, drawn-out affair.
The F-150 Lightning is better in some ways but worse in others. Featuring the 15.5-inch portrait display from the Mustang Mach E (lesser Lightnings trade screen real estate for more hard buttons), the Ford’s display has a volume knob and large, relatively easy-to-hit soft buttons. It lacks a pet mode (a feature we hope to see added via an OTA update), but it does feature some basic games, truck-specific apps like onboard payload scales, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto—the latter two unlikely to be added to the R1T.
Still, there’s a lot of room for improvement with Ford’s software. Ignoring the fact that the Ford’s system is laggier to respond, we found there’s far too much of its core functionality buried in menus—especially as it relates to charging information. It takes at least three swipes and taps to get to the Lightning’s EV settings menu to view simple info such as the battery’s current state of charge or to set a preferred departure time.
More annoying, the Lightning defaults to 90 percent charge after every single charge, requiring an owner to menu surf and reset the charge limit to 100 percent each time they want a little extra range. On one occasion, we had a charging session set for 100 percent charge. When it failed at 88 percent, we had to unplug and plug the truck back in to start a new session, only for the Ford to stop the session a few minutes later at 90 percent, forcing us to run through the dance again. In addition, there’s no way to view the vehicle’s current charge rate or the amount of kWh dispensed during a session, though you do get a very brief look at the kWh consumed after a session concludes via a pop up that quickly disappears. (Ford’s phone app—also not quite as polished as Rivian’s—does at least allow you to view information from your past charges, excepting peak rates.)
Which Truck Has the Better Interior?
Although the R1T has a distinct software advantage on the Ford, the Ford has an equally big hardware advantage on the Rivian. Ripped straight out of conventional F-150s, the Lightning’s cabin is positively massive, besting the smaller Rivian in every conceivable metric when it comes to outright passenger volume. It also beats the R1T when it comes to storage, featuring about a dozen cupholders, big door pockets, fold-away underseat storage in back, a flat floor, and a massive center console cubby, the lid of which folds out into a worktable. Some material pieces are too plasticky and flimsy for the Ford’s price tag, but the Lightning is nevertheless a great place to spend time and get work done.
Our feelings on the R1T’s cabin are more nuanced. As far as vehicles go, it’s attractively designed, built incredibly well, and features a lovely mix of colors and materials befitting the R1T’s cost. It’s not as roomy as the Fords’s, but it’s easily spacious enough for four adults and generally comfortable, though taller passengers complained of the rear seat-back shape. However, storage is lacking. There are but four cupholders in the entire truck, there’s no glove box, the door pockets are small, and the deployable drawers in the front seats are really too narrow to be used for anything meaningful. That means the average-size center console and the wireless charging pad become the de facto places you pile all the stuff you accumulate while driving a pickup, like your phone, keys, wallet, gloves, or tools.
Value and Verdict: Which Truck Wins?
There’s no dancing around the fact that both of these trucks are incredibly expensive for the average buyer. Technically speaking, our R1T Launch Edition long-termer is the cheaper of the two with its $76,875 as-tested price. Thing is, if you were to buy our exact same truck today, you’d be spending $96,250, as Rivian has increased prices of the R1T to make room for the upcoming dual-motor R1T variant, making it much less of a value than it once was.
Despite Ford touting the F-150 Lightning’s affordable $41,669 starting price, our F-150 Lightning Lariat Extended Range isn’t exactly cheap, either, stickering for $80,839. We think the Lightning XLT is the better buy due to its similar equipment and interior quality levels, but shoppers are still looking at a $74,309 outlay for the cheapest F-150 Lightning Extended Range, about the price of the promised dual-motor R1T.
We spent some time on both Ford and Rivian’s configurators in an attempt to equalize our trucks’ equipment levels and paint a clearer picture of the price differences between them. Losing just the optional all-terrains on our test F-150 but keeping the extended-range battery, spray-in bedliner, and Max Tow package would see the Ford’s sticker fall slightly to $80,689. Using the R1T Adventure as our starting point (the cheaper R1T Explore doesn’t have a premium audio system to match the Ford’s Bang & Olufsen), we shed our R1T’s all-terrain tires, off-road package, premium paint option, and power-operated tonneau cover but kept its optional full-size spare (standard on the Ford) and added the optional wall charger (standard with the big-battery F-150). That totaled up to $87,645, about $7,000 more than the Ford.
So which is the better truck?
Well, it’s complicated, as they clearly target different buyers and there’s not really a wrong answer here on an individual basis. In the Rivian’s favor, it’s the better tow rig, more engaging on pavement, and more capable off of it, and its software smooths the switch from gasoline to electricity. But the Ford drives nearly as well empty, tows almost as well, and has a far more functional bed and a roomier, more comfortable cabin. It also charges just about as quickly as the R1T while going slightly farther per charge. Ford’s software team would benefit from a few months spent in the Rivian, but that’s an easier fix than adding interior storage to the R1T.
Given the teeter-totter battle in every other area, we then look to value. Is the Rivian $7,000 better than the Ford? For many shoppers, the R1T’s superior off-road capability, on-road dynamics, tow capacity, lifestyle elements, and software will rightly win them over. But after carefully considering both trucks, the Ford F-150 Lightning offers up 90 percent of the capability of the R1T, similar charging performance, a better bed, and a more practical cabin—for slightly less money. So the Lightning takes this round by the hair of its chinny-chin-chin, but given how quickly software is changing our cars and trucks, we’re already planning on revisiting this comparison in 12 months or so to see if it’s still worthy of the crown.
2nd Place: 2022 Rivian R1T Launch Edition
- Pros: Silly fun to drive on the road, unstoppable off of it, advanced software and a premium cabin.
- Cons: Revised pricing greatly diminished value, there isn’t much interior storage, underperformed in charging tests.
- Verdict: Even with this result, the Rivian R1T remains one of the best EVs on the planet.
1st Place: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Extended Range
- Pros: Quicker and better to drive than any F-150 in history, huge cabin with tons of storage, robust charging curve makes road-tripping feasible.
- Cons: Its software suite needs refinement and deeper data, not quite as polished as the Rivian, still expensive.
- Verdict: The F-150 Lightning wins by the tip of a whisker—but this battle will continue to turn on over-the-air updates.
|POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS||2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat (Ext Range) Specifications||2022 Rivian R1T Launch Edition Specifications|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front- and rear-motor, AWD||2x front- and 2x rear-motors, AWD|
|MOTOR TYPE||Permanent-magnet electric||Permanent-magnet electric|
|POWER (SAE NET)||580 hp||835 hp|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||775 lb-ft||908 lb-ft|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||11.7 lb/hp||8.6 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||1-speed automatic||1-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks; multilink, air springs, adj shocks|
|TURNS LOCK TO LOCK||3.1||2.9|
|BRAKES, F; R||14.0-in vented disc; 13.8-in vented disc||13.5-in vented disc; 12.9-in vented disc|
|WHEELS||8.5 x 20-in cast aluminum||8.5 x 21-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||275/60R20 115T Hankook DynaPro AT2 (M+S)||275/55R21 116H Pirelli Scorpion Verde Elect RIV (M+S)|
|WHEELBASE||145.5 in||135.9 in|
|TRACK, F/R||68.1/68.3 in||68.1/68.1 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||232.7 x 80.0 x 78.3 in||217.1 x 81.8 x 72.5-79.0 in|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||8.4 in||7.9-14.9 in|
|APPROACH/DEPART ANGLE||24.4/23.6 deg||34.0/29.3 deg (max)|
|TURNING CIRCLE||48.0 ft||44.9 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT (DIST F/R)||6,794 lb (50/50%)||7,143 lb (51/49%)|
|HEADROOM, F/R||40.8/40.4 in||41.4/38.1 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||43.9/43.6 in||41.4/36.6 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||66.7/66.0 in||60.6/59.0 in|
|PICKUP BOX L x W x H||67.1 x 65.2 x 21.4 in||54.0 x 55.1 x 18.3 in|
|CARGO BOX VOLUME||52.8 cu ft||29.2 cu ft/14.3 cu ft (underbed)|
|WIDTH BET WHEELHOUSES||50.6 in||50.2 in|
|CARGO LIFT-OVER HEIGHT||36.7 in (open tailgate), 34.5 in (open frunk)||31.2 in (open tailgate), 40.2 in (open frunk)|
|PAYLOAD CAPACITY||1,606 lb||1,760 lb|
|TOWING CAPACITY||10,000 lb||11,000 lb|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.6 sec||1.2 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||1.7||1.5|
|QUARTER MILE||12.4 sec @ 106.9 mph||11.6 sec @ 110.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||133 ft||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.73 g (avg)||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.2 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)||26.6 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$80,839||$76,875|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, front side, front knee, f/r curtain||8: Dual front, f/r side, f/r curtain|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 years/36,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||8 years/100,000 miles (battery)||8 years/175,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 years/60,000 miles||8 years/175,000 miles|
|BATTERY CAPACITY||131 kWh Li-Ion||133 kWh Li-Ion|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||78/63/70 mpg-e||74/66/70 mpg-e|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||320 miles||314 mi|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||240-volt electricity, 480-volt electricity||240-volt electricity, 480-volt electricity|