May 212023

Ford F-150 Lightning

The truck segment has evolved from offering basic-but-hardworking transportation to premium-but-still-hardworking-if necessary family vehicles. The next stage will focus on electrification. Many credit Tesla for energizing the electric vehicle market but while carmakers allowed Tesla to move ahead with cars and crossovers, they’re leapfrogging ahead with trucks. Ford stepped up with the Lightning, its full-size electric truck and for this year’s truck guide, Latino Traffic Report (LTR) had the chance to drive one. Contributors Valerie Menard and Andy Stonehouse also review the GMC Sierra and Ram 1500, respectively.

Ford Lightning

The EV market was not a hit when the first models, car or otherwise, hit the market but over the last ten years, helped by an improved infrastructure, government incentives, and OK, Tesla, the market is beginning to grow. To add trucks to the segment seemed a big leap but in 2021, Ford took a bold step forward by introducing its first EVB truck, the Lightning. The electric truck era reached #LTR in 2023 with a test drive of the Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum with the extended range battery. With an electric range of 240 miles, the EV truck was immediately competitive.

LTR has reviewed several EVs and while some models boast a good range, they differ when it comes to holding a charge. Using the air conditioner, for example, can make the range drop suddenly.

For its part, the Lightning held a charge for longer stretches which was impressive considering its size. While it can be charged from a conventional 110-volt home outlet, it takes a while and unless the truck fits in the garage, the most ideal place for charging overnight, the opportunities for home charging may be limited.

While the Lightning easily performs as a premium truck, it keeps up with its gasoline-powered siblings when it comes to towing, with a maximum weight of 10,000 pounds, and power, producing 580 hp and 775 lb.–ft. of torque on the test model. It does, however, surpass them when it comes to cargo capacity because when you go electric, you gain 14.1 cubic feet of storage under the front hood.

With good power, a huge 15-inch center stack touchscreen with charging station info, a panoramic sunroof, and front and rear heated seats, the F-150 Ford Lightning is super impressive if you can afford it. As-tested MSRP came to $94,304.


GMC Sierra 4WD

Sitting near the top of that half-ton segment for General Motors is the GMC Sierra. LTR recently test drove the Sierra AT4X Crew Cab (four-door) 4WD that has off-road capabilities as well as luxury and seating for five. Following in a trend a premium trucks that continue to raise the bar on what buyers will spend, this truck is a cut above the rest.

While it’s priced as a premium vehicle—as-tested MSRP came to $81,010—this truck will also be judged by its utility, as most trucks are. All-new in 2023, the Sierra AT4X comes standard with a 6.2L V-8 engine that produces 420 horsepower and 460 ft.­­–lbs. of torque and is matched to a ten-speed automatic transmission. The Sierra has a maximum payload of 2,240 pounds but on the as-configured test model, it came to 1,420 lbs. with 8,900 lbs. maximum towing. GMC’s unique MultiPro tailgate can be configured for six uses including a step ladder to improve ingress and egress to the truck bed. While the tailgate is dampened (it drops softly) the ladder does add a bit of weight to it when lifting it to close.

Most owners may not want to scratch the paint on this fancy truck by driving off road, but the AT4X is quite capable of doing so, as the name implies. Its two-speed transfer case includes selectable modes for different off-road conditions.

After capability, most owners will interact with the infotainment system on a daily basis. The Sierra, including the test model, features a new, 13.4-inch-diagonal color touchscreen that is fairly intuitive when presetting radio and XM for 30 channels. A 12.3-inch-diagonal configurable digital instrument cluster with a 15-inch-diagonal multicolor Head-Up Display complements the center panel and heated leather seats throughout with ventilated front seats and 16-way massage setting.

Premium status also extends to the truck’s battery of standard safety features starting with the blind spot monitor, parking sensors, back-up camera (for connecting the tow hitch) as well as a Safety Alert Seat, a unique GM feature, that sends a vibrating sensation to the driver’s seat to warn of a potential collision.

Still, the GMC Sierra is a stunner, inside and out, and for those in the market for a premium family vehicle with more brawn than an SUV, it’s worth a test drive.

—Valerie Menard


RAM 1500 Rebel G/T

The at-one-time astronomical amount of $80,000 of money, puts you in a very, very optioned-out Ram 1500 Rebel G/T today—base priced at about $55,000 but almost $77,000 in the truck I had.

This ultra-rugged, ultra-massive machine is pre-programmed for mud, sand, and snow, but so tall and wide that cleaning snow off its roof or, getting aboard for that matter, is a real chore.

But in the thick of a genuine off-road situation, or tasked with its more traditional job of menacing other drivers on highways and in parking lots, it’s awesome, in its own way.

I think you could replicate much of the Ram’s core experience in that almost $30,000-less base model, with the biggest addition being the 395-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8, this one mild hybrid eTorque system that uses a battery-powered motor generator rather than an alternator. Treat it poorly, enjoying the absolutely oversized shift paddles and the eight-speed transmission, and you’ll get the 13 mpg I got; the EPA says up to 22 highway mpg, maybe.

Like the whole Charger/Challenger gang, Rebel also gets a full set of digital race track and drag strip meters, but without the 700-horsepower Ram TRX engine, those seem a little silly.

Ram has perhaps less refined on-road manners than the Sierra AT4X, even with an optional, four-corner air suspension system, but that loose tarmac feeling also gave it a more playful spirit on gravel and dirt—and it still makes full-blown Hemi noises pretty much all the time. Plus, a Crew Cab setup produces one of the biggest rear seats in any vehicle available.

Even with nearly $20,000 in options, the Rebel lacked the proximity cameras, running boards or the fancy multi-function tailgate other brands offer, and still has an old-fashioned manual tilt steering wheel.

But its simplicity might also appeal to some drivers, with a more straightforward 4×4 system and electronic locking rear axle. I dialed everything in and the Ram absolutely ate up a super-steep and muddy test slope, both forward and backward, and comfortably dominated washboard gravel and snowy surfaces.

Mine had also been upgraded with the nearly Tesla-styled, 12-inch vertical navigation screen, which can be split between functions and feature vastly improved map and even back-up camera resolution. The G/T package also added sporty leather seating and a Mopar cold air-intake system and, yes, Ram just announced new electric versions of their trucks with up to 500 miles range; long live 13 gasoline mpg, in the meantime.

—Andy Stonehouse



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