I lived with a $98,000 Ford F-150 Lightning for a week.
The experience showed me why people love trucks.
But it also gave me a front-row seat to America's silly obsession with huge vehicles.
Recently I got the opportunity to live with Ford's electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, for a week.
Having spent most of my life in New York City as a member of the dainty, transit-loving coastal elite, this was my first time cosplaying as a truck owner for any extended period. And I've got to admit, I kind of loved it.
At the same time, though, the experience showed me firsthand how silly America's obsession with huge trucks really is. I've always thought it's ridiculous how enormous pickups have gotten — and wasteful that so many people use tank-sized vehicles to go about their daily business.
However much I enjoyed the Lightning, I think it's overkill for me and most others.
The F-150 Lightning is spacious, comfy, and quick
I can see a few clear reasons why people love trucks. The F-150 Lightning — basically an electric copy of Ford's famed full-size truck — is about the size of a New York studio apartment inside. It's outfitted with a couple of La-Z-Boys up front and acres of legroom in back. It provides a commanding view of surrounding traffic.
Since Ford loaned me a $98,000 Platinum-trim truck, I was treated to luxuries like a large moonroof, 18-speaker sound system, leather upholstery, and wood-grain accents. Blue Cruise, Ford's impressive highway-driving assistant, invites you to drive hands-free on certain roads. The Lightning zips away from stop lights with stunning effortlessness thanks to its electric powertrain.
And as you'd expect, it's great at carrying stuff too. The F-150's 5.5-foot bed gobbled up a couple of dusty mountain bikes, no problem. Its spacious front trunk, exclusive to the engine-free Lightning variant, was a sight to behold.
But it's really, really big
But throughout my week with the truck, I also constantly found myself unnerved by its freakish size. The Lightning is over 19 feet long and eight feet wide, including its side mirrors.
Threading it down the narrow alleyway that leads to my parking spot sparked the stress sweats every time. Its enormous proportions and huge blind spots made navigating the streets of Berkeley, California a hair-raising experience. Its towering, blocky hood — which came up to my chest — was a major impediment to forward visibility. I frequently feared that I was veering dangerously close to parked cars or to oncoming traffic.
I'm fairly tall and spry, but getting the aforementioned bikes up and into the F-150's bed still necessitated using its extending tailgate step and handrail. When trucks start offering escalators, that's when you'll know size has really gotten out of hand.
People don't use trucks in the way you'd expect
And yet, pickup trucks are bigger and more popular than ever. What's especially odd is people don't even universally depend on them for truck stuff. Lots of owners just use them to tootle around town.
According to the market research firm Strategic Vision, 43% of full-size truck buyers use their trucks daily to go to and from work and 88% use them as their primary vehicle, roughly matching the rest of the car market.
Sixty-nine percent of them rarely or never tow for recreation, which is one of the big selling points of buying a truck in the first place. And 37% rarely or never use their truck for personal hauling.
(Ford spokesperson Dan Barbossa said 75% of F-150 customers use their trucks to tow, while at least 80% use them to haul. "They might not tow daily, but they need a truck because they have a use case," he said.)
For many buyers, the image their truck gives off — typically one of ruggedness, aggressiveness, and power — is just as important as the vehicle's actual capability, if not more so, Alexander Edwards, Strategic Vision's president, told Insider.
There are serious reasons that the unchecked rise of big pickups and SUVs (the F-150 isn't alone here) should probably be reined in, particularly as pedestrian and motorist deaths hit highs not seen in decades. Studies show that larger, taller, and heavier vehicles are more dangerous to others in crashes. Big blind spots make incidents more likely.
On the safety front, Barbossa pointed to Ford's safety tech like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection; forward and reverse object-sensing systems; and front and rear brake assist, which can prevent low-speed collisions.
The good thing is that while automakers aren't necessarily shrinking their bulkiest offerings, they're introducing smaller pickups that are still useful without being so enormous.
So keep your F-150. I'll take a Ford Maverick instead.
Read the original article on Business Insider