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Electric truck showdown: Why I'd buy Rivian's R1T over the Ford F-150 Lightning after driving both

·6 min read
The Ford F-150 Lightning (top) and Rivian R1T electric pickup trucks.
The Ford F-150 Lightning (top) and Rivian R1T electric pickup trucks.Ford; Rivian
  • The Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T are two of the most exciting new trucks on the market.

  • I tested both electric pickups to compare their utility, driving performance, and features.

  • They're both fantastic choices, but their strengths suit different types of buyers.

The Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T represent two very different approaches to an electric pickup truck.

The Lightning is an electrified take on America's favorite truck, while the R1T is a ground-up design from a young startup. Ford aims the Lightning at traditional truck buyers, while the Rivian is an adventure vehicle for outdoor activities.

Given the lack of battery-powered truck options right now, many buyers will surely be deciding between the two, despite their differences.

[EMBARGO 9/28 DNP] Rivian R1T
The Rivian R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

I drove both pickups and compared their capability, utility, comfort, and unique features. Here's why I'd buy the Rivian R1T over the F-150 Lightning:

Which is cheaper?

The 2022 F-150 Lightning starts at around $40,000 (for a basic work truck and before hefty dealer markups) compared to $79,500 for the 2022 Rivian. But if you want a Lightning with a larger battery pack good for 90 extra miles of range (you do), the price jumps to around $72,500. Choose a fancier trim and some options, and you could easily be paying north of $80,000.

The Ford F-150 Lightning.
The Ford F-150 Lightning.Tim Levin/Insider

So they're even on price when similarly optioned, but the F-150 offers more points of entry. In this comparison, we're going to focus on the Extended-Range Lightning, because it's the best match for the R1T on both price and capability.

Rivian plans to eventually sell a $67,500 R1T, but that's a ways down the road.

The 2022 Rivian R1T.
The 2022 Rivian R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

How do they drive?

On pavement, both trucks are comfortable, smooth, and incredibly quiet.

And both are sports-car quick, effortlessly breezing down the road in a manner that feels unnatural in such a large vehicle. The R1T promises to rocket to 60 mph in three seconds, while the Lightning targets just over four. Your buddies will be floored by either.

The Ford F-150 Lightning.
The Ford F-150 Lightning.Tim Levin/Insider

Here are the specs: The large-battery Lightning claims 580 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful F-150 Ford currently sells. The R1T returns 835 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque.

The Lightning and R1T are roughly even on range, too, rated for 320 and 314 miles, respectively.

The 2022 Rivian R1T.
The 2022 Rivian R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

How do they drive off-road?

The R1T is more capable by a longshot. Getting people out into nature is a big part of Rivian's stated mission, after all.

[EMBARGO 9/28 DNP] Rivian R1T
The Rivian R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

Its four independent motors send the ideal amount of power to each wheel, helping the truck power over big obstacles and across treacherous terrain. Its air suspension means you can adjust ride height to up to 15 inches. And several driving modes can dial in other settings for different types of terrain. The R1T puts off-roading in easy mode.

The Lightning can also tackle some off-roading thanks to its two torquey motors and all-wheel drive, but it has less ground clearance than the R1T and can't do as much.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning XLT.
The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning XLT.Tim Levin/Insider

The R1T is over a foot shorter than the Lightning and feels more maneuverable in tight spaces, whether that's out on the trails or in a parking lot.

Which truck provides more utility?

Pickup trucks are all about carrying things from place to place, so we'd be remiss to not discuss utility.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning.
The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning.Tim Levin/Insider

The Lightning's 5.5-foot bed is both longer and wider than the Rivian's 4.5-foot bed. It's also easier to climb into, offering an optional retractable step. Both trucks have front trunks, and the Lightning wins out here too with a frunk that's larger and more convenient to lift stuff into due to its lower loading floor.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat.
The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat.Tim Levin/Insider

The Lightning has a payload capacity of up to 2,235 pounds, compared to the R1T's 1,764. But the R1T can tow 11,000 pounds, slightly more than the Lightning's 10,000-pound rating.

How do their interiors compare?

The 2022 Rivian R1T.
The 2022 Rivian R1T.

The 2022 Rivian R1T.Rivian

The F-150 is the bigger truck and has a sprawling interior to match. The R1T is still smartly designed and comfortable.

Ford didn't want to deviate too far from the winning F-150 formula, so the Lightning's interior is mostly the same as its gas-powered trucks. The big difference is a large, portrait-oriented touchscreen in some models. I thought it was fairly intuitive and nicely complemented by physical buttons.

The Ford F-150 Lightning.
The Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat.Tim Levin/Insider

Rivian went the minimalist route with a high-end, Tesla-like interior and a large touchscreen that's responsible for almost all of the truck's key functions. The display has stunning graphics and is super responsive, but using it for every little thing can get tiresome, especially while driving. Another bummer: Rivian doesn't offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.
The Rivian R1S SUV, which has a similar interior to the R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

What are their coolest features?

Rivian took the opportunity to build a vehicle from scratch and ran with it, adding in lots of clever, adventure-focused features.

[EMBARGO 9/28 DNP] Rivian R1T
The Rivian R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

Most notably, there's the Gear Tunnel, an 11-cubic-foot storage compartment running across the vehicle behind the rear seats. As is, it can hold your snowboards or other long items. Or you can pay extra for a slide-out camping kitchen that has an electric cooktop, dishes, a sink, and string lights.

The 2022 Rivian R1T.
The 2022 Rivian R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

The R1T also has an air compressor for inflating tires and air beds, along with a locking cable system meant to keep owners' gear safe.

[EMBARGO 5/11/22 6 AM DNP] The F-150 Lightning Lariat.
The F-150 Lightning LariatFord

The F-150 Lightning has some interesting stuff in it, too. Mainly, it offers lots of onboard power that owners can use to power tools at a construction site or plug in their home in an emergency.

Verdict: You can't go wrong

Ultimately, these pickups are for different buyers. The R1T is a lifestyle truck that's relatively compact and better suited to a campsite than a jobsite. The F-150 Lightning is larger, more traditional, and will surely meet the needs of people who need trucks the most.

The 2022 Rivian R1T.
The 2022 Rivian R1T.Tim Levin/Insider

Both are fabulous choices, and both would certainly work for lots of buyers. But since I'd use my hypothetical truck for outdoor adventures, I'd pick the Rivian.

The big issue is both models are extremely tough to come by right now thanks to hot demand and low supply. So good luck finding one.

Read the original article on Business Insider