Ford SVT F-150 Lightning

The powerplant mates to a four-speed automatic transmission with an aluminum driveshaft for strength and a 9-in. traction-lock differential with a 3.73:1 gear ratio for surprising neck-snapping acceleration (kudos to the supercharger as well). However, while accelerating on to the highway, the supercharger hesitates before kicking in. But, once it does, the acceleration is amazing.

Also, I have to say that men dig this truck. I had a nice older gentleman comment on what a great truck it was while at a stoplight, as well as some serious rubbernecking from a carload of twenty-somethings while refueling at a gas station. This was most likely because of the bright blue paint job, curved lower rocker extensions, clear rear taillights and turn signals, side-exit exhaust, big 18-in. wheels, and fat, low-profile tires. One look and it's obvious this is no ordinary F-150.

Ride and handling surpasses that of normal pickups. The truck takes sharp corners fairly well, considering its size. Steering is also easy. The Lightning carries an SLA independent suspension with an antiroll bar up front and a solid-axle suspension with a stabilizer bar in the rear. Gas-charged Bilstein shocks sit at all four corners. SVT engineers tweaked the suspension, lowering the rear by 2 in. and 1.5 in. up front to improve handling and make it look more aggressive.

The Lightning is not all looks, however. Ford says it can haul a 5,000-lb trailer or about 1,400 lb of payload.

Standard equipment includes antilock four-wheel disc brakes; tilt steering wheel; cruise control; leather bench seat with suede trim; power windows, doors, and locks; and an AM/FM radio with cassette and CD. The only options available are a $250 tonneau cover (which our vehicle carried) and a bed liner. The model we tested was a 2003, but the only changes for 2004 is a new paint color, silver metallic.

Base price for this truck is $32,515. The tonneau cover and destination charges push it to $33,495. Fuel economy is what's expected: 16 mpg highway, 12 for city driving. And, like all SVT products, the Lightning requires premium fuel. But, if money is not a real concern and you're looking for utility that looks cool and runs fast, get the Lightning.

-- Sherri L. Carmody