At a glance, one might mistake this burly Ford pickup truck for an F-150 Raptor. And why not? It’s got big mud tires (37 inchers to be exact) bolted to gnarly wheels. There’s more ground clearance, more stance, more flash – everything you’d expect from Ford’s popular off-roader. But that face clearly belongs to the F-150 Lightning. Technically speaking, this isn’t an electric Raptor. However, Ford tells us it’s heavily influenced by years of Raptor experience.
Officially, it’s the F-150 Lightning Switchgear and no, you can’t buy it (yet). This rig is the latest demonstrator from Ford, joining vehicles like the Mustang Mach-E 1400 and bonkers SuperVan to showcase electric performance in various genres. While the Switchgear is aimed at conquering all things off-road, Ford is keen to mention this truck is also designed for performance on pavement. You might say it puts the switch in Switchgear.
For now, you want to know about the F-150 Lightning that gets airborne on purpose. To make that happen, Ford teamed up with RTR Vehicles and Vaughn Gittin Jr, and though it looks merely like a Raptorized EV, Ford tells us the Switchgear is its own entity. Fox 3.0 internal-bypass shocks are installed front and rear, paired with a custom double-wishbone suspension in front and multi-link independent with a stabilizer bar at the rear. The changes give the Switchgear a considerably wider track, 80 inches front and rear, and it wears custom carbon body panels with big ol’ fender flares to contain the tires.
In off-road guise, these changes give the Switchgear 13.5 inches of ground clearance in front and 11.0 inches at the back. That’s aided by the aforementioned 37-inch off-road tires mounted on 18-inch wheels, and if you peek underneath, you’ll see a steel skid plate and custom rock rails. Special front and rear bumpers help with approach and departure angles, too. The upgrades add approximately 150 pounds to the standard Lightning XLT, not bad considering all those changes but we’re still talking about a truck that weighs around 7,000 pounds.
Here’s where things get a bit interesting. The Switchgear also has an on-road configuration using pretty much the same suspension components. The 18-inch wheels and knobby tires are replaced with 20-inchers on street-friendly rubber. The skid plate, rock rails, and high-clearance bumpers are ditched for a big carbon composite front fascia, rocker panels, and a tonneau cover. The suspension is tweaked with different springs to favor a lower ride height, specifically 7.0 inches in front, 5.0 inches at the back.
In both formats, the powertrain is the same, and by that we mean it’s 100-percent stock. That’s a dual-motor setup with a 131.0-kilowatt-hour battery pack from the extended-range model. Output is 580 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque.
While Ford won’t build a Lightning Switchgear for the public, Ford CEO Jim Farley says demonstrator vehicles like it play a key role in public perception of the brand. Speaking to the press at Multimatic’s facility in North Carolina, he evoked the memory of Ken Block, stating the need for vehicles like these “to generate digital content and just have fun.”
That said, despite the Switchgear’s dual nature, Ford debuted only the off-road version of the upgraded Lightning at the big Ford Performance 2024 kickoff in Charlotte, North Carolina. For now at least, there’s no denying the company’s focus is on having fun in – and above – the dirt.
“We want to own off-road,” said Farley. “I don’t care if it’s Hammers, Dakar, or Baja.”
The hammers to which he is referring is King of the Hammers, a major off-road event held in Johnson Valley, California. Ford will be there with the Lightning Switchgear later this month, but for those more interested in the on-road version, automaker representatives tell us there’s more to come.