San Antonio, Texas - Fright'ning might be a better name for the SVT version of Ford's F-150 pickup. Increased power, new shocks, and a few minor appearance updates are all that distinguish the 2001 Lightning from last year's model, but some of these changes are worth noting if you plan to test Newton's Laws of Motion from the bench seat of a pickup.
Al Suydam, program manager for the Lightning, said that the new monotube Bilstein shocks offer more consistent performance. To prove his point, he failed to warn us about one deceptively undulating stretch of Texas back road, which we were traversing rather hastily. Said Special Vehicle Engineering chief engineer John Coletti, who was riding just behind: "When you guys caught air, we went for it, too. I only have three hairs on my head, but they all touched the roof!"
Our surprise at feeling the 4700-pound truck lift off the ground gave way to respect for those new Bilsteins when it landed sure-footedly with nary a bounce.
Under the hood, there's more air going through the intake manifold, as well as more cooling fins on the supercharger's intercooler, helping to bump up power and torque by twenty horsepower and ten pound-feet--to 380 and 450, respectively. The 5.4-liter V-8's extra brawn and a shorter rear axle ratio (3.73:1 from 3.55:1), shave a third of a second off the Lightning's 0-to-60-mph sprint, which now takes only 5.8 seconds--perfect for when you've got to get to the Home Depot in a big hurry.
Adding some flash to that dash are clear headlight, taillight, and foglamp lenses; a new bar grille up front; side signal mirrors; and edgier five-spoke wheels.
With product development at SVT in the hands of engineers who are willing to go airborne to prove a point, you should now return your seatback to its full upright and locked position.