According to John Coletti, the chief engineer at Ford Special Vehicle Engineering, the new model of the souped-up pickup "elevates this niche vehicle to a higher level of performance and appearance. More horsepower, new rear-axle gearing, suspension fine-tuning and several distinctive exterior appearance changes make this SVT Lightning the most appealing ever."
In Coletti's view, "The 2001 SVT Lightning gives owners everything they've learned to love, but more of it. It's the most powerful, best-handling one we've yet produced, and some dramatic design changes make this 2001 model instantly recognizable."
For 2001, the SVT Lightning's SOHC 5.4-liter Triton V8 engine develops 380 horsepower at 4,750 rpm, up 20 horsepower from the 2000 model. Torque output is increased by 10 foot-pounds, to 450 at 3,250 rpm.
Coletti's engineering elves achieved these increases by enlarging the air inlet system for better engine breathing, by improving intercooler efficiency, and by redesigning the lower intake manifold to improve air flow.
The SVT team achieved more performance increases with a new rear axle ratio, with a "shorter" 3.73:1 crown and pinion gear set instead of the previous 3.55:1 ratio. "This improves off-the-line performance," Coletti says, "and is a key factor in reducing zero to 60 mph time from 6.2 to 5.8 seconds. Because of the higher driveline loads and rotational speeds, a new 114-mm aluminum drive shaft has replaced the previous 89-mm steel unit."
The SVT Lightning's suspension system, which lowers the truck 12 mm in front and 50 mm in the rear, is largely unchanged for 2001. At the front is a short- and long-arm system with coil springs and a 31-mm solid stabilizer bar; the rear is a solid axle with five-leaf springs and a 23-mm solid stabilizer bar.
New shock absorbers for 2001 are monotube Bilstein gas-charged units at all four corners. "The damping characteristics of these shocks improve wheel control," Coletti claims, "while significantly improving the feel of the SVT Lightning's ride."
Also for 2001, the specially developed 295/45ZR-18 Goodyear Eagle F1-GS unidirectional tires are built with the next generation F1 GS rubber compound, which is supposed to improve the tires' grip.
The SVT F-150 Lightning is built on the F-Series regular cab, short-wheelbase chassis so that the engine has pull around as little weight as possible, which Coletti notes should "optimize handling and acceleration. This configuration also provides a dynamic visual presence," he adds, "which is enhanced with design changes for 2001."
Exterior elements that distinguish the 2001 SVT Lightning include new upper and lower front grilles with a horizontal billet-bar design that is unique in the F-Series line. The headlights, taillights, side-marker lights, and the signature round fog lights all now have clear, crystalline lenses found only on Lightning, which Coletti says give the exterior a clean, jewel-like appearance.
The cab's centre high-mounted stop lamp also is unique to Lightning, with 10 light-emitting diodes flanked by two clear-lens cargo lights.
The cast aluminum-alloy, five-spoke wheels measure 18 x 9.5 inches and are restyled for 2001 with a sharper-edged design, which further distinguishes this vehicle from previous models.
The 2001 SVT Lightning's interior continues the combination of Ebony textured leather and Medium Graphite cloth trim, 40/60 split bench seat with centre jump seat, and the SVT-signature white-faced gauges.
In response to customer demand, Coletti says, there are sun visors with lighted vanity mirrors. "These new visors also have auxiliary blades that can be flipped to the side to add shade to the top of the side windows."
The SVT Lightning's complement of standard equipment remains the same for 2001, Coletti says, and that would include front airbags with a passenger airbag deactivation switch, anti-lock brakes, 6-way power driver's seat with special lateral bolstering, a 6-disc CD changer, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, an engine oil cooler, a SecuriLock passive anti-theft system and remote keyless entry, and a Class III towing package.
The only option available for the SVT Lightning is a factory-installed soft tonneau cover.