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Without the Lightning around, the Roush F-150 is the hottest Ford pickup you can buy at a dealership (that is, select dealerships that carry Roush products). Of course, you can always take your F-150 to a noted Ford tuner like Kenny Brown or Steeda. Total cost for our test truck was just under $50,000. Considering that the base price for a Dodge SRT-10 is about $45,000, and you could get the old Lightning for around $34,000, the Roush truck is a pricey route to late-model performance. But the quality control and fit ‘n’ finish are top-notch, and the truck has a spirited manner not always found on other so-called sport trucks. Plus, all the modifications are covered by warranty.

There is little doubt in my mind that Jack Roush has a passion for performance trucks. I remember talking to him about different truck styles and trends in the early ‘90s at his Michigan shop. The new F-150 isn’t an easy vehicle to modify. Its bulk stifles performance and its mass makes it difficult to achieve a streamlined appearance. So it’s understandable that the Lightning project could have been struggling. But Jack’s crew pumped out more than 400 horsepower from an engine rated at 300 off the assembly line, and that’s a trick that doesn’t come with inexpensive bolt-ons. The body kit and lowering package put some well-needed relief into a stodgy profile that just screams out for a little more reach. The overall package is competent, somewhat alluring but definitely homogenized. Jack’s approach is to share his name across the F-150 line and offer different levels. So many choices may have diluted the performance efforts that could have been focused on just one killer offspring. But the truck is, for the moment, exclusive.

Of course, there’s always the possibility of a Stage 4! Let’s hope Jack wins a third-straight NASCAR championship and feels frisky enough to put out a 500-horsepower version.

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