During a rainy day at the racetrack, the SRT-10 held the performance edge to beat the Lightning around our road-course loop--barely. The truck's endless torque, manual transmission, and positive, easy-to-modulate steering allowed Walton to record a lap time of 1:13.4, but achieving that level of performance on a slippery surface requires a skilled driver; one more accustomed to controlling snap oversteer and four-wheel drifts. Those not practiced in these tricky maneuvers may find themselves more comfortable pushing the limits in the more forgiving Lightning.
Helping the Lightning's chassis clip apexes on the racetrack is a lowered front and rear stance that improves vehicle dynamics. All four corners feature Bilstein gas shocks, and beefy stabilizer bars limit lateral roll during cornering, better enabling the gummy Goodyear Eagle F1-GS tires to achieve ultimate grip. The Ford's steering has a good feel and response, but didn't feel as precise as the Dodge's.
Because of the Lightning's forced induction and automatic transmission, we found ourselves having to stab the throttle early on corner entry to allow time for the drivetrain to downshift, build boost, and transfer output to the rear tires. Walton explains that "getting this timing just right is tricky; reacting too late results in a sluggish off-corner exit, but gas it too soon, and you'll be carrying too much speed at the apex." Much of this problem could be resolved if Ford would offer the truck with a manual transmission. Maybe next time (see sidebar).
Even though both of these pickups feature impressive mechanical upgrades, it's their ready-to-race interiors that caught our attention. Dodge's engineers claim the SRT-10 features 165 differences from the regular Ram and many of them can be found within arm's reach of the driver's seat. The truck features bucket seats with high bolsters and grippy suede inserts. A leather-trimmed steering wheel sits in front of a silver-face 160-mph speedo (only 5.5 mph higher than the world-record speed posted by the SRT-10 earlier this year). The V-10 is brought to life by a dash-mounted, shiny red engine-start button--one that you'll never grow tired of pushing.
The Lightning's interior is more subtle and doesn't stray far from its standard F-150 roots. Modifications are limited to mildly bolstered suede bucket seats with leather inserts and SVT logos embroidered on the backrests. White-face gauges on the instrument panel turn electroluminescent in the dark. The steering wheel is wrapped in perforated leather, and the door handles are upgraded to brushed aluminum.