Ford Motor Co. says its Special Vehicle Team is not just about power. It's also about handling finesse.

Engineers for Ford's elite brand have remained true to their trademark with the selection of monotube Bilstein gas-charged shock absorbers at all four corners of the '01 SVT F-150 Lightning pickup.

“The damping characteristics of these shocks improve wheel control, while significantly improving the feel of the SVT Lightning's ride,” Ford says of technology that is already original equipment on BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, to name several.

That's quite a pedigree for a pickup. Even one with an MSRP of $32,460.

But Lightning doesn't disappoint.

A recent test drive through the Texas Hill Country challenged its handling capability with winding, narrow, roller-coaster stretches of blacktop. And Lightning hung on with minimal shimmy.

Its supercharged 5.4L Triton SOHC V-8 develops 380 hp — 20 hp more than the '00 Lightning and 60 hp more than an '01 SVT Mustang Cobra.

While the latter (MSRP: $29,235 for the coupe; $33,235 for the convertible) is the superior driving machine, Lightning is the ultimate power toy. Despite its F-150 roots, its big-pony thrust is meant for play, not work. And for punishing usurpers to its kick-butt-pickup crown, such as General Motors Corp.s' new GMC Sierra CSuperset.

In other words, the SVT Lightning doesn't haul cargo. It hauls a — .