The decision: Ford’s F-150 solely continues to get higher with each new era, with the 2021 mannequin that includes a slick hybrid-electric powertrain possibility and a few genuinely helpful new tech.

Versus the competitors: It’s the chief for a cause — the stability of functionality, consolation, reliability and have content material has put it on high. Ford’s fanatical consideration to delivering distinctive, revolutionary new options which can be extra helpful than gimmicky proceed to maintain it there.

It’s a fantastic day for America, all people, as a result of there’s a brand new Ford F-150 on the town. It isn’t daily that Ford updates its breadwinner, the bestselling automobile in America, however the 2021 mannequin 12 months is right here and with it comes a considerably revised F-Sequence light-duty pickup truck. Ford has made significant updates to the favored truck, including some new technological improvements which can be genuinely helpful, not simply gimmicky. There’s a brand new gas-electric hybrid powertrain, an all-new inside, three ranges of built-in generator, new exterior styling — tons to speak about, for certain. However have the modifications to the Ford F-150 improved it over the previous mannequin, made it extra aggressive versus redesigned vehicles from Ram and Chevrolet, and usually been price the fee and energy? Let’s discover out.

Associated: 2021 Ford F-150: America’s Favorite Vehicle Gets an Upgrade

An All-New, But Nonetheless Acquainted Face

A lot of Ford’s mantra for an F-150 replace has all the time been: If it ain’t broke, don’t repair it. The notable deviation from that occurred with the earlier era, when Ford went to an all-aluminum-alloy physique and construction on a metal chassis. The aluminum-intensive building is retained for 2021, however the look has been modified a bit. It isn’t simple to identify, however there are a couple of cues — most notably within the entrance finish, the place the favored C-channel LED working lights now lengthen down into the entrance bumper. There are a bunch of recent grilles, as properly, meant to distinguish between the six totally different trim ranges, however solely probably the most die-hard followers will memorize which grille goes with what trim. The remainder of the physique can also be new even when it doesn’t appear so at first look: The hood is decrease and at a special angle than the outgoing mannequin, the physique sides get built-in wheel arch flares, and there are new taillights and tailgate designs. You possibly can nonetheless get it in three totally different cab types (common, prolonged and crew cab) with three mattress lengths. The general look isn’t as dramatic a departure as Chevy noticed with its newest Silverado and doesn’t even really feel as dramatic as the newest Ram’s replace. As an alternative, Ford retains the styling a lot because it has been: engaging, clear, distinctive and freshened simply sufficient to maintain prospects fortunately coming again for extra.

A Richer Trying Inside

Step inside and also you’ll see that Ford has made some significant enhancements to the F-150’s inside styling. It’s a extra dramatic change than the outside styling and takes a extra industrial stylish design aesthetic to coronary heart, with simulated-metal trim in some fashions that appears terribly actual. The sprint now encompasses a “twin racetrack” design, with one hoop encircling the instrument panel width-wise, and one other encompassing the middle console and multimedia system. Numerous trim ranges have various levels of leather-based, material, steel (each actual and pretend) and wooden, however all of them look significantly upgraded from earlier efforts. Of notice is the transfer away from “animal grain” sample on the sprint and doorways — no extra vinyl simulating the look of pores and skin, which you in all probability didn’t even understand was a factor till somebody pointed it out.

Is the brand new inside adequate to unseat the Ram 1500 as our benchmark for truck interiors? Nearly. The large distinction right here is that whereas the F-150 inside seems significantly higher, the phantasm fades when you begin touching and tapping issues. The hole feeling of the earlier mannequin continues on within the new inside; Ford hasn’t fairly nailed the tactile sensation of a high-quality inside in its pickups. Faucet anyplace in a Ram inside and it feels stable, chunky, sturdy; faucet round within the F-150 inside and it feels skinny, seamed and snapped collectively as an alternative of solidly screwed collectively. It’s a refined distinction, but it surely does maintain the Ford again from stealing the Ram’s high spot.

There are few complaints in regards to the new inside expertise, nonetheless, with a gorgeous optionally available digital gauge cluster and large optionally available 12-inch touchscreen system, each of that are paragons of readability and performance. The most recent Sync Four multimedia system is one more enchancment on the final one, with huge buttons, simplified menus and both a split-screen or full-screen configuration relying on the app. Sync Four permits you to management quite a lot of capabilities by the large central display screen or by the FordPass cell app. Of notice are Zone Lighting, which lets you mission white mild on the bottom by any single facet of the truck (or all of them), the Pro Power Onboard generator system, and the reconfigurability of each the central display screen and the digital gauge cluster. One factor is oddly lacking, nonetheless — a house button for the Sync system. There isn’t a “essential display screen” for the multimedia system, a step backward from what most automakers do nowadays in transitioning in-vehicle methods to look extra like private moveable electronics. So within the F-150, you’ll all the time be switching between screens for varied capabilities as an alternative of getting a number of on a basic data menu, an odd omission I think Ford will rethink for future updates.

There are another neat new options within the inside that present real innovation on Ford’s half. The electronically folding shifter that lowers into the console to permit for a flat desk to open from the armrest is nifty, and I can see this getting used typically, from contractors needing a laptop computer floor to highway trippers needing a McDonald’s tray desk. The fold-flat seats are one other matter: Maintain the seatback recline button for a couple of seconds (after you’ve manually folded up the backseat so it doesn’t intervene), and the entrance seatbacks go practically horizontal, with the seat bottoms elevating themselves to create a bedlike platform. However they’re not precisely comfy as a mattress, being reasonably brief and agency with no help on your legs. I struggled to discover a place on them during which I’d need to nap for any size of time.

The remainder of the cabin is as Ford has all the time made it: comfy, spacious, properly laid out and stuffed with helpful storage, cubbies, bins and lockers. The view out is expansive because of the drop-down cutouts within the entrance windowsills, a low hood and tall home windows throughout. The seats are comfy, with loads of room for 5 within the crew-cab fashions I drove. All in all, the inside enhancements are each useful and revolutionary, and can present precise utility to homeowners who determine to splurge on the fancier choices. 

Let’s Discuss About That New Hybrid

There at the moment are six powertrain selections for the F-150, beginning with a normal 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6; a 325-hp, turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6; a 250-hp, turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6; a 400-hp, 5.0-liter V-8; a 400-hp, turbo 3.5-liter V-6; and the brand new 430-system-hp, turbo 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid. Driving the historically powered F-150s isn’t all that totally different from driving prior variations as not an excessive amount of has modified mechanically. The turbocharged V-6 fashions are fast and highly effective; the V-Eight has a ton of low-end torque and a surprisingly keen throttle; and the diesel continues to be {smooth} and torquey. It’s the hybrid that’s the large information right here.

2021 Ford F-150

Vehicles.com photograph by Steven Pham

There have been different hybrid full-size pickups earlier than (GM had vehicles with two-mode hybrid drivetrains greater than a decade in the past), however none fairly as properly built-in and totally fleshed out because the Ford PowerBoost system. The distinction comes within the transmission, which continues to be a 10-speed computerized like the remainder of the F-150 lineup, however with an built-in 47-hp electrical motor to spice up its efficiency. There’s additionally a 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery on board, sandwiched between the body rails beneath the passenger compartment load ground, that allows the hybrid-powered F-150 to drive in full electrical mode at speeds as much as 45 mph. On high of all this, the hybrid powertrain comes with the brand new Professional Energy Onboard generator system as normal, with an output of two.Four kilowatts in base kind, upgradeable to a whopping 7.2-kW model for some further money. Extra on that in a minute, although; proper now we’re extra focused on how the brand new hybrid powertrain drives.

And it should be mentioned, it drives fairly properly. One factor to remember is that this isn’t a Toyota- or Honda-style hybrid, the place you will have a small four-cylinder engine mated to a repeatedly variable computerized transmission (or the equal, as some will say it’s not technically a transmission, or a minimum of not a CVT within the typical sense). Right here, we’ve a strong turbo V-6 bolted to a giant 10-speed computerized with optionally available four-wheel drive included, as properly. As such, the operation of an F-150 hybrid just isn’t the identical sort of super-smooth really feel you’d get with a smaller automobile. There’s noticeable vibration when the engine kicks on and the truck transitions from electrical to gasoline propulsion, and the transmission itself does appear to shift very often. It’s in no way jarring or disagreeable, just a bit totally different from different hybrids I’m accustomed to. Energy supply if you need it’s plentiful, as the three.5-liter V-6 was a powerhouse even earlier than it bought an electrical help. Probably the most exceptional factor in regards to the hybrid is how keen it’s to remain in EV mode when it could — you possibly can trundle down essential avenue at 35 mph in full silence powered solely by electrons and even speed up (very fastidiously) in full EV mode. When you go 40-45 mph, the fuel engine will relax in. In regular operation, you must have a very mild accelerator foot so as to preserve it in electrical mode, however it may be carried out, and the expertise is fairly novel. 

Extra Than Simply an Eco Poser

The fascinating half in regards to the hybrid possibility is that Ford just isn’t treating it like a way of life truck. You will get the hybrid powertrain in any trim stage of F-150, from the lowly XL as much as the range-topping Restricted. That makes it accessible as a piece possibility, particularly because it options the built-in Professional Energy Onboard generator system. A stand-alone 2.0-kW generator system may be had on any gas-engine-equipped F-150 besides the usual 3.3-liter V-6, however the fundamental hybrid system is a 2.4-kW system that may run quite a lot of gear. Use it as a cell movie show and run a projector, loudspeakers and a popcorn machine all on the similar time, or use it at a job website and run a miter noticed, jackhammer or different electrical instruments out of the 2 120-volt retailers within the mattress. Or, improve to the 7.2-kW system and get a 240-volt, 30-amp circuit that may run the air conditioner on a camper trailer, be used as an emergency energy supply for residence home equipment, or on a piece website to energy a plasma cutter, chop noticed, work lights and a lot extra — all on the similar time. It’s all simply managed by a display screen within the multimedia system and might even be run whereas the truck is being pushed, that means you possibly can recharge batteries for instruments or preserve the air conditioner working in your camper whilst you’re driving, letting you arrive at a vacation spot with a calming camper in the summertime. It’s a genuinely helpful piece of very well-integrated gear, and I predict it’s going to be very, extremely popular.

2021 Ford F-150

Vehicles.com photograph by Joe Wiesenfelder

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So it’s helpful, however how does the hybrid do for fuel mileage? The brand new hybrid is rated at 24 mpg throughout the board, metropolis/freeway/mixed, according to the EPA. I can’t make a definitive assertion with no for much longer drive in a single, however the 37 miles of rural straight-line roads I drove returned a visit pc studying that was spot on for that score: 24.2 mpg. This rivals the official EPA score for the 2020 F-150 4×4 Power Stroke light-duty diesel of 22 or 24 mpg mixed, relying on which trim stage you get (rankings for the 2021 diesel should not but out there). The freeway score for the 2020 4×Four diesel is superior — 25 to 28 mpg, once more relying on trim. One suspects that an city atmosphere that has extra stop-and-go visitors (the place hybrids are inclined to do their best work) could be simpler than my rural journey, however my cautious and calm driving appeared to be the ticket. A traditional 3.5-liter-equipped 2021 F-150 4×Four is rated to get solely 20 mpg mixed, so it could appear that the good thing about the hybrid powertrain is actual, a minimum of from this transient spin.

And I’m blissful to report that it additionally tows like a champ. Hybrid-equipped F-150 vehicles are rated to have a minimum of a 12,000-pound most tow score in line with Ford’s preliminary numbers, and my drive of 1 by a hilly check monitor at Ford’s Michigan Proving Grounds dragging a 7,000-pound camper trailer confirmed that the hybrid-equipped mannequin performs simply in addition to the conventional 3.5-liter EcoBoost truck. Towing up a 5-6% grade from a standstill was a snap, with the truck nonetheless offering loads of acceleration on the grade, even below partial throttle. The large query ultimately will probably be what sort of gasoline economic system the hybrid powertrain achieves whereas towing — our expertise with the standard EcoBoost powertrains whereas towing has proven them to be extraordinarily thirsty when put below a load. An extended check ought to decide if electrification makes a distinction right here.

2021 Ford F-150

Vehicles.com photograph by Steven Pham

Extra Options, Nonetheless Costly

Ford has added so many new options to the F-150, it’s exhausting to undergo all of them. There’s the novel new tailgate with built-in work options like F-clamp affixing pockets, built-in rulers and work floor, a bottle opener, even a stand for private electronics. There’s the optionally available digital Lively Drive Help perform that may allow you to take your fingers off the wheel on particular premapped roads and highways, coming later in 2021 (vehicles bought earlier than ADA availability can have the suitable {hardware} that may be activated by way of an over-the-air software program replace). The truck’s security recreation has been upped, too, with computerized emergency braking with precollision and intersection help, an computerized parking perform, adaptive cruise management, computerized lane-centering, computerized evasive steering help and extra. There’s towing expertise, too, together with Ford’s novel Professional Trailer Backup Help that permits you to steer the truck and trailer with a knob, now that includes Trailer Reverse Steering that even prompts you which of them strategy to flip that knob to go the place you need. It begins to look like gadget overload, however the factor is, all of it’s genuinely helpful not directly — none of it’s gimmicky. 

As earlier than, Ford likes to make an F-150 to suit most budgets, and is providing up six totally different trim ranges and myriad particular packages that can assist you discover one. The least costly providing is the XL, which may be had in a regular-cab, 6.5-foot-bed model for the least costly value of $30,635 (all costs embrace a $1,695 vacation spot payment). From there, you get an XLT beginning at $36,745, Lariat at $46,890, King Ranch at $58,025, Platinum from $60,805 and the range-topping Restricted ringing in at an eye-watering $72,520. These are all base costs in fact — add choices and the costs simply start to climb. 

But regardless of the lofty sticker costs, Ford has no bother discovering patrons for large numbers of F-150 pickups yearly, and for good cause. Few different manufacturers have such an intimate relationship with their prospects, engendering fierce loyalty and repaying that loyalty with product enhancements particularly geared toward answering proprietor requests for brand spanking new and improved capabilities. In brief, Ford listens to its homeowners and continues to ship what they need in a truck. The brand new 2021 F-150 is a testomony to that consistency.

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