2021 Ford F-150 first drive evaluate: America’s most wished is now a hybrid

I haven’t got any empirical proof to again this up, but when I needed to guess which new-vehicle consumers are probably the most stubbornly against electrification, I would wager it is pickup consumers. Conversely, with the section’s emphasis on torque and its seeming indifference to larger curb weights, light-duty vehicles stand to learn from gaining an electrical serving to hand greater than most. Whereas others have tried and largely didn’t spark curiosity in gas-electric vehicles, spending just a few days driving this 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost has me satisfied that this mannequin stands the very best likelihood of changing the plenty to the enjoyment of electrons. In reality, it is the primary hybrid pickup I would purchase.

Once I say “plenty,” I imply it. The F-150 has been America’s best-selling truck for 43 straight years, and the nation’s best-selling new automobile of any sort. In reality, the F-Collection is considered one of this nation’s chief financial drivers, reportedly incomes extra money than each main US sport mixed. Ford constructed 900,000 F-Collection vehicles final 12 months. Even when hybrid fashions solely make up a modest proportion of complete F-150s bought going ahead, PowerBoost may single-handedly have a much bigger web impact on America’s fossil-fuel consumption than another automobile — Tesla included. This new truck, then, is a giant deal. No strain.

Whereas the Blue Oval will proceed to supply its money cow in a predictable array of gas- and diesel-powered flavors, the brand new 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost will give consumers loads to chew on. I am not simply speaking about this mannequin as a result of it is obtained probably the most horsepower and torque of any F-150, though with 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet, this plugless pickup has these honors locked up tighter than an proprietor’s fist round a bacon-double cheeseburger. Because of the F-150 hybrid’s customary Professional Energy Onboard built-in generator and a number of different methods, this new F-Collection presents loads of causes to contemplate electrification past improved gas financial system.

Minor visible adjustments, large functionality replace

Earlier than I dig too deep into the gas-electric guts of this specific King Ranch SuperCrew 4×4, an summary of the brand new F-150 is so as. Whereas it might appear like a gentle refresh of the outgoing mannequin, this 14th-gen rig is, the truth is, very completely different — nicely over 90% completely different, Ford says. The brand new truck rides on a stiffer, absolutely boxed metal body clothed in all-new bodywork (aluminum, as earlier than), and it sits on a half-inch-wider observe. All cabin and field configurations return, together with all main trim ranges — XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Restricted (a brand new Raptor is predicted subsequent 12 months), however there’s lots new happening beneath the pores and skin no matter trim. 

The simplest strategy to spot the 2021 F-150 on the road can be its revised C-clamp-shaped LED working lights, which now circulate right into a redesigned entrance bumper. There is a vary of latest grilles up entrance, and aerodynamic enhancements embody lively shutters and a chin spoiler that robotically deploys at pace. Out again, new taillights bracket a redesigned tailgate whereas repeating the C-clamp design theme.

The F-150’s observe width grows modestly, however by way of total dimensions, it is similar to final 12 months.

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It is value noting that this new F-150 eschews the business’s development in the direction of trick multifold tailgates like these supplied on arch rivals such because the Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and Ram 1500. As a substitute, the Ford’s extra standard one-piece tailgate is obtainable with energy up/down actuation and a redesigned work floor that features options like a pill holder, bottle opener and clamp pockets, and a built-in deployable step. These are intelligent options, however one has to marvel if the automaker is not leaving one thing on the desk by not providing an non-compulsory variable-hinged tailgate just like the break up rear door on the Ram or the Chevy’s Multi-Flex unit.

2021 Ford F-150 cabin enhancements

Whereas Ford’s departing F-150 held up nicely basically towards the competitors, it was clearly bested by Ram by way of cabin niceness and noise isolation, particularly on upper-end trims. I will want some back-to-back time in each rigs to know for positive, however I believe this new technology may reorder issues a bit. I’ve virtually no complaints about my King Ranch tester’s cabin. Materials high quality and aesthetics have improved noticeably, and the inside’s function depend is thru the roof. With its wealthy colour palette and wall-to-wall leather-based, the King Ranch is legitimately luxurious, and this is not even the brand new F-150’s high trim. (I skilled some lesser trims, together with an XLT and XLT Lariat, and I did not assume a few of their particulars had been as convincing for his or her costs, however I will want extra time in them to know for positive.)

Larger-end 2021 F-150 fashions like this King Ranch profit from a a lot richer cabin, each by way of supplies and tech.

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Out there class-exclusive options embody Max Recline lay-flat seats with heating, air flow and therapeutic massage (nice for sneaking a fast nap on the job website) and a power-folding gearshift lever that permits the armrest to flip down into a large flat work floor (a standard column selector can also be supplied). You’ll be able to’t roll out a brand new truck today with out a boatload of infotainment smarts, and the F-150 obliges with a 12-inch touchscreen working Ford’s sturdy Sync 4 infotainment platform leveraging accessible wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Even low-end XL fashions get an 8-inch touchscreen, a giant replace from final 12 months’s comically small 4.2-inch unit. Moreover, this King Ranch includes a punchy B&O Unleashed audio system with 18 audio system — together with ones within the ceiling and headrests — and SiriusXM 360L.

The brand new infotainment system allows over-the-air updates — not only for center-stack tech, for your complete automobile, powertrain included. Meaning Ford will be capable to wirelessly beam out bug fixes and have updates to homeowners.

It is also value calling out this F-150’s matching 12-inch reconfigurable absolutely digital instrument cluster, which presents vivid, splashy animations (particularly when altering drive modes) and all types of information. The way in which the engine pace is prominently expressed with two digits by default (0.0, as in 1,000 x rpm) takes a bit getting used to, and it feels a bit “2010 design-magazine infographic” to me. I admit it is also oddly satisfying to see how typically you may get the tachometer to fall to 0.Zero rpm — indicating the engine has shut off and also you’re briefly crusing alongside solely on electrical energy.

The way in which the tachometer expresses engine revs in numerical shorthand takes a bit getting used to.

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PowerBoost hybrid energy, gas financial system and refinement

Operating on electrons positively enhances the 2021 F-150 PowerBoost’s sense of internal calm, however you needn’t be in electric-only mode to grasp that this new F-150 feels appreciably quieter than earlier than. Wind and street noise are nicely managed, and whether or not the three.5-liter EcoBoost V6 is pumping its red-hot fists within the air or not, the cabin of this F-Collection is a surprisingly serene place to be. I even made a degree to drive my tester on better Detroit’s badly rutted dust and gravel roads, and never solely are physique motions nicely managed (even with an empty mattress), the shortage of noise when cinders ping-pong round within the F-150’s specifically lined wheel wells is spectacular. By truck requirements, this new F-150 King Ranch is quieter than a church mouse pissing on cotton.

To be frank, I’ve by no means a lot cared for the best way Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost sounds, and the truth that the PowerBoost tech silences its noise periodically whereas providing 30 extra horsepower and 70 extra pound-feet of torque is icing on the cake. It isn’t that the V6 itself sounds unhealthy, precisely, it simply is not authoritative in the best way you may want or count on for a full-size pickup. Ford’s naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 sounds worlds higher, as an example, nevertheless it solely delivers 400 hp and 410 lb-ft (and it does so at a lot larger engine speeds). After all, you may nonetheless additionally go for Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 (325 hp, 400 lb-ft) or simply avoid wasting dough going for the turbo-free 3.3-liter V6 (290 hp, 265 lb-ft). Launched for 2018, the three.0-liter Energy Stroke V6 diesel returns for 2021 unchanged, delivering 250 hp and 440 lb-ft. That is proper, the brand new PowerBoost hybrid handily outperforms even the diesel’s output figures.

PowerBoost includes a 35-kW electrical motor hidden within the 10-speed transmission’s case, powered by a modest 1.5-kWh battery beneath the rear seats.


Importantly, the PowerBoost hybrid does a convincing job of feeling like a standard gasoline pickup. Electrical muscle comes courtesy of a 35-kilowatt motor that lives contained in the (in any other case related) 10-speed automated gearbox, with energy coming from a liquid-cooled, 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the rear seat. You’ll be able to’t get the nifty foldable and lockable rear-seat storage pack with PowerBoost, however inside area is in any other case unaffected. Acceleration is powerful — I would wager that this SuperCrew’s 0-to-60-mph time is someplace within the mid-5-second vary. Higher nonetheless, interaction between the V6 and the electrical motor are all however seamless. The brake really feel — typically a sore spot as a result of regenerative braking — is mercifully progressive. The identical goes for the stop-start {hardware}. I am a man that continuously turns off such programs in new vehicles and vehicles as a result of their lack of smoothness annoys me, however I would fortunately go away the tech lively on the PowerBoost day by day.

To Ford’s credit score, PowerBoost availability is not simply reserved for high-end fashions — it is supplied on all F-150 trims. The hybrid will handily outlast the stoutest of bladders with its 700-mile vary between fill-ups, and even with four-wheel drive, the EPA charges gas financial system at 24 miles per gallon metropolis, freeway and mixed. In contrast with the less-powerful 3.5L EcoBoost 4×4’s 18 metropolis, 23 freeway and 20 mixed, there is a substantial distinction. Sure, the hybrid prices $1,900 greater than gas-only 3.5L, however the potential long-term gas financial savings look tempting, particularly for metropolis dwellers.

2021 Ford F-150 Professional Energy Onboard generates pleasure

And that is ignoring the PowerBoost’s cherry on high: Professional Energy Onboard, a built-in generator that features energy retailers within the cab and mattress for optimum flexibility. Operable by the dashboard or by the Ford Move app in your telephone or pill, PPO is nothing in need of a recreation changer, whether or not you are a roughneck or simply somebody who likes to camp or tailgate. PowerBoost hybrids come customary with a succesful 2.4-kW PPO system — sufficient juice to run a pandemic-era drive-in film setup in your yard, together with projector, loudspeakers and a full-size popcorn machine concurrently. Ford says you may rise up to 85 hours of energy on a full tank.

For an additional $750, my King Ranch has an accessible 7.2-kW PPO system that provides 4 120-volt family retailers and one 240-volt hookup, backed by sufficient energy to energise a small development website. In reality, Ford officers inform me they’ve used this method to fast-charge their new Mustang Mach-E
electrical SUV. What’s extra, whereas the Blue Oval cannot say as a lot as a result of regulatory issues, this model of PPO is definitely sturdy sufficient to energy most individuals’s houses in a blackout for as much as 32 hours per tank of gasoline.

Sure, you may go for a 2.0-kW Professional Energy Onboard system on non-hybridized fashions, too. This fundamental, lower-power setup is sufficient for a TV, mini fridge, heater, blender and audio system for a correct Huge 10 soccer occasion, nevertheless it’s the hybrid-only 7.2-kW setup that is the true workhorse. What’s extra, with new Zone Lighting options to light up almost your complete perimeter of the automobile, evening video games will not be an issue.

Questioning the necessity for an onboard energy supply? A number of job websites depend on heavy, cumbersome turbines, and PPO ought to attraction to individuals who use them. It does not eat into mattress area, it isn’t a theft threat, it is lots quieter, works with out gasoline cans and its emissions are lots decrease than a typical standalone generator. Me? I am not a contractor, however I like the concept of taking some electrical bikes out to an off-road park with out concern of needing to discover a charger, or for utilizing the onboard inverter to provide new life to an outdated Airstream. Greater than something, I relish the concept of parking considered one of these in my driveway as an alternative of paying 1000’s for the whole-house backup generator that is been on my buying record for years.

2021 Ford F-150 towing, payload and off-road skills 

It isn’t all rope swings and freshly tapped kegs for PowerBoost consumers. Along with its upfront price, the hybrid has decrease towing and payload rankings than its gas-only equal — this, regardless of the driveline’s superior output figures. Amongst different issues, you may blame the hybrid’s additional weight for the shortfall, however regardless of the rationale, Ford charges a short-box, 4×4 Tremendous Crew with PowerBoost to tow 12,400 kilos, whereas the non-hybrid will lug 13,900 kilos. PowerBoost payload is the same story, rated at 1,830 kilos, whereas a gas-only 3.5 can pack-mule 2,100 kilos in its mattress. Verify the proper packing containers, and the 2021 F-150 can tow as much as 14,000 kilos — 800 kilos greater than final 12 months.

Along with a number of days of driving on nation roads and freeways, Ford gave me the prospect to check out towing with each gasoline and hybridized 3.5-liter V6s on its hilly proving-grounds street course. I attempted an EcoBoost with a 7,200-pound Supra boat-and-trailer combo and the PowerBoost gas-electric with a double-axle Forest River Wildwood camper weighing in at a smidge over 7,000 kilos. Neither vehicles had been at risk of pegging their max rankings, nevertheless it was nonetheless spectacular and instructive to expertise how easy towing such large toys might be with out requiring a heavy-duty truck. It is a notably wild sensation to notice the engine shutting off within the hybrid whereas driving down hills, solely to drag away noiselessly from a cease earlier than the V6 kicks again in.

I additionally tried some off-road workouts in a gasoline Lariat geared up with the FX4 suspension package deal, together with muddy two-tracks by the woods and a few steep ascents that helped check out the brand new F-150’s numerous terrain settings. To be trustworthy, whereas enjoyable, none of this was terribly eye-opening. Greater than something, it simply goes to point out how succesful most vehicles are today, and the way fashionable four-wheel-drive programs and drive modes could make once-formidable challenges completely routine.

2021 Ford F-150 OTA updates and hands-free driving tech

Earlier, I discussed that the F-150 has over-the-air updates. That very same means will permit Degree 2 hands-free driving on HD-mapped divided highways starting late subsequent 12 months. Patrons who pony up $995 for the Co-Pilot 360 Energetic 2.Zero Prep Package deal acquire superior driver help programs like adaptive cruise management with lane-centering and speed-sign recognition, plus Evasive Steering Help, Intersection Help and a self-park operate. Not like most such programs — together with Tesla’s Autopilot — Co-Pilot360 features a driver-facing infrared digital camera that tracks head place and eye gaze to make sure drivers are nonetheless paying consideration.

Correctly geared up, the 2021 F-150 can tow a stout 14,000 kilos — that is 800 greater than final 12 months.

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2021 Ford F-150 pricing and sum-up

Loads have folks have been lamenting the rising costs of full-size pickups, and to be trustworthy, the 2021 Ford F-150 is not going to do a lot to silence the grousing. A base, regular-cab XL work truck begins at $30,635 (together with $1,695 for freight), simply $195 greater than final 12 months. Nevertheless, with all of those new choices, it is simpler than ever to greater than double that price ticket briefly order. King Ranch fashions begin at $55,630 delivered, however my closely optioned PowerBoost 4×4 tester stickers at a retirement-jeopardizing $77,000. Keep in mind, Ford presents two trims above this mannequin — Platinum and Restricted.

It is all of the extra exceptional, then, that even on this lofty specification, the 2021 Ford F-150 completely feels well worth the cash. It is onerous to think about a extra versatile automobile, one able to doing a lot work whereas feeling so upscale and delivering a lot tech. Specifically, I believe Professional Energy Onboard may very well be an actual difference-maker for plenty of consumers — probably even prying open the wallets of parents who’ve been reluctant to entertain electrification in a brand new automobile of any sort. Since PPO’s strongest variations can be found completely with PowerBoost, this new functionality might coax just a few gas- and diesel-only diehards into crossing the Rubicon and going hybrid. I may see this tech being a boon for fleet consumers of municipal and utility automobiles.

Whereas the 2021 F-150 seems to be a conservative redesign, make no mistake, this truck is loaded with the newest tech and a raft of distinctive options to assist defend Ol’ Henry’s turf atop the auto business’s most vital section. If nothing else, PowerBoost ought to assist truck consumers mentally put together for Ford’s forthcoming all-electric F-150, which is because of tackle the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian R1T starting in 2022. Setting our tables for Ford’s battery-powered (and closely automated) future is a giant ask. Fortuitously, the 2021 Ford F-150 feels as much as the job.

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