Last year, I was a bit perplexed that Ford would introduce a new F-150 pickup truck right now.
Maybe I was too accustomed to the outgoing model. That last F-150 was innovative with its aluminum cab and bed bolted on top of a stronger frame. Then, you have not one, but three EcoBoost V6s engines, along with a diesel and a well-balanced V8 to the lineup. And, let’s not forget about the Raptor! Even with fewer cylinders and two turbochargers, the Raptor lived up to the mission of its original V8 icon, and rightfully so.
Now, we have the fourteenth generation of this global best-selling vehicle. A reboot of sorts for the F-150. What made me wonder how much of it is really reboot? Or, is this "all-new" tag simply all hype, pomp and circumstance?
Before I answer those questions, this is what I gathered from the 2021 F-150. Ford stated that 92% of the parts that make up this new F-150 are indeed new. The interior is completely overhauled, while you may find some similarities with the outgoing model on the outside.
The big news for the new F-150 is a new driveline – the PowerBoost hybrid. This is not a mild hybrid, as found on the Ram 1500 or on older GM trucks. This is a full gas-electric combination designed for greater low end grunt and improved fuel efficiency.
It made sense that Ford would send up a 2021 F-150 with the PowerBoost driveline for the purpose of telling its story. It offered more questions that needed to be addressed. It is, after all, one of the biggest curiosities in the truck business.
The PowerBoost driveline combines an EcoBoost 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with an integrated electric motor and a 10-speed automatic transmission. The result is 430 maximum horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque – both impressive numbers among half-ton pickup trucks.
Performance-wise, I found two things about this driveline. It is quiet when the electric system powers the truck. It does very well when it gets around town and keeps up with city traffic. When you get it on the highway, then the EcoBoost V6 kicks in – and it certainly does. I just feel that the hybrid system would come in play when it is towing something – somewhere south of its 12,400-pound maximum capacity. If I was just going about my business in an F-150, I really don’t need the electric propulsion system.
My drawback to the PowerBoost driveline came down to fuel consumption. The Environmental Protection Agency rated the F-150 with the hybrid driveline at 24 MPG in both and highway driving. In my care, I only averaged 17.7 MPG. We had some cold and snowy conditions which affected fuel consumption in my time with it.
Even with mixed thoughts on the PowerBoost driveline, I really loved what Ford did to this new generation pickup truck. The design is evolutionary, familiar, but with fantastic execution on the exterior. The front clip, fenders, and tailgate are new, along with larger front headlamp and rear taillight units. The expanded use of LED lighting helped to improve overall night vision.
The front end is upscale – even in the base XL trim. This Lariat tester may be the third trim up, but it has a very elegant look all around. To make this truck even cooler, it was equipped with the Sport Appearance Package. What made this tester stand out was its 18-inch sport alloy wheels with black inserts. In all, this is how I might equip my 2021 F-150. This truck is absolutely cool, in my eyes.
When you get the PowerBoost driveline, you can opt for a 7.2-kilowatt version of the Pro Power Onboard. This unit was designed to draw off of the hybrid system’s battery to use for working off of the bed and tailgate of your F-150. There are five outlets in this system to plug in your work tools for on-site jobs: Four 110-120-volt, three-prong outlets and a 220-240-volt circular receptacle. Other models can be equipped with lower powered units with 110-120-volt receptacles only.
There are some other advantages to having the Pro Power Onboard system. When you’re not working, you can plug in a few small appliances for your tailgate or barbeque. You might even through a social distancing outdoor shindig by plugging in your DJ equipment or a small amplifier for your guitar or bass. Just making some suggestions…
The biggest change on the F-150 is the interior. Ford really did a superb job in redesigning the cabin and the instrument panel. My Lariat tester has the 12-inch digital instrument binnacle that is highly customizable and is very easy to read and comprehend. All controls are laid out just fine with good control and logic. Some controls are below the belt line, such as the lighting controls. I wished they were above the belt line for easier access.
One feature that made this F-150 stand out was the gear lever. If you are not driving it, you press a button, and it folds right into the center console. Press that button again, and it will prop right up when you’re ready to drive. It is better than dialing a knob or pressing a button to drive or reverse the vehicle.
Another new feature worth mentioning is the B&O – that’s Bang & Olufsen – Sound System that is installed from Ford’s new SYNC 4 infotainment system. Sounds quality is very good and the entire system can connect your smartphone integration software wirelessly. The new 12-inch touchscreen is massive, and I used the two-pane set-up for both music and SYNC 4’s native navigation system.
The seats were good. In the normal seating position, I found plenty of support and bolstering to keep me behind the wheel. Rear seat room is exceptional. You can fit three adults across and have a mostly flat floor for them to put their feet on.
When you are driving, you will enjoy the smooth ride the F-150 has to offer. When the rough gets rough, the F-150 combination of a front double-wishbone and rear leaf spring/solid axle set-up will absorb the worst conditions at its best – including iced-up conditions. Handling is very confident, which results is minimal roll/lean through evasive maneuvers and curves.
The brakes are really good. Pedal feel is solid, and you actually can get good stops in normal, panic, and winter situations. Even with a large steering wheel, the system itself is very good. The responsive system allows for quick maneuvers at the wheel. The turning radius is among the best in its class with easy U-turn control.
In terms of pricing, my F-150 Lariat SuperCrew 4X4 tester with the PowerBoost driveline came to $67,150. It is certainly loaded up, but a lot of truck folks will tell you that you shouldn’t be spending this kind of money for a mid-level trim and such high specification. The truth is that you cannot ignore the high prices of full-sized half-ton pickup trucks.
Which lead me to consider how I would equip a Ford F-150, if given the chance and the money to do so. Consider my lack of towing experience and that I would not use the pickup truck for heavy work, there are three engines to look at: The 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and the 5.0-liter V8. These three were based on previous experiences from the last generation model. I could add a fourth engine – the 3.0-liter PowerStroke six-cylinder turbocharged diesel. I have not worked with this engine and am very curious about it.
This is not to discount the PowerBoost hybrid driveline. If you can find a purpose in having this on your F-150, go for it.
Also, driving the F-150 stirred up another train of thought. I love full-sized, half-ton pickup trucks. They have essentially replaced the big sedan as the ride of choice at some households. While there are some things that we miss from the Ford LTD of my childhood, the F-150 offers a lot more overall. So does its competition.
Overall, the Ford F-150 improved upon a sales leader by pushing the boundaries of what we used to think is a pickup truck. This time, they saw who was using it and how they want to use it. Then, they elevated those wants onto innovative solutions – such as the PowerBoost driveline and the Pro Power Onboard. At its essence, it is the pickup truck of choice for both commercial and retail customers. A good choice, if you ask me.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by the Ford Motor Company
All photos by Randy Stern