Ford’s best-selling F-150 gets a thorough revamp for 2021, with hybrid power, more tech, and more towing capability.
Here it is. Ford has pulled the sheet back on its new F-150 pickup, the company’s single best-selling model. Barring any utterly seismic shifts in the marketplace, you’re looking at the best-selling automobile of 2021. And 2022. And 2023. You get the idea.
The F-150 is a big deal then, literally and otherwise, for Ford. The full-size pickup arrives not as a massive shake-up of the proven formula, but a thoughtful revision that improves on numerous aspects of the current model. It will arrive at dealerships this autumn, and when it does, it will offer the first full-hybrid model in its class, plus a variety of features to improve worksite productivity and day-to-day living.
Design and Interior: Evolution Outside, Revolution Inside
Starting off with the exterior, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a facelift of the current model. It’s a less dramatic change than previous model switches, but even though the 2021 F-150 uses the existing model’s basic platform, every single body panel is new. They’re still aluminum, too.
It starts with redesigned headlights, complete with huge C-clamp-shaped DRLs, which we saw last week in the F-150 teaser. They stretch both above and below the bumper, giving the new F-150 a distinctive night-time signature. A big grille keeps that Blue Oval front and center, and Ford will offer no fewer than 11 grille treatments across the line. Down low at the front fascia you’ll find an active air dam, which deploys at high speeds to improve aerodynamics, and hides away at low speeds to avoid damage. Active grille shutters are also present to make sure the big rig slips through the air as efficiently as possible.
Around back, a new set of taillights mirror the clamp-shaped units up front. A new tailgate appliqué marks this one out, and folding it down can reveal an available Tailgate Work Surface, a thoughtful flat surface with built-in sections for phones, tablets, a cupholder, and rulers.
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Ford has widened the stance by just under an inch, while other dimensions stay pretty close to the existing model. Rolling stock will range up to 22-inch items. The subtly changed proportions give the new F-150 a lower, wider look from head-on. Add the available egg-crate grille design on and we see just a hint of the classic, boxy, ’90s-era model.
The interior gets the more dramatic shake-up for the 14th-generation model. A huge new 12-inch infotainment screen is hard to miss: it will be available on higher trims, and come with wireless variations of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On XLT models and above, a same-size digital instrument panel is also present. A new dash design features higher-quality materials. New Max Recline Seats—available on King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trims—offer a nearly flat surface, in case you’re feeling sleepy.
Easily the coolest feature is the fold-away gear lever, though. Available on XL through Limited trims, the Interior Work Surface option allows owners to tuck that drive selector away, and fold out a panel big enough to place a 15-inch laptop with ease. Naturally, you can only do this while the F-150 is in park.
New Technology: Ditch the Generator, OTA Updates
That seems as good as a place as any to start talking tech. And it’s here the F-150 offers up plenty of goodies for work and recreation.
Ford’s SYNC 4 system will be standard on the 2021 F-150. That means the pickup will be capable of receiving over-the-air (OTA) updates from day one. The F-150 will also feature an available hands-free driving assist, which Ford is calling Active Drive Assist. The system uses pre-mapped roads and a driver-facing camera to do its thing, provided the driver is paying attention to what’s going on ahead.
As in the Mustang Mach-E, which will debut ADA, interested F-150 buyers will need to buy an ADA prep package that fits the truck with the necessary hardware to make it possible. The prep package also includes Intersection Assist, which helps drivers avoid potential oncoming traffic accidents when making left-hand turns. Meanwhile, available Active Park Assist 2.0 is a class-exclusive feature that offers one-button parallel or perpendicular parking. Every F-150 will also include Ford’s CoPilot360 2.0 suite of driving aids.
Those with a penchant for towing will be happy to find features cribbed from the Super Duty trucks. More rear camera angles should make the job easier, while graphics on the infotainment screen tell drivers which way to turn the wheel. Pro Trailer Backup Assist also returns.
The big news is the new Pro Power Onboard system. The optional feature provides enough juice to run work sites straight from the truck—no expensive generators necessary. There are three levels: 2.0-, 2.4-, and 7.2-kilowatt outputs. With multiple outlets scattered throughout the F-150, the latter option is capable of powering a plasma cutter, TiG welder, air compressor, angle grinder, chop saw, and work light—all at once. The 2.4-kW setup is standard on the PowerBoost engine, while the 7.2-kW setup is optional.
Six Engine Options: Performance and Towing Capability
What’s PowerBoost, you’re asking? That’s Ford’s new name for the headline hybrid setup, a first in the segment. It pairs the tough 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with a 35-kW electric motor integrated into the 10-speed transmission. A 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery provides the necessary juice—there’s no plug-in hybrid option, at least not yet.
Ford wouldn’t talk horsepower or torque at the reveal event, but it’s targeting best-in-class figures for both. What’s more, the PowerBoost will tow “at least 12,000 pounds”, and could hit an EPA-estimated 700 miles on a tank of gas. My bladder hurts just typing that.
The rest of the engine lineup is familiar: two naturally aspirated engines remain (3.3-liter V6, 5.0-liter V8), two EcoBoost engines (2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V6s) and the 3.0-liter PowerStroke diesel engine. No matter which engine you pick, you’ll find a 10-speed auto sending power to either the rear or all four corners.
That’s only the lineup at launch, however. Ford has made no secret of its all-electric F-150. It teased the EV truck at the event, which will touch down in 2022.
Pricing and Availability
The salient pricing details will arrive closer to the new F-150’s on-sale window of fall 2020. We don’t expect base prices to shift too much, though as ever with pickups, it will be the options list that quickly turns a reasonably-priced rig into seriously spendy item. The 2020 model begins at $30,440, while a current mid-level, short-bed SuperCrew F-150 Lariat starts at $46,805.