2021 Ford F-150: There's New Faces in Your Future, and Maybe a Hybrid, Too

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Ford Motor Company pulled the wraps off the next-generation 2021 F-150 on Thursday night, revealing a new body and face that’s evolutionary in nature and a powertrain addition that sets its apart from all rivals. Could you call it revolutionary?

Being first in its class to offer something new is key for the F-150, being America’s best selling vehicle and all. In this case, that feature is a hybrid powertrain — one Ford says will make the F-150 the most potent light-duty pickup on the market.

There’s also added inches where it supposedly counts

More on that length and output in a moment.

For 2021, the F-150 takes pains to keep the overall look of the previous generation while boosting its presence and perceived muscularity. There’s a power dome hood, wraparound bumpers, more pronounced wheel arches met by a slight increase in track (via wider wheels), and grille options galore. There’s 11 available grille styles on offer across the F-150’s trim range.

As you’ve already seen, the F-150’s headlights come wrapped in LED borders. Ford helps the truck’s passage through the air with several aero features, including an active air dam, grille shutters, and redesigned tailgate.

The automaker seem to think owners spend too much time in their trucks, and it could be right. As such, the ’21 F-150 arrives ready to house you for a long stay — or act as your office. Want to turn that wide, useless console into a work desk? Opt for the Interior Work Service feature, which employs a stowable shift lever and panels to make room for a 15-inch laptop. That’s available on any trim.

Spending the night? Ford’s Max Recline Seats, optional on King Ranch and up, fold “nearly” 180 degrees. The bottom cushion moves up for a flatter seating surface. Anything of value can be locked in the available rear seat storage compartment, hidden below the rear seat. This full-length affair only needs someone to lift the bottom cushion for access.

Speaking of things that hide, the ’21 F-150 can be had with full-length retractable running boards that extend aft of the rear door. As if there weren’t enough assists to help you into the bed…

On the tech front, a 12-inch touchscreen appears on XLT trims and above, with XL customers getting a standard 8-inch screen. There, drivers looking for entertainment can access a digital owner’s manual should they wish, or the various other features of the upgraded SYNC 4 infotainment system. Ford needed to up its screen game after the 2019 Ram 1500 debuted with a footlong of its own. Optional is a 12-inch digital gauge cluster.

The new-generation truck adds the ability for Ford to refresh software with over-the-air updates. One such update, should buyers want it, is the Active Drive Assist feature that debuted on the Mustang Mach-E. Allowing for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of mapped, divided highways, it can be added to the truck’s tech roster remotely in the third quarter of 2021, assuming the buyer sprung for the prep package. It’s the first such hands-free feature offered on a pickup.

Intersection Assist employs the truck’s full range of sensors and cameras, as well as its automatic emergency braking system, to prevent head-on collisions when turning left, though it’s not standard fare in the Co-Pilot360 2.0 suite of safety features.

Those with a penchant for towing can opt for the Trailer Reverse Guidance feature formerly found only on Ford’s Super Duty line. This bit of helpful kit uses the truck’s cameras to leave no view out of reach, “with helpful graphics that tell drivers which way to turn the steering wheel while backing up.” Pro Trailer Backup Assist returns to make rearward travel a breeze.

All well and good, but what about power? It comes in many forms — and from many sources — in this truck. The usual array of V6 engines carries over for ’21 (base 3.3-liter, 2.7-liter EcoBoost, 3.5-liter EcoBoost, 3.0-liter diesel), with the 5.0-liter V8 remaining in the roster. Hybrid power comes by way of the 3.5-liter PowerBoost setup, which takes the existing twin-turbo 3.5L and adds a 47-horsepower electric motor integrated into the 10-speed automatic transmission.

Employing regenerative braking to help feed the 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, the hybrid drivetrain is reportedly good for up to 700 miles to a tank and boasts “at least” a 12,000-pound towing capacity. This is the recipe Ford says will top any other full-size truck’s output (Ram might have something to say about that). That said, Ford did not release power specs for the hybrid unit.

While the upcoming Ram Rebel TRX might top the PowerBoost’s output before long, it certainly won’t touch the hybrid’s efficiency. EPA figures will have to wait, however. One thing of note is that the hybrid can be ordered across the range, even on the base XL.

And power needn’t only be a consideration when the truck’s standing still. Ford promises “generator levels” of electric current to those who need it.

From Ford:

Pro Power Onboard is available with a 2.0-kilowatt output on optional gas engines, while PowerBoost-equipped F-150 comes standard with 2.4 kilowatts of output or an optional 7.2 kilowatts of output. Power is accessible through in-cabin outlets and up to four cargo bed-mounted 120-volt 20-amp outlets, with a 240-volt 30-amp outlet on the 7.2-kilowatt version.

Now you see why the hybrid powertrain can be ordered by XL (read: fleet) buyers.

Ford has never faced stiffer competition from its newly fresh domestic rivals. Its F-Series line saw a slight sales drop for 2019, something that, while partly explainable by Super Duty timing, occurred as Ram catapulted itself into second place. The need to come up with class-exclusive features was never greater.

Between its trick seats and console, an infotainment screen that matches Ram, a hybrid option, hands-free driving tech, and exterior customization galore, Ford seems to have amassed enough features to ensure bragging rights among its peers — and relevancy among buyers.

The 2021 F-150 hits dealerships this fall.

[Images: Ford]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Vulpine Vulpine on Jun 27, 2020

    I will note that the grille looks a lot better than it has over the last 15 years and more. However, it's still over-tall and I really don't see why all that height is necessary when the nose of its ancestors were so much lower while carrying similar-sized engines. There's just so much wrong with truck designs today and it all has to do with how large they are; unnecessarily so. Still, and finally, the F-series nose simply looks better than the GM full-sized pickups. I'll give 'em credit for that.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 27, 2020

    nice truck

  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern
  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!