New 2021 Ford F-150 truck uploads as a tech-heavy hybrid ready for the next generation

The Ford F-150 pickup truck has been a lot of things to a whole lot of people in its nearly 40-year run as America’s best-selling vehicle. It’s been a work truck, a family vehicle, an off-road plaything, a recreational hauler, and a livelihood carrier, among so many other things. 

The 2021 Ford F-150 unveiled Thursday promises to be even more, from a mobile office to a sleeper cabin, from a tailgate hero to a tech-loaded truck that can drive itself. The most significant upgrade is the addition of a hybrid powertrain that can not only take drivers from here to there with more power and efficiency, it also may help Ford bridge the electrified future and still stay ahead of the pack. 

Like last year, the 2021 F-150 comes in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trims. It has three cab styles: regular, extended, and four-door “SuperCrew”; and three bed lengths: 5-foot-6, 6-foot-6, and 8 feet. The dimensions for the new truck are more or less the same as 2020, with slightly wider wheels and a more aerodynamic body with active grille shutters and a retractable air dam that helps improve aerodynamics by 3%, which is no small feat for a full-size truck. 

Until the fully electric F-150 launches in 2022, the hybrid shows Ford’s ambition for the F-150 right now. The 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid is the first full hybrid system in a pickup and has a 35-kw motor powered by a 1.5-kwh lithium-ion battery pack. Those pair to a 3.5-liter turbo V-6, and Ford calls its system PowerBoost. Specs won’t be announced until later this year, but Ford says it is targeting at least 12,000 pounds of towing capacity, and about 700 miles on a single tank of gas. 

That tank is 30.6 gallons, which translates to about 23 mpg. The most efficient current 2020 F-150 is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 with an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined. 

2021 Ford F-150

The hybrid is offered in every trim level, but only in SuperCrew cab configuration, with rear- or four-wheel drive. The electric motor makes 47 horsepower, and a similar electric motor in the 2020 Ford Explorer makes 44 hp and adds 221 pound-feet of torque. That’s a lot of pull from a smallish motor, but we won’t know how much the F-150 Hybrid tows until later in the year.  

The 1.5-kwh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack fits between the frame rails underneath the rear of the cab, and doesn’t intrude on interior space and cargo room. The hybrid truck has another trick, however: an onboard generator. 

The generator is available on all but the base 3.3-liter V-6 and turbodiesel 2021 F-150, but on the hybrid it is standard. Gas trucks offer a generator that makes 2.0-kw, while the hybrid upgrades that to 2.4-kw via dual 120-volt outlets, and Ford quotes an 85-hour run time on a full tank of gas. If you need more power to complete the job or blow out the party in the lot or the woods, there is an available 7.2-kw generator for the hybrid that has four 120-volt outlets in the bed and one 240-volt, 30-amp outlet for 32 hours of max use. 

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150

Every F-150 comes with a 10-speed automatic transmission only; the 6-speed automatic is no longer. 

Other changes across the lineup are mostly based on advanced technology, but there are subtle surface and structural changes. 

Larger, wider tires broaden the stance by three-quarters of an inch, and the rounded front fenders are higher. The C-shaped headlights get refreshed, but halogen lights are still standard. Available LED and adaptive LED headlights and taillights, and a power running board with a kick switch sweeten the pot. They’ll also likely juice the price of what will be a truck customizable in thousands of ways. The front of the truck can be fitted with one of 11 different grille designs, and the 14 wheel choices range from 17-inch steel wheels to 22-inch alloy rollers. 

The tailgate features clamp pockets and cleats built into the sides to secure longer items in the bed, and an available flat workspace with a built-in ruler, tablet holder, cup- and pencil-holder. 

You can work, and play, well into the night with available zone lighting that can be operated through a smartphone app or the truck’s touchscreen, so the dome light or tailgate lights can be on, or the side lamps, or all of them to ward off the bogeyman. 

2021 Ford F-150

The dramatic changes occur inside the 2021 Ford F-150. Note the American flag etched into the driver’s exterior vent. But first, let us repose in the available reclining front seats that fold down nearly 180-degrees like first-class airline seats. 

That sleeping cabin easily converts into a workspace with a collapsible gear shifter that folds into the console. A tabletop folds out from the armrest to cover the console and convert it into a dining top or worktop that fits a 15-inch laptop. That’s the tops. It’s available across the lineup.

The interior is easier on the eyes, too. A 4.0-inch digital information cluster is standard, but most F-150 buyers will opt up for an 8.0- or 12.0-inch digital instrument cluster. An 8.0-inch touchscreen replaces the 4.2-inch display as standard equipment, and an available 12.0-inch touchscreen with a horizontal layout accommodates familiar buttons and climate knobs. The larger touchscreen is standard on XLT high series and above. 

2021 Ford F-150

Larger screens make for better backup camera projection, especially for towing and using Ford’s trailer-assist system that uses a dial instead of the steering wheel. New for 2021, a trailer-reverse driver assistance feature migrates from heavy-duty Ford trucks with eight available cameras and even more views for easier, more confident towing. 

Easy seemed to be on Ford’s mind with the availability of Active Drive Assist, Ford’s hands-free adaptive cruise control system that can drive itself on 100,000 miles of mapped highways and roads. It has a driver-facing camera to detect driver focus, which is required. It’s available on Lariat models and above, but requires the additional purchase of software when it becomes available in 2021. The software can be downloaded via an over-the-air update, or you could have it installed at a dealer.  

Other tech conveniences include available wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as is a complimentary app that can start, unlock, and lock the truck.

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