2021 Ford F-150: The best seller is even better
The electrified versions of the all-new Ford F-150 have received a lot of good press over the past few months. First, in February, Texas owners of the 2021 hybrid version were reported using its Power Boost Onboard generator to power their homes when the grid went down during the devastating ice storm. Then, in May, President Biden took a prototype of the upcoming 2022 all-electric Lightning version out for a spin and declared, "This sucker's quick!"
But the real news is, all versions of the F-150 benefit from a complete redesign. Ford's fullsize pickup has been the best selling truck in the country for decades, and now it's even better across the board. Although it looks largely the same from the outside, the interior had been greatly upgraded, including an available 12-inch touchscreen that is state of the art.
One of the F-150's strengths has long been its wide range of body style, trim levels and powertrain choice. And that continues into 2021. For starters, it's available in three cab styles — regular, SuperCab (extended) and SuperCrew (crew cab) — and three bed lengths. It is offered with multiple engines, all mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with either rear- or four-wheel drive. And it comes in six different trim levels: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited. There is also a a high-performance Raptor model and a new Tremor version, which is described as the most off-road capable version yet.
Beginning prices range from under $30,000 for a two-door XL model to a little more than $71,000 for the top-of-the-line Limited version, meaning there's an F-150 that fits every budget.
Out test 2021 F-150 was a Platinum level SuperCrew with a short bed and optional FX4 off-road package. I was a little apprehensive when it first arrived. Some off-road packages on other trucks I've tested have been so stiff they compromise around town driving, which is mostly what I do. Driving over the deep potholes and ruts in the poorly maintained streets in my neighborhood can be unsettling. But not the FX4 package. It provided a remarkably smooth ride on most streets, and felt fully under control on the makeshift off-road route of heavily pitted unpaved roads that I would never drive a car over.
Much of the credit goes to Ford's decision to switch the previous version over to an aluminum body while retaining a steel frame. Although some questioned the decision, the lower weight makes it easier to control the ride, and the F-150 remained as durable as ever.
I did not do any serious off-roading with the F-150 because it arrived at the beginning of a record-breaking heat wave with authorities warning of tinder-dry conditions in the woods. I have no doubt it would be capable of tackling the toughest trails, considering the drive modes include all-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive high and four-wheel-drive low.
The F-150 is available with a remarkable six engine choices. Like 2020, they include: a 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6; a 400-hp 5.0-liter V-8; a 325-hp twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6; a 400-hp twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6; and a 250-hp 3.0-liter diesel V-6. New for 2021 is a 400-horsepower hybrid powertrain which consists of a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and a 35 kW electric motor It provides up to 700 miles of driving range per tank and, as the Texas owners showed, can also power an onboard generator for keeping the power flowing at job sites or during outages.
Our test F-150 came with the latest version of Ford's venerable 5.0-liter V8, the same basic engine found in the Mustang GT and Mach 1. Once upon a time, the company's 302 cubic inch powerplant was only sought after in the original Boss 302 Mustangs. Bigger V8s were desired options in most other cars, and especially fullsize trucks. But the 5.0 in our tester had plenty of power — 400 ponies and 410 foot pounds of torque. While the Mustang versions are stronger (up to 480 horsepower), it provided good acceleration especially considering the F-150 weighed nearly two-and-a-half tons. Part of the credit must go to the smooth shifting 10-speed automatic transmission, which was always in the right gear.
And as the experiences in Texas showed, the power is not just under the hood. The new hybrid model includes an onboard generator that can produce enough electricity to run a work site, camp site, or even a home. The 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. It even provides power on the move to charge tool batteries in between jobs.
Well-optioned fullsize trucks like our Platinum version have received some pushback because of their perceived high prices. "That much for a truck?" is a not uncommon reaction. I disagree. Basic F-150s are available for less than the average cost of a new car these days. Luxury trucks should be considered competing against luxury cars. They are available with the same premium features and advanced automotive technologies, but can carry a load of lumber, tow up to 11,300 pounds, and go seriously off road if the owners aren't worried about scratching paint. The leather interior, stereo and display screen in our test Platinum version were on par with some of the finest luxury cars we've tested, and the $71,310 price was less than many of them.
The competition in the fullsize truck segment is hotter than the record setting 116 degrees we hit in Portland on June 28. Both of the other major contenders, Chevy and Ram, have overhauled their lineup in recent years, improving everything from their rides to powertrains to their technologies. Midsize trucks are also stepping up with new and improved models that offer many of the similar capabilities and features at a lower price. But the 2021 redesign is likely to keep the Ford F-150 the leader of the pack.
2021 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew
Base price: $60,535
MSRP as tested: $71,310
Type: Fullsize pickup
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 (400 hp, 410 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Modes: 2W, 4A, 4H, 4L
EPA estimated mileage: 16/22
Overall length: 231.7 inches
Curb weight: 4,912 pounds
Final assembly: Dearborn, Michigan
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