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2021 Ford F-150: Refreshed & Updated

Chris Kaiser

The newest version of the best-selling vehicle in the country, the 2021 Ford F-150, gets new tech, new trim, and whole lot of practicality.

Knowing Your Audience

It may not be as exciting as the reimagining of the Corvette or the return of a classic like the Bronco, but the unveiling of the 14th-generation of the best-selling vehicle going back over 40 years is still a big deal. The new 2021 Ford F-150 builds on its already dominant position atop the US automotive market with a mixture of new tricks and tired-and-true competence. Let’s dive in to all that’s bright and shiny on the new 2021 F-150.

2021 Ford F-150 Platinum - ford.com
2021 Ford F-150 Platinum - ford.com

The Basics

2021 Ford F-150 King Ranch - ford.com
2021 Ford F-150 King Ranch - ford.com

As with any generational update, the F-150 got some updates to its exterior.  The F-150 largely sticks to what made the 13th-gen successful, though there are some notable changes. First, you’ll be able to choose from 11 different grille styles. If that sounds like a recipe for choice overload, remember, there are going to be a lot of F-150s out there on the road, and Ford is just trying to lend us all a hand in standing out from the crowd.

2021 Ford F-150 SXT - ford.com
2021 Ford F-150 SXT - ford.com

The F-150’s architecture remains unchanged with a steel frame and aluminum body. There will be 6 different trims to choose from and 6 powertrain options as well, including a brand new one for 2021.

New Hybrid and Other Option

Most of the powertrain offerings remain largely unchanged from the last generation. Ford has yet to confirm exact numbers, but here’s what’s returning: the base 3.3L naturally-aspirated V6, the 2.7L EcoBoost V6, the 5.0L NA V8, and the 3.0L PowerStroke diesel. Options for the two 3.5L EcoBoost V6s has been reduced to the smaller output version, with the higher output Raptor version going conspicuously unmentioned. Given the RAM Rebel TRX is getting a Hellcat engine, you’d have to assume Ford will also be upping the ante in the “crazy” truck contest.

2021 Ford F-150 Limited - ford.com
2021 Ford F-150 Limited - ford.com

Most notable is the new Powerboost hybrid option for the F-150. This will pair a 3.5L EcoBoost V6 with a 35kW electric motor. Ford hasn’t released final numbers on this or any of the other powertrains. However, Ford does claim the hybrid F-150 will be class leading in horsepower and torque and have a towing capacity somewhere around 12,000lbs. Additionally, they claim this hybrid system will allow the F-150 to have a range topping 700 miles on a single tank of fuel. As we’ll see, this isn’t the only feature designed to make the F-150 a serious cross-country hauler.

Hand-Free Driving and Other Tech Tricks

The new F-150 may have stuck to its roots with a modest styling update, but there are plenty of new tech features that indicate Ford isn’t resting on its collective laurels. And really, what would a new semi-luxury pickup truck be without all sorts of new electronic bells and whistles? The first thing you’ll notice when getting into the 2021 F-150 is the infotainment screen. In the arms race for the biggest screen, the new 12-inch screen (available on the XLT trim and up) is a serious shot across the bow. Even with all that screen, Ford was still wise enough to keep physical buttons where you want them. The infotainment system shares the new SYNC 4 system with the upcoming Mustang Mach E, screen resolution is excellent, and features Amazon Alexa in addition to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.

Revolution or Evolution? Electric Pickup Trucks
2021 Ford F-150 dash - ford.com
2021 Ford F-150 dash - ford.com

The F-150 will receive over-the-air software updates, like the Mach E, and also like the Mach E, one of those software updates will be a semi-autonomous hands-free driving mode (scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2021). We expect this mode to be similar to GM’s SuperCruise and best suited for those highway long hauls.

A Foreman’s Office On Wheels

Ford knows their key demos, and a lot of those folks will be buying the 2021 F-150 as a work truck. This is why some of the most innovative features on the new F-150 are geared to increased practicality. Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Work Surface: Working from your truck can be cramped. To help, one of the slickest new features on the F-150 is an “interior work surface”. With the push of a button the gear selector folds down into the center console. From there the center console’s lid can be folded down to provide a large flat surface, perfectly suited for a laptop or paperwork.
  • Nap Time: For those who need a roadside snooze or want to skip the motel on their way cross-country, the F-150 now features Max Recline Seats that lower to almost a full 180°.
  • More Stowage: Ford added a new storage locker under the rear seat, perfect for longer items like fishing and hunting gear.
  • Tailgate Wars 3.0: You knew Ford wasn’t going to be left behind in the battle for best tailgate. Their focus is clearly on adding work truck functionality. The F-150 tailgate has tie-down cleats, a wide fold-out step, special indentations for attaching clamps (like those for a circular saw or other power tools), there’s also a phone/pad holder and cup and pencil holders.
  • More Power: Available with all but the base engine is a power inverter. On the gas models you’ll find a 2kW of juice, and on the hybrid, you can get up to 7.2kW. Even more impressive than just the sheer amount of power is that you can get this for a long time, up to 85 hours in the 2kW version and 32 hours for the 7.2kW version, and while you are driving, allowing you to charge tools and the like while you’re on the road.

Keeping One Step Ahead

2021 Ford F-150 - ford.com
2021 Ford F-150 - ford.com

Ford is betting that substance over style is the key to success, with the minor cosmetic updates and big swings on functional improvements. The RAM might be a little more luxurious and the GM’s trucks might have trick tailgates, but the F-150 looks to hold on to its crown as the undisputed champ by simply being a more powerful, practical, and efficient truck. We can’t wait for a test drive.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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