The 2021 Ford F-150 has a heavy load to carry, both for the owners who park one in their driveway and for the company itself. This truck is a massive profit centre for Ford and easily the most important product the brand builds, so keeping it fresh and ahead of the competition is a priority.
Ford calls the 2021 F-150 “all new,” though a heavy refresh might be a better way to describe this update, as the frame, majority of the powertrains, and the overall styling cues remain untouched.
That’s why the brand-new 2021 F-150 raises the question: Did Ford do enough with this redesign to keep this truck ahead of its rivals?
Let’s first look at the features that the new F-150 offers that its rivals don’t. First, we have the new PowerBoost hybrid, combining the 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 with a 3.5-kW electric motor integrated into the 10-speed transmission and a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This is a full hybrid system, which means the truck can run on electricity (briefly), gasoline, or a combination of the two. Specs have yet to be announced for this powertrain, but Ford has told us that it will have the best horsepower and torque numbers in the segment, which means at least 450 hp and pulling at least 12,000 lb.
Ram is the only other truck brand currently offering any electrification under the hood of its trucks, but the eTorque system is a mild hybrid, combining a 0.4-kWh lithium-ion battery with a belt-driven starter/generator to help with off-the-line acceleration and keeping shifts smooth. In the real world, the benefits of eTorque don’t feel all that significant from a driving perspective.
That’s not likely to be the case with the PowerBoost hybrid, as it is aiming to be a high-horsepower truck with big pulling power, utilizing the instant torque of the batteries to get work done. In the hybrid truck space, Ford is definitely now in the lead among its rivals.
Pro Power Onboard is the next feature that the F-150 now offers that you won’t find at other truck makers. This is an on-board inverter that will provide power to your electronics through a panel of plugs in the bed of the truck. Non-hybrid F-150s will use two 12V batteries to store power and feed 2,000 watts of power to a pair of three-prong AC plugs in the bed. When the truck is parked, the generator system runs the engine as necessary to keep the juice flowing. This can be added to every engine but the base 3.3-litre V6, and the system can remain on while the truck is on the move.
Opt for the PowerBoost hybrid and you’ll get a standard 2,400 watts of juice, or if you want, you can upgrade the system on the hybrid to make a full 7,400 watts of power, sent through four 120V plugs in the bed and even one 240V outlet.
Every other half-ton at least offers a single plug, but most are just two-prong and provide about 400 watts of juice. Ford’s system will make working with your truck, tailgating, and camping a much more enjoyable experience. The only issue we foresee is price. $1,000 at the local big-box store will net me a pretty big portable generator. Sure, Ford’s system is packaged much more discreetly, but a generator can also fit into places a truck can’t. This system sounds very useful, as long as Ford doesn’t price it too high.
Ergonomics and Ease of Use Improvements
Beyond electrification, there are a few other features that Ford introduced to help you work with this truck, though some might just call them gimmicks. A fold-flat seat with a bottom cushion that raises up to meet the backrest, designed to help you snooze in the truck – though I can’t say I’ve had issues sleeping in a driver’s seat when the need arose in the past. Still, this is the only truck with front seats that do that.
The shifter can now be folded flat into the console, allowing for a large flat work surface that can be used with a laptop. Ford says that extensive market research led them to this solution, rather than going with a different style of shifter. Ram and GM don’t have this problem, as they keep their shifters out of the console, leaving more space for storage and work. Ford’s fold-flat workstation is unique and looks useful, though it’s not the only truck with clever storage solutions in the centre console.
A brand-new tailgate has been introduced on this truck as well to keep up with the all the multi-use tailgates coming into the space. Ford decided to mimic a workbench with its tailgate, adding pockets for C-clamps to help hold down the wood you might be cutting, tie-down spots for securing long loads, a tape-measure imprint, and cubbies for pencils, screwdrivers, and other small tools. Whether you like Ford’s tailgate more than its competition is a matter of preference, but it’s clear that the brand couldn’t come out with a new truck and not address all the features being added to current-generation tailgates.
With all of those features in mind, let’s return to the question we asked off the top: Did Ford do enough? I think the brand did enough to stay competitive and retain its sales leadership, the latter being the obvious key goal for Ford. But this truck doesn’t feel like the leap that Ford made back in 2015 with the redesigned F-150, introducing an all-aluminum body that carries on today. This 2021 redesign feels much more evolutionary, taking that massive leap made five years ago and just polishing it further.
Electrification is a logical next step for pickup trucks, so getting ahead of that curve with the PowerBoost hybrid model makes sense; but if Ford really wanted to make a splash, the full EV truck would have been ready to roll – months or even years ahead of the competition.
We’re now patiently waiting to get our hands on the new F-150 to put all of these new systems to the test, so make sure you come back to the pages of autoTRADER.ca for a full review as soon as we can get it to you.