2021 Ford F-150 Review

2021 Ford F-150 - New Ford F-150 ups its game and goes above and beyond with new hybrid powertrain and onboard generator.


The best-selling vehicle in the US for decades, the F-150 is completely redesigned for 2021. Though it is very similar in size and styling, the F-150 is all new underneath, sporting new safety features, additional tech, an available onboard generator and, for the first time ever, a hybrid powertrain. F-150 is a full-size, half-ton pickup truck that seats 3 to 6 passengers depending on configuration. Regular cab, SuperCab and SuperCrew bodystyles are offered. Competitors include the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra.

Rear-wheel drive is standard with four-wheel drive being optional. Six trims are offered: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited. The off-road-ready Raptor arrives late in the model year. The gas engine lineup includes a 3.3-liter V6 with 290 horsepower, a turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 with 325 horsepower, a 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 with 400 horsepower. Ford also offers a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 with 250 horsepower. The new hybrid powertrain combines the turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 with an electric motor and a battery pack for a total output of 430 horsepower.

Also new for 2021 is the Pro Power Onboard system. It adds an electric generator that can operate power tools and appliances. It is available with the gas engines or the hybrid powertrain, where it can generate up to 7,200 watts. Available driver-assist technology includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, rearview camera with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high-beam headlights. Pricing ranges from $32,000 to $75,000.

As much as it kills me to say this, if you are shopping for an F-150, strongly consider the turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 or even the new hybrid model. Both of those powertrains are smooth and efficient and provide ample power. Both provide a 0-60 MPH time of less than 6 seconds and ample passing and towing power. Just how efficient, of course, depends on your right foot. Of course, the base V6 is best suited to work-truck duty, but the smaller turbo V6 and V8 are solid choices if you are looking to save a few bucks and don't need to be every other truck to the next stoplight.

Regardless of engine, the 10-speed automatic is a gem. It shifts smoothly and provides quick and well-timed downshifts in passing situations. F-150 is available with rear-wheel drive or full-time 4-wheel-drive. The 4-wheel-drive system has a low range for off-road slogging.

The new F-150 hybrid offers impressive EPA ratings of 25 MPG city and 26 MPG highway and a combined rating of 25 MPG. That's even better than the diesel, which has a combined rating of 23 MPG. As you'd expect, ratings tumble when you opt for any of the other engines. In routine driving, you can expect to average about 25 MPG overall with the hybrid and maybe 21 MPG with the 3.5-liter turbo. Ford offers fuel tanks ranging in capacity from 23 to 36 gallons.

Part of the excitement around this new F-150 is its on-board charging capabilities. Ford offers several options for buyers. Least powerful is a 2-kilowatt generator with two 120-volt, 20-amp outlets -- perfect for tailgating or running smaller tools on a job site. A 2.4-kW generator is standard on F-150 hybrid models. Optional is a 7.2-kW generator. It offers four 120-volt, 20-amp outlets and one 240-volt, 30-amp plug. While all work quite well, the hybrid, with its large battery, is best suited for heavy-duty work and it offers the advantage of silent running at times because the accessories can run off the battery if it is adequately charged.

In terms of ride and handling, Ford managed to nearly match the comfort and composure of a Ram 1500, despite having leaf springs and a solid axle out back (remember the Ram offers and independent suspension with coil springs). The difference is most noticeable when the bed is empty and there a bit more bounce and bobble on badly broken roads. But you can also feel a bit of skip when rounding corners and you encounter a pothole.

All-in-all the new F-150 will surprise you with its highway comfort and composure around town. It's a large truck, no doubt, but doesn't feel oversized - until you try and park and realize it's 80 inches wide and 240 inches long. Thankfully, the steering with delightfully weighted with a fair amount of road feel and the brakes adjust nicely to load.

Noise levels are surprisingly low -- especially on the hybrid model with its part-electric operation and street-minded tires. Still, all models are impressively quiet on the highway and cruise nearly silently around town. Kudos to Ford for paying attention to its customers who, more and more, use their trucks as daily drivers.

Getting a complete interior makeover, gets a major tech upgrade and a host of convenience features designed to make the interior a better place to get work done. Materials are truck tough, but are augmented with enough niceties as you step up the model latter to make you appreciate the price increase.

Speaking of tech, Ford offers a 12-inch digital gauge cluster and an 12-inch touchscreen for its new Sync4 infotainment system. The best part is it all comes with very traditional buttons and dials and has a familiar look that isn't daunting or confusing at first glance. Dig deep though, the new displays are very customizable and can provide a wealth of information if necessary. Standard is Ford's Co-Pilot 360 2.0, including front and rear emergency braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring. Also offered is adaptive cruise control, lane centering and a new intersection assist that can mitigate an imminent crash when turning left into oncoming traffic.

The front seats are quite roomy and comfortable, though smaller adults may feel somewhat overwhelmed by their sheer size. Same can be said for he step-in, which can be daunting on 4WD models. Crew cab rear seats are wide and well upholstered, if a bit flatly cushioned. Overall, the new F-150 might offer the best combination in the class in terms of blending work with play when in comes to the interior. Another nice feature is a fold-down gear shift that allows for a completely flat center console that makes for an idea laptop desk.

Depending on spec F-150 can tow anywhere from a 5,000 pounds to a 14,000 pounds. Payload ratings range from 705 pounds to 3,325 pounds. Regardless of cab configuration, three bed sizes are offered, 5.5-foot, 6.5-foot and 8-foot. Ford also offers a trick tailgate that can morph into a step to aid in bed access.

Bottom Line - Well Ford's done it again. Just when you thought there was nothing else that could be done to make a pickup to make it more desirable, its resets the bar. How about we throw in a hybrid powertrain? An onboard generator? Fold-flat shifter? It's in there. For decades the F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the U.S. and this new model will only cement that position for another generation.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.