by Jay Traugott
Redesigning a longtime best-seller and consistent money-maker is no easy task, and yet that's exactly what Ford has to do every few years. Introducing the all-new 2021 Ford F-150, the fourteenth-generation full-size pickup truck that not only brings bolder exterior styling, but also a long list of available engines and an even more upmarket interior.
Ford is keenly aware its Chevrolet and Ram rivals will be checking out the new F-150 just as much as its millions of loyal customers. The F-150 has been the benchmark for decades and these two Detroit rivals are currently battling it out for the No. 2 sales spot. It's that competitive. But unlike any previous generation F-150, the new one has a secret weapon under the hood: an available hybrid engine. Come 2022, Ford promises an all-electric F-150 will arrive.
Let's just say the full-size pickup truck war has never been fiercer and electrification is definitely the next big thing. Assuming F-150 customers embrace what Ford has to offer, and there's no reason to believe they won't, pickup trucks will remain America's specialty and the 2021 F-150 will fight to protect its turf.
The 2021 F-150 retains its fully boxed high-strength steel frame and lightweight aluminum-alloy body but every exterior panel is new. The headlight design has also been updated and there's a new power dome and good-looking wrap-around bumpers. Take note that the fenders have been raised and larger tires help provide a more powerful stance.
Amazingly, there are a total of 11 grille options (11!) and all have their own unique looks. Buyers can also opt for LED headlights and taillights and even full-length extended power running boards. Because it's a big truck, improved aerodynamics were a major focus, so engineers and designers applied new active grille shutters and an active air dam that automatically deploys.
An optional flat tailgate work surface includes integrated rulers, a mobile device holder, cupholder, and even a pencil holder. Also standard are cleats mounted to the sides of the tailgate. These serve as tie-down locations for things like skis and lumber. New clamp pockets built into the tailgate further assist owners to hold materials down.
In general, the new exterior design might have a familiar look compared to the outgoing model, but a closer examination reveals even bolder styling.
While the exterior might look familiar, the 2021 F-150's interior takes a huge leap forward in many ways. It's been completely redesigned with a greater focus on improved materials, color choices, and storage. There's even a standard dual glovebox. Higher trims also have seats that can fold flat to almost 180 degrees.
Beginning with XLT models and every trim above, a 12-inch touchscreen comes standard with an updated SYNC 4 infotainment system complete with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Waze, and Ford+Alexa compatibility. Lower trims come standard with an eight-inch touchscreen. There's also an optional 12-inch digital gauge cluster on higher trims. For the first time ever on a full-size truck, owners can take advantage of over-the-air updates.
Another key design goal was to improve usage of interior space. There's now a new optional work surface for both bench and captain's chair seating setups ranging from XL to Limited trims. This new work surface area makes things like signing documents, eating, or even using a laptop far easier than before. There's also a stowable shifter that easily folds into the center console just by pushing a button, resulting in even greater access to the work area when in park.
The most important new engine is an all-new 3.5-liter hybrid V6, which is available on every trim. Official output figures haven't been announced, but Ford promises it'll deliver more torque and horsepower than any other light-duty truck in its class. The EPA has given it an estimated range of about 700 miles. It also has a maximum towing capacity of at least 12,000 pounds. The electric motor alone is rated 41 hp and it's integrated into the 10-speed automatic transmission. The regenerative braking system also helps recharge the 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery.
Not interested in a hybrid? No problem. There are several other engine options, including a 3.3-liter V6, 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and the familiar 3.0-liter V6 diesel. Official power specs will be released in the near future.
Another interesting new feature is aimed squarely at outdoor enthusiasts. An optional onboard generator with a 2.0-kilowatt power output for gasoline-engined models and up to 7.2 kilowatts for the hybrid.
With new premium features like an optional 18-speaker B&O Unleashed system and more luxurious than ever King Ranch and Limited trims, the all-new Ford F-150 will once again surpass the $70,000 mark when fully loaded. For now, official pricing has not been announced but will be in the near future as sales are set to get underway this fall.
The usual suspect competitors will do their best to keep up with the new F-150 until they are also redesigned. The Chevy Silverado 1500 and its twin, the GMC Sierra 1500 are GM's offerings while FCA has the Ram 1500. There's also the Toyota Tundra, but that vehicle typically caters to a slightly different buyer. Another rival, though we doubt Ford is concerned about it, is the Nissan Titan.
Ford has clearly gone to great lengths to preserve its status as America's best-selling brand for full-size trucks. The addition of the hybrid powertrain only makes things more interesting. The next step? Going all-electric.