And unlike its two competitors, it will feature a revolutionary new drivetrain.
A good rule of thumb is to expect most carmakers to rebuild a current model from the ground up to replace the past generation once every seven years. Of course, there are always the models that languish on the market forever, like the Nissan Titan, which has been on sale in its current 2nd generation guise for the past 15 years (Nissan does have a 3rd generation mid-size truck out, but it doesn't sell that in America). But the same goes for deviations in the other direction. Take the Ford F-150 for example. The current truck, now in its 13th generation, came out in 2015 and will likely see its replacement come in 2020.
And there's a good reason for Ford's fast new model turnaround time: the fact the truck segment is America's most popular and one of the most profitable. Competition in this segment is fierce, and as the best-selling truck between the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 and by default, the best-selling vehicle in all of America for the past 40 years, the F-150 has to stay fresh as possible to keep sales high for Ford.
So it was no small thing for our spy photographers to catch the 14th-generation F-150 out testing on public roads. And it wasn't just one version they spotted because out testing along with the Crew Cab was the Super Cab. Though both models are heavily camouflaged, it's easy to tell that Ford is sticking with convention and not altering the truck's shape radically.
But why would it? If American car buyers are still using their hard-earned dollars to signal approval of the F-150, then Ford would be insane to alter the truck radically. The one difference we do see is at the front side windows, where the F-150's characteristic dip has been replaced by a flat side sill.
We've seen Ford to this on test vehicles before in order to obscure the fact it's an F-150 mule, but it always brings back the dip sooner or later. What we can expect is a new front grille and an updated body, though unlike Chevy, Ford will likely stick with a more conventional grille design to avoid polarizing loyal customers.
The big change, of course, will be the F-150's powertrain. Along with a variety of EcoBoost gasoline engines and a diesel mill, expect the F-150 to debut a hybrid drivetrain with plenty of towing capacity and range-topping fuel economy. That will help prepare customers for the eventual and inevitable shift to an all-electric truck. Expect to hear and see more of the 14th-generation F-150 before it debuts in 2020 as a 2021 model.