2021 Ford F-150 Platinum: Luxury Car For Truck People
There are plenty of reasons why the Ford F-Series is the best selling truck on the road. Especially in the top luxury trim.
Forty-four consecutive years. That's how long the Ford F-Series has been the best selling pickup in America. How many years can you think of anything dominating the automotive industry for that long? Ford is holding its own as the best-selling car manufacturer in the States, boosted by popular models, including the new Mustang Mach-E EV and the wildly good Bronco SUV.
I realize few people on this site truly need a full-size truck, and most buyers in the U.S. actually make effective use of them throughout the year, yet the F-150 continues to disappear from dealer lots with relative ease. With the F-150 getting a big update for 2021, including the awesome hybrid powertrain setup I reviewed earlier this year, I wanted to check out Ford's more conventional V8 option that set the benchmark in this class for so long.
The Important Specs
While Ford's EcoBoost V6 is its top seller, there's a selection of six engines, with gas and diesel options. One of which is the trusty 5.0-liter V8 in the F-150, which cranks out 400 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. The F-150 V8's peak figures are solid against its Chevrolet, Ram, and Toyota competition, but are actually a dip versus Ford's new PowerBoost hybrid option. A 10-speed automatic is the transmission mated to this engine, with two-wheel-drive standard and four-wheel-drive available.
The F-150 comes in three different cab configurations, with a size that suit anyone's needs, and this model sports the SuperCrew option. Depending on the trim level you choose, Ford supplies the F-150 with a variety of bed sizes, from 5.5 to 8 feet, and this F-150 Platinum comes with the 6.5-foot setup. Loaded for its size and class, the F-150 Platinum weighs in at a hefty 5,014 pounds. That big V8 and significant curb weight takes its toll in the fuel economy department, with EPA estimates of 16/22/19 met with a seriously long fuel range of over 600 miles with the optional 36-gallon fuel tank (26 comes standard) installed.
Ford's F-150 has a price point to serve nearly any full-size truck buyer's needs, with the base XL trim starting at $29,290. Higher-end Platinum F-150 models start at just under $60,000, packed with features you'd expect in premium sedans, and bump up to $62,200 for the 4x4 model. As tested, the F-150 Platinum I drove for my week-long review racked up an MSRP of $69,285, painted Carbonized Gray over a black interior, appointed with carmelo leather.
The Comfortable Daily Pickup
Built on a fully boxed high-strength steel frame, you'd expect a full-size pickup to ride poorly on the street, offering poor comfort levels. Not the case in the new Ford F-150, which is remarkably composed, offering a smooth ride and somewhat agile handling for a full-size 4x4 truck. Extensive use of aluminum in the construction the F-150's body maintains strength while reducing weight, aiding driving dynamics while helping fuel economy from having to move less mass.
The V8 isn't exactly fast, but it offers smooth torque, and has that right amount of rumble you expect from a full-size truck. What surprised me most in daily driving conditions was the steering in the F-150, offering smooth handling and the easiest of inputs to maneuver the massive truck. Capable yet compliant Hankook all-terrain tires are wrapped about polished aluminum 20-inch wheels, and give the F-150 Platinum a classier look.
Cabin appointments are great for a full-size truck, with--shockingly--some of the most comfortable and spacious seats you'll ever sit in. Ford knows larger Texan drivers are its target market in the F-150, so there's a ton of space and support provided in these well-cushioned leather seats, and I love that they're equipped with massaging and effective heating and cooling modes to keep you comfortable in any season. Back seats offer a ton of space too, and if you want to tote cargo that can't be exposed to the elements in the bed, the rear seats fold up 60/40 with a quick flip of a handle.
I appreciate how Ford incorporates big, functional knobs and controls for every audio and climate adjustment you want to make, maintaining easier use without taking your eyes off the road. While being a bit chunky in appearance, without looking too rugged for the sake of acting manly, the intuitive usability is nicely executed in an era when too many auto manufacturers are opting for screens and controls with no feeling to them.
In Platinum trim, the cockpit theme is nicely sorted with a blend of softer leather sewn together with cool contrasting stitching, and I like the mix of brushed metallic trim that has cool grooves--mimicking wood grain--etched into it. Ford is great to include all sorts of storage pockets throughout the F-150's interior, with smart spots to stash away anything you have securely.
The Tough Worker
When duty calls, the F-150 gets the job done. With the 6.5-foot bed optioned, the F-Series offers plenty of functionality out back. My F-150 Platinum tester was a bit simpler in the bed, with some functional tie-downs, a smart power tailgate with a pop-out tailgate step, and an accessory power outlet to hook up more conventional power tools. I do think the bedliner option should come standard, as this tester wasn't equipped with it. Of course Ford has hundreds of dealer-installed accessories to set up your truck to tackle any work you do too.
Boasting a best-in-class 3,325-pound payload capacity, this F-150 4x4 SuperCrew also can tow up to 9,400 pounds with the standard 3.31 rear axle. Opt for the 8-foot bed and 3.73 gears, and you can option up to 13,000 pounds of towing capacity. That's a lot for a half-ton truck. With Ford's tow drive mode engaged, and trailer sway control enabled, you should have no issues hauling your big boat to the lake and back. Should you demand even more hardcore work abilities from your truck, Ford does offer a solid Super Duty lineup.
Rugged Enough Off-Road
Equipped with Ford's 4x4 drivetrain, the 2021 F-150 is pretty competent if you take it off your comfortable city streets. By no means is it designed to be as capable as the purpose-built off-road dominating Bronco I tested recently, but the F-150 has plenty of goodies installed to give you confidence on the trails. A handful of drive modes are simple to select with the twist of a dash-mounted knob, quickly picking the right setup based on the terrain you're trying to conquer. Of course you can still select which two- or four-wheel-drive mode you want to be in too.
The basic 4x4 option gives you a decent independent double-wishbone with coil-over shock and stamped lower control arm, met with a solid rear axle paired with leaf springs, and both ends are equipped with heavy-duty gas shocks. Sporting more conventional all-terrain rubber, I didn't go nuts off the pavement with this F-150, but over some dirt and gravel tossing, the Hankook rubber held its own. If your weekends involve more hardcore off-road duties, you might want to consider Ford's Raptor option, which packs more rugged suspension parts, skid plates, and meatier tires into the F-150.
Tech-Heavy Yet Functional Interior
The F-Series cabin got a massive upgrade for 2021, with plenty of easy to use tech features, and new giant screens for the instrument cluster and Ford's Sync 4 infotainment system. The instrument cluster is customizable in its base display, with options to tweak which data points you want to see in the smaller central gauges, and I like how the whole cluster changes color depending on which drive mode you select.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are installed, and even with those apps running, the F-150's huge screen allows for other native apps to run on the right side, making great use of the space. Ford was smart to make a slot just to the side of the shifter, for an easy spot to store your phone. Speaking of that shifter, with the quick tap of a button it can lower itself into the center console, allowing you more working space. Particularly if you opt for the fold-down center armrest that converts into a desk space. Make use of the extra power outlet in the center of the dash, paired with the on-board wifi hotspot, and the F-150 is your remote office.
When cruising along the freeway, I gave the F-150's adaptive cruise control and lane keeping systems a good test, and was pleasantly surprised how well they kept this full-size pickup gliding along at highway speeds. There's also Ford's Blue Cruise system available, offering drivers hands-free driving capability on pre-qualified sections of divided highways. I'd love to give the F-Series a longer road trip test to see how well the systems and massive fuel range work out together. Making parking the big Ford easier, the F-150 comes with cameras mounted front and rear, with hidden ones under the side mirrors, enabling a 360º view when you're trying to tuck this pickup into a tight space.
Ford Will Continue To Dominate The Pickup Game
After 44 years of crushing the full-size truck competition in America, Ford continues to improve its F-150 to please a constant stream of buyers. This 2021 model is exceptional, and has so many options to please damn near any truck driver. The F-150 Platinum hits a great spot for the truck buyer who wants capable pickup functionality while getting a refined interior expected in premium German sedans and SUVs.
Some full-size truck buyers are stuck in the old logic that one needs a V8 to get the job done, but Ford is proving that it can deliver more practical and functional options. I'm a big fan of the PowerBoost hybrid model, offering over 700 miles of fuel range, loads of on-demand horsepower and torque, while packed with a game-changing on-board generator setup. In the near future, Ford will deliver its all-new fully-electric F-150 Lightning, which offers even more electric functionality and storage. Adapting to changing environmental and buyer demands, Ford is showing it's ready to take the full-size title for many years to come.