The 2021 F-150 Hybrid Is Changing The Pickup Game
Uupdated looks, a new hybrid powertrain, and an onboard generator system give this Ford a big advantage over the competition.
Holding the title of the best selling pickup every year since 1981, Ford's F-Series isn't resting on its laurels, striving to outperform the Silverado and Ram on many fronts. Ford continues to offer the F-150 as the full-size truck to please the masses, and for 2021, the half-ton F-Series is all new. Boasting refreshed looks, a ton of tech inside and out, and a new hybrid powertrain option, Ford is challenging the pickup market to be more green while providing a more competent work truck.
With an electrified option, Ford is boosting fuel economy, reducing emissions, and getting truck buyers to rethink hybrids by making its F-150 a remote workplace through a new onboard power source and more helpful interior features. To see if this hyped up truck was as awesome as claimed, I had to check it out.
The Tough Specs
Ford offers the F-150 with a handful of power plant options, and for 2021, Ford ups the ante with its 3.5-liter PowerBoost turbocharged V6 by adding a hybrid powertrain to the already popular EcoBoost engine. Where the standard EcoBoost V6 produces 400 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 500 lb-ft (678 Nm) of torque at 3,100 RPM, the hybrid PowerBoost engine cranks out 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft (774 Nm) of torque because of the extra electric boost, making the 2021 F-150 the most powerful truck in its class. All 2021 F-150 models come equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission, and offer a choice of rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive.
2021 F-150 prices have a big price spread, as there are trim and equipment offerings to cover any buyer's needs, with a base price of under $30,000 that can soar into the $80,000 range. Opting for the 4x4 with a SuperCrew cab with the King Ranch styling package starts at $60,000, and with the hybrid powertrain option, the biggest 7.2-kW ProPower Onboard generator, and plenty of goodies inside and out, my Kodiak Brown paint with Java Kingsville leather tester racked up an MSRP of $77,830.
A Surprisingly Comfortable Daily Driver
For daily errands and commuting, the F-150 is shockingly comfortable and easy to live with. Yeah, it's huge, and that isn't always easy to park at the supermarket, but 360º cameras give you visibility into every inch of space via the big infotainment screen. Adaptive steering is remarkably sharp yet light, and the big Ford's ride quality is smooth considering it weighs nearly three tons. During the typical city driving, I engaged the F-150 hybrid's eco mode to maximize fuel economy while seeing just how much fully electric driving I could accomplish. I like how Ford thought to give the trip meter a separate indicator for full-EV miles covered (showing roughly 12% of the total miles during my test week), and was stunned by the wide the range of electric flexibility.
To keep you comfortable, Ford gives the F-150 massive front seats to suit any big Texan, with heating, ventilation, and massage features available, with heating equipped in the rear 60/40 seats. The F-150's controls and knobs are all big and easy to operate, with intuitively placed switchgear that's definitely nicer than you'd expect in a full-size pickup. Making good use of the huge cabin, Ford provides plenty of spots to stash away any drinks, snacks, and supplies you'll need to keep on-hand. Power running boards make getting in and out of the F-150 easy, but they are quite loud when deploying and concealing, and I noticed that the aluminum body panels meant it involved extra effort to get the doors to close.
As full-size trucks add more tech for the sake of tech, Ford makes sure you're still getting plenty of usability for your money. More upmarket both with regard to capability and features than the more basic yet competent Ford Ranger I reviewed, the 2021 F-150 is stacked with the goods. Ford's new fourth-generation Sync infotainment system is provided with a massive 12-inch center touchscreen to easily configure all the truck's settings while offering wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Ford also updated the F-150's instrument cluster with a new screen that can adjust theme depending on which drive mode you're in, while allowing you to customize which data points you need to see. On the safety front, the 2021 F-150 gets plenty of driver aids to keep you in your lane, help you avoid collisions, and manage longer drives easily with adaptive cruise control.
Rugged Off-Roader Goes Anywhere
Tackling adventures far from the pavement is easy in the 2021 Ford F-150. With slick controls for drive modes within easy reach, selecting the surface you're attacking quickly engages the correct differentials and axles, while letting the traction control know just how much help you'll need. If you want to manually dial in your perfect off-road setting, there are still conventional controls for the differential locks and switching between rear- and four-wheel-drive.
Ford's FX4 package gives the four-wheel-drive F-150 extra skid plates to protect its hardware, and 275/60/20 Pirelli Scorpion all-terrain tires are capable on any surface without sacrificing comfort. With 8.8 inches of ground clearance, 24º approach, 26º departure, and 19º breakover angles, the full-size pickup is setup to go exploring. I didn't do any comprehensive off-roading during my week-long test, but it's nice knowing the F-150 will have no issues shredding any trail.
Working Class Takes On A New Meaning
Without having to opt for heavier duty pickups like the F-250 Super Duty Tremor I tested not long ago, Ford has made the F-150 more capable in any environment. One obvious benefit of the hybrid powertrain is improving EPA estimated MPGs in city from 18 to 24 over the standard EcoBoost engine, while keeping the same highway range. That uptick in city economy comes from the hybrid's electric aid, allowing the F-150 to cruise around in fully electric mode while operating the pickup solely on battery power. With a 30.6-gallon fuel tank, you're able to achieve an astounding fuel range of over 720 miles in 4x4 F-150 hybrid models and nearly 750 miles if you opt for the 4x2 setup.
Then there's the game-changing aspect of Ford's hybrid system, coming in the form of the optional ProPower Onboard generator system. With three different output options, this optional feature for F-150 hybrid allows you to hook up a variety of equipment in the F-150's bed and work on any tough project you can throw at it. A quick toggle in the infotainment system gets you working in seconds. Eliminating the need for buying an additional generator, constantly filling it with fuel, and taking up storage space in your truck's bed, Ford's ProPower Onboard generator uses energy from the hybrid's battery pack to juice up your gear, and kicks on the truck's engine to recharge the batteries as needed. The F-150 hybrid I tested had the 7.2-kW system installed, which has two 120V outlets and one 240V outlet neatly mounted in the rear wall of the bed. If you happen to have a Ford Mustang Mach-E in need of a charge, you could hook it up to the bed of the F-150.
An example from the ProPower Onboard infographic Ford provided listed all the gear a welder would need, using up about 7,000 watts. With a plasma cutter, TiG welder, chop saw, air compressor, angle grinder, and work light all running at the same time--with a full tank of gas--they could keep hammering away for 32 consecutive hours. Your usual household invertor generator has a fraction of this power, and can cost you a grand. If you want one that cranks out 7,000 watts, you're dropping over $4,000. You'd be foolish not to tick the box to add the ProPower option to your hybrid F-150, but if you don't need all the juice of the $955 7.2-kW setup, smaller 2.0-kW and 2.4-kW options are a couple hundred bucks less.
Yes, I charged a Mustang Mach-E with the F-150's generator.
For more typical work needs, the F-150 still offers plenty of flexibility. My F-150 hybrid tester was equipped with the 6.5-foot bed and 157-inch wheelbase, which in 4x4 configuration can tow over 12,000 pounds and offer 1,800 pounds of payload capacity. With the optional ToughBed spray in bedliner, you can dump plenty of stuff inside without wrecking that aluminum body while having easy access via power tailgate and expanding tailgate step.
Ford made the cabin of the 2021 F-150 a great mobile office by offering an interior work surface via a manually folding center console and power folding gearshift, mobile hotspot, wireless mobile charging, USB-A and USB-C ports, a 120V 20A power supply in the middle of the infotainment dash, and optional max recline front seats that fold flat when you manually flip up the rear seats (perfect for catching a quick nap between jobs).
There Is No Better Truck To Buy
Being the best selling pickup every year since Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office is no small feat, and Ford knows that the F-150 has to continue to improve to maintain that status. With the introduction of the 2021 F-150, Ford has one solid truck offering, and the hybrid option takes things to a new level.
At nearly $80,000, all the horsepower, functionality on any work site, fuel economy, and good looks are definitely pushing buyers' budgets up. For those hard-earned dollars, Ford is producing a truck that can work just as hard, while being a civil daily driver. I have a hunch this hybrid will sell in huge volumes, and that they'll be put to work effectively, because with the new F-150 hybrid the pickup game has been changed for the good.