2021 Ford F-150 Review

2021 Ford F-150 - An efficient work horse for the jobsite and beyond.


The Ford F-series trucks have been the best-selling truck in America for 43 years now, so when Ford decided to launch a new F-150 it was essential they got it right... and they did.  All new for 2021, the F-150 introduces new exterior and interior styling, new powertrains, and updated technology that caters to the driver. While still visually similar to the previous generation, the 2021 F-150 is 92% all-new from the outgoing model. The only carry over from 2020 is its cab and pickup box structure. F-150 buyers now have their choice from five traditional engines and for the first time ever, a hybrid powertrain. Beyond the powertrain options, there are six trim levels known as XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited. Prices range from a $28,940 for an XL Regular Cab with a 6.5' bed all the way up to $78,390 starting for the Limited SuperCrew Hybrid 4x4. There truly is an F-150 configuration to meet any truck buyer's needs. Competition is fierce in the full-size truck segment and includes the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra, and RAM 1500.

At first glance, the new Ford F-150 may not look drastically different from the previous models, however, upon close inspection consumers will recognize the changes. The new F-150 is built on a steel frame and a military-grade aluminum alloy body, making this one of the most durable and capable frames ever utilized. Perhaps most notable is a new front-end appearance that includes a new signature lighting C-clamp design that extends from the traditional headlight location into the bumper fog light area. While the lighting signature will carryover across the line-up, customers can choose from 11 available grilles which align with various F-150 trim levels. These lights not only look good aesthetically but illuminate the roadways well.

The hood is raised at the A-pillar and on the side profile you'll notice new sculpted doors, fenders and box sides. The windows appear larger with a lower base which provides better visibility from inside the cabin. Wheel openings have been reduced, but are still large enough to accommodate a wide variety of wheel/tire combinations that stretch from the smaller street tires found on the Hybrid to the meatier tires on the King Ranch. Ford has also added new wheel designs to coincide with the new truck. Around back, the F-150 features a new tailgate and applique that draws from the front-end design cues. Like the headlights, the tail lights are also updated with incandescent lights and an LED signature. The overall truck looks more modern and with these updates.

Ford offers several packages and exterior accessories to make the truck your own. For examples, the 302A Package added to my XLT test vehicle added features such as the Class IV Trailer Hitch, added LED lighting, an XLT chrome appearance package, 400W outlet, remote start and much more inside for a price tag of $5,730. Add in the 20" six-spoke dark alloy wheels, extended running boards, and the tailgate step and you've just added another $2,050. This is one vehicle to spend time at Ford.com building out various options because those base prices can quickly escalate with a few add-ons such as these.

Arguably even more important than its appearance is what is under the hood and the capability that your truck will offer, F-150 buyers will have the choice of five traditional engines and for the first time ever, a hybrid powertrain. All powertrains are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and come standard with rear-wheel drive, but include an optional four-wheel drive.

Those engine options can be seen in the chart below:

* 3.3 Liter Ti-VCT V6: 290 Horsepower, 265 lb-ft Torque

* 2.7 Liter EcoBoost V6: 325 Horsepower, 400 lb-ft Torque

* 5.0 Liter Ti-VCT V8: 400 Horsepower, 410 lb-ft Torque

* 3.0 Liter Power Stroke V6: 250 Horsepower, 440 lb-ft Torque

* 3.5 Liter EcoBoost V6: 400 Horsepower, 500 lb-ft Torque

* 3.5 Liter Power Boost Full Hybrid V6: 430 Horsepower, 570 lb-ft Torque

For my time in the F-150, I was able to experience the most powerful and fuel-efficient 3.5L Hybrid V6 variant. The all-new hybrid model makes the F-150 the only light-duty full-size pickup to offer a full hybrid and is available on every trim level from XL to Limited. For those questioning a F-150 Hybrid, it is actually the most powerful engine in the lineup. The Power Boost system adds instant electric torque to the EcoBoost engine with a 35-kilowatt electric motor. When my test XLT model arrived with a full 30.6 gallon tank, it offered up 640 miles of range. After a week of driving approximately 500 miles, 125 of the miles were clocked as electric miles and I averaged 20 MPG in routine suburban commuting.

As a full-size truck, the F-150 is easy to drive. The seating position is good and provides solid visibility.  Hit the gas pedal on the hybrid model and the instant torque is immediately noticeable. While the power is there from the start, I did find it to be a little jerky as it transitioned from electric to gas from a standstill. The rough transitions from the electric motor to gas occurred mostly in low gears. Once cruising at higher speeds in the upper gears, the ride was much smoother.  The added power also made highway passing a breeze as you could comfortably propel forward and merge with ease. Steering was also smooth with minimal body roll for a truck when taking turns or entering / exiting highway ramps. The F-150 is also available with and adaptive steering that adjusts feedback based on your speed and driving conditions. When traveling at low speeds, the F-150 Hybrid is very quiet which will take some getting used to for traditional truck buyers.

The electric motor applies regenerative braking energy to help recharge the 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium -ion battery. The hybrid system has software specifically calibrated for truck use including modes like tow/haul to help customers better manage overall power output. In other words, Ford's powertrain has been fine-tuned to maximize its efficiency for a variety of truck uses. To that, the F-150 is North America's first full-size pickup with standard over-the-air updates, helping customers' trucks stay current with purposeful technology. These updates are bumper-to-bumper, and can include all-new functions and additional features throughout the life of the truck. They support preventative maintenance, reduce repair trips, and provide improved performance. The majority of updates will be completed in under two minutes and can be performed at times customers choose.

Ford has always been a leader in towing capacity and that continues with the new F-150. When properly equipped, it can tow up to 14,000 pounds and haul up to 3,325 pounds. Specific to the hybrid variation is a max towing capacity of 12,700 pounds and a payload of 2,090. Trailer sway control comes standard and there are several features available to make trailer hook ups easier. Among those available features are Trailer Reverse Guidance and Pro Trailer Backup Assist. These systems utilize Ford's built-in cameras to provide multi-views combined with graphics that tell the driver which way to steer as they maneuver their trailer. The back-up assist system is controlled via a turn dial in the dash.  I did not have the chance to put these features to the test but have seen them in action and they are very user-friendly systems.

The changes continue inside the new F-150 with upgraded surfaces and finishes that complement the new instrument panel and large infotainment touchscreens. Drivers face a twin-dial traditional cluster with a digital information screen on low to mid-level trim models while top trims (Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited) come standard with a 12" digital cluster that can be personalized.  At the center of the dashboard is an 8" touchscreen for the XL-XLT models or a 12.1" landscape screen that is optional on the XLT models, but standard on Lariat+ trucks.

All models feature Ford's SYNC4 technology standard which is one of the most intuitive and easiest systems available. SYNC4 includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hot spot, USB ports, and Bluetooth. An enhanced voice recognition/navigation package is optional. Other available options include a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, navigation, and an eight- or 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system. As a little bit of flare, there are also some hidden easter eggs embedded into some F-150 models. My XLT featured an etched road map of Detroit that was in the door panels. A trim strip that surrounds the dashboard features an engraving of the American flag as well.

Ford has put a lot of emphasis on function when designing the new F-150. Knowing how buyers utilize their trucks as mobile offices, they have developed a power gear shifter that folds flat at the touch of a button. The center console storage lid can then flip backwards to create a fully flat surface suitable for a laptop. Alternatively, Ford could have opted for a push button gear selector but they polled existing owners who said they preferred having a traditional shift lever. Inside, the F-150 has plenty of storage with a dual glovebox, center console storage, and rear underseat locking storage. As an added bonus the front seats fully recline back for maximum relaxation. The overall fit and finish of the inside of the 2021 F-150 will depend greatly on the chosen trim level as Ford continues to offer the most basic XL version which will strip it down to basic needs while the top trims will have you feeling like you never left home.  

There was a time when the bed of a truck was solely for hauling, but things have changed. Ford has created a workshop in the back of the F-150. The tailgate doubles as a work surface with built-in ruler, mobile device holder and new clamp pockets to hold down materials for precise work. The fold out step system is also still available in the F-150 tailgate. And consumers can work into the night with available zone lighting that allow you to light up sections of the exterior lighting. And perhaps one of the most beneficial features in the truck bed is the Pro Power Onboard generator system which includes power outlets in the bed that can provide power for all those tools. The power features 2.0-kilowatt output on the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 and 5.0-liter V8, while PowerBoost-equipped F-150s comes standard with 2.4 kilowatts of output or an optional 7.2 kilowatts of output. Power is accessible through in-cabin outlets and up to four cargo bed-mounted 120-volt 20-amp outlets, with a 240-volt 30-amp outlet on the 7.2-kilowatt version. The system even provides power on the move to charge tool batteries in between jobs.

Safety was not overlooked in the F-150 as it now has a laundry list of safety that includes features like Ford Co-Pilot 360 2.0 technology, intelligent adaptive cruise control, lane centering, evasive steering assist, pro trailer backup assist with trailer reverse guidance, and more. Other new available features include Intersection Assist, which detects oncoming traffic while the driver is attempting a left turn. If there is risk of a collision with an oncoming vehicle, F-150 will apply the brakes to mitigate or avoid it. F-150 is the only light-duty full-size pickup with available Active Park Assist 2.0, which handles all steering, shifting, braking and accelerator controls during a parallel or perpendicular parking maneuver while the driver holds down a button.

Whether or not you're a truck person, the F-150 is an impressive vehicle. Gone are the days of trucks just being used for work site hauling as the new F-150 offers amenities that make it a feasible family vehicle. My family of five comfortably fit in the SuperCrew model and with the addition of the Hybrid powertrain, the fuel economy is on par with many crossovers or minivans. Features such as the interior fold flat work space, 12.1" touchscreen display, tailgate step, built-in generator and zone lighting make this even more impressive all-around truck. With a range that exceeds $50,000 from base trim to top trim, it's essential you spend some time configuring a model to suit your lifestyle online.

First Impression Summary:

Test Vehicle:
2021 Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew 145" Wheelbase

* Exterior Color: Velocity Blue

* Interior Color: Black Sport

* Notable Options: Equipment Group A ($5,730), 3.5L PowerBoost Full Hybrid ($4,495), Twin Panel Moonroof ($1,495), Ford Co-Pilot 360 2.0 ($655), Pro Power On Board ($750), Trailer Tow Package ($1,090), 20" dark alloy wheels ($1,395)... and more.

* Price as tested: $65,256

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.