Redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 Offers Hybrid and Plenty of Power (Outlets)

2021 Ford F-150 Backing Boat Into Water

Manufacturer photos

By Aaron Bragman

Competes with: Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra

Looks like: The current F-150 barely changed

Powertrains: 3.3-liter V-6, twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6, twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, 5.0-liter V-8, turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6, twin-turbo 3.5-liter hybrid;10-speed automatic transmissions; rear- or four-wheel drive

Hits dealers: Fall 2020

It’s always a momentous occasion when Ford’s flagship pickup truck gets a major update, and that day is today: Ford officially unveiled the 2021 F-150 full-size pickup in an online livestream. It’s a mix of older style and newer technology for the 2021 F-150, with looks that don’t really change that much and mostly carryover powertrains. There’s the significant addition of a spiffy new full hybrid model, and a revised interior that brings enhanced connectivity, plus some slick new features meant to improve usability for owners, including available onboard generators. 

Related: How Does Tesla's Cybertruck Actually Compare to a Ford F-150?

Strangely Familiar Exterior Looks

2021 Ford F-150 Front Profile

The 2021 F-150’s exterior looks almost exactly the same as the outgoing one, despite Ford’s claim that the exterior is entirely new. Styling hasn’t been an issue for the F-150, with the truck still selling in massive numbers without a major change to its look since the aluminum-intensive 2015 model was introduced. There are new headlights and taillights, and the distinctive “C-clamp” light signature is maintained. Three different styles of headlights are available depending on trim level: halogen, LED reflector and LED projector with steering-linked articulation. The grille now comes in 11 new styles, with one, two or three-bar designs. There are 12 different wheels, ranging from 17-inch painted steelies to big 22-inch alloys, and they’re enjoying an expanded track that has them wider by ¾-inch for a more powerful stance, according to Ford. There are also six trim levels being offered: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited.

There are new features on the outside of the F-150 to talk about, of course. All models now feature active grille shutters for improved aerodynamics at speed, and a new active airdam will be featured on some models. It lowers itself to improve aerodynamics underneath the vehicle at speeds above 40 mph, but raises at lower speeds and in off-road situations to avoid damage. The door handles now have larger indents, which will make them easier to grip if you’re wearing thick work gloves. 

New Bed Tech

2021 Ford F-150 Open Bed With Power Tools

Most notable outside, however, is the new available power running board setup meant to help ease loading and unloading of the bed from the sides of the truck. They can now be set to deploy whenever anyone with the truck’s keyfob approaches the vehicle, but they also feature an exterior kick switch that will move them on demand, allowing easy step up to grab something out of the bed. No more standing on the back tire to grab stuff, and the powered switch can be set by the driver to work whenever it’s touched or only when the truck’s power is on. They can also be set to remain in a down position for an extended period, which helps in loading or unloading multiple items from the bed. 

The tailgate receives attention as well, with the idea of turning it into an improved work surface. It has new C-clamp channel indentations for clamping things to the tailgate that might need to be sawed or glued together. New cleats on the sides of the tailgate are additional tie-down points for long items being secured in the bed that also double as bottle openers, handy for tailgating parties. The new optional Tailgate Work Surface modifies the inner surface of the tailgate with things like a flat tabletop with built-in ruler and holders for cups, pens and mobile devices. The box lighting also has been revised and now illuminates an open tailgate so you can see something placed on it if you’re working at night.

A Nicer Interior

2021 Ford F-150 Front Seats, Dashboard And Center Console

Inside, designers again followed an evolutionary design theme, modernizing and updating the F-150’s cabin with newer shapes and more premium materials. There are a few new features  worthy of calling out. First is the new multimedia system, Sync 4, which will debut in the 2021 F-150. The truck now features a standard 8-inch touchscreen that’s upgradable to a new 12-inch screen in landscape format, not the portrait format that made such a stir on the latest Ram 1500. Ford said in a presentation to the media that its customer research shows buyers prefer the horizontal orientation plus the retention of dedicated buttons and switches for audio and climate control functions. The 8-inch screen comes standard on the XL and XLT trims, while the 12-inch comes with the XLT Luxury Package on up, which Ford says comprises more than 50% of the F-150’s sales volume. 

The gauge cluster is upgraded as well, with a 12-inch analog or digital display depending on trim level. The digital display is similar to other Ford vehicles, encompassing the whole display and providing animations when switching between drive modes and functions. Ford also included a few Easter eggs in the interior design, something typically seen with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicles. In the F-150, you’ll find Easter eggs in the form of an embossed map of Detroit in the rubber of the doors of the XLT Sport model, and etched American flags on the sides of the instrument panels, a reminder from Ford that it only makes the F-150 in the U.S. 

2021 Ford F-150 Underfloor Storage Locker

There’s a lot of new storage inside the F-150 as well, with a new dual glove box on the passenger side, an expanded center console and door panels, and a novel new full-vehicle-width under-floor lockable and collapsible storage locker under the rear seats. 

There are two new interior items of note that are genuinely innovative in the new F-150. First is the one that responds to Ford’s customer feedback that its owners increasingly use laptops and other items for working in their F-150. In response, Ford created the optional Interior Work Surface that the company says is ideal for signing documents using a 15-inch laptop — or even having a meal while parked. Available on all seating configurations and trim levels, the shifter can fold down flat with the console, and a table surface unfolds from the center armrest to cover it. It’s actually a pretty nifty idea and a creative use of available space.

2021 Ford F-150 Foldable Gear Shifter

The other notable interior feature helps with something a number of owners apparently do in their F-150: sleep. And now, catching a catnap on the worksite is easier and more comfortable than ever with the new Max Recline Seats option available on King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models. The seatbacks fold flat to nearly 180 degrees, while the bottom cushions raise to meet the level of the rear cushions, and the upper back support rotates forward 10 degrees. This creates a nearly flat full-length surface on which to nap between shifts or on your lunchbreak. 

2021 Ford F-150 Reclining Seats

New Tech for Fun and Safety

Ford is upping its safety game with the 2021 F-150, now including Ford Co-Pilot360 2.0 in the new truck. Standard on the XL will be pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, a rearview camera with dynamic hitch assist and automatic headlights with automatic high beams. The 2021 F-150 will also offer 10 new driver assist features, including the new Active Drive Assist, a hands-free cruise control system that works similarly to Cadillac’s SuperCruise system. It’s usable on certain divided highways in the U.S. and Canada that have detailed mapping data, and it tracks the driver’s attention through use of head and eye position monitoring. Stop looking where you’re going, and the system will slow the vehicle and eventually return control to the driver. The system will be available in the third quarter of 2021, but trucks will ship from the factory with all the hardware required for it to be activated at a later date via a dealer visit or over-the-air electronic update. Active Park Assist 2.0 is also available, which will automatically maneuver the truck in and out of parallel and perpendicular parking spaces. And a newly available function called Intersection Assist detects if an oncoming vehicle is likely to hit you as you’re making a left turn across traffic lanes, applying the brakes automatically to try and avoid or mitigate the collision. 

On to the more fun aspects of the F-150’s new tech: There’s the new FordPass app that now comes with every truck without a subscription charge. It allows you to control several features, including a new zone lighting function that controls the truck’s various exterior lights via the touchscreen or phone app. It’s useful if you’re just trying to light up a campsite next to the truck but don’t want all of the truck’s lights on at once. FordPass can also allow you to monitor and control several truck-specific systems such as remote start, lock/unlock, zone lighting, trailer light check and trailer theft alert. It also allows you to monitor and control the new Pro Power Onboard generator system, which is perhaps the highlight of the new 2021 F-150.

Powertrains and the First F-150 Hybrid

There are five carryover engine options: a standard 3.3-liter V-6, a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6, a larger twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, the venerable 5.0-liter V-8 and the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 Power Shift diesel. They are all mated to a now-standard 10-speed automatic transmission. No power, torque, fuel efficiency, towing or payload numbers were made available by Ford just yet; in typical Ford fashion they’ll be rolled out in a trickle over the next several months. It’s also unclear whether the high-output 3.5-liter carries over. 

But there’s a new player in town: the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter PowerBoost V-6 hybrid powertrain. It’s mated to a new 10-speed “modular hybrid transmission” (or MHT, as Ford calls it) that sandwiches a 35-kilowatt, 47-hp electric motor into the transmission itself. It’s fed by a 1.5-kilowatt-hour, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the cabin floor that doesn’t impede cabin space, according to Ford. Ford hasn’t given any numbers for this powertrain either, except to say that it expects a range greater than 700 miles on a single tank of gasoline, and that the automaker is aiming for a 12,000-pound max towing capacity. 

Pro Power Onboard Integrated Generator

2021 Ford F-150 Pro Power Onboard Generator

Perhaps the coolest feature to appear on the new F-150 might be the Pro Power Onboard integrated generator system, of which Ford will offer three versions. The basic version is a 2.0-kW output unit that runs off any of the gasoline engines in the F-150 except the standard 3.3-liter V-6. It features two 120-volt, 20-amp outlets in the bed of the truck and the capacity to power up to 2,000 watts of equipment. Ford says this is useful for, say, a tailgating party, where you can power a heater, a television, portable speakers, a blender, and a mini-fridge — all at the same time. Or a repair person can operate an 8-inch circular saw, a set of speakers and a battery charger. 

That’s a neat system, but the hybrid model really ups the ante on what it can deliver. If you opt for the PowerBoost hybrid, you get a standard 2.4-kW Pro Power Onboard system, upping the output to 2,400 watts of energy. Ford says that’s enough to power a jackhammer and cement mixer simultaneously, or a compound miter saw, air compressor and battery charger. Or make your own drive-in movie theater with an LED projector, popcorn machine and some hefty loudspeakers. With a full tank of gas, Ford says the output can be sustained for 85 hours straight. 

Or if you have much bigger fish to fry (possibly quite literally), you can opt for the 7.2-kW system that brings a whopping 7,200 watts of output. It comes with four 120-volt, 20-amp standard outlets and one NEMA L6-20 240-volt, 30-amp socket. What can you do with that much power? Ford says an entire crew can frame a new house operating a 12-inch compound miter saw, a circular saw, a gang battery charger, a hammer drill, a ½-hp air compressor and flood lights, all at the same time. Ford also says you could operate a mobile metal shop with a 120-volt plasma cutter, a 120-volt TiG welder, a chop saw, a more powerful 1.5-hp air compressor, an angle grinder and work lights — again, all at once. Or for recreation, you can plug in and charge two electric dirt bikes, an electric griddle for some pancakes and a portable air compressor to fill the tires. With a full tank of gas, the generator function will power all of this for up to 32 hours, and can even be operated while the truck is being used as a truck, enabling you to charge your electric dirt bikes even while you’re driving the F-150 down the highway.

The new 2021 Ford F-150 pickup is heading to dealer showrooms in just a few short months, going on sale in the fall of 2020. 

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