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Autos

2021 Ford F-150: New hybrid powertrain points to a more fuel-efficient future

If you’re looking for signs of the time, look no further than your nearby Ford store.

Ford has fully redesigned its full-size, light-duty F-150 pickup. The F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the land and as times change, it must change, too.

This year, it receives a facelift, a redesigned cabin and a host of tech upgrades. 

It inherits the latest versions of the Ford Sync infotainment system and its Co-Pilot360 suite of safety and driver-assist features. 

Assorted functional upgrades simplify life for people who tow and those who use their trucks for work, whether with laptops or power tools. 

Six-engine lineup

But the truest harbinger of change is in the engine room, where Ford installs a new hybrid powertrain as its premium offering. 

F-150 buyers have a choice of six engines. They include a variety of gas- and diesel-fueled V-6s, along with a solitary V-8.

The new PowerBoost Hybrid makes 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque. On paper, it’s the most powerful engine in the F-150 lineup, though others tow more and haul heavier payloads.

It’s the most efficient choice by far — 4x4 hybrids earn an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in combined driving — and its 12,700-pound tow rating and 2,120-pound maximum payload will handle most buyers’ needs. 

The hybrid is a $3,300 option and is available on all trims.

Onboard power supply

The base engine is a 3.3-liter V-6 (290 hp/265 lb-ft) tow-rated to 8,200 lb. We tested the V-8 (400 horsepower/410 lb-ft), which tows up to 13,000. Its 3,325-lb payload tops the fleet.

All engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that worked flawlessly, without stumbles or hesitation, during our week-long test. 

Other innovations include Pro Power Onboard, an onboard generator available with either of the F-150’s two naturally aspirated engines and standard with the PowerBoost. It allows users to charge and use power tools, tailgating accessories and small appliances.

All F-150s come standard with cleats mounted to the sides of the tailgate to act as tie-down locations for extra-long items. Clamp pockets are built into the tailgate so owners can secure materials for precision work.

The F-150 is available in six trims — XL ($28,940), XLT ($35,050), Lariat ($44,695), King Ranch $56,330), Platinum ($59,110) and Limited ($70,825). There are three cab styles and three bed lengths. 

Cabin markedly better

The fully redesigned cab reflects the truck’s wide range of missions, from work truck to near-luxe hauler. It’s as big and bluff as always, but materials are markedly improved and soft-touch surfaces replace many hard plastics. 

All F-150s run Sync 4, the latest version of Ford’s infotainment interface. XL and XLT have an 8-inch touchscreen; all others get a 12-inch split-screen unit that allows users to manage multiple functions simultaneously. 

There are large knobs for the HVAC and audio systems, for selecting the drive mode and for activating the available Pro Trailer Backup Assist system. The app-based Trailer Reverse Guidance system is available on F-150 for the first time.

On upper trims, a configurable digital instrument cluster presents context-aware data based on trim, the selected drive mode and more.

Stiff ride

There are abundant casual storage opportunities and the wide center console houses an available large, flat work surface. To make room for the forward-opening platform, Ford devised a clever shift-lever that can be folded into the console.

With an empty bed, the F-150’s ride can be stiff and bouncy, though the suspension dials out the worst impacts of potholes. At highway speeds, our Platinum tester was smooth and settled, though undulating surfaces caused a bit of bobbing. 

Steering is lightly weighted, which is helpful in parking lots. Otherwise, it offers little in the way of feel or responsiveness.

The roster of standard safety and driver-assist features now includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection, a rearview camera with dynamic hitch assist, auto high-beam headlamps and auto on/off headlamps.

With its new hybrid leading the pack today, an all-electric F-150 is due to follow. Insiders say to look for it in the latter half of 2022.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2021 Ford F-150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew
Vehicle base price: $28,940
Trim level base price: $65,175
As tested: $73,700 (includes destination and handling)
Options: 20-inch polished wheels; all-terrain tires; electronic locking rear axle; active park assist; 7050# GVWR package; twin-panel moonroof; Pro Power Onboard; interior work surface; trailer tow package; FX4 off-road package w/skid plates; fully reclining driver and passenger seats; wheel-well liners; spray-in bedliner
Tow rating: 12,700 pounds
EPA rating: 19 combined/16 city/22 highway
Regular gas specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.