Ford Motor Co. unveiled a redesign of its flagship F-150 pickup truck Thursday, showing off a bolder body style and improved interior but keeping the same chassis as the previous generation.
Those willing to shell out money for the top trim levels and options of the 2021 Ford F-150 will get lots of bells and whistles. That includes features such as a center console that transforms into a desk-like work area, a tailgate that doubles as a workbench, onboard power to run electric tools and tailgating appliances, nearly lay-flat front seats and with an over-the-air upgrade, a hands-free driving system.
Ford will sell a hybrid version of the F-150 for the first time.
The Dearborn, Mich., automaker also is looking to make the truck more attractive to commercial users and fleets by offering a telematics platform to help companies better manage and track their vehicles.
The new generation F-150 is Ford’s most important vehicle launch in years. It has been the best selling vehicle in the U.S. for 38 years, besting other trucks and popular passenger cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Trucks are the foundation of Ford’s business strategy. Its top five models by revenue are the F-150 SuperCrew, the F-250/350 Super Duty, the Ranger pickup, the Transit van and the Focus sedan, according to Morgan Stanley Research. Those vehicles account for 43 percent of Ford’s revenue and 101 percent of its automotive operating income.
Here are the 2022 Ford F-150’s highlights.
Except for the hybrid model, the engine choices are basically the same with some improvements. The base model comes with a 3.3-liter V6. Ford didn’t provide a power rating, but the current version produces up to 290 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The first upgrade is the same 2.7-liter turbocharged powerplant offered in the current version. The 2020 model has up to 325 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. The biggest engine is the 5-liter V8 that currently produces 395 horsepower and 400-pound-feet of torque. Ford is incorporating cylinder deactivation into the V8 powerplant to improve the fuel economy. However, the company did not provide any fuel efficiency ratings. It also will launch with the 3-liter diesel as an option. All F-150 versions now have a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The hybrid F-150 powertrain combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a 35-kilowatt electric motor. Ford said it believes the system will offer the most torque and horsepower of any light-duty full-size pickup. It will provide about 12,000 pounds of towing capacity.
The hybrid will have an EPA-estimated range of approximately 700 miles, Ford said But it did not provide more specific fuel economy numbers. Much of the efficiency comes from the electric motor using regenerative braking energy capture to recharge a 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. The battery is mounted underneath to allow the truck to have the same cabin and cargo space of the other F-150 models.
The 2021 Ford F-150 bears a close resemblance to the current model. The wheelbase, length and height all are within fractions of the 2020 truck. Ford did move the wheels out slightly to give the pickup a more aggressive stance. Other exterior changes include an updated headlamp design, a new power dome hood and wrap-around bumpers. And there is a grille for every taste. The F-150 will have 11 grille options available across the series lineup. Ford reworked the interior to provide more storage space. It also said it improved the cabin materials to add comfort. The XL model gets an 8-inch touch screen, about double the size of the current screen. Ford also is offering a standard 12-inch, landscape-oriented display on some XLT and higher trim levels.
Ford knows how much truck owners use their vehicles for building, tailgating, camping and other outdoor activities where electric power is needed. Most truck owners solve this problem by hauling a portable generator in the bed. Ford will sell what it calls Pro Power Onboard – a power system built into the truck that replaces an external generator.
Pro Power Onboard is available with a 2-kilowatt output on optional gas engines. It comes standard with 2.4 kilowatts of output or an optional 7.2 kilowatts of output on the hybrid. Owners will tap the power via 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 also can charge power tools while the vehicle is driving.
The F-150 will be the first light-duty pickup with an electronic architecture designed to accept over-air-updates. Ford created a modular system that allows most of the updates to occur within minutes. Some will have to be scheduled overnight or at a time when the vehicle is not in use. The automaker said it would use the system for preventive maintenance, adjustments and improvements to basic operations. It will also upgrade some features embedded into the truck’s electronics. But the automaker also said there are additional features that it will unlock for an upcharge. Consider it a truck with in-app purchases.
Ford plans to sell an update that will allow for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of pre-mapped highways in the U.S. and Canada. The system uses a driver-facing camera that tracks head position and driver eye gaze to monitor whether the driver is ready to resume control of the vehicle. Otherwise, it slows the vehicle and shuts off the system. A driver won’t be able to sleep or do non-driving tasks while the system is operating. They still must pay attention to the road and traffic. It will be available in the third quarter of 2021 but only in the trim levels that have Ford’s Active Drive Assist Prep Package, the hardware, standard or available as an option.
The automaker is equipping the truck with its SYNC 4 infotainment system. It said the new SYNC is better at voice recognition than the previous generation. It also allows for wireless connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Another feature is 911 Assist, which automatically alerts emergency responders to a crash. There also is FordPass, a mobile device app that allows drivers to start or unlock their vehicles from a distance. Users also can control new truck-focused features like zone lighting, trailer theft alert, trailer light check and the onboard power system.
Ford is offering forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking standard on the new truck. It includes pedestrian detection. But other essential safety features such as blind-spot alert and rear cross-traffic alert are options.
The 2021 Ford F-150 will be built Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich. factory and its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. Ford has not yet provided price or fuel economy information. It goes on sale in the fall.