First Drive: 2021 Ford F-150 Proves Power of Hybrid Powertrain

November 30, 2020 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

When you are about to replace the current version of the best-selling truck in America, the first rule is to do no harm.

That’s exactly what Ford Motor Co. has done with the new generation 2021 F-150 pickup truck.

Although Ford has taken some chances with the lineup – notably adding a hybrid model – the new F-150 will please current owners looking to replace their truck and is a must-shop vehicle for buyers moving into the pickup market.

Indeed, the new model is better than the vehicle it replaces. Ford engineers improved the handling and suspension, giving the truck a better road feel and reducing the bounce that plagues body-on-frame vehicles.

The cabin is quieter, and the seating, door panel and dash materials are a step up. The style is slicker and improves aerodynamics while leaving the chiseled look truck buyers expect. There are no hints of minivan here.

Ford has packed the 2021 F-150 with useful options. The center console can transform into a mini-desk. The tailgate can double as a workbench. Truck bed lighting angles improve illumination. There’s electricity to run power tools off the truck. Forward collision and automatic emergency braking are standard.

F-150 desk

Mini-desk is a 2021 F-150 option. (PhotoL Ford)

A first drive of the new truck in the mountains and on Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles found the new F-150 performs as good or better than most rivals in everyday driving, towing and off-roading. Ranch owners will be pleased. The truck can deliver hay during the day and provide comfortable transport to the best restaurant in town at night.

Ford leads the full-size pickup truck market. Including the F-Series’ heavy-duty versions, it holds a 35 percent market share through the first 10 months of this year. The Chevrolet Silverado is second at 25 percent and Ram has 24 percent.

Pickup trucks represent a growing share of new vehicle sales in the U.S. They account for 20.2 percent of new auto sales, up from 18 percent for the first 10 months of 2019. According to Wall Street analysts, pickup trucks and related large SUVs generate most of the profits at Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Shoppers have plenty of choices. Trucks.com has driven all of the models and it comes down to this.

The 2021 F-150 does just about everything well. One knock is a low reliability rating from Consumer Reports, something shared by all the half-ton pickups but the Toyota Tundra. Buyers need to test drive the F-150, even Chevrolet fans.

The Ram 1500 also is an excellent truck and beats the Ford in ride quality when the truck isn’t carrying a load. That is an important consideration because so many people purchase trucks for image and convenience rather than a need to tow or haul.

The Nissan Titan is the budget choice. It drives, tows and hauls adequately and typically sells at the biggest discount.

The Chevrolet Silverado is comfortable and capable but needs work on suspension, handling and fuel economy.

The Toyota Tundra gets the best marks for resale value and reliability. But the current model is based on a design that entered the market in 2007. Considerable gains in technology and fuel efficiency would come with a badly needed redesign.

Ford is thinking ahead. The automaker knows that trucks are its profit center and that fuel economy and environmental regulations will only become more stringent. The new hybrid option will protect its position by offering a more efficient truck that does not compromise capability or performance.

 

F-150 tailgate doubles as a convenient workbench. (Photo: Ford)

The best all-around choice in the 2021 F-150 lineup is the XLT model with the PowerBoost hybrid powertrain option.

The 2021 F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid performance numbers are impressive. It has a maximum tow rating of 12,700 pounds and can carry 2,120 pounds of cargo. EPA fuel economy numbers aren’t out yet for the two-wheel-drive version, but the four-wheel-drive version has a rating of 24 mpg regardless of highway or city driving.

The powertrain consists of a new 3.5-liter turbocharged gas engine linked to a 35-kilowatt electric motor and a 10-speed automatic transmission. The system is rated at 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than enough for most uses.

Ford is offering the hybrid option up and down the F-150 range. It is an extra $4,495 for the XL and XLT models. That upcharge drops to $3,300 and $1,900 for other configurations.

There are a range of conventional engine choices for the F-150, so buyers have plenty of options if they don’t want the hybrid.

The truck also has a wide price range. The standard cab XL two-wheel-drive model starts at $28,940 plus a $1,595 delivery fee. The luxurious and feature-laden Limited trim starts at $70,825 plus the delivery fee.

Ford’s new F-150 lineup is comprehensive. There’s a pickup in the range that will meet the requirements of just about any buyer.

It has models for a tradesperson who drives solo to jobs and must haul tools, equipment and supplies. At the other end is a truck with a luxury interior and space to carry a family of five while towing a boat on vacation.

Offering choice is how Ford has maintained its position as the sales leader through multiple F-Series generation. The new design ensures that it will remain at the top.

Jerry Hirsch November 19, 2020
Consumer Reports is out with its annual automotive reliability study and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the best-selling pickup trucks.

4 Responses

  1. Kevin McCune

    Ford could have made the Hybrid more affordable, the base 3.3 could have been used and perhaps just upped the electric part a little more, because a failure on the electric still leaves the less complex v6 to get home with while the performance could be juggled to exceed or be on par with current models.

    Reply
    • Jon

      Agreed. I was hoping it would be the 3.3 cyclone as in the Explorer , with more battery power.

      Reply
      • Kevin McCune

        Some of this is a move to make buyers believe that the “electric”part is wholly unreliable and trying to give the impression the “ecoboost” engines are “bulletproof”, they almost screwedup making the 2.7 engine as good as it is, I figure by now they have figured out how to put the more premium version in a better light( all of them except Toyota and Nissan ) have done this, now Nissan has figured it out( I have a 19 Fronteir and they couldn’t even give me a mpg guage in the cluster and they have brought out a new smaller engine that should be more prone to failure{ the old VQ was great}) Can’t wait till I get my “Cybertruck”.

  2. Josh

    I agree that Ford could have made it more affordable. Aside from wishing for a better battery, I think I’m good with the features of this hybrid. I’d probably change the stock rims with Black Rhino wheels and then put a nice set of tires.

    Reply

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