Although there are just five manufacturers and six brands, half-ton pickup truck buyers face a dizzying array of engine options and choices compared to other car shoppers.
After driving several, the top choice for most drivers looking at Ford trucks is the F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid SuperCrew. It’s really hard to argue with 24 mpg whether in city driving or on the highway, a maximum tow rating of 12,700 pounds and a payload of 2,090 pounds of cargo.
It is a truck that does everything well and competes well with the Ram 1500 for the position as the top pickup in the segment. But it carries a $4,495 upcharge over the base model of the 2021 Ford F-150. Not every buyer will want to spend that extra money
A good alternative is the F-150 with the 2.7-liter turbocharged gas engine. Its numbers aren’t quite as good.
Depending on the configuration, the two-wheel-drive truck equipped with a 2.7-liter engine provides either 7,700 or 8,400 pounds of towing capacity. It has a payload of 1,815. The lower numbers come from less power. The V6 produces 325 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. That compares to 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque for the hybrid. The EPA rating for fuel economy is 20 mpg in city driving, 26 on the highway and 22 combined.
Our test vehicle was a 2021 F-150 four-wheel-drive SuperCrew – Ford’s biggest cab – in the XLT High trim. With options, the suggested price reached almost $57,000. We took it on a 1,000-mile test from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back. We stuffed the truck bed with household goods and used it to haul furniture for about 500 miles. The bed was empty for the remainder of the trip.
Both the front and rear seats are roomy and comfortable. There’s plenty of space for passengers to spread out and enjoy watching a video downloaded onto a tablet or even work a bit on a laptop. The cabin has lots of charging options and the air conditioning had no problems with several hundred miles of 112-degree heat along I5 in central California. The fuel economy came out at a less than expected 21 mpg. But the heavy load and the heat for much of the trip contributed to a decline in efficiency.
The 2.7-liter has more than enough power for highway driving and climbing mountain passes. Handling was firmer – an improvement over the previous F-150 generation – on twisty roads and navigating the crowded and narrow streets of San Francisco. There’s still some room for improvement. The rear camera proved essential for city parking.
The powertrain is anchored by a 10-speed automatic transmission. The shifts between gears were quiet and almost imperceptible. The truck also is quiet, making conversation easy even at highway speed.
The dashboard features a 12-inch touchscreen that gave the driver and passengers an easy view of where the truck was on its journey, what music was playing and how quickly the outside temperature climbed well into triple digits. It’s standard on the higher of the two XLT trim levels. The lower-end model has an 8-inch touchscreen. The truck has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which many drivers now expect.
The new F-150’s standard equipment also includes an important suite of safety technology such as a forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, a rear emergency braking assisting, a lane-keeping system and a blind-spot monitor.
Trucks.com has most of the configurations of full-size pickup trucks. Here’s where the models stand.
Half-ton pickup truck shoppers should start by figuring out whether they want to tow, and how much cargo capacity they need. Most will want a crew cab offering based sorted by their requirement.
The Ram is the best driving vehicle, and also has excellent interiors. Ford offers a wide range of choices and buyers won’t go wrong with either the hybrid or the 2.7-liter model. The Nissan Titan is worth a look. It often makes for a good value play, but its fuel economy is poor. The Toyota Tundra also has poor fuel economy and is an aged vehicle that is about to be replaced with an updated design. The General Motors trucks – both the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra – have great cargo capacity and good towing capability. But they suffer from bouncy suspensions and the interiors don’t always match up at equivalent trim levels.