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2021 Ford F-150 First Look

One of the most appealing things about the Ford F-150 is that this well-rounded full-size pickup consistently offers capability, value, innovation, and choice. All-new this year, the 2021 Ford F-150 continues to give buyers a wide range of cab sizes, bed lengths, powertrains, and trim levels to fit nearly any budget. Whether you want a basic work truck or a luxury cruiser, there’s a trim level for you. If pricing stays consistent with what we saw in 2020, you can expect to see a $45,000 difference in price between a regular-cab base-model XL and a fully loaded SuperCrew (crew cab) Limited.

The Ford F-150 can seat 3-6 people and is available with rear- or 4-wheel drive. It’s known for a comfortable highway ride as well as strong off-road capability. However, what may be most impressive about the F-150 is that it doesn’t shy away from new technology to improve what trucks are best at doing. While this Ford is known for its excellent towing and payload capacity, its aluminum body and turbocharged EcoBoost engines help improve fuel economy. Multiple cameras and innovative features like the integrated tailgate step make towing and hauling easier. All these elements of the F-150 help it remain the sales leader in the highly competitive full-size truck segment.

What’s New?

Essentially all-new for 2021, the Ford F-150 has updated styling, a redesigned interior with a new infotainment system, and more work and storage solutions. There are still six engines available, but the newest addition is a hybrid powertrain option that becomes the top engine choice. The base 3.3-liter gas engine will come with a 10-speed automatic transmission, making a 10-speed automatic standard across the lineup. While Ford hasn’t yet announced power ratings, or towing and hauling capability, we anticipate the 2021 F-150 will offer best-in-class horsepower, torque, towing, and payload capacity.

The 2021 Ford F-150 looks similar to the previous model, but the grille and headlights are different, which make it stand apart from the 2020. There are now 11 grilles and three different headlight designs, plus 13 different wheel designs that range from 17 to 22 inches.

For 2021, the Ford F-150’s top-of-the-line engine will be the PowerBoost, Ford’s full hybrid powertrain. This uses the EcoBoost 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, a 35 KW electric motor, and a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery mounted below the truck so it doesn’t take up passenger or bed space. Ford anticipates the F-150 with the PowerBoost will be able to tow at least 12,000 pounds while offering about 700 miles of range on a tank of gas. It also comes standard with Pro Power Onboard, an inverter that allows the F-150 to operate as a generator.

Within the new interior, an 8-inch touch screen is now standard. That’s twice as big as the previous model’s standard screen. SYNC 4, the latest version of Ford’s infotainment system, is standard. A 12-inch touch screen is also available, which is a landscape (horizontal) layout that still leaves ample room for physical buttons and knobs. You can also get a digital gauge cluster with animations that show what terrain you’re on and the drive mode the truck is in.

An optional Interior Work Surface creates a flat working area over the center console. If your F-150 doesn’t have the column-mounted shifter, you can fold down the console-mounted transmission shifter when you want to use the Work Surface. Just push a button to stow the Surface in the center console when you’re done. If you want to grab some shuteye between jobs, Ford now offers Max Recline seats that fold nearly flat.

Ford has also included new features that make it easier to access cargo and to use the 2021 F-150 for work. Extended-length power running boards can be lowered with a hands-free “kick switch.” These can also be set to stay down if you’re making multiple trips to load or unload cargo. In addition, every tailgate now comes with built-in clamp pockets, and there’s a new feature called the Tailgate Work Surface.   This feature includes integrated rulers, a cupholder, pencil holder, and smartphone/tablet holder. See the 2021 Ford F-150 models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Towing, payload, and power expected to be best in class
  • All-new interior more functional and more luxurious
  • Compelling hybrid powertrain joins the lineup
  • Innovative features include onboard generator, advanced safety
  • Wide range of configurations and trim levels

What We Don’t

  • Top levels of the F-150 typically get pricey
  • Updated exterior styling is still attractive, but not all that different
  • Largest models can be tough to park and maneuver

How Much?

While Ford hasn’t announced official pricing yet, when the truck goes on sale this fall, we expect the 2021 Ford F-150 pricing to start at just over $30,000 for a regular cab XL. The trim levels go up in price and standard equipment as you go up from the XL to the XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and the top-of-the-line Limited. If you chose every option, we expect the price of the Limited 4×4 SuperCrew PowerBoost (hybrid) could approach $80,000.

Fuel Economy

No fuel-economy figures have been revealed for any of the engines that will be available with the 2021 Ford F-150. However, Ford has made improvements to the truck’s aerodynamics and updated several of the F-150’s engines, so we expect fuel economy to improve compared to 2020.

Last year, the 3.3-liter V6 netted 19 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined driving with RWD. With 4WD models, figures are 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined.

For 2020, fuel economy for the 2.7-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6 was 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined (RWD), or 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway, 20 mpg combined with 4WD. This is a good engine option for buyers looking for good fuel economy, capability, and power at a reasonable price.

The 5.0-liter V8 engine, considered to be a strong choice for people who tow on a regular basis, had 2020 fuel-economy numbers of 16 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive, or 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined with 4-wheel drive.

Ford’s 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V6 also returns for 2021. The 2020 version’s fuel economy was 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with 2WD, and 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with 4WD.

Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 achieved 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway/19 mpg combined with 2WD and 17 mpg city/21mpg highway/19 mpg combined with 4WD.

Last year’s high-output version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost will not be available in the F-150. (Ford hasn’t announced any news about the Ford Raptor.) Instead, buyers can get the new PowerBoost hybrid option. While we don’t know the fuel economy of the hybrid, Ford is aiming for 700 miles of range for a tank of gas.

Standard Features & Options

The 2021 F-150 comes in five models: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but all trim levels are available with 4-wheel drive. The XL comes with a 3.3-liter V6 backed by a 10-speed automatic and rides on 17-inch steel wheels. Its smallest cab is a regular cab. The basic fuel tank size is 23 gallons, but a 26- or 36-gallon tank is available. This truck has an 8-inch touch screen that includes a digital version of the owner’s manual, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

The F-150 is set up for over-the-air updates, which often happen in the background, and most are instantaneous. All F-150s come standard with some Ford Co-Pilot360 technology, including forward-collision warning and dynamic brake support, hill-start assist, pre-collision assist with auto emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), auto hold, and its rearview camera has dynamic hitch support, making it easier to line up the truck with a trailer.

Ford hasn’t announced the trim breakdown yet, but options will include two larger cabs – the extended cab SuperCab or the crew cab SuperCrew – and a 5-1/2-, 6-1/2-, or 8-foot bed. There are three wheelbase lengths as well. If you want more power than the 3.3-liter V6 offers, you can look at the twin-turbocharged 2.7- or 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8, the 3.0-liter Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel, or the 3.5-liter PowerBoost V6 hybrid. There are 11 grille styles, which vary based on trim level, and 13 wheel designs.

There’s an available locking full-length fold-flat storage area that goes in the second row. You can even get a setup that lets you turn on and off individual exterior lights, which comes handy when you’re on the job site or camping. Ford offers a handy foldout tailgate step that is built into the tailgate. There’s also Pro Trailer Backup Assist, where you use a knob to back your truck and trailer into place. Safety options include Active Drive Assist, active park assist, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering and lane-keeping, and reverse brake assist.

Interior options include a 12-inch touch screen and a digital gauge cluster. The Interior Work Surface creates a flat working area over the center console. If your F-150 comes with a console-mounted transmission shifter, it folds down when you want to use the Work Surface. You can push a button to stow the Surface in the center console when you’re done. And Max Recline seats fold nearly flat.

Safety

Ford’s suite of advanced driver assists, called Co-Pilot360, comes standard on every model. The XL comes with pre-collision assist with auto emergency braking and pedestrian detection, auto-dimming headlights, auto on/off headlights, and dynamic hitch support with the rearview camera. The list of Co-Pilot360 features expands with the XLT, which adds BLIS (blind-spot information system with cross-traffic alert) that also includes the trailer, Lane Keeping, reverse sensing system and reverse brake assist, and post-impact braking. Other features, such as adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, and active park assist, are available with higher trim levels.

In addition, the Ford F-150 is available with a 360-degree camera, which gives an overhead view around the vehicle. This is handy when parking, as well as when backing up the F-150 while towing a trailer.

Active Drive Assist is a new safety feature that will be an option with the 2021 Ford F-150. It uses a camera that faces the driver, which tracks the driver’s head and eye position to determine if the driver is getting drowsy. This technology will also offer the option of some hands-free driving. The prep kit will be available soon, and an over-the-air update will activate the system in the third quarter of 2021.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 — The traditional rival of the Ford F-150, the Silverado is also available with a wide range of engines, but its lineup is more V8-biased. Interior amenities aren’t as luxurious as in the F-150.

2020 Ram 1500 — Arguably the most refined full-size truck available. Despite its near-luxury interiors and comfortable ride – courtesy of a coil-spring rear suspension – the Ram 1500 is highly capable. Like the F-150 and Silverado, it’s available with a diesel. And there’s also a mild hybrid option.

2020 Nissan Titan/Titan XD —  The Titan XD, which walks the line between a ½-ton and a ¾-ton truck, was updated for 2020, with a redesigned interior, new transmission, more advanced safety, and new styling. Nissan dropped the diesel option. Nissan also updated the Titan with a more family-friendly interior, expanded standard safety, and new styling.

Used Toyota Tundra — The Tundra is similar in size and function to the Ford F-150 and offers a comfortable highway ride. The Tundra isn’t as capable as the F-150, but this Toyota has proven to offer excellent long-term reliability, making it a good F-150 alternative. A used Tundra with less than 30,000 miles can be had for about $30,000.

Used Ford F-250 — If you tow a trailer that’s near the maximum towing capacity of the Ford F-150, you may want to consider buying a used F-250 instead. It’s a larger truck than the F-150, but this Ford can tow significantly more than the F-150. You should be able to find a used F-250 with less than 30,000 miles for about $35,000.

Questions You May Ask

Which Ford F-150 engine is best?

We recommend the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, as it offers a great combination of power, fuel economy, and towing capability for the money. However, if you tow a large trailer on a regular basis, you may want to consider the 5.0-liter V8 or the 3.5-liter EcoBoost.

Why is the F-150 so popular?

The Ford F-150 offers a wide variety of engines, trim levels, bed lengths, and wheelbases. This makes it easy to find the right combination for your needs that fits your budget. This truck also is consistently at the top of its class for towing and payload capacity. Ford places a strong emphasis on both work innovations and luxury amenities.

Is Ford making a hybrid truck?

Yes. The 2021 model year is the first time the Ford F-150 will be available as a hybrid.

Where is the 2021 F-150 built?

Ford will build the 2021 Ford F-150 at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, and the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri. The hybrid model, known as the PowerBoost, will be built exclusively in Dearborn.

Autotrader’s Advice

Even though we haven’t driven the 2021 F-150 yet, there are some things we do know about the Ford F-150 in general. It’s a great all-around truck, ideal for people who need to tow or carry cargo. It’s even refined enough to serve as a family hauler. The 2021 XL comes with more standard features than it had in the past, but we would still recommend stepping up to the XLT or Lariat and the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. The SuperCrew will provide the most interior space. This engine hits a sweet spot when it comes to price, power, capability, and fuel economy. If you’re looking for something high-lux, you can go all-out and get the ritzy Limited. We’d also choose the new fold (nearly) flat Max Recline seats. If you’re going to spend like you’re flying first class, why not get first-class seats, too? Find a Ford F-150 for sale

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