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2021 Ford F-150 Review

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. There’s nearly a $50,000 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. Ford says the new truck has “best-in-class towing and payload.”

There are still six engines available, but the newest addition is a PowerBoost hybrid powertrain option. With 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque, this engine delivers the most torque ever in an F-150 and is the most powerful engine in the 2021 F-150 lineup.  The base 3.3-liter gas engine will now come with a 10-speed automatic transmission, making a 10-speed automatic standard across the lineup.

Ford’s 5.0-liter V8 gets an additional 5 hp and 10 lb-ft of torque – now 400 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 gets a power increase as well, up to 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 25 hp and 30 lb-ft.

The PowerBoost F-150 is rated at 12,700 pounds of towing capacity 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.

With the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and the optional Max Trailer Tow Package, the F-150 is rated at 14,000 pounds of conventional towing capacity.

The 2021 Ford F-150 looks similar to the previous model, but the grille and headlights are different, which sets it 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.

Within the new interior, an 8-inch touchscreen 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 touchscreen is also available, which is a landscape (horizontal) layout that still leaves ample room for physical buttons and knobs.

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, a pencil holder, and a smartphone/tablet holder.

New features to help F-150 owners haul smarter include an available built-in payload calculator. This function will display the vehicle’s load on the touchscreen or on your phone with the FordPass app and let you know (through a graphic bar progression) how close you are getting to max payload.

Ford’s Smart Hitch is another great new feature for the work set. This system measures the trailer tongue weight of the connected trailer and will alert the driver if it’s outside the safe parameters.

And to make driving with a loaded trailer or heavy payload a little easier, Ford’s continuously controlled damping is now an option. These shocks adapt to the terrain and to the vehicle’s mode settings. For instance, selecting Tow/Haul will optimize the dampers for a more precise handling experience when towing.

Arriving in the summer of 2021 is the all-new 2021 Ford Raptor. This third-generation Raptor, a SuperCrew model with a short bed, remains an off-roader extraordinaire, and it has been improved in multiple ways. Most notably, the suspension has been upgraded front and rear. The front has taller and stronger shock towers, while the rear is a new 5-link design with greater travel. This new Raptor still has a live rear axle, but it has longer trailing arms and is kept better located laterally by a Panhard bar. Electronically adjustable Fox Live Valve shock absorbers have double the damping force of the previous Raptor.

A high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 is on duty beneath the new Raptor’s bold hood, but ford has not released any power figures. We do know it will have good low-end torque, aided by a higher compression ratio (10.5:1 vs 10.0:1) and a new freer-flowing exhaust. Power continues to be sent to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. An electronic limited-slip rear differential is standard, and a Torsen limited-slip front differential is optional.

The 2021 Ford Raptor has 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain K02 tires in size LT315/70R-17. For the first time, though, 37s will be available, in size 37 x 12.50R-17LT.  This helps the Raptor’s off-road performance by improving not just the ground clearance but also the approach and departure angles.

Notable hardware on the new Raptor includes a Terrain Management System with seven driver-selectable modes (Slippery, Tow/Haul, Sport, Normal, Off Road, Baja, and Rock Crawl) and Trail 1-Pedal Drive. With this latter system helps in slow-speed rock crawling situations in which a driver typically modulates the throttle and brake simultaneously. But with Trail 1-Pedal Drive, the throttle pedal controls both the gas and the brake. Simply press the pedal to go forward, and release it to have the brakes get applied automatically.

This helps the driver better concentrate on the proper line over tricky rocks. Also helping in this situation is an optional new 360-degree camera that shows the ground directly in front of the Raptor, making it easier to choose the correct line without relying on a spotter.

Also arriving in the summer of 2021 is the new Ford F-150 Tremor, a model with greater off-road prowess than a standard F-150 but not to the supreme degree of the Raptor. In addition to a locking rear differential and an available Torsen limited-slip front differential, the new Tremor is equipped with a Rock Crawl off-road driving mode and upgraded suspension with extra travel and better approach, departure, and breakover angles.

All 2021 F-150 Tremors are SuperCrew models with a 5.5-foot bed, and each has a Raptor-style skidplate, off-road running boards, a unique hood, and a grille with bright orange trim. The Tremor is powered by Ford’s twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6. Standard off-road assists include enhanced Trail Control, Trail One-Pedal Drive, and Trail Turn Assist.

See the 2021 Ford F-150 models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Towing, payload, and power are best in class
  • All-new interior more functional and more luxurious
  • Compelling hybrid powertrain joins the lineup
  • Innovative features include an onboard generator
  • Wide range of configurations and trim levels
  • All-new Raptor arrives in the summer
  • Dirt-friendly F-150 Tremor also arrives in the summer

What We Don’t

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

How Much?

The 2021 Ford F-150 pricing starts at $28,940 for a regular cab XL with a 6.5-foot bed. With an 8-ft bed, the 2021 Ford regular cab XL has a price of $29,240.

Pricing increases incrementally from there: XLT ($37,960), Lariat ($45,195), King Ranch ($56,330), Platinum ($59,110), and Limited ($70,825), with each successive model getting more features and high-end luxury amenities. A Limited 4×4 SuperCrew PowerBoost Ford F-150 with every option can approach $80,000. The new Raptor, which arrives in the summer, has not been priced. Nor has the new F-150 Tremor.

While the F-150 has a base price that’s comparable to that of the Chevy Silverado 1500 and the Ram 1500, the priciest models are a bit more than the topline Silverado and Ram.

The destination fee on the 2021 Ford F-150 is $1,650.

Fuel Economy

Ford has made improvements to the truck’s aerodynamics and updated several of the F-150’s engines. Here’s the F-150 pickup’s official U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy for 2021:

With the 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6, the 2021 Ford F-150 is rated at 20 miles per gallon city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined. With 4-wheel-drive, a 3.3-liter F-150 returns 19 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined.

If you order the twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 with 325 hp, F-150 fuel economy actually improves a bit. A 2WD F-150 with the 2.7 has EPA ratings of 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined, while a 4WD 2.7 comes in at 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.

When the 2021 Ford F-150 is equipped with the 400-hp 5.0-liter V8, it has EPA ratings of 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined. With 4WD, that drops to 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

A 4WD F-150 equipped with the 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V6, which puts out 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque at only 1,750 rpm, is rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined.

Even when equipped with the 400-hp twin-turbo Ecoboost 3.5-liter V6, the 2021 Ford F-150 pickup returns 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined. And with 4WD, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost F-150 is nearly as good, rated at 18 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 is a proven engine that represents good fuel economy and capability at a reasonable price.

Note: Last year’s high-output version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost isn’t available in the F-150. But the new F-150 Hybrid with the PowerBoost gas/electric powertrain produces 430 hp and a whopping 570 lb-ft of torque. According to the EPA, the 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid is rated at 25 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined (2WD) or 24 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined (4WD). This translates to a cruising range in excess of 700 miles. The new F-150 Hybrid also has the ability to cruise for short distances on electricity alone.

The gas/electric PowerBoost powertrain in the Ford F-150 Hybrid, which has a 35-kilowatt (47 hp) electric motor integrated into the 10-speed automatic transmission, is good for an impressive tow rating of 12,700 pounds. However, if you’re looking for the absolute best in towing, get the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and the optional Max Trailer Tow Package. Here, the F-150 is rated at 14,000 pounds of conventional towing capacity. That’s an 800-pound increase over the 2020 model.

EPA fuel economy for the 2021 Ford Raptor has not been announced. Ford did say this off-road truck, with a 36-gallon tank, will have a range in excess of 500 miles.

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 touchscreen that includes a digital version of the owner’s manual, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Engine choices include:

3.3-liter V6 that delivers 290 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque.

2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost that delivers 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.

5.0-liter V8 with 400 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V6 with 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque.

3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 with 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.

3.5-liter PowerBoost gas/electric hybrid V6 with 430 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque.

Depending on cab configuration, fuel tank capacity varies. All gasoline-only versions get a 23-, 26-, or 36-gallon tank. The Power Stroke trucks get a 26-gallon tank, and the hybrid has a 30.6-gallon tank.

The F-150 is set up for over-the-air (OTA) 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.

Options will include two larger cabs – the extended cab SuperCab or the crew cab SuperCrew – and a 5.5-, 6.5-, or 8-foot bed. There are three wheelbase lengths as well.

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 in 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 touchscreen 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 2021 F-150 pickup.

The F-150 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 F-150 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.

Behind the Wheel

We tested two of the six engines offered in the 2021 Ford F-150 during our drive, the first being Ford’s hearty 3.5-liter EcoBoost. With snappy, lag-free responsiveness and mighty pulling power, the 3.5-liter handily towed an 8,000-pound boat up the steep Grapevine grade of highway 5 in California. Whether towing or unloaded, the F-150’s standard 10-speed automatic transmission managed gear changes with grace.

We also tested the all-new F-150 hybrid powertrain. Dubbed “PowerBoost” by Ford, this hybrid system operates silently in parking lots, but when the need arises, electric torque blends with the output of a 3.5-liter V6 to generate substantial pull. Substantial power plus superior fuel economy make the PowerBoost hybrid among the F-150’s most desirable engine choices. However, our enthusiasm was somewhat diminished by the hybrid’s unnatural brake feel — a trait the PowerBoost F-150 shares with many electrified vehicles.

Beyond powertrains, the new F-150 drives with a sophisticated demeanor. The cab cocoons occupants from noise outside, steering efforts are pleasantly light, outward visibility is generally good, and there are a range of drive modes with which to customize your driving experience. Having explored highways, backroads, and off-road trails, we can confirm the 2021 F-150 is a true joy to drive.

Other Pickups to Consider

2021 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.

2021 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. There’s also a mild hybrid option. And don’t forget the new 1500 TRX, Ram’s 702-horsepower response to the Ford Raptor.

2021 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.

Autotrader’s Advice

Experience tells us that the 2021 Ford F-150 is a great all-around truck, ideal for people who need to tow or carry cargo. It’s also refined enough to serve as a family hauler. The 2021 XL comes with more standard features, but we would still recommend stepping up to the XLT or Lariat and the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, which hits a sweet spot in price, power, and fuel economy.

The SuperCrew has the most interior space. If you’re looking for solid off-road abilities, check out the new Tremor. If you want phenomenal off-road performance, you won’t go wrong with the upcoming Raptor. And if you’d rather have something high-lux, go all-out and get the ritzy Limited. We’d also choose the Max Recline seats that go almost completely flat. If you’re going to spend like you’re flying first class, why not get first-class seats, too? Find a 2021 Ford F-150 for sale

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Allyson Harwood
Allyson Harwood is an author specializing in 10 Best lists and evaluating SUVs, trucks, and cars that offer the best value for the money. She has been a writer in the automotive industry for nearly 25 years, covering both the enthusiast and consumer sides of the market. Before joining the Autotrader team, Allyson wrote for Motor Trend, Truck Trend, and Four Wheeler Magazine.

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