2021 Ford F-150

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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
November 19, 2020

Buying tip

In most cases, the turbodiesel isn’t worth the upcharge but the hybrid is.

features & specs

King Ranch 2WD SuperCrew 5.5' Box
King Ranch 2WD SuperCrew 6.5' Box
King Ranch 4WD SuperCrew 5.5' Box
MPG
NA
MPG
NA
MPG
NA
MSRP
$56,330
MSRP
$56,630
MSRP
$59,755

The 2021 Ford F-150 ushers the bestselling truck into the electrified age.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Ford F-150? What does it compare to?

The Ford F-150 is a full-size pickup truck that ranges from a basic two-door work truck to a four-door luxury leisure liner loaded with leather. The number of F-150 configurations exceeds the number of years it’s been America’s bestselling vehicle, which spans at least four decades. It squares off against the Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado and related GMC Sierra, and Toyota Tundra for top spot as king of the hill.  

Is the 2021 Ford F-150 a good truck?

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The F-150 reflects a version of the American dream in that the possibilities are seemingly endless. It’s a good truck, and a hybrid powertrain with luxury-leaning options and hands-free driving technology prep it for the future of now. It earns a TCC Rating of 6.6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Ford F-150?

A 3.5-liter turbo V-6 hybrid powertrain available across the lineup highlights the biggest changes to the redesigned 2021 Ford F-150. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone compatibility comes standard, but an available 12.0-inch touchscreen portends all the standard over-the-air updates that’ll keep it fresh. Comfort options like a power liftgate that doubles as a workspace and front seats that can fully recline like a La-Z-Boy express the wide net cast by the big truck. 

Subtle updates to the exterior and modest refinements to the inside suggest that this F-150 is the same durable F-150 it’s always been, but tweaked for the modern digital age. It’s still offered in three cab sizes, three bed sizes, six powertrains, six trim levels, and so many configurations it would take an algorithm to sort it all out.  

Except for the new hybrid engine and the standard 10-speed replacing the outgoing 6-speed, the powertrains remain the same on the F-150. A 3.3-liter V-6 equips base XL and XLT trims, but the popular choice for most F-150 shoppers is a 2.7-liter turbo V-6 standard on Lariat. A 5.0-liter V-8 and 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 honor truck engines of the past, but the 3.5-liter turbo V-6 standard on the top Limited trim handles the most payload and maxes out with a 14,000-pound towing capacity. The hybrid makes 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque, has plenty of pop off the line, and rides on such a smooth shifting transmission that it’s hard to notice the shifts after third gear. It also gets an EPA-rated 24 mpg combined.

The hybrid only comes with a crew cab, or SuperCrew as Ford calls it. It’s as big as a lounge, can seat up to six, and has more rear legroom than most full-size SUVs. The extended cab and its rear-hinged rear doors cramps the legs of backseat riders, though there’s plenty of head room. The regular cab can fit three across and serves its function best as a work truck. Three bed sizes range from 5.5-feet to 8 feet, but the longest bed can’t be had with the crew cab. 

How much does the 2021 Ford F-150 cost?

The 2021 F-150 can be had in base XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trims. XL models come with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone capability, and manual windows for $30,635 including $1,695 destination fee; four-wheel drive adds about $3,500 to the price tag. 

The Lariat trim hits the sweet spot for value and the modern touch; it comes with the 2.7-liter turbo V-6, the extended cab layout, 18-inch machined-aluminum wheels, and larger 12.0-inch touchscreen and digital instrument cluster. LED lighting, power features, and leather upholstery deck the Lariat for $46,890.

At the top of the F-150 line is the Limited—$77,845 when equipped with the new hybrid powertrain in all-wheel drive with the hybrid’s standard crew cab.

Where is the 2021 Ford F-150 made?

Dearborn, Michigan. 

7

2021 Ford F-150

Styling

Subtle tweaks to the 2021 F-150 don’t mess with a winning formula.

Is the 2021 Ford F-150 a good-looking truck?

Yes, the F-150 looks good, in part because of its familiarity. Not as blocky as the GM twins and not as plain as the Ram 1500 (with exception and deference to the TRX) the 2021 Ford F-150 earns a point for its updated exterior and a point for its functionally refined interior. It’s a 7. 

With 11 different grilles, 15 different colors, and 15 different wheel designs from 17 to 22 inches in diameter, the exterior choices reflect the myriad configurations available with the 2021 F-150. But every F-150 gets subtle changes that add up to a makeover.

The track is a little wider from Ford changing the hard points on the suspension knuckles, but most of the other dimensions stay the same. The C-clamp daytime running lights extend into the bumper and connect with the lower fog lights for a larger, yet more unified framing device in rear mirrors. There’s no mistaking that light signature. 

On the side, black cladding over the round wheel arches has been replaced with a curved metal stamp that is both sleek and subtle. A new character line on the rocker panels parallels the kink in the front windows. The cosmetic air intakes in the front fenders distinguish the six trim levels and ignore air flow, but subtle rounding of the corners and an active air dam helped Ford improve aerodynamics and reduce drag. 

Inside, the big dials, large buttons, and massive center console blend function with form. The centerpiece in the dash houses a 12.0-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen, and the smaller one is flanked with blank black panels. Higher trims balance leather with Harley-levels of chrome, and American flags stamped in trim pieces can be found alongside a map of Detroit on door panels on certain trims, as if one needed a reminder of the F-150’s pedigree.

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2021 Ford F-150

Performance

An available hybrid engine and standard 10-speed automatic headline this year’s powertrain changes.

Six engines, including a hybrid powertrain available across the six trim lines, provide truck shoppers a choice for every season, plus two. Outputs don’t really change, but options do. Fortunately, a 10-speed automatic transmission doesn’t muddle the options, or gears. 

The 2021 F-150 gets double points for its excellent turbo V-6 and smooth 10-speed, and another point for its off-road chops and towing capability. A point gets deducted for the grudging handling characteristic of any vehicle so big and tall. We settle on a strong 7.  

How fast is the Ford F-150?

The base 3.3-liter V-6 powers the XL and XLT trims with 290 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. With a regular cab and short box, it has a rough and tumble eagerness that makes up for a lack of quickness with a desire to please. With the 8-foot box, it can tow up to 8,200 pounds. Payload ranges between 1,765 to 1,985 pounds.

The Lariat’s standard 2.7-liter turbo V-6 appeals to most F-150 buyers with 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. It can carry up to 2,480 pounds with the regular cab and tow up to 10,100 pounds in extended or crew cabs with four-wheel drive. What V-8? 

A single 5.0-liter V-8 standard on King Ranch and Platinum trims carries over in the F-150 lineup because V-8 and pickup goes together like bacon and eggs for some shoppers. Output isn’t much better than the small turbo V-6 at 400 hp and 410 lb-ft but it can tow up to 13,000 pounds with any cab and any box. Payload maxes out at 3,325 pounds with the regular cab with the long box in rear-wheel drive.

Standard on only the top Limited trim, the 3.5-liter turbo V-6 making 400 hp and 500 lb-ft carries the weight and hauls the heavy load best overall, with a 3,250-pound payload with a regular cab long box with rear-wheel drive, and a 14,000-pound tow rating in extended and crew cab models. Ford calls it best in class but we’re not going to get into that. Unladen, the turbo V-6 accelerates as quickly as many SUVs but it feels even quicker relative to the high seating position and big bouncing body. 

The 250-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 makes 440 lb-ft and has the same max towing capacity as the turbo V-6. Aside from excellent highway fuel economy, the diesel engine pales to Ford’s turbo V-6 options. Factor in a gallon of diesel costing at least $.20 more on average annually than gas, and a diesel upcharge of up to $3,800 more on F-150 models, and the turbodiesel just doesn’t make much sense in most cases. That upcharge is also $500 more than the hybrid upgrade and the hybrid is much more efficient around town and when using the on-board generator. 

The new hybrid uses the same 3.5-liter turbo V-6 on Limited but supplements it with a 47-hp electric motor powered by a 1.5-kwh lithium-ion battery. The motor is packaged within the transmission so as to enable electric-only driving at some light loads and speeds of up to about 10 mph. That briefcase-size battery pack mounts on the frame under the floor at the rear of the cab, so cargo room isn’t compromised. Total output is 430 hp and 570 lb-ft, but the high torque rating doesn’t mean it can tow the most of any F-150. The hybrid only comes with the heavier crew cab, so payload maxes out at 2,120 pounds and towing at 12,700 pounds in rear-wheel drive with the 6-foot-6 bed. 

The hybrid upgrades the 2.0-kw onboard generator available with the 2.7-liter, V-8 or 3.5-liter to a 2.4-kw generator that comes standard with dual 120-volt outlets in the bed for an 85-hour run time on a full tank, according to Ford. Or it could be upgraded on the hybrid to a 7.2-kw generator with four 120-volt and one 240-volt outlet for up to 32 hours of run time.   

The hybrid powertrain operates seamlessly and with remarkable quiet, unless switched into Sport mode for some simulated engine growl. When not hauling a load, the shifts on the 10-speed are nearly unnoticeable. But the system appears confused when stopping hard or accelerating hard out of a turn, with a lag that indicates it’s not as prepared for abrupt throttle inputs as a V-8. Sport mode diminishes but does not eliminate the pronounced lag. 

Is the Ford F-150 4WD?

Yes. It comes with rear-wheel drive, or two available four-wheel drive systems. The mechanical 4WD system on XL and XLT uses an electronic shift-on-the-fly system that Ford has used for a while in the F-150. But on Lariat and above trims, Ford employs a 2-speed torque-on-demand system that essentially acts like a part-time all-wheel drive system shifting torque to the front wheels when the system detects slippage. Or the driver can manually override it by switching the transfer case into 4H for driving faster but with greater traction off-road, or into 4L for maximum traction at low speeds off-road, same as on the XL and XLT.

Without hauling anything, the 2021 F-150 has the familiar bounciness of pickup trucks with a solid rear axle and leaf springs. Even though the 10-speed shifts seamlessly and the independent front suspension helps cushion the cabin, the F-150 handles like a truck.

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7

2021 Ford F-150

Comfort & Quality

Three beds, three cabs, and clever storage spaces provide all kinds of use cases for the 2021 Ford F-150.

Whether its a basic work truck or mobile board room, the 2021 Ford F-150 configures into whatever owners need from it. It gets a point for hauling plenty of cargo and another point for hauling at least five people, though our rating is based on four-door crew cab models preferred by most shoppers. It’s a 7. 

Two-door regular cabs and four-door extended cabs wouldn’t get that people point. The rear leg room in the extended cab maxes out at 33.5 inches, which is smaller than many compact cars. The crew cab expands to a whopping 43.6 inches of rear leg room, which is more than full-size SUVs. With room like that, it’s no wonder trucks now double as family vehicles. 

Bed sizes range from 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-6, or an 8-foot option not available on crew cab models Ford calls SuperCrew. Not every bed size or cab size is available on every trim. 

Regular cabs don’t come with the smallest bed but comes standard with the 6-foot-6 short bed on XL and XLT trims. The cloth front seats split in a 40/20/40 configuration, with the 20 part typically utilized as a lockable fold-down center console on XLT trims. The XL is meant for fleets and best for work.   

Four-door extended cab trucks, or SuperCab in Ford speak, with a 6-foot-6 short bed come standard on Lariat but could be had on XL and XLT trims, and could be upgraded to the long 8-foot bed. The extended cab uses a rear hinge to open the rear doors, so the back fits gear and four-legged friends better than two-legged coworkers. 

King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trims move into the executive class with a huge crew cab and 5-foot-6 bed standard. They seat five adults better than most kitchen tables, and leather adorns everything from the center console lid and shifter knob to the steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats with at least 10-way power adjustments that become massagers standard on the C-Suite Limited trim. 

For the ultimate in comfort and versatility, Ford options front seats that recline nearly 180 degrees so the longest work shifts can get broken up by a nap, or the cab can become a tent when camping in the worst weather. The seat cushions raise up to even out the lumps, but the lower lumbar area can still protrude. You may not want to, but you could live in the new F-150 for extended weekend getaways or for rush jobs. 

The more practical considerations in the 2021 F-150 focus on helping out with work. An available power tailgate includes the F-150’s hidden step (GM’s corner step is the best) and pull handle, as well as a work surface on the tailgate with a built-in ruler, cupholder, smartphone holder. The upgraded tailgate also comes with two C-clamp pockets and two tie-down cleats with a built-in bottle opener, in case, among all those tools to get whatever job down, you don’t have on that can pop a top. 

Work surfaces take over center consoles inside as well, with a hard flat surface that flips out from the soft armrest console to flat between the two front seats. A sturdy gear shifter collapses into the console to enable the work surface, and storage isn’t compromised in the deep console. In fact, standard storage pockets abound like 90s cargo pants in the 2021 F-150, with a wireless charging area under the center stack, dual glove boxes, big door pockets, even bigger cupholders. Big climate dials and large buttons ensure that even gloved hands can operate most of the F-150’s functions.

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An available locker under the rear seats pops out from the floor and can be secured by folding down the 60/40-split rear seats. The locker can extend the full length of the floor, or be divided into just the 40 side. When not in use, it reverts to a flat floor for expansive rear cargo space or for a four-legged friend.

2021 Ford F-150

Safety

The 2021 F-150 awaits crash-test results, but its standard active safety features help it avoid a crash.

How safe is the Ford F-150?

It’s a big pickup truck that will shrug off most crashes, but like most large vehicles including SUVs it can’t beat physics when it comes to rollover risk. But its standard active safety features and available driver assist systems should help it avoid or mitigate crashes and rollovers. 

We’ll withhold a rating until the IIHS and the NHTSA complete their testing of the redesigned pickup truck. 

Even base models come with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, and automatic high beams. XLT and above models step it up with Co-Pilot 2.0 that upgrades to blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, parking sensors, automatic emergency rear braking, and a post-collision braking system that applies brakes after impact to keep it from hitting another vehicle. 

Options include adaptive cruise control, surround-view cameras, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive steering that adjusts how much the wheels turn based on how much the driver turns the steering wheel at certain speeds, blind-spot monitors that apply to towing a trailer, and, perhaps most evolutionary, the hardware for hands-free driving on 100,000 miles of mapped divided highways across North America. 

Called Active Drive Assist and standard on the top Limited trim, the technology uses a camera and radar sensors to drive the vehicle for hours without driver interruption, but a driver-facing camera ensures the driver is paying attention and his eyes aren’t closed or cast down in their phone. The hardware can be purchased now through a Active 2.0 Prep Package for $995 but the software won’t be ready until mid-2021. Shoppers can opt to buy both the hardware and software at the point of purchase. After the initial three-year period ends, including over-the-air updates, owners would have to then pay a monthly fee to keep using the service. It also includes parking sensors that can self-park the truck in perpendicular or parallel spots.

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8

2021 Ford F-150

Features

Enhanced standard features on the 2021 F-150 complement an options list as long as some luxury models.

Every Ford-150 comes with the kind of safety and convenience features found in other passenger vehicles, further blurring the lines between work truck and everyday car. In addition to the impressive standard safety features mentioned above, every F-150 gets at least an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone compatibility, an integrated smartphone app, wi-fi hotspot, over-the-air updates, and a trailer mount with four-pin wiring. 

The base XL for $30,635 is still a work truck, however, so you’ll have to work to adjust the seats or put down the manual windows. Still, it earns a point each for overall value, standard features, and optional features ranging from collapsible storage lockers to fold out power front seats for all your napping needs. It’s an 8. 

Which Ford F-150 should I buy?

Like last year, the 2021 F-150 can be had in base XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trims. There are so many options packages, not to mention bed, cab, and engine choices, that recommending one would be like recommending a corn kernel at a cookout.

The XLT gets a slight $290 price bump over 2020, and still offers the best overall value at $36,745. It’s the most popular F-150 for good reason, with basic upgrades such as power windows, locks, keyless entry, cruise control, and more driver assistance features such as blind-spot monitors and active lane control.

But we’d drink the pickup juice and truck up to the Lariat for our all-in-one vehicle that stays under $50,000. The wheels grow from 17-inch steel jobs to 18-inch machined-aluminum, and the touchscreen grows to 12.0 inches, as does the digital instrument cluster. It comes standard with an extended cab and 6.5-foot box, 2.7-liter turbo V-6, trailer hitch, and LED lighting in the front, rear, and with zone lighting all around the truck to illuminate the work or camp site. Other conveniences include heated power folding mirrors, power sliding rear window, leather front seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable front seats, remote start, and other stuff we like. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Ford F-150?

The top Limited trim with four-wheel drive and the hybrid engine costs $77,845 with a 2.4-kw onboard generator. Bucket front seats separated by a deep, tiered console, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and a panoramic sunroof highlight just a few of the many upgrades. Chrome stamps the outside like a Harley, and power activates everything from the side mirrors to the running boards and new tailgate with integrated C clamps and bottle opener. The tech upgrades to pretty much everything made by Ford, from a surround-view camera to the Active Drive Assist hardware that enables hands-free highway driving once the software is rolled out next year. A B&O sound system with 18 speakers rocks the luxe truck on 22-inch polished aluminum wheels. 

Even at this level, options abound to tip the price over $80,000 if you throw in a retractable tonneau cover or a spray-in bedliner and a toolbox. Some of the fun options new for 2020 include max recline front seats that fold out to 180 degrees for napping, a reworked center console that folds out as a work table, and a collapsible lock box under the rear seats.

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4

2021 Ford F-150

Fuel Economy

The hybrid gets 24 mpg, but most other engines with four-wheel drive improve by 1 mpg.

Is the 2021 Ford F-150 good on gas?

For a full-sized pickup truck, yes. But with six powertrain options, ranging from a diesel to a hybrid to a tried and true V-8, it depends on which one you get. A standard 10-speed automatic transmission helps efficiency across the board. 

The volume model 2.7-liter turbo-6 with rear-wheel drive maintained the same EPA-rated 20 city, 26 highway, 22 combined mpg as last year, but the four-wheel-drive version improved 1 mpg to 19/24/21 mpg this year. It’s the basis for our rating of 4, and every other engine except the base model sees similar improvement of 1 mpg with four-wheel drive.  

Credit an active air dam that deploys at speeds up to 40 mph, new active grille shutters, and more aerodynamic design tweaks, according to Ford. 

The base 3.3-liter V-6 used mostly by fleets drops 1 mpg to 20/24/21 mpg with rear-wheel drive. 

The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 gets an 18/24/20 mpg; four-wheel drive improves 1 mpg over last year for 18/23/20 mpg. 

The 5.0-liter V-8 with four-wheel drive follows the same pattern, increasing 1 mpg to 16/22/19 mpg. 

The big news for the 2021 Ford F-150 is the EPA-rated 24/24/24 mpg of the hybrid with four-wheel drive. The EPA hasn’t released rear-wheel-drive figures for the hybrid. Available on all six trim levels, it uses a 3.5-liter turbo V-6 supplemented by a 47-horsepower electric motor powered by a 1.5-kwh lithium-ion battery pack that doesn’t take away from a 30.6-gallon fuel tank. Other engines have up to a 36 gallon tank. 

The 24 mpg rating is at least 3 mpg better than four-wheel-drive competitors with their most efficient gas engines, including the Ram 1500’s mild-hybrid system (19/24/21 mpg) or the Silverado’s 2.7-liter turbo-4 (19/22/20 mpg).

For highway efficiency, however, the diesel remains king of the hill. The EPA hadn’t published 2021 diesel results, but last year’s 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 earned 22/30/25 mpg with rear-wheel drive, or 20/25/22 mpg with four wheels. It’s reasonable to expect a 1 mpp improvement, but we’ll adjust this when EPA ratings are finalized.

Review continues below

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$28,940
MSRP based on XL 2WD Reg Cab 6.5' Box
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6.6
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 4
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2021 Ford F-150 Pricing Insights

  • 2020 F-150 supplies holding up; all-new 2021s coming soon
  • Factory rebate up to $4,000 + $1,000 trade-in bonus
  • Lease a SuperCrew from $339 for 36 months
  • APR from 0% for 36 months + up to $1,500 bonus
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