Ford’s F-150 has been the benchmark for the light-duty pickup segment for more than four decades. When you’re the top dog on the block, however, you can’t just rest on your laurels or the rest of the pack will run right over you. So Ford is redesigning its flagship vehicle from nose to tail for 2021 as it seeks to retain its No. 1 status with consumers.
The all-new F-150 is expected to deliver the most towing capacity, payload, torque and horsepower of any light-duty full-size pickup when it goes on sale this fall. It will be offered in six trim levels, from XL to Limited, and three cab styles and bed lengths. A choice of six engines, including a 3.5-litre PowerBoost hybrid powertrain, will power the new F-150.
The new hybrid powertrain combines a turbocharged, gasoline-fueled EcoBoost engine with a 47-horsepower (35-kilowatt) electric motor, a liquid-cooled 1.5 kW-hr lithium-ion battery (mounted between the frame rails below the load floor so it doesn’t compromise passenger space and the cargo area) and regenerative braking to produce an EPA-estimated range of approximately 1,100 km on a single tank of gas. The system is also expected to deliver best-in-class torque and horsepower and will have at least 12,000 pounds of maximum available towing capacity.
An added feature of the hybrid system is an integrated power generator. Pro Power Onboard uses the 35-kW electric motor as an inverter, converting direct current from the high-voltage battery to standard alternating current to provide power, whether in Park or drive mode, for work tools and recreation devices. Two systems are available – 2.4 kW or 7.2 kW – and deliver power through a box with 120-volt and/or 240V outlets built into the sidewall of the pickup bed.
Ford says that in its planning stages for this next-generation F-150, its engineers, designers and product planners spent more than 1,000 hours conferring with truck owners, reviewed 18,000 photos and watched 600 videos as they researched the owners’ likes and dislikes, the uses and abuses of their current vehicles.
For example, the findings noted about a third of truck owners use the cab of their vehicle as a mobile workstation, spreading out their laptop, tablet and files – as well as their lunch – on the console. The problem is that the gearshift lever sticks up in the middle of the workspace, creating an annoying obstruction. While one method of resolving this issue is to switch to a gear selector knob mounted on the instrument panel, truck owners told Ford researchers they didn’t like that arrangement, preferring the conventional console-mounted lever.
Ford’s solution is innovative – and simple: a stowable shift lever. When the driver wants to work in the cab, the lever can be folded down, creating a flat surface on the console. When it’s time to hit the road again, the lever is repositioned to its upright position.
When the driver and front passenger want to stretch out for a quick nap, the available Max Recline seats, which tilt back almost 180 degrees, provide an ideal space for some shut-eye. Available full-length extended power running boards, with a kick switch for hands-free operation, not only improve access and egress for cab occupants, but also provide better truck-side cargo box accessibility.
During conversations with Ford truck owners, researchers heard praise for the flat load floor in the crew cab, but they also heard requests for more lockable storage space in that area. The result: a new full-width storage bin that folds flat when it’s not needed and is lockable when in use.
Many owners also noted they use the tailgate of their truck as a workbench, so Ford has designed a new available Tailgate Work Surface with pockets to attach C-clamps and cleats, as well as storage slots for pen, pencil and other useful items. There’s also easy access to the Pro Power Onboard electrical outlets for trucks so equipped. Pickup bed lighting is also extended to illuminate the tailgate workspace.
Proven core, new wrapper
Overall, the core of the new F-150 remains the same, with a fully boxed high-strength steel frame and high-strength, aluminum alloy body. However, every exterior panel has been redesigned. Up front, the headlamp design has been reworked and a trio of lamp choices are offered – halogen, LED reflector and LED projector. There’s a new power dome hood and wrap-around bumpers. Higher front fenders, a tucked-in midsection and larger-diameter tires that have been pulled out three-quarters of an inch combine to create a more powerful stance. There’s also a choice of 13 different wheel options and 11 grille designs available across the lineup. In the rear, there are new tailgate appliqués and available LED taillamps.
The exterior design changes have also resulted in a three-percent improvement in aerodynamics, making this F-150 the most aerodynamic ever. Improvements include active grille shutters and a new active air dam that retracts 1.9 centimetres at speeds below 64 km/h and retracts completely for off-road driving.
The interior has also been completely redesigned to provide more comfort and additional storage, including a new standard dual-level glovebox. The changes include enhanced materials and new colour choices. The instrument panel features a new 12-inch centre screen – standard on XLT and above – that allows customers to split the screen and control multiple functions simultaneously, including navigation, music or truck features. The screen has a landscape format, which truck owners said they prefer over a vertical layout. (An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard on XL and XLT.) For the driver, there’s also an available 12-inch digital gauge cluster featuring a large information-on-demand area, along with truck-specific graphics and animations that respond to the selectable drive modes. It can also display off-roading data and turn-by-turn navigation.
Technology advances are also a highlight of the 2021 F-150. For example, it is the first full-size North American pickup to have standard over-the-air, bumper-to-bumper updates. These updates will include new functions and additional features throughout the life of the truck. They will support preventative maintenance, reduce repair trips and provide improved. Ford says the majority of updates will be completed in less than two minutes and can be performed at times customers choose.
Also standard is Ford’s new SYNC 4 connectivity system featuring twice the computing power of the previous-generation system. It offers more natural voice control as well as real-time mapping and customizable information on demand. In addition to its core features such as making hands-free phone calls and selecting music, SYNC 4 can wirelessly connect smartphones without a USB cord for seamless integration of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, as well as SYNC AppLink apps such as Waze.
Other technology features include 911 Assist, which automatically alerts emergency responders in the event of an accident, and FordPass, a mobile device app that allows drivers to start or unlock their vehicle from a distance, as well as control new truck-focused features such as zone lighting, trailer theft alert, trailer light check and the Pro Power Onboard system.
The new F-150 offers a suite of advanced driver-assist features as part of Ford Co-Pilot360 2.0, with more features now standard on the base XL, including pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, a rearview camera with dynamic hitch assist, auto high-beam headlamps and auto on/off headlamps.
The F-150 also is the only pickup to offer Active Drive Assist, which allows for hands-free driving on more than 160,000 km of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada. Its advanced driver-facing camera tracks head position and driver eye gaze to enable hands-free driving when available. It allows owners on certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways to drive with their hands off the steering wheel – if they continue to pay attention to the road ahead – granting them an additional level of comfort during long drives. The Active Drive Assist prep kit contains the hardware required for this feature, while the software to enable functionality, expected in the third quarter of 2021, will be delivered by an over-the-air update or dealer visit. Separate payment will be required to activate full functionality at that time.
To keep occupants entertained on their drives, they can access more than 10,000 hours of on-demand content, live channels, ad-free music, sports, entertainment, news and personalized recommendations, and they can search for related content with available SiriusXM with 360L satellite and streaming service. The audio can be channelled through a new eight-speaker sound system by Bang & Olufsen that’s available starting on F-150 XLT. An optional 18-speaker B&O Unleashed system with speakers in the headliner and front headrests is available on F-150 Lariat and standard on King Ranch, Platinum and Limited.
The engine lineup, in addition to the new 3.5-litre hybrid, ranges from a 3.3-litre normally aspirated V6 to Ford’s impressive 5.0-litre V-8, also normally aspirated. The turbocharged gas offerings are the 2.7-litre and 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6s, as well as a turbocharged and intercooled 3.0-litre Powerstroke V-6 diesel. All are paired with an electronically controlled hydraulic 10-speed Selectshift automatic transmission, except the hybrid powertrain, which features an automatic 10-speed modular hybrid tranny.
Technical details, including fuel efficiency, horsepower and torque ratings, as well as pricing, will be released closer to the on-sale date.
The 2021 F-150 will be built at Ford’s Dearborn. Mich., truck plant and its Kansas City assembly plant in Claycomo, Missouri.