Ford reinvented its bestselling F-150 in 2015 by switching from steel to an all-aluminum body, but the latest update focuses more on the stuff inside of it.
The redesigned 2021 F-150 revealed online Thursday night still uses the lightweight alloy but introduces a host of new features and technology that Ford hopes will keep it a step ahead of its close competitors from GM and Ram.
The headliner is the F-150’s first-ever hybrid powertrain. The PowerBoost is comprised of a 3.5-liter turbocharged engine, 35-kilowatt electric motor and 10-speed automatic transmission that Ford says will provide the highest torque in the light-duty pickup class and at least 12,000 pounds of towing capacity. Full specifications and fuel economy have not been announced, but the hybrid relies on a 1.5-kilowatt-hour battery mounted under the bed that doesn’t intrude into passenger or cargo space.
The PowerBoost comes standard with a first of its kind integrated 2,400-watt generator that can provide on-site power and is available with a 7,200-watt unit. Both run solely off the battery pack until its charge has depleted, then use the gasoline motor to provide electricity for up to 85 hours from a full tank with the 2,400-watt version and 32 hours with the 7,200-watt version. The generators can operate while the vehicle is in motion to charge equipment loaded in the bed during transit. A 2,000-watt generator will be optional in F-150s with the conventional gasoline 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engines or the 5.0-liter V8 that are still in the lineup, but not with the base 3.3-liter V6 or 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6.
To make life easier for owners who use their trucks as a mobile workspace, Ford has designed a center console that has a fold-down gear lever and an armrest that flips forward to turn into a flat surface, while lie-flat Max Recline front seats in high-end trims give them a place to take a nap. A Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless smartphone charging pad, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, 8-inch and 12-inch Sync 4 infotainment screens and a digital instrument cluster are all on offer in various configurations.
In back, the F-150’s tailgate has been turned into a multi-functional tool that has built-in tie-down cleats and clamp pockets, along with indents to hold pens and pencils, drinks and tablet computers. A 360-degree lighting package allows for selective illumination around the truck at night. Fleet customers can add a telematics program that is able to monitor the location, fuel use and maintenance requirements of several vehicles. It will even report back to HQ if someone isn't wearing their seatbelt.
The F-150, which will be offered in three cab styles and six trim levels, is set to be the first Ford truck to feature the automaker's Active Drive Assist feature that uses sensors to allow for hands-free driving on over 100,000 miles highways. A facial recognition system confirms the driver is paying attention to the road ahead and ready to take back control if necessary. The system requires a hardware prep package at the time the truck is specified, but won't be enabled by until an over-the-air software update is ready in late 2021.
Additional driver aids include an Intersection Assist that can identify and brake for oncoming traffic when you’re making a left turn and a self-parking system that can handle parallel and perpendicular parking while the driver is in the vehicle.
Further details and pricing for the 2021 F-150 will be released closer to when it goes on sale this fall.