The Ford F-150 has always been a very vital part of the massively efficient Ford sales machine. Second in broader overall customer sales to the Apple iPhone, as well as being the king of light duty pickup sales in the U.S. for the past three decades. The F-Series (along with the beefier Super Duty) has been an enduring symbol of American culture and pride. But with the current generation Ram 1500 renewing its bold push towards claiming the top sales spot (it already usurped the Chevrolet Silverado out of second place,) Ford engineers knew that the stakes could never be higher. This is why the newly unveiled 2021 Ford F-150 aims to revamp what it brings to the table, while also adding several new features to help it go toe to toe with its domestic adversaries.
Evolution Is Better Than Revolution:
As mentioned in our prior F-150 items, the exterior styling of the 2021 F-150 is more of an evolution than an outright revolution in styling, with Ford designers opting to not rock the boat too much when it comes to the design. The front fascia for example does share some core attributes with the outgoing model, but the headlights now feature an all new design, with a power bulge hood helping add more muscular tones to the truck. New wraparound bumpers lead the eye to the higher front fenders, a tucked in mid-section, as well as a slightly beefier profile which is thanks in part to larger diameter tires that have also been pulled out three quarters of an inch. Like its predecessor, the 2021 F-150 continues to use military grade aluminium for all of its body panels which helps reduce weight and also allowed designers to add in subtle cues that could not be done with traditional steel panels. There are no less than 11 different grille options for buyers to choose from, with new tailgate appliques also being offered. Buyers can also choose to equip there truck with optional LED head and tailights, and optional full length running boards to help improve access to the rear cargo bed.
The 2021 F-150 is also the most aerodynamically efficient F-150 yet, with all new active grille shutters and a deployable front air dam helping to improve airflow around the truck. Revised geometry between the cab and the bed also helps reduce drag, and these two changes work together to help reduce drag, which in turn helps reduce fuel consumption. While we will give Ford designers a nod for trying to not deviate too far away from a formula that has proven to be a potent sales success for the company, it will be interesting to see how the new design holds up. This will be especially apparent over the next few years, when the Ram 1500 and the Chevrolet Silverado will receive their respective mid-cycle updates. The Ram in particular is looking to maintain its sales momentum, and we expect that particular model to go in a bolder direction for its refresh versus the Silverado.
Enhanced Technology and Comfort Highlight Major Interior Revamp:
While the exterior of the 2021 Ford F-150 prefers to play it safe, buyers that slip inside the cabin will notice some of the more radical changes that Ford stylists made in an attempt to improve both quality as well as usability. Higher quality plastics and new color choices aim to help keep things fresh, while additional storage spaces aim to improve functionality, especially for buyers that use their truck as a mobile office. Ford is quick to point out that each surface has been thoughtfully designed for various roles. For example, on the base XL, the cloth two tone seats incorporate a material that is more resistant to stains and soil, while all models now come equipped with a standard dual glovebox. An interesting feature that certainly caught our attention are the all new Max Recline seats that make their appearance on King Ranch, Limited, and Platinum models. Ford claims that these seats are class-exclusive, and they can fold down to a near 180 degrees. The idea here is to create a bed like surface, with the bottom cushion rising to meet the top cushion, and the back support rotating 10 degrees forward for maximum comfort. Ford claims that it will help improve down time especially for long haul drivers that use their F-150’s for long distance shipping runs. Speaking of those folks, they will also like the all new Interior Work Surface which turns the center console into a flat work space. While the standard bench seat uses a simpler setup, trucks with optional captains chairs get the job done with the help of a clamshell center console and a folding shifter piece.
However, things take a decidedly bolder turn with the all new 12-inch infotainment screen. Standard on XLT high series and above, the screen allows owners to split the screen, and control multiple functions simultaneously. This includes navigation, music, as well as other features that are more closely tied in with some of the truck’s settings. The traditional portrait design gets scrubbed for a bigger landscape layout that according to Ford, “balances between demands for technology accessibility and the greater convenience of physical buttons.” A smaller 8-inch screen is standard on XL and lower tier XLT models, with the XL losing its all button base radio for 2021. This small sacrifice does serve a greater purpose, with Ford claiming that now all of its F-150 customers can fully benefit from touchscreen based technology. Both screens also feature an all new digital owners manual that allows owners to use the screen to find needed information, including how to videos for certain functions.
Lastly, the F-150 also falls in line with some of its other corporate stablemates, and can be equipped with a 12-inch fully digital instrument cluster. The futuristic cluster has a large area for various bits of information, and truck exclusive graphics and animations. The novel screen also has the ability to display turn by turn navigation directions, as well as off-road centric data. The F-150 was always a step behind the Ram in terms of interior details, but with the radical changes that the 2021 Ford F-150 brings to the battle, the gap has now considerably tightened, and that should make engineers over in Auburn Hills very nervous.
Green Technology Leads The Way In Performance and Functionality:
Along with the changes to the exterior and interior, the 2021 Ford F-150 also sees some minor changes in performance hardware. The 2.7 liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6, the 3.3 liter V6, 3.0 liter diesel V6, and the 5.0 liter V8 are all carried over from the 2020 model, but while Ford chose to not reveal formal horsepower numbers for all four of those engines, it did reveal that it has re-purposed the 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6. Once a very prevalent part of the old powertrain lineup, the engine in its traditional form has been dropped, and it instead forms the crucial link for the all new F-150 Hybrid model. Using a system that the company calls “PowerBoost” the engine is paired with a 47 horsepower ( 35-kilowatt) electric motor and a 1.5 kilowatt hour battery. While the small battery means that there will be limited all electric driving range, the F-150 Hybrid should still be a very potent offering, with Ford claiming the model can tow up to 12,000 lbs.
Along with PowerBoost, the 2021 Ford F-150 also debuts the all new Pro Power Onboard generator system. The nifty technology allows buyers to power a wide range of electrical appliances via several strategically placed plugs in the bed of the truck. Pro Power Onboard is available in three versions. Gas only F-150 models have a 2.0 kW version of the system, while the F-150 Hybrid allows buyers to choose from either a slightly bigger 2.4 kW capacity generator, or the range topping 7.2 kW capacity variant. The two standard setups feature twin 120 volt outlets, while the 7.2 kW version features four 120 volt outlets, and a single 240-volt outlet. While the 7.2 kW Pro Power Onboard system can power all the equipment that many commercial buyers would need, the two smaller setups are not that far behind, and can power items such as an electric heater, TV, portable speakers, a mini fridge, and even a blender at the same time. The optional Tailgate Work Surface package, transforms an open tailgate into a versatile work platform that owners can use to cut lumber, make measurements, and even serve as a stand for a mobile device. As a bonus, Ford engineers even added dedicated points for C-clamps, after they discovered buyers were damaging the aluminum bodywork with the tool.
Pricing for all six flavors of the 2021 Ford F-150 was not released in today’s unveiling, but look for pricing to not stray too far from the ladder that is seen on the 2020 model. That means the XL will continue to serve as the base model, with pricing expected to begin somewhere between $30,000 and 34,000. Meanwhile, the XLT trim will continue to be the workhorse of the lineup, and reprise its role as the volume seller of the bunch. Pricing here should start between $36,000 and $41,000 depending on what body style and options are selected. Naturally buyers that choose to cross into the more luxury oriented trims (Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited) will pay a premium for the privilege, with the range topping Limited model potentially starting between $68,000 and $69,000.
Look for the first units to begin arriving in dealerships this fall, with more information being released closer to its official launch. In the meantime Ford has launched a mini site for the 2021 F-150 which can be viewed here.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.