Christopher Little

Workhorse: 2021 Ford F-150

We first considered what it would be like to drive the new 2021 Ford F-150 back in warmth of June. We covered the debut of the next-gen pickup, pondering if Ford’s evolution of the platform would prove to be a strategy capable of retaining the title of America’s best-selling truck. In the icy darkness of February, it was our challenge to find out. Though the ice, snow, and sub-zero temperatures, we put the all-new F-150 through its paces.

Our F-150 Lariat Supercrew 4×4 arrived well-optioned and looking smart in Iconic Silver with the chrome appearance package and upgraded 20” chrome wheels. Our Limited Slip team is split on chrome accents on a pickup, but I’m personally a big fan. In fact, I was a fan of almost every aspect of our tester’s build. The 502A Equipment Group adds LED lighting, SYNC4 with the 12” touch screen, B&O Sound System, and the aforementioned chrome accents. Throw in some quality-of-life options like the wheel well liners, spray-in Berliner, and 360-degree camera package, and the truck comes ready-to-use straight from the factory. What didn’t I like about the build? This mid-grade trim, not as quite as plush as the top-tier King Ranch or Platinum models, rang in at $65k as-tested. Full size trucks sure are getting expensive!

There are several innovative technologies debuting for Ford on the all-new F-150. One that we were disappointed not to test is the new 3.5L PowerBoost drivetrain. This adds a 1.5 kw battery and a 35 kw electric motor and regenerative braking into the mix with Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost engine. It’s also the only drivetrain to offer the 2.4 kw or 7.2 kw Pro Power Onboard generation system. Our 3.5L EcoBoost-powered F-150 did feature the 2.0 kw option, offering several bed-mounted 12–volt 20-amp outlets. That’s enough to run something like a circular saw straight off the F-150 without having to pack a generator. And the F-150’s tailgate work surface and mirror-mounted flood lights are nice features to have onboard for just that kind of task. The innovation continues inside. Our truck featured the Interior Work Surface. Retracting the power folding shift lever feels a bit like Luke deactivating his X-Wing’s targeting system, but it clears the way for the center console lid to flip open into a flat desk-like surface perfect for a laptop, notebook, or job-site lunch break. Just like we saw in the new Bronco Sport, Ford has thought long and hard about how to make the interior of the F-150 more usable. And we can attest that they’ve spent the requisite developing and engineering efforts for it to feel practical and not gimmicky.

While most of the visual changes seem minor, spending any amount of time in the new F-150 reveals that there have been significant changes beneath the surface. The cabin is quieter than ever before and the materials used throughout are some of the nicest in class. This is the first F-150 we’ve driven in quite some time without the FX4 off-road package, meaning the springs and tires are optimized for road use. That contributed to a firm but comfortable and very composed ride. The tires didn’t diminish the F-150’s capability on snow-covered pavement, however. With fresh snow falling at least twice while we spent time with the F-150, we loaded up the Limited Slip crew, including the two dogs, and headed out for a showshoeing adventure. Three adults and two full-size dogs fit easily into the Supercrew’s cabin. The large-diameter steering wheel makes it easy to see all the content on the new driver’s screen. But much of that screen real estate feels wasted on empty space. We also just couldn’t get used to the “x1000” RPM indicator, wondering why we needed a giant gauge that visualized both with a fake needle and giant “1.5” at idle.

The 3.5L EcoBoost’s 400 horsepower and 500 lb-ft torque make quick work of moving the F-150 around. The 10-speed automatic also feels improved, shifting almost imperceptibly and never feeling like it was searching for the right gear. It was a pleasure piloting the big truck down the highway, around town, and across several snow-covered dirt roads. We did, however, note a few complaints in our week of driving. For such a big truck, the side mirrors felt small. There are optional large towing mirrors, but we’d have liked a bit more vertical space in the standard glass. Wireless Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly in our tester, but we couldn’t seem to make Android Auto work wirelessly or over a USB connection. Plugging a Pixel 3XL into the F-150 only crashed the phone into a continual reboot cycle until the plug was pulled. This is likely something an OTA software patch can fix on Ford’s end, a new capability of SYNC4 debuted on the F-150. But despite these complaints, we spent the majority of the time behind the wheel of f the 2021 Ford F-150 Lariat being warm, comfortable, and in command.

Truck buying seems to be more about brand loyalty these days than outright innovation. But that hasn’t stopped Ford, or any other big truck brand for that matter, from finding new ways to be more productive, more rugged, or more capable for their owners. Towing capability, fuel economy, and SUV-like comforts are all better than they have been before. With the F-150, Ford has innovated more ways for its full-size truck to be useful in daily life on the road or on the job site. With a class-exclusive hybrid drivetrain delivering function for both efficiency and productivity, it’s clear that onboard batteries will be a growing trend in a platform with so much real estate beneath the cab and bed. But even foregoing that, as our tester did, the all-new F-150 is a more poised and sophisticated workhorse than ever before. We can’t wait to try the all new Raptor variant!

-Christopher Little

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew 3.5L V6 EcoBoost 4×4$50,480
502A High Package$6,920
Max Trailer Tow Package$1,995
20″ Chrome-Like PVD Wheels$1,395
Bedliner – Spray-In$595
2kW – Pro Power Onboard$995
Wheel Well Liner$180
Power Tailgate$695
Interior Work Surface$165
Destination Charges$1,695
As-Tested MSRP$65,110

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