What Is It?
The Ford F-Series pickup truck is by far the best-selling vehicle in America — a crown that Ford Motor Company has defended with pride for nearly 40 years. Never content to rest on its laurels, Ford introduces an all-new F-150 for the 2021 model year with fresh styling, impressive towing and hauling capabilities, and a long list of innovative features. The 2021 Ford F-150 line will also offer a hybrid for the first time, which we’ll be testing in weeks to come.
Truck of the Year
Not only popular with consumers, the all-new F-150 is already commanding high praise and big accolades among pundits. In the early weeks of January, the 2021 Ford F-150 took top honors as 2021 North American Truck of the Year — the fifth time the full-size pickup has earned this prestigious award.
Ford provided us with a 2021 Ford F-150 Platinum SuperCrew 4WD painted in Antimatter Blue. As the second-highest trim level in the lineup, the Platinum comes well equipped with a wide array of standard features. The tester had optional extras including the 701A Package, an FX4 Off-Road Package, a spray-in bedliner, a 2kW Pro Power Onboard, a twin-panel moonroof and the Interior Work Surface. Total MSRP lists at $73,400. Competitors to the F-150 include the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.
Although it still looks familiar, the Ford F-150 possesses a bolder, more rugged presence for the 2021 model year. Improvements include an updated LED headlight design and new signature LED running lights, a new power dome hood and wraparound bumpers. Above and beyond these obvious changes, Ford says every exterior panel of the F-150 has been redesigned for the new model year.
The 2021 Ford F-150 gets new active grille shutters as well as an air dam that automatically deploys to provide optimum aerodynamics. Additional tweaks to the cab and tailgate make this new F-150 the most aerodynamic ever — a term usually not associated with a full-size pickup. The F-150’s slippery aero contributes to improved fuel economy and a quieter ride.
Under the Hood
The 2021 Ford F-150 lineup hosts a wide range of powertrain options; the standard engine for the Platinum is a 5.0-liter V8. The big V8 produces 400 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission. In F-150’s of yore the most potent engine would have been a big V8; thanks to ever-improving engine tech, the smaller EcoBoost turbo V6 produces more power and torque than the 8-cylinder unit, as does the hybrid system. That said, this V8 is certainly no slouch, and when properly equipped it will tow up to 13,000 pounds.
According to the U.S. EPA, the 2021 Ford F-150 with the 5.0-liter V8 and 4WD is rated at 16 mpg city / 22 mpg hwy / 19 mpg combined — respectable numbers for a V8-powered full-size pickup truck. During our time with the F-150 we registered about 17 mpg on the trip computer, so the EPA figures seem on target.
Still offering plenty of utility, the interior of the F-150 Platinum is more akin to a luxury car than a typical pickup truck. The attractive leather-trimmed front seats feature heating, cooling and even massage functions.
The test truck we drove also had a max-recline seating option, which cleverly reclines the front seats almost 180 degrees while raising the seat bottom to create a comfortable space for rest between jobs or chores.
And after that max-recline-induced nap, it might be time to catch up on paperwork or crunch some numbers. Pushing a button next to the gearshift lowers it into the console, creating space so the top of the center storage bin can be unfolded to form a large, flat surface for work — or lunch.
The centerpiece of the 2021 Ford F-150’s dashboard is a well-integrated 12-inch touchscreen display that can be split so it provides access to multiple functions at once including navigation, communication, entertainment and truck features. The system makes excellent use of available real estate — we were especially impressed with the way it presents Android Auto in one section while still showing what’s playing on satellite radio. An added bonus: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connect wirelessly.
Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel sits a customizable 12-inch digital instrument cluster. The large digital speedo and unique digital tachometer are easy to read, while the space between these gauges can be configured to display fuel economy, four-wheel drive information and other useful data. The more common temperature, oil pressure and transmission temperature gauges are also part of the cluster.
The heated rear seats of the 2021 Ford F-150 pickup get the same stylish treatment as those in front. Legroom and headroom are plentiful for all three seating positions, and the panoramic sunroof adds to the spacious feeling within the cab. Rear-seat occupants have multiple power options: USB-A, USB-C, and standard 110-volt outlets.
The rear seat bottoms easily fold upright to provide a large, flat floor to store gear better off inside the cab rather than outside in the truck bed exposed to the elements.
Step and Handle
Several years ago Ford introduced integrated steps and handles into its tailgates, and the setup still shines as one of the best truck features ever invented, making it incredibly easy to step into or out of the truck bed.
More Tailgate Innovation
Continuing to innovate for the new model year, Ford adds slots for C-clamps into the tailgate, turning it into a handy workbench without risk of damaging the truck. Integrated rulers, pencil holders, cupholders and a slot to hold a tablet upright add to the tailgate system.
On the Road
Ford continues to do a great job making new iterations of F-150 easy to operate as daily drivers. The ride is impressively quiet, and with the luxurious surroundings drivers and passengers can easily forget this is actually a pickup truck. Cruising at freeway speeds, the F-150 feels solid and comfortable, and the big truck remains stable and predictable even on favorite backroads of the Pacific Northwest.
Plenty of Power
The V8 engine of the Platinum teams excellently with the 10-speed automatic transmission, delivering impressive power that builds smoothly and steadily to provide incredibly strong acceleration. This particular 2021 Ford F-150 really moves off the line, especially when devoid of other people or heavy cargo. Even though we didn’t get a chance to test the F-150’s stated towing capabilities, it’s clear this truck is not lacking in power.
Although we didn’t test drive the 2021 Ford F-150 in any extreme conditions, we did take the truck down more than a few miles of unpaved, pothole-riddled forest roads. The big truck is certainly capable of handling a bumpy roads; however, the excursion reminded us that no matter how posh, at its heart the F-150 is still a truck. Translation: We were happily bounced around a lot.
With sales that soar far above any other vehicle in America, the Ford F-150 has been getting things right for many years, and that doesn’t change with this new generation. Featuring attractive, bold styling and interiors that offer high levels of luxury, technology and utility, the 2021 Ford F-150 certainly stands out as one of the best pickup trucks on the market. With a full lineup of powerful engines and impressive capabilities, the F-150 is practically guaranteed to continue its reign as the U.S. sales champion.