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6 Things you should be most hyped about in the 2021 Ford F-150

The redesigned Ford F-150 has a lot to like.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

When the Ford F-150 received a generational update for the 2015 model year, the truck's engineers and designers promised that there'd be faster refreshes and newer technology coming. As part of the upgrades, not only did Ford switch to an aluminum F-150 body, which was the big story, but it focused on creating an architecture that would help it stay ahead of the competition.

Since that update in 2015, the F-150 received incremental updates each year, and some body changes in 2018. Now for 2021, the F-150 is receiving another generational update.

The 2021 Ford F-150 updates take what's already great about the truck and adds to it. It's clear that Ford talks to their customers and pays attention to how customers use the truck. To the untrained eye, some features may seem gimmicky, but nearly every addition and change Ford has made has been to make the life of the truck owner easier, safer, and more productive.

There are some things to really get excited about in the new F-150. Here's a sampling of what I'm looking the most forward to.

​On-board generator

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Getting power to a job site isn't as difficult as it used to be, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. Ford is integrating a new generator – they call it Pro Power Onboard – that can provide up to 7.2 kilowatts of power anywhere you can take the truck.

How much is 7.2 kilowatts? It's similar to the amount of power a Level 2 electric vehicle charger disseminates. That's enough to power 28 average refrigerators at once or charge a bed full of electric dirt bikes, according to Ford. It could even power your entire jobsite. The system has a NEMA L14-30R plug for 240 volts at 30 amps.

Hybrid availability

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The F-150's hybrid powertrain option takes Ford's potent 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and adds a 35-kilowatt electric motor. Adding more capability to a high-performance motor is always welcomed. Ford isn't providing final numbers yet, but they indicated that it will be the hybrid that achieves the truck's maximum towing and payload numbers.

What's really exciting about the hybrid powertrain is the availability across the lineup. It's not limited to King Ranch or Platinum or Limited. If a buyer of an XL work truck wants the hybrid, they can get the hybrid.

Hands-free driving

The first pickup truck to offer SAE Level 2 ADAS with driver monitoring for hands-off operation isn't Tesla. It's not General Motors (even though their SuperCruise technology does this and has been around for a while, it's not available on the Chevrolet Silverado or GMC Sierra). It's the 2021 Ford F-150.

Called Active Drive Assist, a camera monitors the driver's attention, and on roads that are mapped properly will allow the driver to remove their hands from the wheel. The driver still, obviously, has to pay attention, but this system is more advanced than what any other truck maker currently offers. This is the same technology that was announced for the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

It won't be available right at launch, and at this point it doesn't support trailering, but an over-the-air update next year will enable a feature that should make road trips a lot easier.

New workspace

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Working with a laptop in a pickup truck can be surprisingly difficult. Some owners will even buy aftermarket setups, similar to what you'll find in police and emergency vehicles, to hold the computer so they can work on the job site more comfortably. However well the mounts work, they generally aren't the most aesthetically appealing.

Ford created a new workspace in the center console by creating a mechanism for flipping over the lid of the console storage to a flat workspace. Since the gear shifter is in the way, Ford made it so the shifter can just fold away.

According to Ford, truck owners don't want to have a rotary dial or push button transmission. So, their solution is unique and effective. Maybe not as effective as just having a column-mounted shifter like in Super Duty, but effective, nonetheless.

The tailgate also has workplace tools to help. In addition to the optional tailgate step, the rear tailgate can become a work bench. It has a ruler, and can be used as a saw horse for a do-it-yourselfers and contractors alike.

Nap time

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Maybe you want to stretch out and relax for a few minutes. Maybe you're on a road trip and need to catch a few winks of sleep. There are many reasons why you might want to have a seat that folds nearly completely flat, some of which we won't discuss here, but the new 2021 Ford F-150 can accommodate.

The front seats recline back farther than any other pickup truck seat, maximizing comfort and taking advantage of all the space afforded by the massive SuperCrew cab.

F-150 Raptor

Ford didn't announce a new Raptor. But that doesn't mean there isn't an updated Raptor in the pipeline. While getting a Ford representative to talk about future product is about as difficult as launching a pebble into space with a centuries-old catapult, Ford has said that Raptor isn't going away. Ford reminded me, when asked, that Raptor has always come after the rest of the line updates, and that this time won't be any different.

Yes. Give me a Raptor with the on-board generator, Active Drive Assist, Fox LiveValve and the supercharged 5.2-liter V8 from the GT500, please.

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The ZR2 is a beefy off-road pickup.

Chevrolet

Chevrolet has added a beefed-up version of its half-ton pickup to the 2022 Silverado lineup that has more capability and comfort for towing and hauling loads, traveling to hard jobs over a variety of road surfaces and a better 4WD game for backcountry travel. I recently joined the Bow-Tie brand for a 200-mile-long evaluation of the first-ever Chevy ZR2. Our day-long test drive took us from the popular desert playground of Palm Springs, located in a verdant valley surrounded by 5,000 to 10,000-foot mountains, to swaths of nearby desert. There, we traveled along a collection of dirt trails in Joshua Tree National Forest and on a 4WD mining trail to abandoned gold mines, with rugged topography that allowed us to try out the truck’s updated hardware that has been engineered to bring an ease of operation and safety for motoring over tough and technical terrain.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2The ZR2 gets several exclusive touches that set it apart from a standard Silverado.Chevrolet

Chevy has made some significant changes to the 2022 Silverado lineup from outside to in and has added Super Cruise, a hands-free drive mode that we were able to try out on local highways in the Palm Springs environs, as we also checked out different trim levels and new technologies. Updates of note are new interior styling, freshened materials and premium trims; a new dashboard and digital displays with a 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster and a 13.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with Google’s Maps, Assistant and Play Store as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay); and an electronic shifter mounted to the center console. However, our primary task was to focus on the all-new ZR2 that has been set up with a 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 engine, rides on 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires, boasts a new suspension with Multimatic spool-valve dampers, and has electronic-locking front and rear differentials. Elements of the ZR2 and this moniker have been used previously on a special edition of Chevy’s compact truck.

In addition to its functional features, the new Silverado ZR2 stands apart from its stablemates by a collection of unique design cues, including a distinctive front end with a new black hood insert; a large-sized grille with a hollowed-out ‘flow-tie’ emblem for increased air flow and integrated lighting; wheel moldings, ZR2 badges, unique 18-inch wheels and an exclusive Jet Black/Graystone leather-trimmed interior matched with an appealing dark trim. Overall, the truck looks slightly aggressive and fit. The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 competes with other full-sized desert-running and off-road trucks from Ford and Ram. It’s only offered with a crew-cab body style and either the short- or standard-length cargo boxes with an optional Multi-Flex Tailgate. On sale now, it starts at $67,600 (plus $1,695 destination and delivery)

Chevy’s flagship off-road pickup can tow 8,900 pounds with a conventional trailer hitch and haul up to 1,440 pounds of payload, with more comfortable ride as a result of the spool-valved dampers and specially-tuned springs that bring increased wheel travel when compared to the Trail Boss trim, for instance. This also translates to improved control and greater safety on the road, which we found impressive during our highway driving. The truck has a number of new standard safety features, as well.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2The off-road can tow up to 8,900 pounds and haul up to 1,440 pounds.Chevrolet

Added to Chevy’s in-house testing of the truck in everyday driving and extremes, we learned that the new pickup has been put to the test over the past three years by Chad Hall, who is a highly-respected off-roader and noted desert racer. The production truck and Hall’s prototype race truck share most of the major chassis and drivetrain components, including the robust ladder-type frame; the 420-horsepower V-8 and 10-speed automatic transmission; transfer case; front and rear differentials; plus the front and transfer case skid plates, says Chevy. (See below for more info on Hall’s racing success in this truck.)

We sampled a number of the truck’s technologies during our day-long drive, checking the boxes for both high-speed desert-running and slow-speed rock crawling. Overall, there was good power on tap with plenty of torque to move the half-ton’s 5,800-pound mass, smooth shifts from the 10-speed transmission, good brakes to slow our momentum when needed, and a comfortable ride- even over rugged roads and washboard.

I was excited to experience the ZR2’s talents on some isolated backcountry roads including the Old Dale and Black Eagle Mine Roads 4WD trail, where posted signage warned “Proceed at your own risk: Deep sand and rocks-- stranded drivers have died from heat exposure on park roads.” Truth is, this is just the kind of picturesque and formidable place that 4WD enthusiasts love to explore with a truck that can take you there—and bring you back safely.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2Chev updated the Silverado's interior with better tech and upscale luxury features.Chevrolet

What makes the ZR2 with its rear leaf-spring set-up abona-fide off-roader? In front are tow hooks and a skid plate underneath the high-mounted steel front bumper, with a 31.8-degree approach angle. Other numbers of note are the: 23.4 breakover angle; 23.3 departure angle; 11.2 inches of ground clearance; with 9.84 inches of suspension travel in front and 10.62 inches in the rear. Its width is 81.2 inches, which helps compared to some of its competitors, as it is more “parkable” in many garages and we found it maneuvered well when navigating through narrow sections of rock. Engineers have also repositioned the dual exhaust for added protection.

One of the truck’s top cool new features is the selectable Terrain Mode that allows for one-pedal driving; this cruise-control-like technology is particularly useful for motoring over rocks and up and down steep slopes. To engage, we locked the ZR2 into 4WD Low, set first gear and let the engineering do the driving, using the throttle to increase speed and the brake to decrease speed, when needed. A forward-facing camera provides visibility to the front and sides, as well as to the back which is another great feature for navigating technical terrain.

*Fuel economy estimates sit at 14 mpg in the city, 17 on the highway and 15 combined. the 24-gallon ZR2’s 360-mile range.

**FAST FACT: Chad Hall Racing also helped test the Chevy Colorado ZR2 off-road technologies in competition — and is still going strong with them. The Colorado ZR2 has been racing since 2017 in the Best in The Desert series and is the only truck in its class to have finished every race entered. It has accumulated more than 22,500 miles of racing experience.

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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