New American pickup truck

The new 2021 Ford F-150 is an all-around performer

The Ford F-150 got a complete overhaul for 2021.

Chris Teague

The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles of all time, coming in second only to the Toyota Corolla in lifetime sales. That makes the F-150 a vitally important model for The Blue Oval, so it's not surprising that it takes updates to the truck very seriously. That was absolutely the case with the all-new 2021 F-150, which sees a load of new tech, evolutionary styling changes, and an impressive new PowerBoost hybrid engine option.

2021 Ford F-150A new hybrid powertrain option is a headline feature for the new F-150.Chris Teague

Ford offers the F-150 in a staggering number of trim, bed lengths, and powertrain options. Trims include XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, and Limited. Powertrain configurations include:

  • 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 with 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 with 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque
  • 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque

I spent a week testing the F-150 King Ranch with a SuperCrew cab and the new hybrid powertrain. Pricing for the base F-150 XL starts at just under $31,000, but my King Ranch test truck checked in at $77,125 after a $1,695 destination charge. That bottom line price includes almost $16,000 in options, such as a $1,995 King Ranch chrome package, a $1,495 twin-panel moonroof (worth it), a $1,005 FX4 off-road package, and more.

To find out if the new F-150 justifies its price tag, let's take a closer look at what makes it tick.

2021 Ford F-150Though new, the 2021 F-150 sports familiar styling.Chris Teague

Powerful, efficient hybrid engine

Don't let the word "hybrid" fool you here – this is a serious powertrain. The PowerBoost twin turbocharged V6 and 35 kW electric motor produce a combined 430 horsepower and a whopping 570 pound-feet of torque, while a ten-speed automatic transmission pairs seamlessly with the engine and delivers smooth, almost imperceptible shifts. The hybrid setup feels a little clunky at low speeds, as the gas engine and electric motors trade off propulsion duties, but it's not a constant issue and does not detract from the truck's overall driving experience.

Depending on the configuration, the F-150 can extend to over 20 feet in length. It's also around eight feet wide, so there's no getting around the fact that it's not ideal as an urban commuter. Even so, the truck's quick, responsive steering makes it feel slightly smaller than it reads on paper, and it offers excellent outward visibility, which makes it less likely that you'll bump into, or run over, an unseen obstacle.

When equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the F-150 also comes standard with a generator built into the bed. A 2.4 kW Pro Power generator is standard, but the system can be upgraded to a 7.2 kW unit for just $750, which is a tremendous bargain in the world of generators. During the winter storms that ravaged Texas earlier this year, there were several reports of people using their new F-150s to power heaters, refrigerators, and other vital household systems while much of the state's power grid was down. Thankfully, my time with the truck was far less dangerous and dramatic, but the generator did get put to use charging my battery-powered chainsaw and tiller while helping a friend clear a small plot of land.

2021 Ford F-150The new F-150 can be had with a giant 12.0-inch touchscreen.Chris Teague

User-friendly tech and an ultra-plush interior

I've always felt that Ford SYNC 3 was one of the best infotainment systems on the market, and the latest SYNC 4 software improves on that already successful formula. The base F-150 XL runs the system on an 8-inch touchscreen, but my King Ranch test truck came with an available 12-inch display. The screen itself is bright and responsive, and the software's simple, intuitive menu structure makes the whole package less distracting to use while driving. The system offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, HD radio, wireless smartphone charging, and the King Ranch I tested came with an options package that included an upgraded "B&O Sound System Unleashed."

If you had even a slight doubt that pickup trucks are really just lifted luxury cars with towing capabilities, the new F-150 will change your mind. The King Ranch trim comes with soft, exceptionally comfortable leather upholstery, and the front seats offer 10-way adjustability that allows the driver to dial in a near-perfect seating position. At this trim level, the front buckets come with heating and ventilation, but my truck came equipped with the $4,650 601A High package, which brings a massage function with a handful of different programs. It also adds a power tailgate, power-deployable running boards, a better B&O stereo, and 20-inch wheels. The options group is far from cheap, but after a few minutes spent being massaged at a traffic light, the price tag will likely feel like much less of an issue.

Ford stepped up the safety game with the F-150 for 2021. The truck now comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 package, which includes automatic headlights and high beams, a lane-keeping system, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and a rearview camera with hitch assist. The XLT trim and above come with blind spot monitoring and a reverse sensing system, and the King Ranch trim adds adaptive steering, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, intersection assist, and navigation.

2021 Ford F-150The King Ranch trim features an over-the-top interior with soft leather and premium finishes throughout. Chris Teague

Pricey, but worth the money

Full-size pickup trucks are excessive in many ways, but there's no denying that they are some of the most useful vehicles on the road today. My need for a pickup truck is limited, as I don't tow and rarely haul anything that a midsize SUV can't carry. The cost of a full-size pickup truck, both to buy and operate, is hard to justify for me, but for someone who truly needs a full-size pickup, the PowerBoost-equipped F-150 is a compelling option.

At 24 mpg all around, fuel economy is solid, and the refinement of the powertrain means that there's no operational penalty for choosing the hybrid. On top of that, towing capability climbs to 12,700 pounds when the truck is equipped with an optional trailering package. All of that adds up to an F-150 that earns its price tag and looks good while doing it.

2021 Ford F-150In case you forgot which F-150 trim you bought.Chris Teague

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Lincoln will not make a performance variant to compete with Cadillac.

Lincoln

TheLincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have been duking it out at the top of luxury SUV rankings for decades, but there’s one area of the Caddy’s development that Lincoln won’t touch. In a recent interview, a company executive told Ford Authority that it has no plans to create a performance variant of the Navigator to compete with the upcoming Escalade V from Cadillac.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe new Navigator features several upscale touches and excellent tech. Lincoln

That means the Navigator will stick with the powertrain it’s carried for years, which is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a smooth ten-speed automatic and either rear- or four-wheel drive. While there’s more than enough power to get the hulking Lincoln moving, it’s not a powertrain that inspires excitement or engagement, and though beefy, it’s tuned much more for comfort and quietness than drama.

Though more than adequate, those specs are a far cry from the numbers we expect from the Escalade V. The full-size bruiser from Cadillac is expected to get a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, similar to the unit seen in the CT5-V Blackwing and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We don’t know power numbers yet, but the engine should deliver horsepower and torque numbers in the high 600s.

Cadillac Escalade VThe Escalade V will be massively powerful. Cadillac

That Lincoln is taking a different approach isn’t surprising. The automaker has already announced its intention to go all-electric, so pouring more time and resources into creating a performance gas-powered SUV isn’t in line with its goals. Company executives have also expressed a desire to avoid imitating rivals, so the decision to leave a performance Navigator behind is not surprising.

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First-year Ford F-150 Lightning production numbers doubled
Ford

Ford has begun serial production of the new F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, marking what could be one of the most important days in recent automotive history. The first trucks rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan today, so America's best-selling truck has finally gone electric. Ford wants to sell two million EVs per year by 2026 and have half of its global sales volume to be electric by 2030.

Ford F-150 LightningPast meets future: Ford's new electric pickup will be the F-150 Lightningautomotivemap.com

Ford has seen extreme demand for the trucks, with 200,000 reservations since the books opened. To deliver, the automaker plans to increase production to an annual rate of 150,000 units by next year, which involved huge investments in the Rouge Center and created hundreds of jobs. Ford's total investment for the F-150 Lightning crests $1 billion across Michigan alone, and has created 1,700 jobs across various facilities in the state.

Ford F-150 LightningThe first production trucks left the factory today.
Ford Motor Company

Though the Lightning starts around $40,000, the most mainstream models will cost much more than that. The F-150 Lightning Pro, while affordable, is a stripped-down truck intended for commercial buyers. It's still a forward-looking electric truck with amazing capabilities, but it lacks much of the creature comforts and features that everyday drivers expect. Higher trims get the latest driver assistance features, including BlueCruise, which is Ford's semi-autonomous hands-free driving assistant. A 12-inch touchscreen is standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and more.

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