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-150 A 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-150 Though 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-150 The 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-150 The 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-150 In case you forgot which F-150 trim you bought.Chris Teague

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Chevy has offered the regular cab short bed configuration in global markets for years.

Chevrolet Bahrain

The pickup truckhas been the vehicle of choice for working people for decades, but they've become rolling luxury lounges in recent years. A new full-size American truck can be decked out with as many tech and luxury features as a German luxury sedan, but there's hope for people who love basic trucks. Chevrolet confirmed to The Drive that it will begin offering a regular cab, short bed version of the Silverado 1500, and it'll be one of the purest pickups on sale when it arrives.

The configuration was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, when GM's square body trucks were rolling off the production lines by the thousands. A small but dedicated of enthusiasts have kept hope alive in places such as Reddit's r/rcsb (regular cab, short bed). According to reporting from The Drive, Chevy will soon offer buyers two bed lengths for their regular cab Silverado. There's a catch, though. The short bed will only be available for the WT (Work Truck) trim, so opting for the combo means you're also opting for features like cloth seats, a barebones stereo, and plastic flooring with no mats.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado LT Even the most basic non-WT Silverado is quite nice. Chevrolet

The upside here is that there are fewer things to break and you'll still have a choice of three engines, but you'll miss out on all of the great updates that Chevy gave most Silverado models for 2022. That means no refreshed interior with neat new tech and no off-road features. You really have to want the short bed to opt for the basic WT, and though you'll have a cool, rare truck, you'll also likely miss many features that even a lower trim regular Silverado gets.

Chevy hasn't released pricing for the shortbed WT yet, but looking at the rest of the trim lineup, it should carry a price tag of around $30,000 when it hits the market.

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New full-size pickup truck

The 2022 Toyota Tundra is worth the wait

The Tundra is all-new for 2022.

Toyota

Toyota is proud of the makeover of its full-sized truck—and should be. This Japanese automaker with its American headquarters in Plano, Texas is building the all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra at its assembly plant in San Antonio, TX, and has remade the pickup for an American market that has a vociferous appetite for full-size trucks. This segment of the market is so competitive and the Tundra "redo" is so significant that Toyota invited a large cadre of the automotive press to a "deep dive" first to learn more from its designers, engineers, marketers and other truck experts before the recently-held drive program and tour of its factory in San Antonio.

2022 Toyota Tundra The Tundra gets two new powertrains and a load of new tech. Toyota

The third-generation pickup has been redesigned from the ground up in Toyota's California design studio, in Michigan's engineering and technical facility and at the company's Arizona proving grounds. "We took a fresh, transformational approach to our truck development and had to rethink many things we'd previously done," said Mike Sweers, Senior Vice President, Product Development Office, and F1 Platform Chief Engineer. "Not only did we improve the performance and enhance the capability of this new Tundra, at the same time, we were certain to retain the strong quality, durability and reliability for which Toyota trucks are known."

The new truck comes in 2WD and 4WD variants: in both 4-door Double cab and Crewmax body styles; and with the option of 5.5-foot , 6.5-foot or 8.1-foot bed lengths. Six grade levels include SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 and TRD Pro. It has an updated fully-boxed steel-ladder frame, an aluminum composite bed and a new multilink suspension with rear coil springs. Towing capacity has been bumped to 12,000 pounds, with a max payload of 1,940 lbs. Pricing starts at under $38,000.

The remake brings a blend of more muscular, rugged and sleek-lined styling on the exterior with a cabin that has been crafted with a "Technical Muscle" motif: A horizontal design theme integrates the instrument panel and center stack. Trims materials and appointments vary depending on grade however all are more premium. An available 14-inch touchscreen highlights the all-new Audio Multimedia system that comes with many updates and a cloud-based navigation system. Among the new is WiFi Connect offers 4G connectivity for up to 10 devices. A 12.3-inch gauge cluster display is available. Also updated is Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 that is standard on all trims; it now includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection in low light. Among other safety features are automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and automatic high beams with new blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert and more optional safety features.

2022 Toyota Tundra The truck's interior is now more upscale and modern than before. Toyota

The new Tundra comes with a choice of two twin-turbo V-6 engines; the base engine delivers more power (389) and torque (479) than the previous-generation's 5.7-liter V-8. Optional is an i-Force Max- twin-turbo V-6 (437 hp./583 lb.-ft. of torque), set up with a motor generator between the engine and the transmission to boost power, as well as parallel hybrid components that provide start-up, EV motoring, electric assist and energy regeneration. Both engines are shifted through a 10-speed automatic. Estimated EPA fuel economy for the 3.5-liter, V-6 non-hybrid is 18/23/20 (2WD) and 17/22/19 (4WD) city/highway/combined; hybrid numbers have not been announced.

I drove the old model from San Antonio to the Hill Country, where I jumped aboard the new Tundra models on a collection of on-and -off-road loops to illuminate the upgrades and to illustrate the 2022 truck's upgraded towing and 4WD prowess. There is a long list of big differences, however. Of note are the truck's ergonomics (improved seat track, seatbelt adjustability and visibility), more power on tap with both powertrains, ride comfort and cabin quietness, and a higher level of technology, safety, towing capability and off-road competence, while the new chassis and suspension improve ride comfort.

An off-road course allowed us to try out the TRD Pro package that has been fitted with new 2.5-inch diameter FOX internal bypass shocks that add stalwart toughness for harsh terrain and bring a 1.1-inch front lift. Also new are a TRD Pro front stabilizer bar, red painted suspension parts, a TRD aluminum front skid plate and additional underbody protection, plus unique all-terrain Falken tires.

2022 Toyota Tundra Large displays and bold interior colors are available. Toyota

Tundra's new air suspension system, available on some grades, cushions the ride and features automatic and manual leveling functions, with High, Low and Normal heights. The High setting aids with slow-speed off-road driving under 18 mph and optimizes damping to help with roll rigidity. Low height brings an ease for loading and unloading, and returns to Normal height once the truck exceeds speeds of 8 mph. The pickup's Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system also adjusts the damping force based for different road conditions, such as large potholes, bumps, and small rocks.

The new Tundra also benefits from a number of tow/haul upgrades, such as the new heated extending and folding trailer tow mirrors with integrated blind spot monitor and LED trailering lights that aid in night-time and low-visibility backup, a collection of cameras, and the Trailer Back Guidance system with Straight Path Assist. All features take some of the "white-knuckle" stress out of towing. I pulled trailers of different weights and lengths and appreciated the increased throttle response with the standard Tow/Haul mode to accommodate light to moderate towing needs, such as small box trailers, utility trailers or small boats; the throttle response is more aggressive for towing larger trailers like RVs, larger box trailers or larger boats. New cameras project multiple exterior angles (front, rear and side as well as a top-down view with the Panoramic View Monitor) be viewed from the 14-inch touchscreen or an optional rearview mirror camera accessory. Views also include the rear truck bed to check on cargo, and a rear split-view to check on the sides and hitch.

2022 Toyota Tundra Some trims get air suspension with adjustable ride heights. Toyota

Impressive are the two different tow/haul modes (regular tow haul and tow haul +) that change parameters when towing less 5,000 or more than 5,000 pounds; electronics will help regulate the transmission from shifting frequently and searching for the right gear.

Of note:

The RD Pro versions will be available only with the hybrid powertrain that is an option on Limited, Platinum and 1794 trims.

The TRD Off-Road Package is available on SR5, Limited and 1794 trims; the package adds TRD wheels (18-inch on SR5 and 20-inch on Limited, 1974), TRD grille, TRD off-road suspension, skid plates, mud guards and TRD leather shift knob.

TRD Off-Road Package models with 4WD will get an electronic rear differential lock, Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control.

The TRD Sport Package is available on 4X2 or 4X4 SR5 models in both the Crewmax and Double Cab, adding 20-inch TRD wheels, TRD grille, TRD lowered sport suspension and a TRD leather shift knob.

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