Looking to maintain its place as America’s best-selling truck, Ford revealed its new F-150 for the 2021 model year Thursday night. The new truck can tow and haul a whole lot, of course, but it also offers buyers luxury options such as seats that turn into beds and the promise of state-of-the art tech, like hands-free highway driving.
The new F-150 will also be available in a hybrid version that pairs a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine with electric motors. The hybrid version not only can squeeze an estimated 700 miles from a tank of gas, it also has the most towing and hauling capability of any version of the truck. As an added bonus, users can plug appliances and lights, including power tools, into outlets in the truck’s bed and power them for days, according to Ford.
Ford has yet to announce prices for the new truck, but the F-150 hybrid will be more expensive than similarly equipped F-150s with plain gasoline or diesel engines. Despite the substantial gas savings, Ford expects only about 10% of F-150 buyers will buy the hybrid.
Prices for the current generation of F-150 start at under $30,000 for the most basic model, but rise to a nearly $70,000 base price for the Limited model.
Ford is also working on a fully electric version of the F-150, but that was not revealed at Thursday night’s online event.
Besides the new hybrid system, the available engine options on the 2021 F-150 remain largely the same. They include a big V8 engine, a 6-cylinder diesel and 6-cylinder gasoline engines.
The trucks will be available with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 driver-assist system, which uses sensors and hardware for things like automatic lane keeping assistance and emergency braking. A software update expected in late 2021 will enable the truck to drive on major highways in the US and Canada without the driver having to touch the steering wheel. (A small camera inside the truck will monitor the driver’s face to make sure he or she is watching the road.) The software will be available either through an over-the-air update or by visiting a dealer.
Workspace or nap pod?
The truck’s exterior design is also new, but retains the F-150’s trademark squarish upright stature. As with competitors’ large trucks, customers have an enormous amount of choice in amenities and styles. There are 11 grill designs alone that go along with trim levels ranging from basic F-150 XL work trucks to more luxurious Limited models.
Higher-end versions of the truck will be available with options to turn the cab into an office space or a sleeping den. Optional front seats can recline fully flat like beds while the head and shoulder area can tilt up slightly to act as pillows.
There’s also an available tabletop that unfolds from the center console, the storage area between the front seats. The gear shift lever can fold down flat when in Park to make room for the table. That feature was necessary, Ford executives said, because the company’s research had shown that F-150 owners much prefer a shift lever to the round knob found in most Ford cars and SUVs.
Buyers can also get a large 12-inch central touchscreen in the center of the dashboard. In another nod to the truck buyers’ preferences, the screen is horizontal rather than vertical as in some other Ford models. That allows room for more large knobs underneath the screen so fewer things have to be managed using the screen.
One of the challenges of owning a pickup truck is the lack of separately lockable storage spaces. In a car or SUV you can place items you don’t want people to see from the outside in the trunk or in the cargo area under a cover. With a pickup you would usually have only the open bed or the cab in which to store anything.
Ram trucks offer the Rambox option, lockable bins built into the walls of the bed. The Honda Ridgeline has a lockable bin in the floor of the bed. In the new F-150, Ford’s answer is a lockable storage bin that stretches the full width of the truck underneath the back seats.
Tailgates often function as dining tables and work benches. The new F-150’s tailgate now has specially designed indentations that can function as cup holders, smartphone stands and pencil holders when the tailgate is down. It has also been redesigned to function better as a workbench. Pockets to hold clamps are designed into the tailgate so wood can be secured for nailing or sawing. There is also a ruler embossed into the edge of the tailgate for measurements. Metal tabs that extend from the ends of the tailgate can be used as tie-downs for long items, but are also shaped so they can function as a bottle opener and you can pop open a cold one at the end of the day.
The F-series pickups, which include the F-150 have been the best selling pickup trucks in America for over 40 years and best selling vehicle of any kind for nearly that long. This model is responsible for a very large part of Ford’s profits.
Official EPA fuel economy figures and prices for the truck will be announced later, Ford said. The new truck will go into production in the fall.