America’s best selling pickup raises the bar yet again, while also managing to be greener, more luxurious, and more powerful than ever…all without a V8.
Out of Spec Score: 70.5/100
Let’s be honest, trucks are not typically described as sexy, particularly in recent times as the ‘over-design’ plague continues to infect the automotive industry. While it’s not dripping in sex appeal like an Alfa Romeo or Ferrari, the 2021 F150 does continue to be an anomaly to this paradigm as it looks sharp.
Now in its fourteenth generation, the new F150 brings sleeker LED headlights, sweeping LED fog lights, beautiful hood lines, a new bumper with chrome recovery points, and a sleek new grill. If you don’t like the lavish brushed aluminum grill either, you have the option to choose between fourteen different options. Not as much has changed at the rear of the truck, on the outside anyway (more on that later) but it looks good nevertheless.
Our “Super Crew”, Ford’s nomenclature for four full-size doors, looked particularly good sprayed with Antimatter Blue. It’s a big truck, but the 5 ½ foot bed helps keep the proportions from being too wonky. Other bits that set the Limited apart from its work bred siblings include paint matched bumpers, aluminum “F150” fender trimmings, and a brushed aluminum panel across the electric tailgate.
Following the brushed aluminum motif, 22” aluminum wheels, bespoke to the Limited, do a good job of filling the wheel wells without looking gaudy or out of place on an $80,000 plus dollar truck. While it doesn’t abide by the norm that trucks have to look like they belong on a work site, if the Limited were to be caught in that scenario, it would scream ‘CEO’. I actually turned around to look at it when I grabbed groceries the first night I had it, thus passing the “if you don’t turn around to look at it each time you park it, you bought the wrong one” test, earning it a 7/10 for styling.
Top of the line F150s have always been applauded for their interiors, and the newest addition is possibly the best yet. Starting with the cabin materials, there is plenty of leather and aluminum trim, and it’s in all of the right spots to eliminate wear and tear issues that could arise for potential buyers who plan to use it as a work truck. Climb into the cabin with the retractable side steps, and you’ll notice a new fully digital ‘gauge’ cluster, capable of displaying everything. I won’t get into the nitty gritty with this as it’s a lot, but in addition to regular functions such as speed, tachometer, and engine monitoring, it shows charge, hybrid functions, and entertainment related features among more.
Moving over to the center console, you’re greeted with a 12” touchscreen infotainment system, heating and air con controls, and 4WD controls as well, all ergonomically laid out and high quality that would seem to hold up around town or on the job site. I was puzzled as to why the was a button to fold down the shifter column when I got in the F150, looking over our spec sheet however it becomes more clear, there is a work space that folds out of the center storage area, which requires the shifter to lay flat in order to work properly so potential buyers can be on their laptop or fill out paperwork. Again, Foreman vibes.
One of the biggest differences between the Limited and its proletariat lower level siblings are the seats, it’s almost like they were made for someone to sit in the truck all day while everyone else works. Foreman jokes aside, both quilted and wrapped in perforated leather, they are extremely comfortable and look as good as they feel.
If you’re needing a nap on break, you can put the seats 180 degrees back so that they lay flat and get some sleep or if you’re lucky enough to be on the graveyard shift, stare at the stars out of the massive panoramic moonroof. Did I mention they’re both heated, cooled, and offer a massage function as well? They’re great and deserve the almost full paragraph they were given, helping the interior earn its 7 out 10 score.
The age old saying that “it’s not a real truck unless it has a V8” simply does not apply in 2021. In combination, the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 and the PowerBoost hybrid drive electric motor produce 430 horsepower and 570 pound feet of torque, which is actually the highest output of any F150 in the current lineup, including the Coyote V8. The 47 horsepower electric motor is powered by a 1.5kWh battery pack tucked nicely under the bed, and offers full electric operation at slow speeds.
While the combination is only 30 horsepower and 70 pound foot more than the standard EcoBoost, the electric motor really helps eliminate turbo lag, and in conjunction with the 10-speed automatic, offers plenty of punch for a pickup truck, despite lacking a Darlington Thunder soundtrack. Though the acceleration may not be out of this world, the F150 Hybrid does have a towing capacity of 12,700lbs which is extremely impressive for a half ton truck that is neither a V8 or a diesel.
Even at an elevation of 5,000ft where I tested the Hybrid F150, the turbos make great use of what air is available, and with 10 forward gears you’re never out of the power band. Despite the extra weight from the battery packs it feels quicker than its non-hybrid counterpart.
That said, you can feel the extra heft in the corners and under braking, as it’s dull dynamically with inert electric steering and a live rear axle. But that’s okay, the F150 Limited is by no means a performance truck, nor is it trying to be one. However it does earn points for its 4WD system, which includes a mechanical rear differential locker and selectable terrain modes that will get the family to the campsite or get you to the remote work site. Due to this, it earns a score of 4 out of 10.
When it comes to trucks, practicality is the name of the game. This is a category where the F150 excels, as reflected by its near perfect score. Starting with the Super Crew seating, there is plenty of room for four full size adults, even five if the rear occupants are willing to get cozy. It’s a practical and capable people hauler, no doubt. Hauling people or not, there is plenty of storage space both in the cab and in the bed, including a foldable spot under the rear seats, perfect for buyers who plan to take their F150 hunting or just want the extra space.
Cargo space in total comes in at 62.3 cubic feet, which is middle of the pack between its Ram and Silverado rivals. While the only bed option for the Limited is 5.5 feet (versus 6.5 or 8), there is plenty of trick tech to make up for it, which I will get to later, and the Foreman never has to carry sheetrock and particle board anyway, right?
Leave that to the laborers and the long bed XL trims.
Even though it’s a large vehicle, tight parking spaces aren’t an issue thanks to the 360 degree camera assist system, if your partner had to drive it for a few days they would likely have no issues jumping in and being comfortable, especially with the retractable side steps, which is reassuring for potential buyers.
With electronic selectable 4WD snow and adverse conditions are not likely to hold the Limited F150 back, and should things get dicey you can always click the rear locker button on the center console for reassurance and added traction.
The F150 Hybrid has one more trick up its sleeve, exclusive to the Hybrid with practicality, that being an optional 7.2kw generator that is capable of powering an entire job site. Yes, an entire job site, and with 5 different plugs in the bed alone, including a 220V plug, you’re likely to keep everyone busy while you enjoy the plush interior. The only reason it did not earn a perfect score is there is no option to cover the rear cargo area in the bed, which could make storing tools and equipment more of a liability.
Still, a 9.5/10 is extremely good, and in fact the highest score on practicality we have had to date. Bonus fact; it has 12 cup holders, 12. That’s more than two cup holders per occupant, and possibly the most American thing about the truck.
Have you ever heard the expression “it rides like a truck”? There is a reason so many people say that, as most trucks have a ‘live’ or solid rear axle which causes the ride quality to be greatly diminished, while also improving towing and payload capacity. Does the new F150 escape this paradox? Yes and no.
It manages to mask it with its wonderful seats and well put together interior, but to those who know how a truck feels, it still feels like a truck. The 22” wheels don’t help its case either, though it does do a good job of absorbing road imperfections and potholes. You really only feel the “it rides like a truck” notion over railroad tracks and undulations of that nature.
Luckily, the heated and cooled massaging seats will take your attention away from any of it, they should have packaged these seats as the ‘Nimbus’ option, as it feels like you’re sitting on a cloud. The dual climate zone system works remarkably well and is easy to use, so your occupants, and or co-workers, will be able to keep comfortable and focused regardless of weather conditions across varying climates.
A heated steering wheel is also a nice touch for cold weather potential buyers, and was used frequently during my time with the F150. Front seat occupant aren’t the only ones who get a taste of the highlife however, as the Limited included heated rear seats as well. Regardless of if you’re on the clock or not, the F150 Limited has a very nice interior, earning it a score of 7 out of 10.
I mentioned earlier that the F150 Hybrid has some pretty trick tech. While the PowerBoost hybrid drive system is certainly a welcome touch that helps bridge trucks, and possibly fleet vehicles, with hybrid technology, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Starting in the cabin, the 12” touchscreen infotainment system utilizes Ford’s SYNC 4 program, and houses audio controls and much more.
It’s easy to use and not overly confusing, even for an analog guy such as myself. Here’s a little trick that shows how much thought Ford put into the infotainment system; the touchscreen works even when wearing gloves, perfect in case someone wants to switch the radio from Motley Crue to Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Since the F150 Limited Hybrid comes equipped with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, there’s likely to be no shortage of tunes either on or off the clock.
While all of the above is great tech, most of it is to be expected on a vehicle that starts at over seventy grand and comes closer to eighty with all the boxes ticked. What is not to be expected however, is a 7.2kw generator capable of, as mentioned above, powering an entire worksite. Complete with four standard 120V plugs and one 220V plug, you can run welders, work lighting, and whatever else you can think of off of the plugs in its bed. You could power your house off this truck if you really wanted to.
Speaking of work lighting, the F150 Hybrid actually has its own work lighting, all controlled through the SYNC 4 infotainment system. Powerful LEDs on both the mirrors and in the bed are capable of illuminating a large area around the truck, perfect for the graveyard shift or camping trips alike.
Back in the cabin, there are two additional 120V plugs, as well as an assortment of USB ports. While on the topic of charging, the F150 Hybrid does have the option of wireless charging as well. LTE capability makes sending emails and having service on the jobsite easier than ever as well, eliminating the need to use a hotspot when you have your laptop out on that nifty work area that folds out of the center console. Many vehicles offer tech that don’t have any utility, and the F150 clearly doesn’t subscribe to that notion. Due to this, the F150 earns a very respectable score of 8 out of 10.
Connected Services: 8/10
FordPass, available for both iOS and Android, is Ford’s connected services app and is available on the F150 as well. While it may seem like just another automaker app, FordPass offers much more than just remote services such as scheduled starts, locking and unlocking, vehicle location, and roadside assistance.
FordPass also lets you schedule service appointments, read diagnostics and vehicle telemetry, while also offering the ability to make payments on your vehicle through the app. Another thing I found very interesting, is the FordPass rewards program. Owners are rewarded for everyday purchases that can be redeemed when it comes time for a service appointment or should you go to buy a new Ford. The best part about FordPass? It’s free, unlike OnStar and other services that require a monthly subscription.
One more thing I really like about the F150 Hybrid is that it receives OTA (Over the Air) updates for all of its modules, including engine, infotainment, and safety firmware. This is huge, as there is an option to do so automatically, meaning you don’t even realize your truck is updating and improving, giving owners one less thing to worry about and or take time out of their day to schedule. I encourage other manufacturers to make this a norm. As the F150 is ahead of its rivals with it, it earns a very respectable 8 out of 10 score.
Active Safety: 9/10
While it was a great truck, the previous generation F150 did receive some criticism for its lack of active safety equipment. The new F150 does a good job of fighting that, with an impressive list of features. First on the list, and the only to use an awkward acronym that doesn’t entirely make sense, is BLIS, short for Blind Spot Information System, with optional trailer coverage.
It’s a fancy blind spot warning system that can alert and prevent the driver from merging into traffic in certain situations where visibility is reduced. A lane keeping system is now available as well, which I found to work almost too well in certain test situations, though it is another great safety feature for buyers who prioritize safety as a necessity. One thing I found both neat, and helpful, is if you drift off too many times, it displays a small coffee cup and says it’s time to take a break.
Also new for 2021 is a Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Braking System, which in conjunction with a new Pre-Tension system for the seatbelts and Evasive Steering, make the new generation F150 much safer than all of its predecessors. That’s not all for safety however, as it has adaptive cruise control, Intersection Assist, and Park Assist 2.0, the latter will actually park or parallel park the truck for you. My how the times are changing. With all of its new tech, the F150 earns a very respectable score of 9 out of 10
Everything about the new Limited F150 Hybrid up to this point has been fantastic. The technology, the drivetrain, the interior, are all as luxurious as any truck that we have seen yet. However, it all comes at a price. The Limited F150 Hybrid starts at just over $70,000, and ticking a few boxes like the 7.2kw generator put it over $80,000. That’s as much as the loaded Mercedes E450 we tested a few weeks back, especially for a truck that could be used and abused as a work vehicle.
Considering the base XL starts at over forty thousand dollars less, and the attractively equipped Lariat starts at twenty five thousand dollars less, it’s hard to call the Limited Hybrid a value. That’s okay though.
Potential buyers are likely to be foreman or owners, who have driven an XL and Lariat for the past decade, and it’s time for them to get a truck that is not only luxurious, but reminds everyone else that they’re the boss. All considered, I score this particular F150 a 4 out of 10 for value.
Editors Influence: 7/10
I’ve always liked Ford trucks, though I could never justify a gas powered variant over the exceptionally proven GM Vortec units until the introduction of the Coyote V8 and EcoBoost motors. I believe that historically they have always been the best looking trucks and had the nicest interiors, in fact I actually own a 1999 F250 Super Duty diesel as a tow rig for taking my BMW to and from the track. There’s a reason why they have been the number one selling truck in America year after year, they get the job done.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the new F150, impressed by its tech, lavish interior, and hybrid drivetrain, I just can’t think of a single thing this truck would do for me that my 22 year old rig or a cheaper XL or Lariat couldn’t. I don’t need all of the fancy tech or the massive on board generator. That being said, for those lucky enough to be able to afford one, it’s a great truck that breaks many norms of what a truck should be with tech, interior, and loads of active safety systems.
Ford has raised the bar yet again for what the best selling pickup truck in America should be, and that cannot be ignored, hence a 7 out of 10 for editor’s influence. When I get passed by one on the way to the track, towing an inevitably faster car, on a nicer trailer, there will be a little part of me that is certainly jealous.