This is America. At least that’s what many passionate F-150 owners would say in defining their trucks. It’s been an icon of freedom, functionality, lifestyle, not to mention the best selling truck in America for 44 years. That is an impressive legacy, and it’s a hard balance between needing to improve and adapt to modernity while keeping the status quo of almost a million new customers a year. With the all-new 2021 model, they have done well.
SwerveAutos Score: 78/100
First, let me preface; I am not one to typically appreciate trucks. That being said, the F-150 has some of the best styling in its class, at least in the past decade. Ford has reaffirmed that notion with the all-new 2021 model. Technically totally redesigned, it carries a very, very similar design language to the outgoing generation. My knee-jerk reaction was that of judgement for lack of vision. But after spending some time with it, and seeing the new F-150 Lightning with most of the same design on a future-proof platform, I think it’s deserved. Ford adopted the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset, and for this caliber of vehicle, I understand and even agree with the logic.
The 4-door SuperCrew cab with 5.5 foot bed is a great look, proportionally and stylistically. Though it looks similar to the outgoing model, the new 14th generation is improved subtly in every way. I’m not a fan of the Platinum or Limited trim chrome wheels, but most of the others are fine, and it’s easily addressed. The LED lighting has been altered a bit too, giving it an even more iconic fascia, especially at night. It also future-proofed the full-width lighting accents on the now-unveiled F-150 Lightning. As far as trucks go, it’s good, and I’ll give it a 7.5 out of 10.
If you had told someone in 1965 that their F-150 would eventually have heated, ventilated, massaging seats, radar cruise control, Wi-Fi, and a built-in electric generator, they would have dropped their cigarette in shock. In an era of modern interiors, none of these features are unexpected in luxury vehicles. But it is always an impressive feat to me to see them in a well-spec’d worker’s truck. You can’t forget about the convenient fold-open desk. The shifter will fold into an appropriately spaced cubby, letting you unfold the center console into a large, flat work space.
Materials consist of lots of leather, wood, and metal, feeling premium in every sense of the word. Build quality was impeccable, with no rattle to be found even with over 6,000 miles on the clock, higher than most press vehicles we encounter. The lowest trims definitely give more of a plastic and vinyl workforce interior, but it’s amazing how Platinum, Limited, and King Ranch step up the interior quality to that of a luxury truck. The Limited even provides you with a moon-roof, the only major thing missing from my Platinum as far as I can tell. A great interior overall, especially up front, bringing it to an 8 out of 10.
The EcoBoost power plants have been a staple in Ford’s vehicles for over 10 years, and it continues to put in work with the F-150. Mine was equipped with the 3.5L turbo V6, making 400 hp and 500 lb-ft torque. Despite being a relatively large, heavy truck, that’s a good amount of power for most situations. It feels impressively capable from anything between slow city driving to highway passing and merging from uphill onramps. There’s inherent body roll around corners, but it also feels planted enough to give you an air of confidence. Trucks are challenging to tune suspension for without adaptive damping because you have to account for both potential towing and empty loads. There is a full line of engine options for the F-150, but I can evaluate for the performance overall as 7 out of 10.
Ford’s F-series trucks have always set the bar for practicality as far as use-case scenarios. If opting for 2 bench seats, it absolutely seats 6 adults. Maybe a small adult in the front center, but the other 5 seats are plenty spacious. You now have under-seat storage beneath the rear bench, a massive center console and dual glove boxes. Then there’s the standard 5.5 foot bed with over 2,000 lb payload, and towing capability varying, but nearly 14,000 lb in my example.
The gas mileage as far as trucks go is absolutely decent, approaching mid 20s on the highway. You can also opt for a 36 gallon fuel tank, getting you over 700 miles on a tank. All things considered, it’s a decent road trip vehicle, giving ample towing range with the larger tank, or absolutely massive range when unloaded. More on interior comfort in the next section, but practicality gets an excellent 9 out of 10.
After a rough 3-hour flight, I stepped into the F-150 and the seats greeted my worn out self with a full “recovery” massage. Need I say more? This is a very comfortable cockpit in every sense of the word. Every seat is spacious and comfortable. The front seats are heated and ventilated, with full adjustment and the Multi-Contour Seats, or what Ford calls the massage-like capability. They also have Max-Recline, allowing it to lay nearly flat for optimal napping capability. Materials all around are nice to the touch, and the dual-zone climate control is efficient and effective.
The rear seats are also quite good and plenty spacious. Given the wide cab, even the middle seat is spacious enough for an adult, though none of the rear seats hold you quite as nicely as the front. Given the hundreds of configuration options on F-150, I do wish there was a rear captain’s chair option for people with a need for only 4, very comfortable seats. But I have even taken rides with 6 adults in the 2 bench seats for up to an hour, and no one complained…too much. But it’s a good office and a good commuter, giving it an impressive 8.5 out of 10 in overall comfort.
The F-150 can literally be your office on-the-go. There are USB-A, USB-C, 120V wall outlets, on-board WiFi, and of course that convenient desk feature. Plus who wouldn’t like a massage while you work? The optional screens are also impressive, and mine was equipped with both the 12” digital gauge cluster and 12” infotainment screen. The gauge cluster was very customizable, with very impressive graphics when switching between what felt like a dozen driving modes. Many driving modes is impressive, but they have almost too many. The infotainment was intuitive and huge, with SYNC 4 as standard. I’m definitely a fan of technology, the more the merrier, and the more customization the better. I do value simplicity, but in a truck built for practicality and usability, give me all you can offer. I think they came close to perfection, with 9 out of 10.
Connected Services: 8/10
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, with both having wireless capability. Not all manufacturers offer wireless Android Auto, so this is significant for their side of the aisle. The FordPass app offers connectivity to your F-150, allowing you to setup remote start and there are even options for digital keys. It’s a solid offering of connected services, providing it an 8 out of 10 for this category.
Active Safety: 7/10
It can be optioned with a 360 cameras for parking, whether backing in, pulling forward, or parallel parking. Mine did have this option, and I found it invaluable given the size of the truck. Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard, with Co-Pilot Assist and Active optional, including BlueCruise once it becomes available. I always value safety features, especially those within software, being standard. I do understand the need for a very inexpensive truck, but even the features within Co-Pilot360 Assist should be standard if you asked me. Overall 7 out of 10.
This Platinum was built to approximately $68,500 which is certainly high-end, but not the highest. As of this writing, an F-150 can be optioned to over $80,000 or as low as $30,000. Regardless, this one is no small fee, but it also had almost nothing missing from what you would expect in a luxurious truck. The moon-roof would have been nice, but that’s a step up in the Limited trim. I do like to see that they offer trucks across many price brackets, giving almost any American the opportunity to own the American staple that is the F-150. 7 out of 10 for value, both in my example and the F-150 as a whole.
Editors Influence: 7/10
With few exceptions, trucks aren’t really “my thing”. But I do see tremendous merit in the Ford F-150, and I can’t help but view it with respect. It’s held a long title, and I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if it makes it 50 years being the best selling truck. Ford’s truck lineup is more diverse than ever before, with the Ranger, F-150 Raptor, and upcoming F-150 Lightning and Maverick trucks. This may not be my choice in that lineup, but it’s still an incredible workhorse with capability beyond most people’s needs. My influence gives it a 7 out of 10.