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Ford F-150: America’s favorite pickup gets much-needed updates to take on the Ram 1500

·Producer/Reporter
·5 min read
In this article:
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Ford’s (F) all-new 2021 F-150 is here, and it’s entering a very competitive landscape for pickups.

The automaker unveiled the all-new version of America’s top selling vehicle at an online event on Thursday night, claiming the new F-150 is targeting the most “towing, payload, torque and horsepower of any light-duty full-size pickup,” all the while providing a completely new interior and technology package, updated exterior styling, and productivity tools like an integrated power generator, and tailgate that doubles as a workbench.

2021 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150

“We see it as our duty to deliver not just what our customers want and need, but what they might have never thought possible,” said Craig Schmatz, Ford F-150 chief engineer. “The F-150 will be tougher than ever, and with fully connected over-the-air updates, it opens up a much wider range of potential enhancements – from predictive maintenance to feature upgrades.”

With the Ram 1500 (FCAU) pickup charging hard in sales (up 18% last year and now the 2nd best selling vehicle in America), an update to the F-150 couldn’t come soon enough for Ford. Here are a few highlights:

A new engine option

2021 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150

Among the engines highlighted (pickup trucks usually offer a slew of options), Ford is touting its 3.5-liter PowerBoost Full hybrid V6, which Ford says will have the most torque and horsepower of any light-duty full-size pickup, all the while targeting an EPA-estimated range of around 700 miles. Ford revealed the hybrid combines its EcoBoost engine and 10-speed automatic transmission with a 35-kilowatt (47-horsepower) electric motor integrated into the transmission. Impressive stuff, however Ford did not reveal total horsepower or torque figures, as well as any info on the workhorse V8s that most pickup owners like to option.

Exterior styling facelift, and a fancy tailgate

Not much here in terms of an all new look, as it still maintains that F-150 headlight and rear end treatment, but with new LED lighting framing the front headlights, and overall there’s more styling elements and definition to the grill. It’s a nice subtle update in my opinion. The hood gets more of a power dome Ford Raptor-like treatment, with raised edges hinting at a more brawny, muscular F-150.

2021 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150

One area I want to highlight is the new tailgate. Chevy and Ram offer varying degrees of options for that tailgate, with the Sierra’s multi-step surface and Ram offering a split gate for example. Ford is upping the ante here as well, offering a tailgate that functions as a productivity-style workbench. It offers integrated rulers if you’re clamping down a piece of wood to cut off the side of the tailgate, and cubbies for a cupholder and mobile phone holder so you can keep organized if you’re using the tailgate as sort of outside workspace.

Right near the tailgate in the back are power outlets to Ford’s new Pro Power Onboard power generator, which provide 7.2-kilowatts of power for both 120-volt and 240-volt applications. Pretty neat stuff — and very useful when you’re at a job site, or camping out in the wilderness.

2021 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150

A new cabin and tech for modern buyers

Inside Ford has gone with an all-new cabin — and this a huge play at getting back customers that might have turned to the Ram 1500 with its best-in-class interior. Ford appears to have created more room, at least from what we can see from the press images and video, and given the interior an overall modern refreshening.

We see a new dash and console, along with seats that have more of a contoured, sport-oriented look. The seats look comfortable and more upscale, at least in ‘Limited’ trim that was shown during the debut.

2021 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150

Ford is also making available an option called Max Recline Seats, that can essentially become lie-flat beds if you will, for activities like a short nap. In addition, Ford is offering an optional center console called Work Surface, that transforms into a table for eating, or laptop use. In a post-coronavirus world where we’re spending more and more time in spaces like cars, these are big, welcome additions that I imagine buyers will soon require.

2021 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150

Technology-wise, Ford is offering a bigger infotainment screen with a higher resolution display for its SYNC 4 system, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto applications. Now this screen is not Ram 1500 tablet size big, but much bigger than previous F-150s. Ford is putting a digital cockpit instead of a traditional instrument cluster under the driver’s display hood — this is a very nice touch and offers a huge amount of important information for the driver. The graphics interface looks tidy and clean, with images that are again high-res.

2021 Ford F-150
2021 Ford F-150

Integrated in this digital cockpit is Ford’s Co-Pilot360 technologies, driver assist features that include pre-collision assist with emergency braking and pedestrian detection. Also available is Active Driver Assist, which allows for hands-free driving on divided highways. Ford says the F-150 the only pickup to offer this technology, although Ford says this feature will be activated by a software update coming soon after the truck’s release.

Ford dealers and fans alike agree the new F-150 can’t come soon enough with the Ram 1500 now clearly in 2nd place in sales, and charging hard. We tested the current generation F-150 and rated it highly, but the Ram 1500 was in my opinion a better overall package. The 2021 F-150 goes on sale this fall.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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