TORONTO, ONTARIO – The pickup truck market is one of the most competitive segments to cater to, right across the automotive landscape. Regardless of size or shape, truck buyers are extremely picky and it has become more and more strenuous for automakers to keep up with demand. This is the 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, and is the latest entry to Ford’s truck lineup. The F-150 as a whole has received a pretty substantial refresh for the 2021 model year, and the hybrid powertrain, called “PowerBoost”, is one of the main conversation pieces around it.
We were invited to sample the new F-150 in fully loaded Limited form, with the PowerBoost drivetrain, for a few hours and get a preview before the model officially goes on sale. From a styling perspective, you’d be hard-pressed to identify the new F-150 from the outgoing model. It still maintains its handsome lines, with blocky segments to the body and shiny chrome on the grille, wheels, and other body accents. This design is more of an evolution rather than a revolution, and that’s quite all right, because most F-150 buyers haven’t seemed to notice that the old model was getting long in the tooth.
The PowerBoost engine is only available in SuperCrew form, which means our Limited tester had an extremely roomy cabin. The interior in this new F-150 is simply gorgeous, and segment leading in the light truck class. Our Limited tester was upholstered in leather everywhere, and it’s legitimately supple and soft, with an upscale feel never before seen in an F-150. The seats are very comfortable, and visibility is also at its best here. That said, the overall comfort of the cabin is just the beginning.
Ford made it clear that they were trying to maximize productivity for those that want to use their F-150 for hard work, and as such they’ve implemented some neat features. The electro-mechanical gear shifter folds away at the touch of a button, allowing the center console lid to be flipped forward. This creates a sturdy work area that can be used to set down a laptop to work while parked, or be used as a table to eat lunch on comfortably. The seat also reclines fully for those who want to take a quick nap during the work day – we all know how great a solid power nap feels!
Infotainment is brought to you via the new SYNC 4 system, through a 12-inch touchscreen that looks fantastic. Ford still uses hard buttons for most major controls including climate and heated seats/steering wheel. It’s a decent system and the landscape orientation gives the cabin a better overall feel than the portrait one in the Ram 1500. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and all other expected connectivity is standard fare, and we did appreciate the addition of wireless CarPlay avoiding the need for yet another cable.
The PowerBoost engine is the only dedicated hybrid currently available in the class, and pairs the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 to a 35-kW electric motor and 1.5-kWh battery. It’s not a plug-in hybrid, so the battery is capable of regeneration, and this setup sends power to all four wheels using a 10-speed automatic. Combined numbers are 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft. of torque, which is plenty. Out on the road, the F-150 Hybrid feels very refined, and is buttery smooth. It’s quick for its size, and also rides surprisingly well on the highway.
In this configuration, the F-150 PowerBoost can haul a maximum payload of 2,120 pounds, and when properly equipped, tow up to 12,700 pounds behind it. It’s a decent amount, and gives buyers the flexibility of not spending insane money on fuel in city situations. Ford estimates approximately 9.8L/100km in a combined setting, and we observed 10.4L/100km over roughly 150km of driving.
Ford offers the hybrid powertrain on a variety of trim levels, starting with the XLT. We’ve also read that certain fleet customers can opt for it on the XL level as well, but only in SuperCrew form as previously mentioned. At the time of this writing, the premium for the PowerBoost is between $2,000 and $5,700 depending on which engine is being replaced. If this engine isn’t for you, the more conventional powertrain options are still available.
Right now, the Ram 1500, GMC Sierra, and Chevrolet Silverado all offer six-cylinder turbodiesel powertrains. The Ram is the only other pickup truck that offers a hybrid, though the eTorque system is a mild hybrid one that isn’t nearly as dedicated as the PowerBoost. On our last test of one, we weren’t able to squeeze out the efficiency benefits to that powertrain. The F-150 still offers a diesel as well, and the buyer’s choice is really going to depend on whether or not they’re spending more time in the city or on the highway.
The 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid is a truly excellent truck, and the new F-150 overall is one of the most substantial mid-cycle refreshses we have seen in quite some time. The only real gripe we found is that the transition between electric to gasoline propulsion is a bit unrefined, but this very well may be the product of our truck being a pre-production example. As it stands, the F-150 has gone from nearly obsolete right to the top of its segment thanks to a variety of very practical and usable updates.