Another Bold Move from
the Blue Oval
[Ed. Note—We sometimes get the chance to have multiple staff members test the same or similar models and share the distinct viewpoints to add to your knowledge because everyone’s approach to a new vehicle is going to be different. This review is a companion to Steve Schaefer’s evaluation of a similar (different trim level) F-150 Hybrid that is detailed here.]
Ford is fearless, but not foolish. It has proven the company is willing to take bold steps with its crown jewel—the F-Series pickup. Just six years ago they took on a major lightweighting program that shifted most exterior body panels from steel to aluminum in an attempt to boost fuel economy. Some in the industry scoffed, but the F-Series continued to extend a four-decade-long stretch as the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
This model year—2021—Ford defied the pandemic and introduced its 14th generation F-Series, shifting to offering a full hybrid powertrain to continue its quest for improved fuel economy. It may only be a way-station to a fully electric F-150 that Ford has promised in 2022, but it’s a significant move because of the scope of the investment the company is making.
Truck with a Purpose
As with its aluminum move, Ford has not forgotten the purpose of the pickup truck—work. Hybridization is a plus as the addition of a 1.5-kilowatt-hour battery serves the purpose of not only allowing the truck to slip into electric drive, but also providing exportable electric power. In the rear bed the Pro Power Onboard system has outlets that can provide enough power to run multiple power tools. That’s sure to be popular with many F-150 owners who view the pickup as one more multi-purpose tool in their tool chest. The tailgate itself is designed as a work bench.
The versatility expands this year in the interior. Workspace
is at a premium in a cabin primarily designed to haul people. Ford attacks this
by allowing you to lower the gear shift lever (of course they probably could
have just gone to a push button or dial system to achieve the same effect). The
center console lid can then be flipped over to provide a convenient 15-inch
laptop-sized work area, which give new meaning to the term mobile office.
Other helpful work-related features carry over from past
models, such as a clever folding step to get into the pickup bed. Spending a
week in a vehicle as we do at Clean Fleet
Report is hardly enough to get a feel for the potential of a truck like the
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, so we suspect there are many more features awaiting discovery.
The Hybrid Option
We praised Ford earlier for its innovative approach and willingness to make dramatic changes in its crown jewel. We’ll temper that a bit here. As opposed to the aluminum switch, which was done across the board, Ford’s F-150 Hybrid is only one of the models offered. It is prominent and should garner some consumer attention because of its positive work attributes, but it slots in as a $3,300 option (actually a little higher as it required a trailer tow package to be added). The good news is it’s an option on all six F-150 models—XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited (the option price for the Hybrid drops to $2,500 on the King Ranch and Platinum and to $1,900 on the Limited, but all three of those models start north of $50,000 for the basic truck).
The Hybrid’s powertrain consists of a 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, one of six available engines that range from a 2.7-liter V6 to a 5.0-liter V8 and also include the fuel economy leader, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. The Hybrid system is close in efficiency to the diesel with EPA fuel numbers of 25 mpg city/26 highway/25 combined for the hybrid compared to 20/27/23 for the diesel and 20/26/22 for the best fuel economy from the 2.7L gas engine.
I was able to pull more than 30 mpg from a couple test runs, taking advantage of the regenerative braking and the system’s ability to shift into electric drive whenever there wasn’t a need for acceleration. The 10-speed tranny acts almost like a CVT as it seamlessly shifts between gears. Even with this fuel economy, the truck had no problem charging up freeway on-ramps or overtaking slower traffic on the freeway.
One big plus for the Hybrid’s powertrain in a work-oriented
truck is that it boasts the most power of any of the F-150’s engine options at
430 combined horsepower and 570 foot-pounds of torque. It’s got everything it
needs to put that towing package to good use with a 12,000-pound towing
The Luxury Pickup
The test model I piloted for a week was a 2021 Ford F-150
SuperCrew Platinum 4WD with a base price of $62,535 and a final sticker
(including the optional Hybrid system and delivery charges) of $72,310. While
that may seem steep, it’s not out of range of the typical transaction price for
a pickup. You can get a barebones F-150 for less than $30,000, but the bulk of
sales are about $50,000 above that. Remember, this is a business expense so
you’ve got to spend what’s needed to make sure your “tool” can do the job.
Based on the online configuring system, it appears that the lowest price to get
the hybrid powertrain is in the mid-$40,000 range. It’s won’t be a stripped
model, though, as typically you’ll have a Supercab or SuperCrew cab and it will
come with a range of standard equipment.
When you move up to the rarified atmosphere of $70,000 pickups, some of the work aspects of the pickup may be overshadowed by the features coming along for the ride. The Limited trim, as Ford’s top line, features two 12.0-inch screens with one an LCD capacitive touchscreen with swipe capability, push-button start, a ton of power equipment, Ford’s Co-Pilot360 package of driver-assist technologies and leather-trimmed seats from lower trim levels and adds a power tailgate, Bang & Olufsen sound system, an upgraded Co-Pilot360 system and the Pro Power Onboard system mentioned earlier. It’s pricey, but there’s not much to add to create an ultimate work truck that can easily double as a state-of-the-art technology showcase.
The lasting impression of the 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid Limited
was that of an elegant beast. From the outside it was classic four-wheel drive
truck—tall, imposing, “Rapid Red” in every sense of the word and ready to take
on any challenge. But once inside, the ride was quiet and car-like. While a
tall ride, it was surefooted and felt more compact than it was in reality. It’s
easy to forget you’re driving a truck with a 145-inch wheelbase until you try
to make a three-point turn and find your vehicle is almost as long as the
street is wide.
The F-150 Hybrid is a taste of what we’ve been waiting for. The
best-selling vehicle in the U.S. adapts to new technology and delivers not only
top fuel economy but a bonus for anyone needing electric power on the job. It
may be only a taste of what’s coming, but it works well now and should suit
many who need a pickup for work, but would love to cut down on fuel expense and
present a greener image.
Story and photos by Michael Coates.
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