America’s best-selling vehicle didn’t earn that honor by standing pat, resting on previous laurels. And while being a leader also means lots of slings and arrows coming your way, the Ford F-150 has proven to be able to repel competitive assaults with a certain resiliency.
For 2021, the F-150 moves the pickup’s powertrain offerings up a notch in the face of oncoming EV introductions with a powerful hybrid package called PowerBoost, in place of EcoBoost, for the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6. Try these specs on: 430 hp (including the 47-hp electric motor) backed by a stump-pulling 570 pound/feet of peak torque that enables the four-door 4X4 models to pull up to 12,700 pounds of trailer, race from zero to 60 mph faster than any of its siblings, all while gaining 20 percent higher EPA mileage ratings. And, by the way, the integrated inverter/generator not only eliminates the annoying stop/start cycles plaguing too many vehicles today, but it sends enough electric power to the rear fender-mounted Pro Power panel to run 7kW of tools, entertainment devices, or, your house in an ice storm — like in Texas.
We have become accustomed to witnessing lofty fuel economy gains from hybrids, but Ford chose a different path with the PowerBoost system. Available on any CrewCab model (pricing ranges from $2,500 to $4,495 depending on trim), the PowerBoost hybrid system uses a 1.5kWh lithium ion battery and the 47-hp electric motor combined with the 3.5-liter turbo-six and 10-speed automatic to create a very swift F-150 that is polished in every performance sense of the word, and gets 4 more MPG — EPA estimates are 24/24/24 mpg. We saw over 21 mpg average for several winter road trips.
The goal appears to be to create a halo hybrid, one that has broad appeal; performance, economy and versatility, plus a hybrid that proves a point. Ford already has millions of powerful turbocharged V-6 F-150’s running around the 50-states, so surely a hybrid model makes just as much sense. Perhaps a 2.7-liter Ecoboost will get the hybrid treatment next, and achieve the much sought after, yet elusive, 30 mpg for a full-size gas pickup — for less money.
Besides the reimaged face for 2021 F-150s, our Platinum-trimmed sample (base F-series crew $35,050 up to $62,535) featured tons of special components that elevate the current pickup class beyond buyer expectations of just a few years ago.
There are LED lights all around, including the spotlights in the side mirrors, in the tailgate and in the bed. The shift lever folds into the console, so the storage bin lid can flip over to create a desk for your laptop or a table for lunch. The hybrid system is tucked into the floor of the truck so well that the rear seating retains a flat load deck and even gains locking bins under the seat. The tailgate has rulers. There are switches in the back for the work lights, right there with the three sockets you can use to power your job site or your tailgating barbecue from the onboard power panel.
The entertainment screen jumps to a 12.5-inch horizontal unit, while two banks of conventional dials, knobs and buttons below manage audio and climate selections. The heated and cooled leather seats fold flat to nap, and they offer multifunction massage. Yes, massage.
There are sensors. Boy, are there sensors. For steering, for braking, for lights, for trailer backing, for active park assist, for lane-keeping assist, for rear seat occupants, for cruise control and for the myriad Ford Co-Pilot electronic driving aids. No wonder there is an industry-wide computer chip shortage; we’re driving computers with wheels.
Yet, the one simple conclusion after every drive in the PowerBoost Hybrid is how well Ford has pulled this off. The glee you get from squeezing the throttle; the comfort of the well-done cabin in its upscale Black and Camelo leather; the seamless performance of the refined powertrain — all of it works, very well. GM has done hybrid trucks before, but not like this.
There are lots of whirring noises, but they fade quickly in an otherwise silent cabin. The ride compliance is not as composed as one rival, but the Ford can tow more and has a larger payload capacity.
Ford is like other automakers that are betting big on EVs. The new Mustang Mach-E is getting great reviews, the upcoming Bronco has long buyer waiting lists, and this hybrid F-150 seems like the volume seller of all of them. Yet like Toyota, with a hybrid Tundra on the way, Ford is appropriately hedging its bet on the single vehicle that pays for everything else at the blue oval brand. This new F-series PowerBoost Hybrid is a slam-dunk winner.
Next week: Lincoln Corsair Reserve