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Henry Payne: Ford F-150 Hybrid is one tough nerd

By Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

The tailgate party options are enormous. Ford showed off a model at its Milford Proving Grounds that was running a 55-inch TV, Weber grille and meat smoker, which makes the truck a double threat at the football game and the worksite. Tailgate on Sunday, cut wood on Monday.

Ford couples bed outlets with a nifty tailgate complete with built-in rulers and clamp holders so you can plug in your bandsaw while measuring wood cuts.

The hybrid powertrain is no slouch on the road, either. Combining low-end electric torque with the twin-turbo's upper-RPM range capabilities, the engine pulls hard through the rev range. That 570 pound-feet of torque was especially noticeable when dragging a 13,000-pound mobile home around local roadways.

With electric-motor assist, the 10-speed tranny was noticeably smoother in the hybrid than a comparably burdened truck powered by the non-hybrid, twin-turbo V-6. In keeping with its Swiss Army knife capability, the F-150 comes with a dizzying array of engine options including the standard, 3.3-liter V-6, turbo 2.7-liter V-6, twin-turbo-V-6, hybrid, V-8, and diesel.

You could shop all day mixing and matching the F-150's drivetrain options over the vehicle's six trim options. I focused my time on a $68,000, hybrid-powered Lariat model which was a nice middle ground between Ford's best-selling XLT trim and the luxurious Limited ocean liner.

Ford claims 90% of its sheet-metal is new for 2021, but the exterior betrays few major changes. The grille has a nice ovoid shape to it — shades of little brother Ranger — for a more pleasing face. Otherwise, the signature elements are all there — C-clamp headlights, scalloped A-pillar window for better visibility, F-150-stamped tailgate.

 

My Sport 4X4 picked up a couple skid plates to keep from slapping its belly on off-road excursions. The truck was suitably rugged when I took it off-road — the frame rails absorbing punishment over challenging moguls that would have reduced a unibody SUV to a trembling bowl of jelly.

But even the off-road experience benefited from the new truck's interior smarts.

I crawled up a steep embankment of the F-150, its 4x4 system churning happily along in the Mud/Ruts driving mode (one of eight modes). I couldn't see what was on the other side. No problem. I pushed a button above the dash and an underbody camera showed me the way.

Such conveniences are all over this truck, and all of them operated from the truck's big, 12-inch touchscreen (eight-inch is standard — but in the Age of Tesla, everything has a 12-inch option). Need a floodlight to illuminate the woods on a moonless night? It's in the display. Need a bed light? In the display. Even the bed outlets can be monitored from the screen.

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