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Auto review: The ultimate in sensible eco-friendly luxury: 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid pickup

By Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

DALLAS — How hungry are you?

It might be an apt question given that the redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 has an onboard generator that can power 28 refrigerators. Not starving? Perhaps you need to keep your family and friends happy instead. The 2021 Ford F-150 can facilitate the ultimate tailgate party with enough juice to run a grill, a smoker, a flatscreen TV and speakers all at once. No wonder Ford's full-size pickup accounted for nearly 1% of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. last year. And it's no surprise that Ford treated it to a heavy refresh for the new model year.

Offered once again in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited trim, the F-150 retains its groundbreaking use of a fully boxed high-strength steel frame with a military-grade, aluminum alloy body. All F-150s get revised LED lighting and a power tailgate, which includes tailgate step and tailgate work surface with integral tablet holder, clamp pockets, integral imperial/metric measurements and tiedown points that double as bottle openers. Helpfully, a new zone lighting feature allows you to customize lighting on the exterior of the truck while parked, so you can turn on the lights on one side only, for example.

But the real changes are inside, where an interior makeover features a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen (8-inch on XLs) with a user interface that's ridiculously intuitive to use. It's the perfect companion to the 12-inch digital instrument cluster with big, bold graphics displayed in a clear hierarchy, making them easy to read. They are not overdesigned, and include a complete set of gauges, unusual in any vehicle these days. Other thoughtful upgrades include a wireless charging pad on the top three trim levels, and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system.

If your truck is your office, Ford has included a 400-watt outlet for running office equipment, and a center armrest that converts to a flat work surface, with a storage bin beneath it large enough to hang file folders. It also boasts a business card holder and cupholders. And if it's been a rough day at the job site, the front seats fold flat to create a bed that's perfect for the quick nap. In the rear, there's optional lockable storage beneath the rear seats, a perfect place to store fishing rods or hunting rifles.

Like last year, the base F-150 powerplant is a 3.3-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower and 265 foot-pounds of torque, but buyers can step up to a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 producing 325 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque, a 5.0-liter V-8 rated at 395 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque, a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, rated at 375 horsepower and 470 foot-pounds of torque, and a Power Stroke 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine rated at 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque.

 

Both rear-wheel- and all-wheel drive models are offered. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard.

But something new has been added for 2021: a 3.5-liter PowerBoost Full Hybrid V6; a twin-turbocharged and intercooled 3.5-liter overhead-cam V6 mated to an electric motor that generates 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque and returns an EPA-rated of 24 mpg. While one mpg less than the diesel, the hybrid outclasses it on towing, with a rating of 12,700 pounds. The hybrid is on all trim levels, and offers the most powerful version of the integrated generator, with 7.2 kilowatts of power, enough to help power key appliances when the power goes out.

Driving a King Ranch SuperCab all-wheel drive proves to be a potent combination with the hybrid's 570 pound-feet of torque providing the required punch for hauling a camper or joyriding on your favorite country road, particularly in the Sport driving mode, which uses the all-wheel-drive system for improved performance. Power always seems to be there when you need it, although the transmission does hesitate slightly before downshifting for more power. In contrast, the Eco mode slows things down somewhat, but returns better fuel economy than a compact SUV I was testing the same week. In fact, it's not unusual to be puttering around town solely on electricity, with the tachometer reading 0 rpm.

A quick comparison drive in a Limited with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 proved almost as quick, but not nearly as fuel efficient at 18 mpg – good for a conventional gas-powered pickup, but less than the Hybrid's 22.6 mpg.

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