It used to be easy to review trucks.
They were the most basic vehicles on the road, built to work and not to be comfortable. There was a body on a frame with a bed in the back and you picked the length and the number of doors -- and that about covered it.
Now, selecting those things is just getting started.
How about an onboard generator that can power a 30-amp welder? A gear shifter that reclines -- so as to make the center console a worktable? Seats that turn into beds? Your pick of 11 different grills? How about 700 miles on a tank of gas -- and the ability to burn no gas at all for several of those miles?
That's just the CliffsNotes version.
What It Is
The F-150 is Ford's half-ton pickup.
Prices start at $28,940 for a base XL trim with rear-wheel drive, a 6.5-foot bed, a two-door regular cab and a 3.3-liter V-6 engine. An 8-foot bed and all-wheel drive are available with this trim.
SuperCabs start at $33,025 for the XL with rear-wheel drive and the 3.3-liter V-6, which can be swapped out in XLT and Lariat trims for either a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 or a 5.0-liter V-8 and with your pick of 5.5-, 6.5- or 8-foot bed lengths.
SuperCrews have four full-size doors and are available in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and range-topping Limited ($70,825) trims. Depending on the trim, you'll find or can order engines ranging from the 3.3-liter V-6 to the 2.7-liter twin turbo V-6 to the 5.0-liter V-8 to a twin turbo 3.5-liter V-6 to a 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel V-6.
There is also a new-for-2021 Power Boost hybrid-drive option -- which can be selected with the 3.5-liter V-6 -- and the also-new Pro Power generator option, which summons as much as 240 volts and 7,200 watts -- enough to power a house, almost.
The '21 F-150 gets a new interior, features and styling tweaks.
You can order your truck almost any way you like.
You can plug your RV into this truck.
It sleeps better than some hotels.
What's Not So Good
You have to buy the more expensive trims before you can buy some of the available engines.
SuperCrews aren't available with an 8-foot bed.
The aluminum body shaves weight but increases repair costs if damaged.
Under the Hood
The F-150 is unique in offering you a choice of five engines. Six, technically -- since one of the five can be paired with a hybrid-electric system, if you like.
The standard engine in the XL and XLT trims is a 3.3-liter V-6 without a turbo but with an almost-diesel 12:1 compression ratio. It produces 290 horsepower and 290 foot-pounds of torque. It can be paired with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and comes standard with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It can also be ordered with what Ford calls the Pro Power system, which uses the engine to generate electrical power -- as much as 2 kilowatts with this engine -- that can be used to run tools and such from a variety of plugs mounted inside the truck and on the driver's side of the truck's bed wall.
A 2.7-liter V-6 with two turbos is optional. This one produces 325 horsepower and a very stout 400 foot-pounds of torque. This engine is also available with the Pro Power system.
For those who like traditional power, the next-available engine is a 5.0-liter V-8 that makes 400 horsepower and 410 foot-pounds of torque. It can also power your tools if ordered with the Pro Power system.
But if you want to power your RV -- no kidding -- buy the 3.5-liter twin turbo V-6 hybrid with the Pro Power system. It generates 7.2 kilowatts of power, enough to power a 240-volt/30-amp accessory such as a welder -- or even run most of your house in the event of a blackout.
On the Road
This truck is also a high-performance sports car. Equipped with the 3.5-liter turbo or the 5.0-liter V-8, it is quicker than most of them.
You can also configure this truck's personality to suit.
The GT's 5.0-liter V-8 makes the right sounds -- if you like the sound of a classic muscle truck. The diesel makes the right truck sounds.
And the 3.5-liter V-6 makes almost no sound at all, which is weird at first since this is a truck. Flooring it is an almost spiritual experience in that you feel an ethereal surge of unstoppable force propelling you toward the light, with almost no audible indication of mechanical propulsion.
It just goes.
At the Curb
Inside the new F-150, you'll find thoughtful features such as seats that fold practically flat, creating an almost-bed, as well as a gear selector that folds down, creating a completely flat workspace -- or dining table -- on the center console.
It's amazing no one thought of these features before.
You can also still get a pretty basic work truck. The XL trim comes standard with manual roll-up windows and rubber (not carpet) on the floorboards. And you can get it with a regular cab and an 8-foot bed.
Uniquely, the Ford's skin is made of aluminum. This has the pro of shedding about 400 pounds from the curb weight compared to steel, and the con of being more easily damaged and more expensive to fix if it is damaged, because aluminum is more challenging to weld.
Watch out for those deer!
The Bottom Line
This truck does so much it almost overwhelms you -- whether you're writing about it or trying to figure out which of the many configuration options to buy.
But there's no question that it does more than any other half-ton on the market right now, including things none of the others can do at all.
Eric's latest book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate, Inc.