Before the reveal of the 2021 Ford Bronco, FoMoCo showed the world what’s in store for the new F-150 and it’s nothing drastic. That might be a good thing.
I don’t know how many people were expecting a clean sheet design of the F-150, but from the look of the 2021 F-150, there aren’t any radical changes that one can see. However, according to Ford the upcoming F-150 underwent a redesign of every part except its cab and pickup box. When you realize what’s being added to the truck, you understand why it needed such changes that don’t necessarily show on the surface.
Don’t Judge A Book by Its CoverWhen you look at the new full-size truck from Dearborn, you really don’t see many changes. The most striking that everyone will see is in the front-end design. The “squared-oval” grille is bit more in line with the family face that we see in the Ranger. Add to that, the winglets on the grille that protruded into the headlights are gone. It is a much cleaner design with a solid headlight, but its running lights do blend in with the top of the grille, if only slightly. The shape, however, is still very thirteenth generation (2015 to 2020).
There are many different grille designs, too. Maybe too many. You’ll see one that reminds you of the Super Duty trucks, one that is copy of what you do see from the Ranger, a body color version of that one, and others. Depends on the appearance package you opt for.However, I don’t like what I’m seeing on the “Limited” models. A bold, uppercase “LIMITED” looks like you took some of those emblem letters you see in an auto parts store and stuck them on the hood, just above the grille. I hope that’s an option because it just screams of “I have no taste and I’m not afraid to show it.” Fortunately, it only seems to be on the Limited truck and no others from the images Ford released.
From The SideThe side profile of the 2021 is also very thirteenth gen: the sloping front half of the driver’s window remains as well as the overall shape of the truck. Sitting them silhouette to silhouette in their profiles, you probably wouldn’t be able to see the changes. When they are pulled from those shadows, you’ll notice that the front fenders have their side vents that come from the Super Duty trucks.
The bodylines have also been changed as the radius of the fenders have been bulged out rather than just be a massive body line. That said, the wheel arches are still accentuated by a strong crease line that’s about a hand width from the opening. The darker the body color, the more this crease stands out as the light hits it. It feels a little too much like fender flares without there being a flare. It is going to be one of those things that I need to see in person before I can say if it’s a good design or not, but I do like this over the thirteenth gen bodyline.
TailgateHeading around to the back and the tailgate is where some major changes come in. Not so much how it looks, but more in its usefulness and where it seems each manufacturer has their take on that idea. It does still feature a large and embossed “F-150” on the non-Platinum trucks (they get a large, plank of an emblem that takes up 90-percent of the tailgate). Once you fold it down, that’s where the work begins. It has your classic round spot for your drink but there are also divots that help keep pencils, pens, and markers from rolling around. On the left-hand side, there is even a spot for a tablet to be held up in vertical. You’ll also see a ruler molded into the plastic so you can measure accurately without needing a yard stick, but you’ll also notice in these pictures that those clamps are holding a piece of wood to the gate. The pockets are made in the top of the tailgate, so you don’t have to worry with crushing the spoiler built into the tail gate. There are also tie-down cleats on the edges that serve as bottle openers for certain beverages.
What Is Inside?The interior of the 2012 Ford F-150 is just as fascinating as that tail gate. It is designed to be a workstation and potentially a sleeping quarter. As with any new vehicle, there are plenty of new gizmos and doodads to entertain our generation. What I do appreciate is that Ford went out of their way to create a large, 12-inch screen without making it look like it’s a tablet that was added as an afterthought. Comes in handy when you have a truck with cameras everywhere but especially so with Ford’s Pro Trailer Back-Up assist that you originally were able to get only on the Super Duty line. It seems to be a very handy feature and doesn’t require you to steer the wheel yourself as the knob will turn the wheels for you as you need it. The most striking part, though, is the fold-flat work surface on the center console. You’re probably expecting this truck to require a tree shifter on the column, but it’s more trick than that. The gear selector folds down flat into its own little cubby to allow for a flat surface for your laptop, lunch, or anything you’d need a flat surface for while in the driver’s seat. That’s not to say there won’t be a column selector, you’ll see that on the basic truck with its bench seat that allows for three people up front.
SeatingThose seats are also interesting as they don’t just recline, they also fold nearly flat so you can have a place to sleep. For the average person, this isn’t a big deal but for someone who lives in their truck more than their house or apartment, it’s godsend. The rear seats also offer a lockable stowage arear under its bottom and allows for anything nearly the same width as the floor. It does feature dividers that you can add for any items that aren’t quite that long. When it’s not in use, you can fold it flat to the floor, instead.
Under the Hood and NotThe engines of the 2021 F-150 are pretty much carryovers from the thirteenth gen truck. You still get the 3.3 V6, the 2.7 EcoBoost V6, 3.5 EcoBoost V6, Power Stroke 3.0 Diesel V6, and the 5.0 Coyote V8. What’s new is the PowerBoost hybrid that mates a 35-kilowatt electric motor and 1.5-kilowatt-hour Li-Ion battery with the EcoBoost 3.5 – a first for Ford.
Your Truck as Your GeneratorThis also increases the power for the on-board generator system. The standard ProPower inverter is limited to 2.4kW of energy while the addition of the 35kW motor – which is put into generator mode – provides for 7.2kW of energy and 240-volts of power (using a NEMA L14-30R connector) at the bed power connections. This means you could run a 32-hour mobile metal shop with a 120v plasma cutter, a 120v TiG welder, chop saw, air compressor, angle grinder, and work light all running at the same time, provided their combined power requirement doesn’t exceed 7.2kW.
That is insanely impressive when you think about that as, when you see what that normally requires in a mobile welding truck. Honestly, most people who even go camping will see that 7.2kW as overboard. Most emergency generators for single family homes get away with just two to three-kW of power to run basic appliances and you’re getting nearly double that out of a PowerBoost-equipped F-150 hybrid. Even as a daily driver, Ford estimates that the 30.6-gallon tank of the PowerBoost hybrid will get around 700-miles from full to empty, so that 32-hour run time as a generator is plausible if that holds true.
Shifting GearsThe one thing that is missing from 2020 to the 2021 F-150 is the six-speed automatic. That has been replaced by the 10-speed SelectShift 10R80 and there is a version that is used for the hybrid system. This transmission was introduced in 2017 as a joint development between FoMoCo and GM to create a 10-speed that was compact, even to be used as a nine-speed in traverse applications. While it was co-developed, the Ford 10R80 is different from the GM Hydra-Matic 10L80 and both are produced in their respective transmission plants (GM’s Romulus Powertrain Plant and Ford’s Sharonville and Livonia transmission plants).
There will be two different transfer cases for the 2021 F-150. The XL, XLT and snow plow package Lariat will get an electronic, Shift-on-the-Fly transfer case that features a flat tow mode. All trucks above the Lariat model will get the BorgWarner-sourced two-speed “Torque-on-Demand” – or TOD – transfer case with flat tow. Again, nothing new as the TOD was introduced on the 2012 F-150 for the Lariat and up packages at that time. It’s essentially an AWD transfer case with two speeds, rather than a single speed that you normally see on most AWD vehicles. Inside the rear axle will be an optional electronic locking differential for rear wheel traction control. The PowerBoost hybrid will be optionally available with four-wheel-drive with the e-diff and two-speed TOD transfer case.
Wait, Where is the All Electric F-150?
That is the other thing missing from the picture: the rumored all electric F-150. There was no mention of it in the presentation and no mention in the releases. Turns out that it’s not ready for a 2021 debut as Ford COO Jim Farley stated that it would come out in mid-2022 on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street (go to about four-minutes of the video to see Farley talk about it and the Transit Electric).
SuspensionAgain, nothing much has changed, as far as the basic design of the suspension of the 2021 F-150 and the outgoing thirteenth. It’s still an independent front suspension with coilovers and the rear still uses leaf springs on a solid axle. Steering is done using electric power assist.
You’ll have the standard 17-inch silver steel wheels to start with but you’ll also have the options of a 17-inch silver aluminum wheel, 18-inch aluminum wheels, 20-inch aluminum and 22-inch polished aluminum wheels. Tires range from the standard 245/70R17 to a 275/50R22 all-season tires, but you also get all-terrain options for the 17-inch (265/70R17), 18-inch (275/65R18 and 265/70R18), and 20-inch (275/60R20) wheels. Interestingly, I spotted a set of Pirelli Scorpion ATR tires on the 2021 F-150 Lariat 4X4 used for the online presentation and in pictures I see a set of Toyo Proxies T1R on the Sport, and a General Grabber all-season tire on the Limited.
BrakesBraking will be boosted by an electronically controlled brake booster. This is especially critical for the hybrid F-150 as there will be times where the engine is off and you’re still driving, so you’ll obviously need a way to boost your brake pedal in those situations. However, it is not just limited to the hybrid as all levels will get this booster. The days you can get a vacuum booster are probably nearing its end, so this is just something we’ll all have to get used to.
When it comes to the actual hardware, there are not a terrible lot of changes between the standard, heavy-duty, and max trailer/heavy payload packages. All three get a 350mm x 34mm (13.78-inch x 1.34-in) iron rotor with a sliding caliper with twin 51mm (2.01-in) pistons. The pads are FER9213 compound on all three, as well, but Ford doesn’t say what that compound is, nor I can’t find out what it is other than an old Federal-Mogul Motorsports part number. According to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), that old number contains “15 to 40-percent” zirconium oxide which is a known ceramic coating for brake pads, so it’s possible these are ceramic pads for low dust. Again, I’m guessing here and that number appears to be new as no other Ford technical guide lists FER9213 that I have seen.
Going back to those packages, the changes come in the rear brake rotors. The standard and heavy-duty packages use a 336mm x 20mm (13.23-in x 0.79-in) iron rotor while the max trailer/heavy payload uses a slightly larger 350mm x 24mm (13.78-in x 0.95-in) iron rotor. All three packages use a sliding caliper with a single 54-mm (2.13-in) piston and electronic parking brake. The pads remain the same compound, a GA9105 – of which I have trouble finding any information on but can’t help but think it is also a ceramic brake pad.
The parking brake force does increase from the standard brake package at 18.5 kN (kilonewton or 4159 pounds force) to 25.5 kN (5733 pounds force). If you’re unfamiliar with “pounds force,” it’s the force required to accelerate a 1 pound object to 32.174 ft/s^2 – the equation for gravity – it’s a lot more than it sounds like and it’s safe to say it will take quite a bit of force to move this truck with the parking brake engaged.
Does Ford Have Another Best Seller Coming?It’s hard to predict the future, but with the changes to the 2021 Ford F150 body and profile aren’t too radical while the technology inside is – at least for the full size truck market and the PowerBoost hybrid’s capability as a true electrical generator – Ford is still looking good when it comes to trucks. While it is disappointing that we won’t see the full electric version of the F-150 until 2022, the 2021 is giving us some big hints as to what we’ll see with Ford’s first ever all-electric F-150.
Ford has gone too long to drop the ball, so it’s safe to say that the F-150 will continue to dominate the full-size market until GM, FCA, or Toyota really step up their game and offer something that truck buyers are demanding: a full-size truck that doesn’t hurt the wallet, is still as capable and reliable as you expect from a major auto manufacturer, and looks great on or off the road.
GM is possibly closest to doing this, as it always has been, but I really think it hurt itself in the styling department with this current generation Chevrolet Silverado (despite its $245 lower base price) and the GMC Sierra – while better looking – is expensive (a basic Sierra 1500 2WD is $31,195 while a base F-150 starts at $28,745).
Until GM can make a better-looking Silverado with a lower price than the F-150, Ford’s sitting pretty at number one for a while longer.