It will take more than a global pandemic to knock the Ford F-series off its pedestal as America’s best-selling vehicle and, of course, the best-selling pickup truck. At this point, and probably for the foreseeable future, we can’t imagine either GM or FCA climbing on this segment’s throne.
To make matters worse for its rivals Ford just unveiled the brand new, fourteenth-generation F-150, which looks to build on its predecessor’s main strengths and add some new ones.
But is it fresh enough? Well, that depends on your expectations. According to Ford, the new F-150 has an even bolder and tougher appearance, but looking at the two generations side by side, all we see is a slightly simpler and arguably more modern design.
The headlights are however new, as is the hood, fenders and wrap-around bumpers. You can even choose between 11 different front grille designs if you care about personalization as much as you do about utility.
There’s also no denying that the front light signature in the new truck is more dynamic than the graphics on the older model, but aside from the new mirrors and door handles, the overall profile aesthetic is nearly identical. As for the rear end, the new F-150 actually has a simpler taillight design, though thankfully its cab and tailgate geometry works to reduce drag and improve fuel consumption.
Before we move on to the interior, let’s touch on the only powertrain that Ford spoke about during the 2021 F-150’s online reveal. It is a “class-exclusive” 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid unit that supposedly has the most torque and horsepower of any light-duty full-size pickup, plus a minimum of 12,000 lbs (5.4 tons) of towing capacity and an EPA-estimated range of roughly 700 miles (1,126 km) on a single tank of gasoline.
We’re curious to see how it compares to the current model’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, which offers 375 HP and 470 lb-ft (637 Nm) of torque in a non-Raptor spec 2020 F-150. The latter can also be specified with a 395 HP 5.0-liter V8, but at 400 lb-ft (542 Nm) of torque, it doesn’t have as much low-end pulling power as the V6.
Aside from the hybrid, available powertrains will include a 3.3-liter Ti-VCT V6, a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, a 5.0-liter V8, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and a 3.0-liter Power Stroke V6 diesel.
Where’s all the fancy new tech?
Simple: inside and underneath. The 2021 Ford F-150 has better standard tech, new software, improved convenience features and smarter driver-assistive systems, such as Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection, a rearview camera with dynamic hitch assist and Active Driver Assist which allows for hands-free driving on the highway and monitors your head position and gaze through a driver-facing camera.
To be fair though, the old F-150 was doing pretty well in this department too, having its own Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection system, as well as Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, though certainly not as advanced as the new tech.
As for the overall aesthetic of the cabin, this is still clearly an F-150 through and through, even though everything is different here – from the dashboard to the center tunnel, door panels, switchgear and so on. The 2021 model comes with a standard 4-inch digital gauge cluster (plus you can also get a larger fully digital 8-inch one), while the SYNC 4 infotainment display measures an impressive 12.3-inches and supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus apps such as Waze and Ford+ Alexa.
The new F-150 also happens to be North America’s first full-size pickup with standard over-the-air updates, which you’ll be utilizing throughout your truck’s entire lifespan.
What are my options?
While Ford has yet to release full engine specifications and performance figures for the 2021 F-150, it’s pretty obvious that the new model represents an overall more robust and high-tech package compared to its predecessor.
However, if you only care about the utility factor, trading in your 2020MY F-150 may not be necessary. It really depends on how you generally use your truck. In any case, you’ll have to wait until this fall to take delivery.