2021 Ford F-150 Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jan 18, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Ford deals!

The redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 is perfectly poised to retain its position at the top of the U.S. sales charts. Truck-hungry Americans will love this light-duty full-size pickup truck’s class-leading payload and tow ratings, improved styling and interior design, and expanded menu of equipment and technology. Plus, a new 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid introduces the company’s Powerboost gas-electric hybrid powertrain, which promises better performance and fuel economy.

As was true before, 2021 Ford F-150 configurations include regular cab, extended cab (SuperCab), and crew cab (SuperCrew) styles, paired with short, standard, and long cargo beds. You choose between XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trim levels, and later in the model year, a new Tremor off-road version will arrive. A redesigned Ford Raptor is also in the works, most likely for the 2022 model year.

Engine choices include a naturally aspirated V6 or V8, two different twin-turbocharged gas V6s, a turbocharged diesel V6, and a gas-electric Powerboost hybrid drivetrain based on Ford’s twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine. They all use a 10-speed automatic, and in the case of Powerboost, Ford integrates an electric motor into the transmission. Depending on the configuration, the 2021 Ford F-150 tow rating is 14,000 pounds, and the payload rating is 3,325 lbs.

A jury of automotive writers deems the 2021 Ford F-150 the North American Truck of the Year.

What Owners Say About the Ford F-150 - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat FX4 SuperCrew Velocity Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 92% of Ford F-150 owners are male (vs. 90% for the segment), and the median age of an F-150 owner is 60 years (vs. 54).

Owners say their favorite things about the previous-generation F-150 were (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Powertrain
  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the previous-generation F-150 were (in descending order) the: 

  • Driving comfort
  • Getting in and out
  • Feeling of safety
  • Infotainment system
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the previous-generation F-150 ranked number three out of five large light-duty pickups.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Ford F-150 - Find the best Ford deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of an F-150 Lariat SuperCrew short-bed equipped with the Powerboost hybrid drivetrain, four-wheel drive, and the following options:

  • 502A High Package
  • FX4 Off-road Package
  • Lariat Sport Appearance Package
  • Tow Technology Package
  • Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Rear under-seat locking storage with partitions
  • Interior work surface
  • Power running boards
  • Power tailgate
  • Spray-in bedliner 

The price of the test vehicle came to $68,960, including the $1,695 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat High Package Interior Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Thanks to its optional power running boards, which automatically deploy as you approach the F-150 with the keyfob, it is easy to climb into and out of this truck. Without them, it is likely just as challenging to hoist yourself aboard and drop out of the cab as it is in any other full-size, 4WD pickup.

As equipped, the test truck had leather upholstery, and both of the wide and supportive front seats offered 10-way power adjustment combined with heating and ventilation. Padded armrests and upper door panel trim added to the comfort levels, and a heated steering wheel was ready for cold weather.

SuperCrews supply impressive rear-seat comfort. The cushion feels a little low, but thigh support is excellent, and the F-150 provides outstanding headroom and legroom. The test truck had both heated outboard rear seating positions and a locking, compartmentalized storage bin underneath the flip-up seat cushions.

Ford adheres to a symmetrical dashboard design and logical control layout. You’ll find numerous buttons and knobs featuring clear markings placed where you might expect to find them. Some switchgear is too small to use while wearing a set of work gloves, but primary climate and radio controls are large and useful.

An Interior Work Surface is optional for the 2021 F-150. Get this option, and you can power-fold the transmission lever flat with the console to deploy a table from the center armrest. Using a 16-inch MacBook Pro on this surface was more awkward than a traditional desk but more comfortable than a typical vehicle’s console.

For the most part, the F-150’s interior materials reflect the expected quality, and then some. The test truck’s 502A High Package added a fancier cabin treatment. It was convincingly upscale except for the shiny plastic bisecting the dashboard, which resembled strings of Christmas tree tinsel glued to the trim.

Storage is everywhere, from the sizable hidden second glove compartment directly in front of the passenger to the tiered shelves in all four door panels. You’ll have no trouble finding places to store your things.

2021 Ford F-150 Sync 4 Infotainment System Review

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat High Package Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Ford Sync 4 is standard for the F-150, and it includes much faster processing power for quicker response to input and an enhanced voice recognition system. With XL and XLT trim, an 8-inch display is standard. A 12-inch, landscape-mounted touchscreen display is optional with XLT trim and standard on other versions of the F-150. 

Depending on the truck, Sync 4 offers the following features:

  • Wireless Apple CarPlay
  • Wireless Android Auto
  • SiriusXM 360L satellite radio
  • 911 Assist for emergency help
  • FordPass connected services with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot
  • FordPass smartphone app with remote vehicle access
  • AppLink with an Amazon Alexa skill and Waze navigation app
  • Digital owner’s manual
  • Over-the-air software updates

The Lariat test truck had the larger 12-inch Sync 4 system and an accompanying 12-inch digital instrumentation display. Together, they offer a seemingly endless number of ways to configure the F-150 to specific preferences, and both screens are easy to understand and use. Glare can be a problem with the infotainment screen, though, and the thin, light font style Ford uses for Sync 4 can be hard to read against the system’s bright white background.

Nevertheless, Sync 4 represents a significant improvement over the previous F-150’s Sync 3 technology. The response is fast and accurate, and the voice recognition system is impressive. Ford offers an embedded navigation system and two different Bang and Olufsen (B&O) premium sound systems as options. 

The test truck’s 8-speaker, 640-watt B&O setup sounded terrific. King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited offer an 18-speaker high-end audio system with 1,080 watts of power. Appropriately, this upgrade is called the B&O Unleashed sound system. 

What It’s Like to Drive the 2021 Ford F-150 Powerboost Hybrid

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat FX4 SuperCrew Velocity Blue Side View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Ford offers the only full hybrid truck in the F-150’s segment. Using its excellent twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine as a foundation, Ford integrates a 35-kilowatt electric motor into the 10-speed automatic transmission and bolts a 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack underneath the truck, creating its Powerboost hybrid drivetrain.

With 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque, the F-150 Powerboost supplies rapid acceleration, electric operation when coasting or traveling at low speeds, and the ability to tow up to 12,700 lbs. and carry as much as 2,120 lbs. of payload. Plus, based on official EPA estimates, the F-150 Powerboost is the most efficient F-150, beating the even more expensive optional turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6. (See the FAQ below for more details.)

As impressive as this sounds, Powerboost exhibits a few flaws. Depending on the situation, delayed response and uneven power delivery regularly occur when driving the truck in Normal mode. For example:

  • Approaching a red light, we let off the gas and began slight braking. The engine turned off just as the light turned green. Stepping back onto the accelerator resulted in a delayed response as the drivetrain restarted the gasoline engine.
  • When rounding corners and curves, the same issue sometimes crops up. As the driver steps back onto the accelerator after passing the turn’s apex, there is a delay in powertrain response.
  • When off-roading, this is also an issue. Slow the truck for rugged terrain, and the gas engine turns off. Then, when you’re ready to resume exploring at your previous speed, the powertrain takes a moment to provide the desired power.

Additionally, the regenerative braking system that helps to recharge the battery frequently produces a sticky or grabby feeling at the pedal.

Despite its FX4 Off-Road Package, the test truck felt unexpectedly soft at higher speeds. When traveling over the undulating concrete commonly found on Los Angeles freeway bridges, the F-150 demonstrated more vertical ride motion than is preferable. However, at lower city speeds and when off-roading, the Lariat FX4 felt appropriately firm. Steering effort levels are on the high side, but a consequence is secure on-center feel and deliberate lane tracking at speed.

Given its 4WD system and FX4 suspension, we took the F-150 Powerboost to a Southern California off-highway vehicle park, splashing through mud puddles, scrambling down rough trails, and clambering over rocks to sample its capabilities. With Trail mode engaged, it shrugged at each task, and we didn’t even need the Slippery, Deep Snow/Sand, Mud and Ruts, or Rock Crawl driving modes. But a post-romp clean-up revealed the difficulty in eradicating the crud from the truck’s nooks and crannies.

Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Review

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat Sync 4 Driver Assistance Menu

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Ford Co-Pilot360 is the automaker’s collection of advanced driving assistance systems, and three different versions of the technology are available for the 2021 F-150. 

Every F-150 has the following Co-Pilot360 safety features:

  • Forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Reversing camera with dynamic hitch assistance

Co-Pilot360 2.0 available with XL trim and standard on all other versions of the truck. It adds:

  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Blind-spot warning with trailer coverage
  • Rear cross-traffic warning
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Post-collision braking

Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 is available. It adds the following features to the standard ADAS package:

  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go
  • Lane-centering assistance
  • Intersection assistance
  • Evasive-steering assistance
  • Speed-limit sign recognition

Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 is the most sophisticated version, equipping the truck with:

  • Active Park Assist 2.0
  • Active Drive Assist

The test truck had Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0. However, since the hands-free Level 2+ Active Drive Assist technology won’t be available until later in 2021, we couldn’t sample it. If you buy an F-150 with this “prep” package, an over-the-air update will add Active Drive Assist when it becomes available.

Active Park Assist 2.0 provides a fully autonomous parking capability. The driver must remain in the truck, but this technology can park the F-150 in parallel and perpendicular parking spaces by taking full control of the steering, brakes, accelerator, and transmission. As experienced in other Ford vehicles, it works as advertised.

Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 is sophisticated, but it can also be a source of aggravation. For example:

  • On a curve on a local road lined with houses, the forward-collision warning system thought I was going to crash into vehicles parked on the side of the road
  • On the freeway, when two lanes merged to become one lane, the lane-departure warning system issued a vibration through the steering wheel even though I did not cross any lane markings
  • On the freeway, the speed-limit sign reader told the F-150 to slow to 55 mph, even though the posted limit was for large, commercial trucks like 18-wheelers
  • Occasionally, I found myself overriding the lane-centering assistance technology, which is fatiguing

Ultimately, I preferred driving the F-150 without using the lane-centering assistance system or adaptive cruise control.

There is one other driving aid worth noting. Pro Trailer Backup Assist with Trailer Reverse Guidance makes reversing the F-150 a snap when it has a trailer attached. The driver uses a knob on the dashboard to input the desired direction for the trailer, and an autonomous steering function makes it happen.

2021 Ford F-150 FAQ - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat FX4 Cargo Bed

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

How much cargo space does the 2021 Ford F-150 have?

According to Ford, the F-150’s 5.5-foot short cargo bed can hold 52.8 cubic feet of cargo. The standard 6.5-foot bed is good for 62.3 cu.-ft. of volume, while the 8-foot long bed accommodates 77.4 cu.-ft. of cargo. 

The test truck’s remote power tailgate included a step and a grab handle to make it easier to climb into and out of the bed, and the inner tailgate panel came with numerous features that come in handy on job sites. A spray-in bed liner protected the aluminum cargo bed from damage.

Pro Power Onboard supplies power outlets in the cargo bed, and it is standard with all but the base V6 engine. With the Powerboost hybrid drivetrain, an optional upgrade allows you to export up to 7.2 kilowatts of electricity, enough to serve as a backup home generator when the power goes out.

Does the 2021 Ford F-150 get good gas mileage?

Depending on the engine and drivetrain, the 2021 Ford F-150 is EPA-rated to return between 19 mpg and 25 mpg in combined driving. The least efficient version of the F-150 has a V8 engine and 4WD. The most efficient version of the F-150 has the Powerboost hybrid and 2WD.

Our Powerboost test truck had 4WD and an EPA rating of 24 mpg in combined driving. On the testing loop, the truck returned 21.5 mpg with just the driver aboard and no cargo or trailer.

With its 30.6-gallon fuel tank, and based on our as-tested average, the F-150 Powerboost hybrid supplies 658 miles of driving range.

Is the 2021 Ford F-150 safe?

As this review is published, crash-test ratings for the redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 are unavailable. Like the previous-generation model, the new F-150 uses a steel frame with aluminum body panels. 

The previous-generation F-150 earned high safety ratings from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

How much is the 2021 Ford F-150?

If you’re wondering how much the 2021 Ford F-150 price is, the most basic version of the truck starts at $28,940, while the most expensive model costs $70,825. These prices do not include a destination charge of $1,695.

What are the 2021 Ford F-150 competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the previous-generation Ford F-150 was the 3rd highest-ranked model in the large light-duty pickup segment. The Toyota Tundra was the highest-ranked model in the segment. 

In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the F-150 was the 3rd highest-ranked model in the segment. The Ram 1500 was the highest-ranked model.

Other competitors to the 2021 F-150 include the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and Nissan Titan.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford F-150 Lariat FX4 SuperCrew Velocity Blue Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

With its combination of effortless acceleration and efficiency, as well as robust towing and hauling capability, choosing the 2021 Ford F-150 Powerboost hybrid option ($3,300 for a SuperCrew Lariat) certainly seems smarter than selecting the turbo-diesel engine upgrade ($3,800). 

Furthermore, over time, it will no doubt pencil better than Ford’s terrific 5.0-liter V8 ($800) and EcoBoost V6 ($1,400). But you may want to run the Powerboost mainly in Sport mode to improve overall drivability.

As for the redesigned F-150 overall, this full-size, light-duty Ford is an impressive pickup truck. It doesn’t take much to inflate the base prices to eye-popping levels, though. But the numbers on the window sticker appear to anticipate the significant discounts that are almost always available to buyers in the segment. 

Besides, as long as you’re willing to live without some of the upgrades, a reasonably priced F-150 is likely within reach. 

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2023 J.D. Power

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