We have hybrid cars, hybrid SUVs, and now we finally have a hybrid pickup truck. It’s not the first hybrid pickup truck, however, there was a GMC Sierra Hybrid back in the mid 2000’s. But that wasn’t really a hybrid in the traditional sense because all it could do was power the auto start/stop system and provide 10-ish% of fuel efficiency on a good day. This Ford F-150 Hybrid is different.
Engine – The hybrid powertrain in this Ford F-150 is only available with one engine; a 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6. However, while it may not be a V8, the total system output is quite a bit at 430 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque (320 kW / 773 Nm). That’s more power and torque than the most powerful V8 engine that GM offers in their pickup trucks. Furthermore, the PowerBoost V6 is rated for 9.7 L/100km (24.2 MPG) on a highway and 9.8 L/100km (24 MPG) in a city. That’s the kind of fuel economy figures you’d expect from a large SUV not a pickup truck. Better yet, on some trips you can actually get close to 9.0 L/100km (26.1 MPG) if you’re gentle on the throttle pedal and, of course, the truck is unloaded. I should also note that the fuel economy figures quoted are with the 4×4 powertrain. Opt for the 4×2 powertrain and the numbers drop 9.1 & 9.5 L/100km (25.8 / 24.8 MPG) respectively.
The hybrid system is a traditional mild-hybrid like you would find in a Toyota Rav4. Most of the time the truck runs on the gasoline engine and when the small 1.5 kWh battery is charged by the engine, it’ll run on electricity for a brief period. The keyword there is brief. Because the battery is relatively small and this is a 2.5 tonne truck, you can only drive for about 4-6 km on electricity before the battery is drained. As well, this is at cruising city speeds. On highways, it can be done but with some difficulty as the electric motor only delivers 47 hp (35 kW). Pretty difficult for a motor that small to maintain a speed of 100 km/h or more. Also, the electric motor can accelerate the truck from a stop but you have to be extremely gentle with the throttle pedal. Push any harder than 2% or 3% and the gasoline engine will kick in.
However, when the battery is close to being fully charged and you’re cruising at or below 80 km/h, the electric motor will automatically take over and provide you with gas-free driving. As well, the electric motor provides instant torque to the gasoline engine when you put your foot down. Apart from the Raptor engine, this is the next most powerful engine in the F-150 lineup. Best of all you can have this engine in any trim level of the F-150 so long as it’s a crew cab configuration.
Transmission – The 10-speed automatic that Ford co-developed with GM is the transmission that is swapping cogs in this F-150 Hybrid. In the past, I’ve had a love it or hate it relationship with this transmission because I hated it in the Ford Explorer XLT but loved it in the Explorer Hybrid & Lincoln Navigator. In the F-150 Powerboost, it works… for the most part. Shifts beyond 3rd gear are pretty much imperceivable because they are smooth and quick. But when accelerating or decelerating at a normal pace, the transmission skips 2nd gear and makes the whole truck jolt. In Sport mode or Tow/Haul mode, it does use 2nd gear but it’s odd that it doesn’t use it under normal driving operation. Apparently it’s a normal thing too.
Braking – Some of the battery’s energy comes from braking. The brake pedal has quite a bit of travel which makes it very easy to modulate for smooth stops. It also doesn’t have any discernible characteristic changes between regen braking and normal, friction braking with the brake discs. But the soft suspension allows for quite a lot of nose dive under emergency situations.
Handling – Due to the softer suspension, the 2021 Ford F-150 Powerboost exhibits quite a bit of body roll through corners. It doesn’t give you much confidence to push it but then again, it was never meant to be that kind of truck. Leave that for it’s Raptor brother. This new generation of F-series truck feels a lot like the previous generation. There isn’t a whole lot of feedback from the front wheels through the steering wheel but the steering is quick and responsive.
Payload & Towing – The hybrid variants of the 2021 Ford F-150 can carry up to 2,120 lbs of cargo and tow up to 12,700 lbs. While that may not be class leading, those are still very impressive numbers and again, the hybrid powertrain is only available with a crew cab configuration. Usually when truck manufacturers boast about best-in-class payload or towing, it’s usually with a 4×2 regular cab or double cab configuration.
Furthermore the 2021 F-150 still has the trailer backup assist and blind spot sensors that will take into account the length of the trailer that you are towing. As well there is a trailer checklist in the infotainment system to help you out if you’re new to the process… like myself. This is similar to GM’s Trailering app.
Ride Comfort – The F-150 doesn’t have magnetic ride control like the GMC Sierra Denali but the suspension tuning on this Ford is really well tuned. Sure, it feels a bit floaty over certain road undulations but most pickup trucks do as well. When there’s stuff in the bed, that feeling goes away. But unladen, the suspension does a good job of isolating the cabin from rough roads and potholes.
Interior Space – This being the biggest type of cab you can get with the Ford F-150, interior space is plentiful. Front and rear occupants have loads of space even if they are as tall as Shaquille O’Neal. That being said, the rear legroom is a bit less than that of the Ram 1500.
There’s also plenty of small item storage spaces throughout the cabin. The biggest of which being underneath the rear seats. The clever design allows for either a flat floor or a box that can be locked with a key. Another common storage spot is in the center console. Just like most other trucks, it’s quite cavernous. But this one has a trick up its sleeve.
When in Park, you can push a button next to the gear selector that will fold it down and allow you to flip over the lid of the center console, turning it into a flat table. Great idea but why go through all the trouble of making the folding gear selector. I can’t help it think that over a few years, that mechanism could break. They could have incorporated a rotary dial or a column shifter and left that area flat for the table.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – When the 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost is driving on electricity in a city setting, it’s as quiet as a luxury sedan on the inside. Very little outside noises intrude. On highways, you do notice more wind noise and a bit of tire noise but it’s not overly intrusive. When the engine kicks in, the transition is very smooth. It’s also a quiet engine under normal operation. Only when you put your foot down does it sound loud and unfortunately it doesn’t have the great rumble of a V8.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – This new generation of the F-150 has the usual gadgets like navigation, heated & ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, and so on. But it’s available with quite a few new and interesting features; most of which are in the back.
Firstly, there is now a power operated tailgate with the integrated tailgate step. The power tailgate can be opened & closed at the push of a button on the tailgate itself or by the key fob button. Also if you raise it half way, it’ll continue to close on its own.As well, the tailgate itself can be used as a workbench because it has rules, cup holders, pencil holders, phone holders, c-clamp positions, and bottle openers integrated into it.
Secondly, the hybrid battery allows the F-150 Powerboost to be equipped with a 2.4kW or 7.2 kW on board power system with plugs in the bed. The first allows for two 120 Volt plugs while the latter allows for four 120 Volt plugs as well as a 240 Volt / 30 amp outlet as well. So you can not only power job site power tools like drills but you can also power a welder.
And finally, the new F-150 has Zone Lighting which allows for different lights situated around the truck to be turned on individually or all at once.
Interior Design – The interior has also changed but it’s not a drastic change compared to the previous generation. By far the biggest change is the addition of the optional 12-inch touchscreen. It doesn’t feel distracting and the resolution is fantastic. Climate control and radio controls utilize physical buttons so there’s no need to dig through the infotainment system to change any settings. Overall at first glance, the interior still looks like a Ford product and while this particular demo vehicle is not a top trim level, the materials are ok.
Exterior Design – Just like the interior, the exterior has also changed but not drastically. The LED daytime running lights extend to the bumper and the grille is more oval shaped with or without bars running across it depending on the trim level. On the side, there’s an F-150 badge along with a real enough looking vent and around back, the tail lights have less geometry to them. Overall, it still looks like an F-150 and it’ll be instantly recognizable as one from a distance.
Warranty – The new vehicle basic warranty for the 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost is 3 years / 60,000 km, whichever comes first. For powertrain components, the warranty is 5 years / 100,000 km. For the hybrid and associated electrical components, the warranty is 8 years / 160,000 km. For more information on Ford Warranty, click here.
So in the end, the new 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost is transformed by the addition of the hybrid powertrain. It’s more powerful than an equivalent V8, more fuel efficient, and just as capable. Of course there is a price to pay for the hybrid powertrain. Depending on the trim you choose, the 3.5L PowerBoost option will cost from $5,750 CAD to $2,500 CAD ($4,495 – $1,900 USD). For example, the base XL trim starts at $42,790 CAD ($36,650 USD) in crew cab, short bed, 4×2 configuration and it’ll cost you $5,750 CAD to option it with the hybrid powertrain. But at the other end of the spectrum, the Limited trim starts at $89,725 ($70,825 USD) in the same configuration but it’ll only cost you $2,500 CAD for the hybrid powertrain. And of course the price changes accordingly if you opt for one of the mid-level trims. But regardless of which trim of the F-150 you choose, this new hybrid powertrain is well worth the money and overall the truck is still that dependable workhorse that everyone has come to know and love.
Thank you to Ford Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Ford.ca