America's best selling vehicle is lightly electrified. Cliff Leppke – CleanMPG – Dec. 29, 2021 2021 Ford F-150 in Red Is this Ford an expensive 4WD LED flashlight, power bank, yardstick or super-sized vehicle? It’s all of the above and more. Ford claims you can use its power generating equipment (20-amp/120-volt outlets on the test vehicle) to run all the gear needed to erect a garage for it, and keep the suds cool for the post-building toast. Plus, this Ford has a power rear tailgate with a built-in ruler, lots of LED lighting (enough for a high school’s stadium), seating for five with front thrones flanking a fold-down shifter which lets you open a desk-like workspace. The Big Change: Trucks are Huge in Size and Sales During the 1960s, Ford, GM and others touted car-like properties of their flashy pickups. A 1967 Chevy ad, for example, argued “it’s about time trucks stopped looking so ‘trucky.’” It described the fresh C10 Action Line pickup as “lower and sleeker,” because Chevy got tired of “looking like a truck.” Things change. And not for the better when it comes to vehicle-to-vehicle crashes or pedestrian protection. Now, the standard pickup’s elevation dwarfs an antique International D-50–you’d expect dual rear wheels and amber rooftop lamps. Ford’s 2021 SuperCrew’s wheelbase spans about 145.4 inches, length 231.7, width 79.9 and height 77.2. Some pickup truck hoods crest 55 inches above the road—the height of some cars. And the tested hybrid Ford truck weighs nearly three tons. This and its super-sized styling pose roadway hazards, although the tested vehicle included several useful crash abatement systems. Elevate Me...Here? Thus, Ford’s hybrid truck isn’t the tiny titan of Toyota Prius-style eco-driving pods. PowerBoost nomenclature means there’s something substantial under the hood: a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a 10-speed automatic gear swapper. Sandwiched between them is a 47-hp electric motor motivated by 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. The total output is 430 hp and a whopping 570 lb-ft of torque. Wham. The result is the 5,794 lb 4WD SuperCrew cab monster truck. And it’s rated 2,120 lbs payload and can tow 12,700 lbs. With these figures, PowerBoost bests Ford’s Power Stroke turbo diesel V6. And it’s a full hybrid—the Ram’s eTorque is a mild assist-only setup. So, you can ‘motor’ tapping the battery as your energy source. Under ideal conditions the EPA rates it 24-mpg combo. My figure was 19.9 mpg, surprisingly thrifty for this vehicle class. Ford’s rep claims checking the hybrid option box bumps the MSRP about $4,495–the tab is lower if you start with a higher trim. I mention this because Ford didn’t provide pricing info for my Lariat—an early sample. Ford’s PR dept says it asks about $43,000 for starters. The unbridled shopping tab rises to $78,000. Since Ford’s F-150 lineup has a smorgasbord of vehicle trims and builds, I’ll ferret out the list price for the model I drove later. I must add there’s an onboard generator. The basic setup is a 120-volt setup with 2.4 kWh of AC power. Mine had the $750, 7.2 kWh upgrade. Inside this machine is a mammoth 12-inch touchscreen infotainment display and its surrounding territory. It resembles an antique cathedral/tombstone table radio size and profile. Ford echoes this shape throughout the vehicle. Its visual interface apes Windows 10 tiles, but touch points lack contrast. The display’s square shape means there’s a lot of useful vertical area for mapping via its cooperative SYNC4. Unlike a decade ago or so when Ford’s SYNC was a hot mess, this one’s driver/vehicle interface worked without a glitch. Compared with the Ford trucks I’ve driven as hose-it-out work vehicles, the revamped 2021 F150 seems better fitted and finished than older ones. Yet, there are obvious screw heads on exterior trim, exposed floorboard insulation in the footwells and unhemmed carpeting strands under the otherwise neatly covered heated rear folding bench seat. And despite Ford’s employment of a bulky console-mounted shift lever, the wiper control isn’t a right-side steering column stalk. Instead, there’s a twist switch on the turn signal lever, which requires you to take your hand off the wheel in order to use. Some F-150s have column mounted shift levers. Rubbery Rough Rider If you’re buying this Ford for ride comfort or smooth power delivery, you’re looking in the wrong place. This mastodon punches you with lots of rubbery kicks and jolts. Think “SmackDown” on Fox. The jitters were strong enough to pull my hands off the steering wheel. As delivered, there was much steering and rear-axle fight with easy-spin rear tires. Plus, the hybrid has tremorous transitions from auto/stop/hold to launch either with or without electric assist and then the first three gears. After that, it’s clear sailing with EV treks for several blocks at a time. After fiddling with a rotary control flanked by pushbuttons, spin for drive modes such as haul, and press for which wheels get power, I pacified Ford’s anger with maneuvers. So, it’s likely the driveline fighting and spin-happy rear wheels were due an engaged differential lock or throttle mapping. Ford’s big rig’s digital instrument panel shifts its color theme such as green for eco/ blue for normal. It looked normal to me. The trip info panel spits out your regenerative braking score—I scored 95-to-100. According to Ford, I went 20% farther on a gallon of fuel than a non-hybrid F-150. More aggressive braking results in non-linear speed reduction. One quibble: the instrument display’s hieroglyphics—a long string of icons plus the full list of 10 speeds—there’s too much info stashed in the lower left panel. To the right, there’s an arc-like graph instead of a digitized needle for mph with the posted speed limit sign graphic in it. This helps you visualize whether you’re ticket bait. Obviously, this Ford rides/drives like a truck: the massive rear axle rests on leaf springs. Thus, my unloaded use of it didn’t tax its work capacity. Yet, the cabin is acoustically calm. This Ford goes where you point it and your perch rivals good office furniture. This big brick breaks through the wind with the isolation expected from a fancy hotel’s penthouse. Grille shutters manage air flow. In sum, unlike trucks of old, this one doesn’t fatigue the driver who takes long trips. Steering is much improved over the old I-Beam Fords, but effort doesn’t build up properly in corners. Instead, it washes out imparting a loose, ponderous feel. This alerts drivers to moderate speed before the rest of this rig’s weight behind the axle acts like a pendulum. It never swung. Lane-keep assist is helpful. You must step up into the Ford as the cabin’s floor rides atop the frame—so you’re up high and mighty. It’s as if the Big Three and their top three sellers (all pickups) were aiming for the stars in an elevation competition to see who can claim the highest densely padded, heated and chilled chairs with too much lumbar support. Since Ford’s V-6 nestles down low it’s certainly possible to lower the power-bulge hood’s height and a better forward view. Ford’s dipped front side windows assist sight, though. Front or rear riders find plenty of headroom. And the rear cushion, although flat and short, offers bun padding for three. It folds stadium style opening up a flimsy stowage bin below. Legroom, likewise, is generous, as if this were a 1927 Buick where you sit in the back atop the rear axle and put your luggage in front of you. Some might think this Ford has luxury trimmings. Creature features include useful front-seat back pockets, a self-parking system and a self-guided setup for hitching up and even does the trailer backing for you. Trick. But the plastic chrome embellishments look pasted on rather than built in. There’s a similar issue the front console’s overlays. For example, a glossy gray panel breaks from monotony but you can see sharp edges. Yet the big metal-garnished knobs offer a pleasing tactile experience. Buttons for seat heat etc. are tiny and difficult to select in motion due to body shakes. Door cards are clad in faux leather—likely urethane. This soft touch resists scuffs and is easy to clean. Ford’s got a few unexpected bright ideas to keep you out of trouble. The shift lever, for example, motors itself into park should you forget to do that—possible if you’ve just pulled in under battery/motor power and then let the auto-hold brakes do their thing. Yet, it’s sort of cool watching it in action. The power-operated tailgate with step ladder takes the angst out of hauling hay. Yet, must I need a physical therapist’s advice on how to lift something so high? Kneeling suspension please. A reversing beep alarm sounds from the front rather than the rear. A disservice to those behind you. You can add PowerBoost to nearly any F-150 SuperCrew. The Lariat’s entry price is $52,050 for starters. Options make this 4WD/AWD rig a pricey proposition. As delivered, the figure, says the Ford rep, is $64,760. Some yardstick! But you won’t have to buy a bulky portable generator. Instead, you get a pickup, flashlight, power station, ruler and reasonable fuel economy for your hard-earned bucks.