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2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid First Drive: A Transition Step to the Coming All-Electric Pickup

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Auto123 gets in a first test drive of the 2021 Ford F-150 Limited Hybrid.

Understandably, Ford rarely misses an opportunity to point out that the F-150 has been Canada's best-selling truck for 54 years. And in order to keep things that way, every year Ford adds something new to the F-150 product offering. For 2021, a hybrid version is joining the roster, in part to bridge the gap to the long-promised all-electric F-150 scheduled to debut sometime in 2022.

See also: 2020 Ford F-150 Review: Certified Legendary… But the Changes, They Are A Comin’

Ford made available to us for a few hours a Limited model equipped with the 3.5L engine and PowerBoost hybrid option. It should be pointed out here that this is not a plug-in version of the F-150. Rather, Ford has installed an electric motor that adds 44 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque to the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine; translated this means this F-150 produces 430 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque. Taking care of managing the power is Ford's very good 10-speed automatic transmission. 

Note that this hybrid option is only available with SuperCrew models, and the option costs between $2,500 and $4,800 depending on the version of the truck chosen. Our test model was the Limited, the best-equipped of all F-150s, with an extra cost of $2,500 attached to it. All told, our F-150 as tested cost $93,000 - a tidy sum for a pickup truck, yes, but it’s a heckuva truck.

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2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, front
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, front

Gentle giant
Although the electric motor gives the hybrid model a clear power boost, enough in fact to put in the same time zone as the Raptor, the drive it delivers and the use it makes of that added power are of a different order completely. This is far more a gentle giant, we’d say. You'll be hit 100 km/h from a stop in around 5.3 seconds, but you’re not likely to want to attempt it given you’re lounging in a supremely comfortable, even luxurious environment. Why ruin things?

Ford has once again redesigned the interior for 2021. Our test model came with plenty of features for those who use the F-150 as a work tool. For example, you've got the gearshift lever that folds down at the touch of a button to make room for a work surface that fits over the centre console. This $200 option is ideal for placing a laptop computer when at work on a construction site. You also have maximally reclining bucket seats that provide a place to rest if you're taking a break from work,  camping or hunting, say.

Ford has also installed the latest Sync 4 system with a 12-inch vertical screen. This touchscreen allows you to work well even when wearing gloves, and includes standard 4G LTE WI-FI access. The Sync 4 system offers automatic updates.

2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, interior
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, interior

You have several smart power outlets, and the Limited version offers multi-position perforated leather seats delivering extremely high-level comfort, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system to coddle your ears. Add to that advanced soundproofing and you really feel like you're in a luxury car.

Our model was also equipped with the optional Ford Co-Pilot 360, which includes a series of safety enhancing features. Among them are automatic headlights, lane keeping system, rearview camera with dynamic hitch assistance (very practical), blind spot information, back-up sonar, cross-traffic alert and more.

How Pro Power Onboard works
The F-150 hybrid allows you to transform your truck into a mobile generator. You have four 110v outlets and one 240v outlet at your disposal, so whether you’re on a remote work site, hunting or camping, you can connect an auxiliary heater, or use an electric sander or chainsaw.

The 1.5-kWh battery stores energy and once the energy is turned down the gasoline engine starts to recharge the battery. You have a green button that turns the battery on (and off by pressing it a second time). You also have a button in the cabin that allows you to turn off the outlets or put them in low power mode. The display will warn that the engine will turn on periodically and recommends that users not use the truck indoors. A good portion of this system can also be monitored and controlled by an application on your smartphone.

To make it even easier for those who have to work, Ford offers a unique liftgate design. You have the option of a flat work surface with a graduated scale and openings for installing clamps that allow you to saw, sand or measure objects.

2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, profile
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, profile

On the road
As we mentioned above, power is plentiful on the one hand, and so is luxury on the other so that you won’t feel particularly tempted to test the limits of that power. Keep in mind that the addition of the battery/motor means added weight, and if we detected a small weak point, it's to do with the braking. In addition to being heavy, Ford uses electric braking for hybrid models that combines regenerative and vacuum braking. The result is an unsatisfying mix. The brake pedal response is hard and braking is not always effective. You have to brake a few times to find the right dosage. Ford will want to fine-tune this aspect of the truck.

As far as handling is concerned, nothing to complain about. Despite some roll that is natural on a beast of this size, the truck controls itself very well even if the steering is always a bit slow – again, to be expected on this kind of vehicle. The silence on board is remarkable. Lastly, Ford gives the F-150 Hybrid an official towing capacity of 12,400 lb.

Unsurprisingly, there’s good news on the fuel economy front. Our test drive was fairly short (under 100 km), but for what it's worth, the onboard computer indicated 12.4L/100 km on our return. Hard to make much of that after such a short distance. Ford reports an average of 9.8L/100 km with the 3.5 EcoBoost engine, a more than respectable figure for a beast of this size.

2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, three-quarters rear
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, three-quarters rear

Conclusion
Is this F-150 Hybrid option interesting? If you're only looking for fuel economy, you'll probably be better served by a diesel version. But if you're using an F-150 for recreation where there's no electricity or on a construction site, you no longer need to carry a generator with you; the Pro Power Onboard becomes a very interesting and unique integrated solution in this segment.

We like

High level of luxury
Excellent soundproofing
Very well-conceived on-board generator

We like less

Difficult to properly dose braking
Steering a little slow
Tires with a bit more bite would be welcome

2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, rear
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid, rear

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Photos:B.Charette
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