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First Look: 2021 Ford F-150

It no longer produces many vehicles but Ford is selling a number of trucks.

The business needs to do everything right when it’s time to refresh the model that outsells all else in Canada and the USA.

But the 2021 F-150 stays with the same frame, rather than a from-the-ground rebuild, and upgrades the new engines. But then Ford is massaging the exterior styling, redesigning the cabin, adding numerous new features, and sending out their first full-hybrid truck.

The simple bones of the F-150, don’t alter. It is also available in Versions for Standard Taxi, SuperCab, and SuperCrew. It still rides on a fully boxed steel frame and with a body made of aluminium.

Ford loves to say “military-grade aluminum,” but there is no such standard; the company made up a marketing term. Only enough to suggest the body is as solid as it can be.

There are six powertrains and now everybody uses an automatic 10-speed transmission. There’s a 3.3-liter V6 or 5.0L V8 as per non-turbo engines. A 2.7- or 3.5-liter EcoBoost is the two turbocharged gasoline V6 engines, and the 3.0L Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel also returns. For improved fuel efficiency, the V8 now has cylinder deactivation, and there are several other improvements around the engine range, but that’s the only one listed so far.

Horsepower and torque figures tend to be a mystery on both motors, as are the towing and weight capacities.

The latest model, dubbed PowerBoost, uses the 10-speed automatic 3.5L EcoBoost V6, along with a 35 kW electric motor and a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. Based on driving situations it changes instantly between fuel, energy or a mixture of the two. It also recharges the battery via regenerative braking and is not being plugged in. Its specifications are also under wraps but Ford said it expects to have the highest torque and horsepower in the segment — no doubt combined with battery and gas — along with a towing capacity of at least 12,000 pounds.

The PowerBoost hybrid device is an option, rather than bundled as a single hybrid truck configuration, which can be fitted to all of the trim packages.

Many days, both full-size trucks are massively over-sized, but although this latest F-150 does not compress back to reality, at least it has not become bigger than the old model. There is still the same basic architecture, but every outside panel had some research done to it. The front fenders, for example, are higher, the headlamps tweaked and the doors tucked in the middle. The bumpers are winding around and a new control dome hood is on.

The latest tailgate serves as a work table, including C-clamp indentations, a built-in scale, and cleats for strapping down large loads — so you may use the cleats as bottle openers at tailgate parties. Since reaching into the box without climbing on the rear tire is almost impossible, the available power-running boards now stretch back for a step up. There’s also an optional onboard generator with its outlet plugs in the side of the box. It comes in three power levels: 2.0 or 2.4 kW, and a hybrid-powered 7.2 kW unit that can simultaneously power enough tools for a crew to frame a home.

The outgoing F-150 cabin was a little old and the current model is a big change from the photos I’ve used. On base models the 4.2-inch touchscreen changes to an eight-inch monitor, while the upper trims get a new 12-inch panel. The programmers were clever enough to hold beneath a few buttons and dials to monitor much of the features. When you choose to snooze at the worksite at lunch hour, there is a flat-folding driver’s seat open. You should pull the gearshift lever into the tank, open a tank-mounted tray over it, and provide a flat surface for your machine for those who use laptops in the truck — obviously a third of F-150 owners do — And just for lunch.

Canadian vehicles won’t have the American flag that’s shaped onto both ends of the dash — the vehicle must be constructed solely in Dearborn and Kansas City, but ramp up the patriotism — but all the high-tech technology sold in the U.S. should still be accessible here.

These include a new SYNC 4 infotainment system as standard equipment, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and over-the-air updates including vehicle software upgrades that eliminate a visit to a dealer for installation, plus a video manual for a digital owner and new features on the FordPass mobile app, such as a trailer light check and a warning if someone tries to steal.

The F-150 will also offer Active Drive Assist, a self-driving feature similar to the Super Cruise of Cadillac, which works on some 160,000 kilometers of pre-mapped roads in Canada and the United States. But, right now the truck comes with the hardware only. If you choose to operate hands-free, you’ll need to download the compatible app when it comes out next year.

So far only the F-150 has the label “all-new.” In 2020, the Super Duty has been revamped, which will be rolled on into 2021. There’s going to be a Raptor 2021, so that’s all Ford is able to reveal for now. Pricing for the F-150 will be announced closer to its November on-sale.

The proof of the new F-150 will be in driving it, especially the hybrid, but that’s yet to come. In the meantime, from the photos and specs, it looks like Ford has likely done what it set out to do: keep the stuff that made customers happy, and then added more to it. I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel.

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