The Ford F-150 made waves a decade ago with its twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. That engine towed like a V8, went like stink, and returned pretty good mileage (on paper at least). Now Ford is pushing the barrier again with its first hybrid-powered truck. While this isn't a new concept – GM offered and then abandoned a gas-electric half-ton just over a decade ago – Ford is diving in headfirst.
The results are promising, but a week at the helm of a Ford F-150 with the PowerBoost hybrid has us feeling less satisfied than during our first drive. While there's immense power, capability, and technology here, seven days revealed some niggles that weren't so apparent during our first drive late last year.
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With 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque, the PowerBoost is the F-150's most powerful powertrain option. And it definitely feels worthy of those figures – the interplay between gas engine and electric motors means instant torque from a standstill and the huge mid-range punch that's made turbo V6s the F-150's dominant engine. Towing figures stand out at up to 14,000 pounds, although our four-wheel-drive XLT SuperCrew tester's limit sits at 12,400 pounds. That's less than a similarly configured truck with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost (13,900 pounds), but we like the extra low-end shove so much that we'd happily sacrifice max capacity.
It's a reasonably efficient engine, too. The EPA estimates the F-150 PowerBoost will return 24 miles per gallon in the city, highway, and combined. On an 85-mile mixed loop, which included a substantial portion of highway cruising, we saw a computer-indicated 22 mpg and covered 7.3 miles on electric power alone. Not good, not bad, but adequate considering the power and torque advantages over the gas-only 3.5-liter (18 city, 23 highway, 20 combined).
Spacious, Convenient Cabin
It should go without saying, but the amount of space on offer in modern half-tons is immense. Our F-150 SuperCrew packs 43.6 inches of legroom in its second row, but even if you never plan on sitting in the back, this is a roomy place. The front seats have substantial space to stretch out, while the driver and passenger chairs are couch-like, offering serious support and long-haul comfort. The center console has plenty of storage space, while our tester added the nifty interior work surface – basically, the center console lid is a clamshell that flips forward and creates a little desk.
All The Technology
Between the ProPower OnBoard generator, the hybrid engine, the upcoming BlueCruise hands-free driving system, and Sync 4, the F-150 PowerBoost is the smartest truck on the road. Sync 4 is quick and, rendered on a crisp 12.0-inch touchscreen in our tester, very pretty, offering ample functionality in a piece of software that's easy to learn. ProPower OnBoard, meanwhile, proved its value not during our test but during the Texas ice storm earlier this year, when Ford asked dealers to loan the trucks out to customers who’d lost power at home.
Our truck had the hybrid-exclusive and optional 7.0-kilowatt setup ($750 in addition to the $4,495 hybrid powertrain, which includes a 2.4-kW version of ProPower), and while we didn't use it during our week behind the wheel, there's no way we'd consider an F-150 without ProPower, even in the base $995, 2.0-kW form available on gas-only trucks.
Powertrain Could Be More Refined
While the PowerBoost showed surprising refinement during our first drive video, a week at the wheel revealed some aggravations. There was a noticeable clunk from the rear axle, like a hard transmission shift, at about 10 miles per hour and under modest acceleration. And while the F-150's powertrain wasn't as recalcitrant as the plug-in-hybrid setup in the Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring, there was some confusion about whether to call on gas or electric power in sudden-throttle situations. That clunking, though, is what really annoyed us. It was consistent, and we aren't really sure we could live with it on a day-to-day basis.
$64K And Cloth Seats
Look, we get it. Trucks are expensive. But the fact that this F-150 XLT, which starts at $43,805 with the SuperCrew body and retails for $64,155, still has cloth seats is egregious. We aren't suggesting that Ford make leather standard here – this is a volume truck after all – but our truck is the ritziest version of that volume model, packing the $5,730 302A Equipment Group, which already adds heated front seats and 10-way adjustability. Would adding leather (or even leatherette) really be too much? We'd argue no, and it'd certainly make this exceptionally pricy volume truck feel a little more worthwhile.
As for what we have here, it might be easier to ask what we don't. In addition to the 302A pack and the $4,495 hybrid powertrain, four-wheel drive adds $3,495, the Max Trailer Tow pack demands $1,350, and the 20-inch chrome wheels round out the four-figure extras at $1,395. Beyond that, it's death by a thousand paper cuts, with nearly $5,800 in extras spread across 14 different line items.
Ride Quality Is Disappointing
While Ford deserves its plaudits for the F-150's hybrid system, ProPower, Sync 4, and the arrival of hands-free driving, it's somewhat glaring that years after the Ram adopted a standard five-link rear end and an optional four-corner air suspension, the Blue Oval is still relying on leaf springs. That fact is doubly concerning as this new generation of F-150 will be squaring off against the due-for-a-facelift Chevy Silverado, which (if GM has any sense) will borrow the Tahoe/Suburban's excellent air suspension.
This truck has poor manners and plenty of secondary motions as impacts ripple from the chassis through the body. It's uncouth, and when facing a battery of small impacts, occasionally unstable as the iron girder that supports the back half of the truck fails to manage. Surely our test truck's optional 20-inch wheels didn't help matters, but still. The F-150 feels so, so modern, but when it comes to just getting down the road, it's painfully old-fashioned.
F-150 Competitor Reviews:
2021 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew PowerBoost 4x4