Mountain Wheels: F-150’s new hybrid edition brings fuel-saving, power-generating tech
I apologize for being a bit late in getting to the very revolutionary and amazingly real-world, versatile hybrid version of Ford’s F-150 pickup — so much so that Wednesday, May 19, is already going to see the global debut of the F-150 Lightning, an all-electric version of the truck that Ford has crafted since the hybrid’s launch last year.
Nonetheless, the gas-powered, battery-enhanced hybrid version of what is arguably America’s most ubiquitous vehicle still manages to change the conversation about the scale and application of hybrid technology.
Sure, some full-size SUVs have already featured mild hybrid systems that saved a few MPGs, but the F-150’s PowerBoost system is much more well-developed and can even help turn the vehicle into a large, portable generator (provided, as is the case on the East Coast this week, you can still get gasoline to run it).
Adapting the EcoBoost name Ford used for its turbo engines, the hybrid F-150 PowerBoost enhances a V-6 engine with a 35-kilowatt electric motor mated directly into the transmission, giving the vehicle an impressive 430 horsepower and a very real 570 foot-pounds of torque.
While I got a fairly regular 19-something mpg doing snow-temperature drives, the modified vehicle has about a 700-mile range, and during the first few days of my trial, it seemed like it wasn’t using any gasoline at all. Properly equipped, it will haul up to 12,700 pounds of trailer. Your Prius will not do that.
The added benefit for contractors, campers or survivalists is the Pro Power Onboard generator system that puts out 2.4 kilowatts on as many as four 120-volt, 20-amp outlets in the bed or in the cabin. You can also upgrade to 7.2-kilowatt system that provides a 240-volt, 30-amp outlet. The weatherproof plugs are built directly into the bed and, as long as there’s some fuel to run the truck, your electrified party never ends, I guess.
PowerBoost does a very admirable job of offering full battery-powered driving at highway speeds. Pretty impressive considering it’s still a heavy, full-sized pickup. Standard hybrid-to-gas-engine power transitions are mostly seamless, and under warm enough operating conditions, it’s a little eerie to see 0.0 engine revs on the very large, digital tachometer while cruising along at 65 mph. You also definitely notice that electrified torque when you floor it and the gasoline engine and electric motor work in unison. I would advise you to use that wisely.
And while I had an incredibly fancy 4×4 Supercrew version in top-of-the-line Limited finishings and an Antimatter Blue paint job, the PowerBoost hybrid powertrain is also available in every other trim level.
The hybrid system is, surprisingly, just part of the litany of changes that have occurred with the 2021 F-150, producing a much more versatile and tech-heavy truck, even in its non-hybrid versions. That includes shock-and-awe touches such as an available 12-inch, more user-friendly touchscreen navigation and entertainment system, the digital instrument readouts, a console-mounted shift lever that can automatically flatten out of the way — like it’s a prop from a science-fiction movie — plus the craziness of a tailgate that both power drops and lifts, either with the tail switch or the remote control. Even the owner’s manual is now all-digital, which is probably helpful in trying to figure out some of the functionality. I also liked how road speed limits were integrated into the bezel of the digital speedometer, not just displayed in a tiny box somewhere.
Whether you really need Lincoln-styled levels of leathery opulence with your family eco-truck is purely up to you, but the Limited level sure is fancy. I had what might be the most butt-kneading massage in history from the built-in massager in the two-tone, pillowy seats, plus additional yards of leather on the doors, the massive multilevel dash, the console box and pretty much everywhere else.
The redesigned mirrors are lower and wider than those found on most pickups, with window cuts to help provide better visibility. Trailering clearly is a huge objective here, and the built-in trailer brake and Pro Trailer automatic backing, camera guidance and hitching tools will all be welcome to haulers
I did find it hard to access the lower gears (thumb toggle switches on F-150’s foldable, reactor-core-control-styled shifter, but you have to hit an “M” button first). I also accidentally pressed the combination drive mode/center differential lock button rather than spun it for better traction modes, but I’m guessing you’ll figure that out pretty quickly.
Other options include almost 180-degree folding Max Recline seats for parking lot power naps or the Interior Work Surface setup that does just that.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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