When a hybrid achieves only a 4-mpg gain over its donor-engine counterpart, it may not seem worthwhile, but in a pickup like the new Ford F-150, boosting the 3.5-liter truck’s fuel economy by 4 mpg is a 20 percent improvement. That’s nothing to sneeze at. And when said hybrid runs just as smoothly as that EcoBoost pickup and provides nearly as stellar payload and towing capacities, why not make your gallons stretch a little further?
Debuting in the refreshed-for-2021 F-150, the PowerBoost hybrid pairs Ford’s twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with a 47-hp electric motor, making this the highest-output powertrain in the current F-150 lineup. (Ford has yet to lay out what’s under the hood of the 2021 Raptor, which will almost certainly outmuscle this.) The motor is sandwiched between the engine and the standard 10-speed automatic, while a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery tucks under the bed. The battery may seem a bit small for a vehicle of this size, but Ford chose it because it’s easy to package and less costly than larger packs, and its weight won’t considerably impact the all-important towing and payload capacities. Combined output for this powertrain is a stout 430 horses and 570 pound-feet of torque—gains of 30 ponies and 70 pound-feet versus the updated nonhybrid EcoBoost 3.5-liter.
At 5794 pounds, our four-wheel-drive Lariat weighed 200 pounds more than the last F-150 Limited we reviewed, yet its solid 5.4-second run to 60 mph means it’s fleeter than most half-ton trucks. In fact, that’s the quickest time we’ve recorded for a modern F-150 that wasn’t powered by Ford’s EcoBoost 450-hp V-6. Plus, the max payload and towing capacities for the hybrid are impressive, at 2120 and 12,700 pounds, respectively.
The motor isn’t designed to provide meaningful acceleration on its own, but it does allow for short periods of electric cruising at low speeds. Transitions from gas to electric power are almost imperceptible, as is the changeover from regenerative to friction braking. The hybrid scores 24 mpg on the EPA’s combined cycle, 4 mpg more than a regular EcoBoost 3.5 F-150 manages.
Minor tweaks to the truck’s chassis and suspension keep it quiet and composed, although rough pavement can elicit an occasional shudder from the leaf-spring rear axle. We particularly like the tight, direct action of the new variable-assist steering that’s standard on the fancy King Ranch model and above, but the standard rack on our Lariat model wasn’t as sharp and required more handwork at slower speeds. Depending on how you use a pickup, the hybrid’s most transformative feature may be its onboard generator system. It uses the engine to turn the motor, which provides up to a substantial 7.2 kilowatts of electricity to outlets in the bed.
Hybrid or not, the F-150 is much improved in terms of interior execution and materials, particularly on lower-level trims. Spec the Interior Work Surface and, with the truck in park, you can stow the shift lever flat in the center console, making room for a fold-out worktable that transforms the front row into an effective mobile office. The optional 12.0-inch digital gauge cluster is crisply rendered and easy to navigate. The standard 8.0-inch center touchscreen can be upgraded to a slick 12.0-inch unit. Both run Ford’s Sync 4 infotainment software, which is capable of wireless connectivity and over-the-air updates.
The hybrid option can be had on any F-150 crew cab for a somewhat reasonable $2500 to $4495, depending on the trim level. That equates to base prices of $42,840 to $77,845. The gains that the setup provides in regard to fuel economy don’t make this big pickup into a Prius, but they are considerable percentage-wise, and the system works seamlessly and demands very little compromise from F-150 buyers.
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