2021 Ford F-150’s 10 Most Interesting Features and Changes

f 150 headlights

Clifford AtiyehCar and Driver

The 2021 Ford F-150 goes on sale in November, and it has not yet been made available for media drives. However, we met a pre-production black-on-tan example for an early look at America’s most popular truck for 42 years straight. What follows is an up-close look at some unique features on the 2021 F-150, as fitted to the Platinum Crew Cab trim.

Folding Gearshifter

Customers told Ford they didn’t want a column, rotary, or push-button shifter, just a regular PRNDL stick. But if you thought Jaguar’s powered dial was a complex trick, look at the F-150’s shifter when equipped with the workspace tray that folds out from the center cubby. Pressing the silver button above the P indicator sends the shifter flush into the console so the tray can lay flat across it. Gimmicky, but cool.

14 Power Outlets

Equipped with two 3.6-kW generators and the PowerBoost full-hybrid V-6, an F-150 can act as a portable generator for up to 64 hours. Pickup trucks have long featured dual 12-volt batteries and large alternators for powering high-draw accessories, but this setup—which can run in a Generator mode that’s separate from the ignition’s normal accessory mode—is an electrician’s dream. In the bed are four 20-amp 120-volt outlets and a twist-lock 240-volt outlet running at 30 amps. In the cab are two more 120-volt outlets, one 12-volt socket, and six USB ports. While the cab outlets run on one circuit, the bed outlets may use both circuits, depending on the load.

Speakers in the Headrests

These perforations don’t indicate a cooled headrest (though we’d welcome that idea). They’re audio vents for speaker drivers stuffed inside. Crank up the volume on the Bang & Olufsen stereo, and it’s almost as if you’re wearing headphones. The surround sound is subtle and enveloping.

Hidden U.S. Flags

These American flag etchings on either side of the dashboard proudly display when the front doors are opened. They’re a friendly wave from the 4400 American workers who build the F-150 at the Dearborn Truck Plant.

Rulers and Clamps on the Tailgate

Why bother setting up a workbench when the tailgate’s right there? Since F-150 customers apparently like to cut wood on their tailgates, Ford installed two clamp holes along the tailgate’s widest side. Ford also stamped two rulers on the tailgate in both imperial and metric measurements.

Sync 4 Swiping Gestures

The 12.0-inch touchscreen offers enough real estate to display two panes of information. While the narrower right pane is meant for quick glancing, swiping left will send that cursory info to the larger pane without requiring the use of the main menu or any shortcut buttons.

More Sidewall

Luxury trims including the Platinum continue riding on passenger-car tires instead of light-truck tires since these owners pay for a plusher, quieter ride. The Hankook Dynapro AT2 seen here is an all-terrain tire that skews toward on-road comfort. The sidewall, sized at 275/60R-20, is slightly thicker than those used on the 2020 Platinum.

More Shortcut Buttons

On the center stack are two handy buttons for oft-used functions on the touchscreen. The slider icon loads the settings page, while the music note goes straight to the audio tuning page. Gone are the six preset buttons.

Special Graphics on the Digital Instrument Panel

When the driver switches to tow mode, the F-150’s digital instrument panel places vital info front and center. Steering angle, incline angle, and the trailer braking gain setting are shown in real time. In the off-road mode, the graphic changes to show the truck’s rear and displays the roll angle.

New Light, New Directions

The stacked LED headlight assembly that’s optional on upper trims is a familiar F-150 trait. For 2021, the former C-shaped running light is an L. It stops along the fender instead of tracing a complete border. At the bottom are the turn signals. They no longer split the low- and high-beam lights, which are recessed into U-shaped chrome housings. The amber LED strip is more prominent.

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