2021 Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 PowerBoost hybrid

Quick Drive:  2021 Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 PowerBoost hybrid

by Anthony Fongaro 05/10/2021 (this story was originally published on TheGentlemanRacer.com)

Let’s talk about hybrids. As of a few years ago, almost every type of vehicle was a hybrid. There are many benefits of having a hybrid with the most beneficial feature being fuel economy. The word “hybrid” conjures up a Toyota Prius, but things are changing. So many vehicles have a hybrid option that people must think long and hard if a hybrid is right for them. You were able to buy almost everything as a hybrid. Except for a pickup truck. Enter the most popular pickup truck and it moves into the land of batteries and fuel.

Ford creating an F-150 hybrid wasn’t that surprising but a great thing to do. It makes perfect sense: the hybrid battery can assist with the engine to make the F-150 more fuel-efficient. Now, there are many hybrids that have to scream “hybrid!”. The F-150 doesn’t. I had the XLT with the SuperCrew four-door cab, which is the second from the bottom trim. It was driving around with Velocity Blue paint and optional 20” 6-spoke dark alloy wheels for around $1,400. Some of the trim including the grille and mirrors were black due to the XLT Sport Appearance Package. I’m a sucker for black-out packages and it looks better than chrome.

While the taillights aren’t that impressive, I love the headlights. It looks like they took the entire front-end from a larger truck and shrunk it. It’s aggressive. Moving to the rear, you’ll find some very truck-like features. First off, you have a dampened tailgate which can automatically lower. Once the tailgate is lowered, you can pull out a step and handle to get into the truck bed. Looking to the left, you’ll find something unusual. It’s a 7.2 kW Pro Power Onboard that can power generators, power tools, and anything you need. If you ever read about Texas in 2020, you’ll know that these F-150 hybrids were lifesavers when the state lost power.

Quick Drive:  2021 Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 PowerBoost hybrid

Step inside and there’s a huge difference between the last-generation F-150. Even starting from the steering wheel, there are updated controls for the infotainment system and dials. Although the XLT comes with traditional analog dials, there’s a large optional 8” Productivity Screen between the dials. There’s a lot of information here, including a feature that shows you how well you’re driving and capturing electricity for the battery. Naturally, I always had that feature on because it was fascinating. To the left is also a large and optional 12” infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  

Now, the feature that every journalist was excited about was the Interior Work Surface. Basically, the shifter folds flat and the center console folds forwards, providing a flat surface. Every single photo of this has someone using a laptop plugged in and that’s exactly the point of this. Of course, the F-150 has a few USB ports along with a three-pin plug for said laptop. The cabin has a clean design, even with the cloth-only seats in the XLT. Front seats: heated and supportive. Rear seats: heated and uncomfortable. There also was an optional panoramic sunroof and automatic rear window.

Quick Drive:  2021 Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 PowerBoost hybrid

If you use the remote-start or just jump into the F-150 hybrid, it starts quietly. It was an exciting and odd feeling turning on a truck in silence. Let’s talk about the engine because this made me smile. Ford could have said, “Right, we are making a hybrid F-150. Let’s do what everyone else does and combine a smaller-engine with a hybrid powertrain and some CVT garbage transmission”. They didn’t. Instead, they probably said “let’s make the hybrid badass. Get the potent 3.5-liter EcoBoost and make that the hybrid.” This turned into a hybrid 3.5-liter hybrid twin-turbo hybrid, called the PowerBoost. This engine combination now makes 430-horsepower and 570 lb-ft. It’s strong. 0-60 MPH takes just 5.4 seconds.

While the engine and 10-speed automatic sounds like a match made in heaven, it wasn’t. The gear changes felt abrupt and jarring. It almost felt like the transmission wasn’t happy it was in a hybrid and didn’t want owners to have the smoothest ride. Speaking of the ride, it uses older leaf springs in the rear so the truck isn’t comfortable on bumpy roads. If you want a decent feeling truck, go look at a RAM 1500. When the transmission isn’t deciding to be bumpy, the acceleration is quite rapid. There are a ton of drive modes including your usual Eco, Normal, Sport, and various off-road and for inclement weather. I’m sure the latter works, but I kept it in Eco and Normal since there wasn’t that big of a difference. I average 25 MPG which I was quite happy about.

Let’s get to the pricing. The XLT trim level with just the SuperCrew cab starts at $43,000 which doesn’t sound terrible, but you’ll want a few options. My F-150 is called the “XLT High” because it had the almost $6,000 302A High package. This gives you a ton of options such as heated seats, remote start, the upgraded screens, and a lot more. Tick that box and you don’t need too many more options. Of course, the 4x4 and PowerBoost engines ballooned the price. If you want a hybrid, you’ll have to shell out $5,000 with an additional $4,000 for the 4x4.

Quick Drive:  2021 Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 PowerBoost hybrid

Moving past these, you have a few more options such as the panoramic roof, Bang and Olufsen sound system which I highly recommend along with the Ford Co-Pilot Assist 2.0. This is also recommended since it has a full safety suite including adaptive-cruise control, lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, and had a wonderful 360-degree camera which was used a lot. Here’s where things go a bit wrong: this XLT was driving around costing a full $61,000. That’s almost $20,000 in options! When I looked on Ford’s configurator, I noticed that the Lariat is a few thousand more, but it has many more features such as a fully digital driver display along with the option of a heated steering wheel and ventilated seats.  

For their first go, Ford’s F-150 PowerBoost is quite good. Yes, the shifting was a bit jarring, but I enjoyed my time with it. Sure, I didn’t use it to its full capability, but I never do. So, should you get one? I’d say yes. Maybe skip the XLT and go to the Lariat. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t have the softest transmission, but it does exactly what it's supposed to. Plus, that engine is amazing. For now, there really isn’t anything that matches the Ford PowerBoost’s combination of performance and fuel economy. Nice job Ford.

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