2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Preview

2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Preview

Benjamin Yong
Ford F-150 Hybrid

Tough. Reliable. Best-selling. These are some of the attributes that come to mind for the Ford F-150. Now green is added to the list following the arrival of the 3.5-litre PowerBoost hybrid mill for the 2021 model year, the only one of its kind in the segment.

“Just because it’s a hybrid doesn’t mean we treated PowerBoost with kid gloves,” said Craig Schmatz, F-150 chief engineer in a press release. “To earn Built Ford Tough certification, PowerBoost went through the torture testing we put all of our powertrains through. No F-150 powertrain gets a pass; we have one standard for quality and durability.”

Not only is the fresh engine offering the most unique in the portfolio, but also the most powerful, rated at 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque. And having an eco-friendlier slant doesn’t mean anything is compromised. As mentioned above, the vehicle has passed the same testing as regular variants, for example towing loaded trailers in extreme temperatures, surviving harsh off-road courses, and being subjected to high humidity environments and salt baths.

Due to the novel nature of the hybrid, the automaker actually created a new crucible for this truck to prove itself against: a custom machine that uses multi-axis hydraulic actuation to shake the lithium-ion battery, simulating real-world conditions like hitting potholes, driving over rut-riddled terrain.

More on the PowerBoost — the V6 internal combustion engine is complemented by a 35-kilowatt electric motor integrated into the 10-speed automatic transmission. The 1.5-kilowatt battery is recharged via regenerative braking, capturing the kinetic energy created as the pickup slows down. Mounted underneath the floor, interior space remains close to a conventional F-150.

Interestingly, the system comes equipped with a feature called Pro Power Onboard. Some of the electricity (2.4 kilowatts worth, or an optional 7.2 kilowatts) is reserved for non-propulsion use, accessible through the in-cabin and cargo bed-mounted outlets to charge work tools and toys.

Towing isn’t a problem for the PowerBoost either, boasting a maximum capacity of 12,700 pounds, which is an additional 600 and 2,600 pounds, respectively, compared to the 3.0-litre diesel and the 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6.

As with every 14th-generation F-150 model, the partially electrified vehicle benefits from huge upgrades in other areas, too, including technology. It’s the first full-size truck in North America to receive over-the-air software updates, similar to a smartphone or personal computer, reducing service trips and improving performance.

The fourth iteration of the Ford SYNC infotainment system, SYNC 4, debuted this year and is standard, bundling some neat never-before-seen functionality. Mobile devices can now connect to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wirelessly, rather than having to tether to a USB cord. An available 12-inch display allows users to activate a split screen mode to display two things simultaneously, such as entertainment on one side and navigation on the other.

Ten new driver-assist features make an appearance here, highlighted by Active Drive Assist that provides true hands-free operation on 1,600-plus kilometres of pre-determined sections of divided highways across Canada and the US. Another nifty one is Intersection Assist, capable of detecting oncoming traffic during left-handed turns.

Similar to the outgoing truck, the 2021 is made largely out of aluminum, the body sitting on a fully boxed, high-strength steel frame. Claimed to be the most aerodynamic version yet, there are active grill shutters, a dynamic air dam and a redesigned cab and tailgate all helping to reduce drag and improve fuel consumption. The estimated range on a full tank of gas is 1,100 kilometres.

Those taking the pickup to the job site should appreciate certain interior appointments on select grades — the hybrid is sold in every trim level from XL to Limited — like soil-resistant two-tone upholstery and the Interior Work Surface, a stowaway table perfect for working on a laptop or eating a quick meal.

The 2021 Ford F-150 hybrid is built at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan.