This generation will determine the future of the F-150 moving forward

The F-Series has been a consistent seller for Ford. It has been the top-selling vehicle in the States for 42 consecutive years, thus scripting a legacy that will be most likely remain unbeaten in the 21st century at least. But given the way the competition has upped the ante, it is going to be hard to sustain and keep this consistency alive, unless Ford decides to take the game to the next level. To maintain the pole position, Ford has decided to replace the current generation of the F-150 with a newer breed and what you’re looking at here is our first spy shots of the 2021 Ford F-150. This heavily camouflaged mule was spotted doing test runs in Dearborn, Michigan. Will the next-gen F-150 feature changes that a merely aesthetic, or can we expect new drivetrain options as well?

Overview

2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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One of the reasons for a vehicle to maintain the apex position is by understanding what consumers want. SUVs and trucks were updated barely once in a decade not until long ago. But today, the industry dynamics have changed, and people want something new every year. Ford realizes this and keeps refreshing its products either by adding new features and equipment or by giving its products a makeover. The latest product to go through a makeover is the Ford F-150.

Dubbed as the 2021 Ford F-150, this next-generation truck is expected to bring in a lot of changes when compared to the generation it replaces.

Like I mentioned earlier, the F-Series is the best-selling vehicle for over four decades, and the truck is showing an upward sales growth every year. But with a new generation, the company is at a big risk of getting booed if it doesn’t gel well with the customers. Not to mention, 70-percent of all the Ford F-Series trucks sold are F-150s. Ford gets this one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything it ever wanted, in one moment. Would it capture it, or just let it slip? (See what I did there?)

Exterior

  • New headlights and taillights
  • New front and rear bumpers
  • Could feature new grille design
  • Door-mounted wing mirrors
  • Better aerodynamics
  • Prototype spotted with 22-inch wheels
  • Composite-material truck bed could be developed
  • Still the same, simple power tailgate?
2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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The truck has been spotted on a couple of occasions in both, the Crew cab and the Super cab configurations. This time, you can expect a lot more changes than the previous years because the Blue Oval has been refreshing the 2015 model all along. The 2021 model is a new generation, and there are going to be noticeable design changes. But, let’s get one thing straight:

This is a truck at the end of the day, so, the shape and silhouette remain the same.

Ford has done a great job hiding the truck from prying eyes, but that leaves a lot to our imagination. From the looks of it, the 2021 F-150 could come up with new headlights, although they will remain vertically-stacked as seen on the present model. I’m hoping the company changes the grille design, especially on the mid trims. The two thick chrome bars on the face look outrageous and need to be given a subtle rework. That will make the F-Series stand out from the competition. I think it’s time we move on from larger-than-life grilles. The bumper could be a new unit altogether, perhaps a bit more sharp and less-rounded than the current one.

2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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Moving to the side profile, there’s nothing much we can spot here from the clothed-prototypes. The biggest change here is the way the wing mirrors are mounted.

Ford has moved them from the A-pillar to the doors, pretty much like those on Chevy and GMC trucks.

This mounting not only increases the visibility behind the A-pillar from the driver’s side, but also gives a better view of the action behind and helps the truck’s overall aerodynamics. This can let Ford size down the current XL-sized mirror to an extent. But, what happens to the telescopic mirror then? Will Ford risk putting a four-bar link system on the door? Not only does it not have the structural integrity to offer the flexibility but it will also cause a problem when moving around in tight spaces. For some reason, the prototype carries over the wheel design as well. I’m a fan of the black wheels seen on the test mule, but Ford better offer more options that we have not seen before. The test mule seemed to be riding either on the 20-inch, or 22-inch rollers.

2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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The rear has never been a talking point when it comes to trucks, and we don’t expect a drastic change now either. The bumper will be refresh, and the same goes for the taillights as well. Other than that, the 2021 F-150 looks the same. The step-up on the bumper remains the same as well. Coming to the truck beds, it’ll be interesting to see if Ford plans to carry on with the aluminum architecture, or move on to composite ones like those found on Chevrolet Silverado. We will wait for more sightings to get a little more information on that. But one thing is for sure; Ford will try to shave off a little more weight to make it a slightly more efficient truck. As for the size, it seems like Ford has retained the same dimensions as the current F-150 for all the body configurations.

There is no word on the tailgate yet, and I'm worried Ford will stick to the same-old simple one form the current generation.

In literally every truck review, I make sure to point out the Ford F-Series’ Achilles’ Heel - the simple tailgate that is nowhere as diverse as the ones on the rivals. The competition has moved on to MultiPro tailgate and Multifunction tailgate long ago, and Ford is stuck here with a power tailgate that does not offer as much practicality as the ones on GMC and Ram trucks. I hope that Ford has something in the works that, otherwise, it could be a deal breaker for prospective customers.

Interior

  • Cabin will be a big improvement
  • Ride quality will improve at the rear thanks to a new suspension system
  • Bigger touchscreen system
  • Infotainment system in the truck bed?
2018 Ford F-150 High Resolution Interior
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There is not a single image of the interior of the 2021 Ford F-150. But for what it’s worth, Ford will look to make this the most luxurious cabin in the segment, at least when it comes to the upper trim levels. Ram has changed the whole ballgame by offering a spectacular cabin that is almost perfect. The Ram 1500 has a nice combination of modern touchscreen controls with old-school knobs and buttons for ease of use.

Ford could follow Ram's footsteps, or take inspiration and offer many segment-firsts in here.

Even something simple like massaging seats could make the 2021 Ford F-150 a premium offering. As for the infotainment system, Ford will again take the Ram as a benchmark. Gone are the days when trucks were meant solely for abusive tasks. Offering a high-tech cabin will work wonders because this is what people want. So, I’m guessing Ford could offer a 12-inch touchscreen to mate with its fantastic SYNC3 system that is already in place. Will we see the new Explorer’s vertical touchscreen in here?

Another interesting tidbit we know is that Ford has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent Office about an infotainment system attached to the rail system in the bed that gives extra options for customers to watch movies, etc. from the bed. There is very little clarity on this as of now, but we will have more to talk about soon.

Drivetrain

  • EcoBoost engines will be the primary focus
  • 5.0-liter, V-8 Coyote engine might be dropped
  • Raptor will most likely get the GT500’s V-8 engine
  • Electric powertrain test mule spotted
  • Hybrid mill will make its way next year
  • Prototype with independent suspension system was spied!
  • Towing and payload capacities most likely will remain the same
2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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Ford had updated the underpinning and the suspension system on the 2018 model. So, Ford may not tweak much in that area because why fix something that ain’t broken? Even the towing and the payload capacities, currently rated at 13,200 pounds and 3,200 pounds, respectively, are more than sufficient, so we don’t expect any changes there either. Coming to the powertrains, the base trim will most likely be powered by the same 3.3-liter, naturally-aspirated V-6 mill that creams 290 horses and 265 pound-feet of torque. Being a work truck at its core, this engine seems sufficient to get the work done. It’s a tried-and-trusted engine, but things would feel much better if Ford could bump up the torque figure by at least 50 pound-feet. I’m saying this because even though the current towing and payload capacities will most likely be retained, who said Ford could not spring a surprise and increase those figures? .

There is no reason as to why the EcoBoost twins won’t call the 2021 Ford F-150 home, either.

The 2.7-liter, turborcharged V-6 EcoBoost engine delivers 325 horses and 400 pound-feet of torque.

Power is sent to the wheels via a ten-speed automatic transmission. This super-reliable engine will also be seen in the upcoming Bronco SUV, that too, in the Raptor version. This itself is a testimony of the engine’s capability. The other twin is the 3.5-liter, V-6 EcoBoost mill that makes 375 horses and 470 pound-feet of torque. This, in my opinion, is the engine that provides the best of both the worlds. You get a powerful, twin-turbocharged engine that has more than enough power available at your disposal. Thanks to these twin turbos, the engine barely has any turbo lag even at a low RPM.

2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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Don’t confuse this with the one seen under the hood of the Raptor. Although we have no information on the F-150 Raptor yet, it may continue to use the same 3.5-liter, V-6 EcoBoost engine. This engine is the same as the one found in the standard F-150, but it produces different power figures. Under the Raptor, the mill churns out 450 ponies and 510 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to the fantastic 10-speed automatic transmission that makes the whole package a near-perfect one.

Coming to the most powerful engine in terms of displacement in the current F-150 lot - the 5.0-liter, V-8 Coyote engine - we have some bad news.

This engine will most likely be dropped from the 2021 F-150 lineup. Even though it produces 395 horses and 400 pound-feet of torque, the legendary engine had few takers. It is said that Ford is planning to scale down the production of this engine. I believe this is because Ford has invested a lot in the EcoBoost engines and would like to push them and get the returns, and also to differentiate it from the Bronco. You read that right. Even though they are two completely different vehicles, the Bronco is rumored to feature this Coyote engine and having it in both the trucks will boil down the exclusivity of the engine. In case it does not make it to the Bronco as well, it will be quite a surprise because it points to just one thing - retiring the Coyote engine. The F-150 Raptor will be offered with a V-8 engine as well, but it’s not going to be this one. It will be from the much more powerful Mustang GT500 to take on the Ram Rebel TRX with the 707-horsepower Hellcat engine.

2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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Now, speaking of Ford’s future plans, the automaker has already announced that it will be introducing a plug-in hybrid system to the F-150. Ford is tight-lipped about which engine they hybrid setup will be paired to, what the electric range will be like, or even the battery capacity. Recently, a test mule was spotted with an independent rear suspension system as well! This is a big leap because all the F-150s till date have had a solid rear axle only. The benefit of an independent system will be better ride quality, but on the flipside, the towing and payload capacities will go down. This only indicates one thing - Ford is working towards making this truck a better family hauler as well. So, going by this, I expect the F-150 to feature a buttload of luxurious features, thus taking the game to the undisputed leader in this department; that is, Ram trucks.

Another big news is that a prototype was spotted with an electric powertrain!

Again, Ford has managed to keep the details under the wraps quite well, with the exception of the fact that it’s working on an electric pickup. But, this is quite important for the Blue Oval moving forward because Rivian and Tesla have already declared war in the electric pickup truck segment. While the Rivian follows a completely different philosophy - focused on adventure lifestyle, the Tesla truck may not follow those footsteps. Elon Musk has already announced that the Tesla pickup truck will be offered with a starting price under $50,000. We haven’t seen the Tesla truck yet, but the Rivian truck has made its presence felt. And, from the initial impressions, there’s nothing to not like about it. Can Ford do something about it, or will it lose the plot in this paradigm shift? The consolation here is that Ford has promised that the truck will offer better towing and payload ratings and will also be high on the performance aspect. The again, Elon Musk promises a towing capacity of 300,000 pounds from the Tesla truck, so the next few years are going to be very interesting.

Prices

2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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The pricing of the 2021 Ford F-150 has not been announced, but it will only be marginally higher than the current crop. We speculate the prices to increase between $1,000-$3,000, depending on the trim. These are for the combustion engines, and no hybrid or electric. The present rates of the Ford F-150 stand at:

Ford F-150 Pricing
2020 Model Year 2021 Model Year (estimated)
F-150 XL $28,155 $29,500
F-150 XLT $34,160 $36,500
F-150 Lariat $41,700 $43,000
F-150 King Range $52,390 $55,000
F-150 Platinum $54,920 $57,500
F-150 Limited $67,135 $69,995
F-150 Raptor $58,552 $60,450

Competition

Ram 1500

2019 Ram 1500 Exterior
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Although the Chevy Silverado might be the Ford F-150’s primary rival, Ram has raised the bar so high that it actually managed to pip the Silverado in terms of sales volume in 2018. This is enough to prove that the FCA-owned company has in it to be able to swerve the attention of consumers from Ford to Ram; which is a testimony in itself. The Ram 1500 may not be a looker per se, but it is butch, muscular, and the most proportionate of the lot. The loud exterior styling may not be to everyone’s liking, but it sure as hell grabs attention on the road.

On the inside, the truck is the benchmark, especially on the top trim. I mentioned this earlier in the review as well that Ford will look to make the 2021 F-150 as luxurious as the Ram truck. You can also opt for the 12-inch touchscreen system if you are a techhead. The cabin, otherwise, is quite comfortable and spacious as well. Speaking of the drivetrains, the most familiar one is the 5.7-liter, V-8 mill that makes 395 ponies and 401 pound-feet of torque. The engine can be had with the eTorque package as well, and that that pumps an additional 130 pound-feet of torque. However, all the engines in the lineup are fuel guzzlers. Also, the added luxury comes at a price. The Limited trim touches $60,000-mark without any add-ons.

Read our full review on the 2019 Ram 1500.

Rivian R1T

The 2020 Rivian R1T Electric Truck Middle Fingers Tesla with a 3-Second Sprint to 60 mph and 400 Mile Range Exterior
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Given that Ford is developing an electric truck as well, it makes sense to pit it against the truck that is set to tage the auto scene by storm. Rivian is a new kid on the block, but that doesn’t mean it is not capable of taking on the veterans of the segment. The company had already announced its power capabilities, which I will be touching base with next, but it also struck a nerve from an emotional standpoint - it’s a family truck. Rivian recently introduced camper equipment for the truck, including a bed-mounted and stowable kitchen setup. If you were invested in the Rivian R1T but your family wasn’t, this will surely change it. In terms of technology, the Rivian R1T from a tech-head’s point-of-view has a 15.6-inch touchscreen system on the dashboard, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and Level 3 autonomy.

Speaking of the powertrain and the like, Rivian said that the R1T will feature four electric motors - one at each wheel that will produce a combined 788 horses. It will be offered with three battery pack options; 105 kWh, 135 kWh, and 180 kWh. The R1T with the biggest pack can be driven for 400 miles on a single charge! The 0-60 mph mark is achieved in 4.9 seconds with the smallest battery pack and in 3.2 seconds with the largest battery pack.

Rivian shook the world when it announced that it will be come with a travel range of 400 miles, will zoom from a naught to 60 mph in three seconds, etc. The towing capacity is rated at 11,000 pounds, whereas the payload hauling capacity is rated at 1,760 pounds. The electronically-operated tailgate can be used as a sitting bench at 90-degrees, and as a flatbed when opened at 180-degrees. An adjustable air suspension is also provided that can raise the R1T from 7.9 inches to 14.2 inches by the press of a button. As for the pricing, the Rivian R1T could breach the six-digit figure with additional add-ons.

Read our full review on the 2020 Rivian R1T.

Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator Exterior
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The Jeep Gladiator is another unconventional competitor, but customers these days cross-shop instead of refraining their choices to direct rivals such as the GMC Sierra or Chevy Silverado. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is offered in four trims, each defining and staying true to its own role. The base Sport and Sport S trims are good as a work truck, whereas the top Rubicon trim is a true off-roader, The second-from-top Overland trim, however, is the most ideal one if you have a mixed usage pattern comprising of tarmac drive as well as off-road adventures.

The Jeep pickup truck went on a long exile of thirty years, but the 2020 Gladiator still retains those old-school Jeep looks with the round headlights and the signature seven-slat grille. This trim comes with 18-inch Granite Crystal Aluminum Wheels wrapped in 32-inch tires that drive well on tarmac and unknown terrains alike. This trim also comes with automatic halogen headlamps and front fog lamps. To further accentuate the looks, you will find side-steps and body-colored fenders as well.

On the inside, the truck comes with a seven-inch infotainment system as standard, and can be upgraded to a bigger 8.4-inch touchscreen. These seats are covered in leather and all the lights inside are LEDs. As for the drivetrain, the 2020 Gladiator is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 mill that makes 285 horses and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, while an eight-speed automatic gearbox is optional. Speaking of the towing an payload capacities, the Gladiator can tow up to 7,650 pounds, and haul up to 1,600 pounds. This is one aspect that is nowhere close to the Ford F-150. The 2020 Gladiator range starts at $35,000.

Read our full review on the 2020 Jeep Gladiator

Conclusion

2021 Ford F-150 Exterior Spyshots
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The Ford F-150 accounts for 70-percent of F-Series sales. So, this generation will decide the fate of the F-Series as a whole moving forward. While the decision to downsize the larger V-8 engine may not go well with the purists, it makes sense financially for Ford. The company is also moving forward with developing a hybrid engine and the electric one as well. The details are not out yet, but given that Ford is not exactly a frontrunner on the automotive scene, it will be tough for it to compete against the likes of Rivian and Tesla. Both these companies pose different threats and will cause a problem of their own for Ford. The ’send-the-competition-into-oblivion’ Rivian R1T comes with a mind-boggling powertrain and a set of unique selling propositions that will be tough to Ford to counter, whereas the Tesla truck will undercut the pricing by a huge margin. In the EV world, the legacy and goodwill will not play that big of a role, and Ford has a huge mountain to conquer moving forward.

Interestingly enough, Ford invested $500 million in Rivian earlier this year. Does the contract let Ford borrow the powertrains Rivian develops and plonk them into the F-150?

Nevertheless, we can see Ford working tirelessly in developing the new truck in the combustion avatar, the hybrid, as well as the electric. It is also working on things like an independent suspension system, etc., which keeps our faith as strong as ever on the brand. Do you think Ford will succumb to the pressure and lose to the new electric players, or will it be able to be the apex predator even in the electrification era? The 2021 Ford F-150 is expected to debut in 2020; perhaps, an one of the major auto shows. I’m guessing it will be at the 2020 Detroit Auto Show, which will be held in June instead of being held in January every year. This leaves Ford with about a year to bring out the final production version of the 2021 Ford F-150.

  • Leave it
    • Rivian and Tesla already have a headstart in terms of electric powertrains
    • The legendary V-8 engine will be dropped
    • Pricing will be a big factor moving forward

Further Reading

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor.

2018 Ford F-150 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Read our full review on the 2018 Ford F-150.

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