I have to admit I was surprised by the 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost. I mean, I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I didn’t think it would be as good as it was. Or as smooth as it was. Or as comfortable as it was. Or as cool as it was. Or as maneuverable as it was.
Frankly, as anything as it was.
Ford makes an excellent truck, and in terms of comfort, I typically rank it No. 2 behind the Ram 1500. In terms of maneuverability, it’s always been neck and neck with Ram.
And the hybrid powertrain? It’s really damn good.
Hybrid hype or hallelujah?
We only had an hour and a half of actual drive time, so I zeroed in on the PowerBoost model. It’s been a while since I’ve driven a Ford hybrid, and frankly, I don’t remember them being all that great. So, that particular model captured my curiosity. Plus, with the Pro Power Onboard and its available 7.2 kW output, this has the potential to be the truck of choice for those who habitually use a generator.
The PowerBoost model is equipped with the 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine mated to a 35 kWh electric motor. Total power output is 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque.
On the drive itself, I did hard accelerations and slow creeps, trying to experience the full power range from electric to gasoline. What I want to say is: It’s impressive.
Though they aren’t trucks, I’ve recently tested both the Toyota Venza and the Honda CR-V Hybrid, and I was amazed by the seamless power and smooth transition between gas and electric modes. They are both among the best hybrids I’ve ever driven.
Now they have a truck counterpart.
The F-150 PowerBoost had an imperceptible exchange when the engine switched on and off. I didn’t feel any kind of a jerk or vibration, and the engine noise didn’t grumble to life when juice was needed. Granted, I spent the bulk of my time with a Limited model, which means there was plenty of sound deadening material to keep the vibrations and rumbles to a minimum. But still.
I had a brief turn in a couple lower-trimmed models (XL and XLT), and while they didn’t quite have the same encapsulated quiet as the Limited, they were still remarkably muted.
Smooth moves in the F-150 PowerBoost
The drive route contained your typical back country two lane roads. Some were well paved, some were gravel. And the top speed limit was 55 mph, and a few times, I dropped down to 25 or 35 mph as I blinked my way through small towns.
Through it all, I was impressed by how well the F-150 PowerBoost handled. This is the most powerful powertrain option available on the 2021 F-150 (yes, more powerful than the V-8), and I could totally tell. Whether I did a hard acceleration from a stop or simulated a passing maneuver (there was no traffic to pass!), the power was fairly immediate, and I didn’t notice any lag or lack. The F-150 PowerBoost did everything I wanted, exactly when I wanted it.
Something else I noticed: The F-150 drives small. In fact, it easy to forget I was driving a pickup truck. Sure, the lux-level amenities (including massaging seats!) contributed to this, but the heft and roll that you often feel with a pickup truck seemed to be absent.
This definitely wasn’t carlike by any stretch of the imagination. Nor was it nimble. However, I’ve driven some large SUVs recently (like the GMC Yukon), where you feel every inch of the length, every pound of the weight. The F-150 wasn’t like that.
Comfort and style
As I already mentioned, I spent the bulk of my time in the Limited trim, and the quilted (massaging!) seats were some of the most comfortable I’ve experienced.
What was especially impressive: Even as a small driver, I got an excellent driving position. The visibility out all the windows was really good, and with the more severe slope to the hood, it was easy to see around the corners of the truck. Plus, with adjustable pedals and the kick-down area on the front windows that lowers the side mirrors, I could sit back and see well.
Come to find out, the F-150 vehicle integration engineering manager, Dawn Piechocki, is about my size, and they use her specifically to test the viability of the driving position for the fifth percentile female (aka someone who’s about 5-feet tall).
And it shows.
While the interiors of the XL and XLT trims were not as plush, they still afforded the same visibility and, if not the same level of excessive comfort, at least a more comfortable situation than some other trucks I’ve driven.
But can it tow?
In addition to a straight drive, Ford gave us the opportunity to tow. So, I went for the F-150 PowerBoost again and the heaviest trailer they had, which happened to be just more than 7k pounds. Max towing for the hybrid tops out at 12,700 pounds.
We did a long loop on Ford’s proving grounds with some steep hills and small curves, and the F-150 PowerBoost did fairly well. I did notice some bounce and tug, which was a bit more than I’ve experienced in other towing situations. It did OK with the accelerations, and I didn’t feel unstable going downhill. In all it felt fine.
I did another loop in a diesel model with a similarly weighted trailer. It felt better with less bobble. It also felt like it had better acceleration, even though the diesel has significantly less torque and horsepower.
It was weird.
So, I asked about it, and learned even though the trailers were similarly weighted, it wasn’t exact. Plus, the connections were slightly different as were the trailers themselves. The bobble itself had to do with the fact the trailer was mostly positioned above the wheels rather than falling about midway down the wheels.
For a more complete description from Scott Leonardi, vehicle integration supervisor, be sure to watch my first drive video on the Pickup Truck + SUV Talk channel.
Gone muddin’ in the F-150 PowerBoost
For our final exercise, I had the opportunity to take an F-150 PowerBoost off road. Because of Covid-19 precautions, we didn’t have a right-seat driver or a lot of spotters.
Thus, the trails weren’t particularly treacherous. But there was some mud, and I did manage to get stuck once. I was driving in 2WD Hi and didn’t carry enough momentum into a mud pit. But as soon as I switched to 4WD Low, the truck crawled out of the pit as if there were no mud at all.
Here, I was having visions of needing to be winched out, and the truck carried on with business as usual as soon as I switched modes.
Overall, I found the F-150 to be capable off-road, hill descent worked really well, and I’d certainly love to have more time to play in the mud and dirt.
A word about fuel economy in the F-150 PowerBoost
At the time of writing this review, Ford hadn’t released and preliminary fuel economy numbers, and fueleconomy.gov did not have a listing for the 2021 F-150. However, Ford has previously said the F-150 PowerBoost should get up to 700 miles on a tank of gas – but some of that is going to be due to the fact the hybrid has a huge 30.6-gallon tank.
While I don’t have official numbers, I can tell you I got 21.3 MPG while driving 52.9 miles. And I didn’t try to drive it like a hybrid. I had hard accelerations and drove like I drive in Chicago – which means I was fairly aggressive. But there also wasn’t a lot of stop-and-go traffic and I stayed between 35 and 55 mph most of the drive.
Another interesting metric provided by the trip computer in the F-150 PowerBoost: I traversed 8.9 electric miles.
The bottom line on the F-150 PowerBoost
I liked everything about this truck. In fact, if you asked me what I didn’t like, the only thing I could come up with is the towing bounce, which might not actually be a problem.
The available features — such as the fold-flat front seats, flat work surface, Pro Power Onboard and lockable under-seat storage – are really flipping cool. The driving position is excellent – and adjustable for tall and small drivers. The handling is solid, and ride is comfortable.
Plus, I love the idea of a hybrid and the fact it’s the most powerful powertrain.
If you’ve been following our editor Tim Esterdahl’s saga on buying a new truck, you’ll know he’s looking strongly at the F-150 PowerBoost. So, what I have to say is: What are you waiting for? Go buy it.