Truck Review: Ford’s 2021 F-150 Is a Best Seller Because It’s Best-in-Class
Ford has the most popular truck in the U.S. because it offers a wide variety of options that appeal to a broad customer base
To stand out from the competition, U.S. truck manufacturers offer endless trim options to potential customers. Chevrolet has tried to appeal to hunters with its Realtree Silverado, which is essentially the Trail Boss trim with camouflage in specific areas of the 4×4. Dodge adds superchargers under the hoods of its Ram trucks, dangling more horsepower in front of would-be buyers. And Toyota has branched into the overland and Western lifestyle by focusing some marketing efforts on young fly anglers and mountain hunters, who have become ultra-loyal to the Tundra and Tacoma. Ford’s 2021 F-150 Lariat FX4 is carving out a different niche.
This truck is more than capable off-road and as a work truck. Ford has built its reputation on designing trucks for hardworking folks (though there are some higher trim levels, like the King Ranch, that don’t always see much real use). The newest F-150 is built to tow, haul, and take on the challenges of off-pavement driving while offering better gas mileage for urban commuters.
The Lariat is expensive (it starts around $50,000), but most new half-ton trucks are. Considering how most Americans use their pickups—highway, city, and off-road driving—this versatile truck is ideal. Let’s take a look at how the FX4 fares as a hunting truck.
The overall styling is a logical progression from the previous iterations of this truck, and the FX4 Off-Road Package gives the F-150 a rough-and-ready look. Inside, the Lariat trim level feels like the sweet spot in Ford’s lineup. The XL and XLT rely on enough cost-cutting measures to make this a noticeable step up. At the same time, the Lariat doesn’t go quite as far in providing extras some hunters would find unnecessary, like King Ranch’s saddle-leather seats.
Scrolling through the truck’s powertrain customization options and the interior’s various creature comforts, it’s easy to see where the money goes. Trucks haven’t always been great long-haul companions, but the SuperCrew cab of this F-150 is roomy enough to spend a week on the road without spending a night in a hotel or sleeping in a tent.
The F-150 Lariat I tested included a long list of optional upgrades that boosted the MSRP from a base price of $50,980 to $70,170
Some things are worth paying for, though. Anyone planning on using a new F-150 as a hunting truck should budget for the FX4 Off-Road Package. The spray-in bed liner would be a wise choice, too. Beyond that, you can safely pick and choose which options suit your needs, from a panoramic sunroof to heated seats.
F-150 trucks run the gamut from bare-bones work trucks to luxury haulers. Here are some of the more important details of the FX4.
- Body style: Body-on-frame, half-ton pickup truck; Regular Cab, SuperCab, SuperCrew
- Trim levels: XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited
- Engines: 3.3-liter Ti-VCT V6 FFV, 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8, 3.0-liter Power Stroke V6, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, 3.5-liter PowerBoost Full Hybrid V6
- Power output: 290 horsepower, 265 pound-feet of torque (3.3-liter Ti-VCT V6 FFV); 325 horsepower, 400 pound-feet of torque (2.7-liter EcoBoost V6); 400 horsepower, 410 pound-feet of torque (5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8); 250 horsepower, 440 pound-feet of torque (3.0-liter Power Stroke V6); 400 horsepower, 500 pound-feet of torque (3.5-liter EcoBoost V6); 430 horsepower, 570 pound-feet of torque (3.5-liter PowerBoost Full Hybrid V6)
- Transmissions: 10-speed automatic, 10-speed modular hybrid
- Maximum payload: 3,325 pounds (select vehicles)
- Maximum towing capacity: 14,000 pounds (select vehicles)
The F-150 is a jack of all trades. It’s a daily driver, but it can also be used as a hunting truck and to haul a camper or trailer of ATVs. Parking might be tight if you live in the city, but parking assistance, obstacle avoidance sensors, and an array of cameras make that job a lot easier.
Sure, I’d rather tow with a big diesel, commute in a midsize truck or SUV, and go off-road in something I don’t mind beating up, but that would require buying three different vehicles. The F-150 I tested does all those things well enough and only takes up one parking space.
For a while, truck prices were increasing because manufacturers were trying to make them more luxurious. But if you’re a hunter, that’s not what you’re looking for in a pickup. So you were paying a higher price for gadgets you didn’t need (like heated side mirrors for frosty mornings). Fortunately, times have changed. While truck prices continue to climb, we are now getting useful features like trailer assistance, drive modes, and improved fuel economy. The eco-friendly Lariat hybrid also generates significantly more power than a V8. The back seat in Ford’s SuperCrew cab is also roomy enough for at least three adults, plus gear. And those passengers get their own vents, heated seats, and charging ports.
This F-150 Lariat is a fantastic vehicle, but there are two things that I’d have to wrestle with before buying one.
The first is the price. Paying up to $70,000 for a half-ton pickup is a lot of money. That doesn’t mean this truck isn’t worth the price tag, but the appeal of buying a $20,000 truck and making the aftermarket upgrades I want to it is more appealing than throwing down that much cash. That budget decision is up to you.
The second consideration is size. Growing up in the country, I never understood why people whined about big trucks. My first vehicle was a half-ton, and it never caused any problems; neither did any of my dad’s four-door one-ton. But at my current house, space is limited. I about had to shut down two lanes of traffic to back this truck into my driveway, and it barely fit. The truth is that many truck owners live in town and deal with similar daily driving challenges. This truck’s size could be a nuisance. You might be better off with a midsize truck or SUV.
The F-150 is a strong contender for any hunter who needs a truck to do everything they ask of it. It’s fuel-efficient, can tackle mud and snow in four-wheel drive, and haul gear, game animals, dogs, and hunting buddies with room to spare. If you travel a lot during hunting season, there aren’t many vehicles that are better equipped to logging hundreds of highway miles at a time.
This F-150 is wildly capable. It packs the latest tech options, though you will pay a premium for them. If it’s within your budget, you can treat yourself to the same kinds of amenities SUV and sedans provide. But it has the rugged durability Ford’s flagship truck is known for.
One of the reasons Ford has such a stranglehold on the U.S. truck market is the fact that there is an F-150 for everybody. With seven trim levels, six engines, and three cab styles, the possibilities are almost overwhelming. But there is an F-150 for you, regardless of whether you need a truck that can regularly take a beating off-road or tow a 30-foot trailer across the country.
You’d be hard-pressed to convince me that any truck manufacturer is doing more to push technological boundaries than Ford. Toyota is making a run for it with the new Tundra, but I still give Ford the edge. Buyers who want to invest in the future will appreciate that Ford offers a hybrid F-150—the most powerful available, aside from its Raptor. Driver aids like the birds-eye-view display make maneuvering such a large vehicle safe and easy. Old-school purists, who only want a reliable truck with a capable payload and tow rating, might not be as drawn to the many extras you can add to the current F-150, but even those folks won’t be able to deny the power of the 5.0-liter V8 engine option.
If I spend top dollar on a new truck, I want it to come with a few bells and whistles. Like many of you, my adventures take me far from home, so I want a cab that’s comfortable enough to handle 10-hour days on the road. That makes the SuperCrew Lariat trim level I tested a logical choice.
Cab and bed sizes will depend on what you haul more often: cargo or passengers. The F-150 Lariat comes in a regular, SuperCab, or SuperCrew option with a 5.5-, 6.5- or 8-foot bed, though all those bed lengths are not available with the different cab sizes. If you need room for four, the SuperCrew with a 6.5-foot bed is the best fit. It’s a four-door cab and the bed is big enough to stow everyone’s gear.
Be sure to opt for the $1,005 FX4 Off-Road Package, which includes monotube shocks, all-terrain tires, and electronic rear differential locking system and several other handy options for taking your truck off-pavement. I don’t plan on doing much towing, so the basic trailer hitch is sufficient. If you have heavy trailers to deal with, one of the more robust towing packages and the Tow Technology Package are worthwhile upgrades.
The hybrid engine is fantastic and allows you to travel farther (stopping less often) on one tank of gas. If the $3,300 fee is too much to stomach and you don’t want the base EcoBoost V6, the 5.0-liter V8 is only $800. Finally, I’d buy the spray-in bed liner. All that comes to a grand total of $60,090. To personalize your own F-150, you can use Ford’s configurator to see what your ideal truck would look like. I’m sure there’s a package that will fit your lifestyle.