2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid: What's It Like to Live With?
We bought a 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid and will spend the next year testing everything it has to offer.
|Miles Driven||Average MPG|
Latest Highlights (updated 04/07/23)
- Our best fuel fill so far is 25.6 mpg, a little better than what the EPA promised
- Our overall average sits at just about 20 mpg, way off expectations
- This truck has 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque
- The hybrid emphasizes power and torque, then maybe mpg
- Storage is, unsurprisingly, awesome. Check out our thoughts in the Utility section
What do you want to know about?
What We Bought And Why
• Our test vehicle: 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid 4x4 SuperCrew XLT
• Base MSRP: $44,155
• MSRP as tested: $62,285
• What we paid: $66,285
The Ford F-Series has been the best-selling truck (and vehicle) in the United States for more than 40 years. There's little reason to doubt that this trend will continue with the latest generation F-150 that debuted for the 2021 model year. New for this generation, the F-150 notably gets an available hybrid V6 powertrain. Ford calls it PowerBoost and thinks it can upend the truck segment by delivering more power and better fuel economy than any regular, gas-only engine. So can it? We've bought a 2021 F-150 with the PowerBoost powertrain to find out over the course of a year and hopefully 20,000 miles.
What Did We Get?
When it comes to full-size pickups, the configurations are nearly limitless. The F-150 offers six engines (3.3-liter V6, 2.7-liter turbo V6, 5.0-liter V8, 3.0-liter turbodiesel, 3.5-liter turbo V6 and 3.5-liter hybrid), six trim levels (XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited), three bed lengths, three cab styles (Regular, SuperCab, SuperCrew), rear-wheel and four-wheel drive. This doesn't even consider the interior trim and technology options available. We had a few key features in mind as we shopped for our F-150.
On paper, we bought a mouthful: a 2021 Ford F-150 XLT 4x4 SuperCrew with the 5.5-foot bed, 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission.
Our primary target was the engine and we paid a $4,495 premium for it. This V6 connects to an electric motor and battery pack to produce 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque. And according to the EPA, this combo is good for an impressive 24 mpg combined (24 city/24 highway).
Our secondary target was the onboard generator ($750), or if you're reading the spec sheet, the 7.2-kW Pro Power Onboard. We were eager to utilize this feature well before the stories about F-150s powering home appliances in Texas during the North American ice storm of 2021. We look forward to testing the capabilities of this innovative technology.
We otherwise shopped for an F-150 as we'd recommend to a friend. While we'd normally lean toward the Lariat trim, a local Ford dealership had a special-order XLT. The customer backed out so we moved in. The base version of this truck, with an MSRP of $44,155, is well equipped with numerous standard comfort and tech features including as a wireless hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and a catalog of driver assist and safety alert systems. The total list of optional equipment totaled $18,435 with the PowerBoost the big-ticket add-on. Other notable items are connected navigation, a tow package, a 360-degree camera package, a spray-in bedliner and 20-inch dark alloy wheels.
The dealer wasn't going to budge on its $4,000 markup over MSRP, but we accepted this given the wild car market these days and considering it was very near the truck we'd have built ourselves. After a $2,000 Sport package credit, we walked away with a truck for $66,285.
Why Did We Get It?
The F-150 wasn't the only updated truck in 2021. But at the end of the day, it stands out more than its peers and defends its place atop the class. Each F-150 we've owned (2010 F-150 Raptor, the first aluminum 2015 F-150 EcoBoost V6 and a 2018 F-150 EcoBoost) brought its own flair to the F-150 formula. This new F-150 brings a battery pack to the formerly non-hybrid realm of full-size trucks. This F-150 is the new truck to beat and we are excited to spend more time behind the wheel.
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid: Real-World Fuel Economy
This is all about the PowerBoost 3.5-liter hybrid V6. Will it perform as well as its EPA fuel economy estimates suggest? We can't wait to find out.
Average lifetime mpg: 20.3
EPA mpg rating: 24 combined (24 city/24 highway)
Best fill mpg: 25.6
Best range (miles): 700.3
Current odometer: 22,067
You're only getting 20 mpg — isn't this thing a hybrid?
You are not the only one disappointed with the mpg of our F-150 hybrid (thus far, it' still early days). Here are the thoughts of one Edmunds staffer before we tackle the question in full.
"I recall that when I was in Edmunds' previous F-150 EcoBoost I got amazing mpg — especially when compared to the RAM 1500. In fact, I drove it to Palm Springs and was able to average between 23-24 mpg, which was amazing. I planned the same drive when I got into the F-150 and couldn't wait to see how the hybrid engine would do. I was excited to beat the 24 mpg listed on the monroney.
"So, how did it do? Unfortunately, I ended up with a combined 19-20 mpg. Just to let you know, when I drive an electric or hybrid vehicle, my driving behavior changes drastically and instead of stomping on the gas, I find myself trying to optimize the fuel economy. Even with this type of driving, I fell horribly short of the stated mpg. I know that in terms of torque the PowerBoost is impressive, but if you are looking for a full-size truck that gets great mpg, you should look at the EcoBoost. I couldn't help thinking that is why the PowerBoost literally has zero badging or any markings that points to the fact that this is a hybrid engine."
So even driving softly on the highway doesn't hit the EPA number?
No. The F-150 will drive in "electric mode" or "EV mode" at low speeds (below 30 mph) and will also use its battery when well-charged to take a load off its 3.5-liter V6 engine when traveling upwards of 60 mph. The best way to efficiently use the gas in your tank is to drive on city streets (or better yet, school zones) and brake slowly and deliberately to recharge the battery. Don't spend a lot of time on interstate highways. This is a hybrid, not a 2009 Honda Civic, so the way you get efficient use of your gasoline is different. It's also why many find hybrids, well, a little disappointing." — Jake Sundstrom, editorial assistant
How is the fuel range, though?
So far we haven't had much luck establishing an average of 20 mpg per tank, let alone the EPA estimate of 24 mpg. Now consider this truck has a 30.6-gallon fuel tank. We've consistently gone 500 miles between gas station visits and, under the right circumstances, have seen over 600 miles between fill-ups. That is an impressive stat all by itself. And while we applaud this success, we will conveniently overlook the cost of gasoline these days.
Vehicle Testing Technician Rex Tokeshi-Torres took the F-150 on a long road trip — just over 3,000 miles. And while he set our record for most efficient tank (24.5 mpg) his overall record of 19.7 mpg confirms what we already know nearly 10,000 miles in: If you're looking for highway fuel efficiency, you best look elsewhere.
Editor Jake Sundstrom set a new record for both fuel economy and range (25.6 mpg, 700.3 miles) on back-to-back trips while racking up what the F-150 categorizes as "electric miles." This is when the truck is driving in all-electric mode, something you might be familiar with if you drive a plug-in hybrid or if you've followed along with our coverage of vehicles like our Long-Term 2021 Toyota Sienna. Unlike the Sienna, which had a big button that said "EV," the F-150 isn't quite as keen on dipping into all-electric mode. That means it's up to the driver to drive softly at low speeds or let off the gas in areas where coasting is an option to "trick" the truck into switching into battery mode.
This ... is kind of silly. The truck drives very smoothly when in all-battery mode and is capable of doing so at freeway speeds when you've already got it up and running. It appears more and more that the F-150 Hybrid has the capability of being a (relatively) fuel-efficient vehicle ... it's just not all that interested in it.
The EV Coach feature makes a difference
"Like my co-worker Jake mentioned in another comment, our F-150 isn't particularly interested in using all-electric power. But there is a way to make the most of the PowerBoost's hybrid ability: Use the EV Coach feature. If the engine is currently not running, this blue bar readout in the instrument panel shows exactly how far you can press down on the accelerator pedal before the engine will fire back up. As long as you don't exceed the bar with your throttle input, the truck will stay running with all electric power. I did an informal comparison of my driving style — regular versus EV Coach enhanced — and found that using it helped boost my city driving mpg by 2-3 mpg." — Brent Romans, senior manager, written content
Have there been any issues with the Hybrid?
This week we received our first recall notice for the F-150 (NHTSA recall 21V-986). It states that on the vehicle, "underbody insulators may loosen and contact the aluminum driveshaft, resulting in marking or scoring ... continued contact may result in driveshaft fracture." It looks like about 185,000 are part of the recall, of which Ford anticipates 10% are affected. Vehicles being recalled are 4x4 Crew Cabs with the 145-inch wheelbase and with 302A and above packages. Obviously that wording is enough to get our attention. We'll make an appointment to see the dealer ASAP.
Six months into our F-150 test and it just turned 10,000 miles, which puts us right on track for our annual goal. This milestone also means it's time for scheduled maintenance. Our dealership experience was seamless at Huntington Beach Ford. We dropped the truck off at 8 a.m. and it was ready by noon.
We spent $75 for an oil change oil, a new oil filter, a tire rotation and a list of inspections prescribed by the owner's manual. Two recalls were also performed under warranty. The first (21S56) required a peek underneath to confirm underbody insulators weren't sagging onto the driveshaft. The second (22S17) reprogrammed the integrated trailer relay module.
Mike Schmidt, our senior manager of vehicle testing operations, started noticing some problems with the big screen in our F-150. Things did not get much better.
"This morning the primary display screen in the F-150 started glitching on me. Without warning the screen reset itself. It would black out, or white out, then the reboot screen with the Ford logo would appear and then it very slowly reloaded."
"I've been in the truck on and off again for the past four hours and this happens about every five minutes."
Here's what our Huntington Beach Ford adviser had to say:
"Ford pointed out a TSB (TSB 22-2226) for your screen issue, which consists of an update to the APIM module. But first the battery has to be above 10 volts for the tech to update or it can wipe the module entirely. So it takes some time to charge the battery."
"I've seen this happen several times now, on F-150s, Fusions and Explorers. One customer has been here three times to get this same reboot. That's because the APIM module has to fail in a specific way before Ford will warranty its replacement."
When the work was done, our adviser said, "Based on what I've seen of this problem, I bet you are back again soon. I hope not."
Shortly after I left I put the truck in reverse. The cameras weren't working. I called the adviser and he said, "I was going to call you. I just found out that your truck did fail the guided test routine, so a new APIM module was ordered. They are on back order ... I think because of the chip shortage. I will call you when we know more but the last one I ordered took about a month before I knew anything."
Follow-up: The second time I started the truck after its "repair," the primary screen was black again and fully inoperable. No map. No radio. No cameras. No voice commands. No clock. No CarPlay. Just old-school pickup truck.
Editorial Assistant Jake Sundstrom picked up the baton from here:
"The APIM module for our F-150 arrived just over a week after Huntington Beach placed it on order (our service rep mentioned this was a very quick turnaround for this part) and the repair was completed same day (and under warranty). We can now, mercifully, listen to all of the summer jams we want while tooling around town in our beautiful, hybrid machine."
2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid: How Does it Drive?
The big deal with this F-150 is the hybrid powertrain. Not only will that change fuel economy but it will also have an impact on how the truck drives day-to-day. It's not going to accelerate like the typical, non-hybrid, truck but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Here's what we've experienced with ours.
What is so different about the hybrid?
"There are a handful of driving characteristics that separate this truck from its peers.
"The first thing you hear is straight out of a spaceship. Automakers are now required by law to have an audible noise to alert pedestrians of a moving vehicle nearby. When the truck is under battery power, from 1 mph up to about 25 mph, the hum is head-turning loud. But I figure that is the whole point. Not to worry, though, you get used to it.
"Another thing is the electric-smooth acceleration from a stop. And if you ask for it, this thing really moves out. It will go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds under normal conditions, which is just as fast as an F-150 Raptor. Yet at 24 mpg, it's rated as fuel efficient as the 3.0-liter turbo V6 in the F-150 diesel.
"We are still in the engine break-in stage. According to the manual it's 1,000 miles before we're finished. During this time the transmission is still learning our driving habits, so shifts are a little erratic at times and especially during stop-and-go. We'll cut the truck some slack until that milestone appears on the odometer. It may be psychological, but after a couple hundred miles I think it's a little better than it was brand-new at 25 miles." — Mike Schmidt, senior manager, vehicle testing operations
We know the hybrid has torque, but what's that like driving up steep grades?
"'The Grapevine (the nickname given to the mountain highway pass connecting southern California to central California) isn't officially part of Edmunds' testing regiment but it's been part of my driving life since long before I got behind the wheel. As a lived-all-over-California kinda guy, I've spent a lot of time traversing the slopiest (?) portion of Interstate 5 in vehicles that weren't pleased with the task.
"The F-150, in its full-hybrid configuration, didn't break a sweat. This is not the hybrid Sienna, which sounds like an angry weed whacker driving up and down the hills. No, the F-150 merely handles the job. It hurt the fuel economy on the tank (down to around 18 mpg from Orange County to the Central Valley) but ... in a full-size pickup? That still feels like a miracle." — Jake Sundstrom, Editorial Assistant
"My wife and I loved how cozy we felt inside the cabin, but I think it has a lot to do with how well this truck performed. The ride quality was astounding and the truck hardly made a fuss about traveling through various different grades of roads. The hybrid powertrain was strong in every situation we drove through, including steep slopes, winding roads, snow, and wet roads. Our long trip allowed me to test several drive modes, including Normal, Eco, Sport and Deep Snow, and I can attest to this truck's superb capabilities." — Albert Hernandez, editorial assistant
The hybrid motor makes an interesting noise
"I put several hundred miles on our long-term F-150 Hybrid and came away greatly impressed overall. It's unfortunate that we're not getting the EPA-projected fuel economy, but that aside there's a lot to like about the smooth power delivery and instant torque from this engine.
"One quirk, though, is the noises it makes, and I don't mean the DOT-mandated low-speed noisemaker. The drivetrain makes weird clicks and whirrs when the electric motor is engaged. To be clear, it's not the worst sound, and if you have the radio on you may not notice it, it's just strange that it's so audible. We're used to a totally seamless experience in modern hybrids, with the engine turning on and off almost imperceptibly and the electric motors making little to no sound at all. I won't go so far as to say it's a 'flaw,' but it caught my attention." — Keith Buglewicz, managing editor
The F-150's cabin is versatile when it's moving, and when it's parked
"This is the first time I've used the F-150 for something resembling its god-given purpose: work. I threw the truck in park, popped it into accessory mode and moved into the backseat where I'm more comfortable than any cafe I've ever sat in — a bonus? I get to pick the music in here!" — Jake Sundstrom, Editorial Assistant
We should have gotten the
"One of the cooler things available in the current-generation F-150 is the fold-out desk, which Ford calls the Interior Work Surface. Our long-term Lightning has it. Press a button next to the shift handle on the center console and it drops down into a little well, allowing you to flip the center console bin lid forward to create a big, flat workspace for your computer, notepad, etc. Pretty handy if you're a contractor, or just someone who likes to doodle in parking lots.
"Our Hybrid doesn't have the desk, but it does have the fold-down handle. Am I the only one who thinks that's odd? Why include half a feature that by itself offers little utility? The motorized handle is a nifty parlor trick, I suppose, and maybe the aftermarket can come up with something to put there when it's folded. But the little cha-cha the handle does when it returns to its upright position doesn't inspire confidence, and I'm not sure I like the idea of a failure point being introduced to the truck with no clear-cut benefit." — Keith Buglewicz, managing editor
"Our other long-term F-150, the electric Lightning, has a center console feature that Ford calls the Interior Work Surface. It's a hinged top of the console that flips down to cover the area where the gear shift handle is. I've found it to be useful for putting a laptop computer or food, if I have to eat in the truck. Alas, our red F-150 doesn't have this option, and I miss it. I'd totally get this option if I were buying an F-150." — Brent Romans, senior manager, written content
It used to be that ride discomfort was an assumed quality of any full-size truck. Not anymore. We'll see how the Hybrid holds up to these new standards. And let's delve into seat comfort while we're at it.
So how is the ride quality?
"The F-150 is a tremendously capable vehicle, but I've typically thought of it as very narrowly proficient. A week of driving our hybrid F-150 from Orange County to Sonoma County added 'great road tripper' to its list of superlatives. Handily tackling wet days at state parks wasn't a surprise (that's kind of the point of having a truck), but it dealt with long stretches on I-5 better than our brand-new BMW X3 in terms of comfort and ride quality while getting between 18 and 22 mpg. Not too shabby!" — Jake Sundstrom, editorial assistant
"This thing rocks on road trips. The seats are comfortable, the tech is easy to use, and when loaded up it never lags up any grade. Mindlessly easy to log miles." — John Adolph, supervising producer
"I drove the F-150 Hybrid with my wife and 18-month-old child over 320 miles to Topaz Lake and it was delightful. I have to emphasize how comfortable this truck is. The seats are perfectly plush and the noise level in the cabin is pleasantly low. The ride quality has much to boast about as well as we drove through hills, winding roads and broken pavement with without disturbance." — Albert Hernandez, editorial assistant
Is this the best driving light-duty truck?
"It is for me. I really like the way our F-150 drives. It's got a pretty comfortable ride, stable handling, direct steering, smooth brakes and unobstructed visibility. I thought the same of our previous long-term test of a 2018 F-150. And then on top of all that we've got the muscular power of the hybrid powertrain. Mash the gas and this thing moves out with authority. Of all the light-duty trucks, the F-150 is my favorite. It's a truck but it doesn't drive like a truck." — Brent Romans, senior manager, written content
Camping with generator mode
"Editor Jake Sundstrom took the F-150 for a weekend getaway recently. He reflected, "The F-150 can be thrown into generator mode, which effectively prevents the truck from shutting off on its own while idling. You can also turn on EcoBoost mode, which tells the truck to rev harder in order to create more electricity for the hybrid's battery. That can come in handy if you're using either of the outlets in the bed for long periods of time. Or when it gets very, very cold in the middle of the night while camping in the desert and you need the truck to keep producing warm air.
"... My trip also gave me a chance to use the anchor points in the bed for a couple of tie downs. The included anchor points worked great and it only took a couple of straps to secure a midsize load that included a cooler, a large box and other camping bags."
Have truck, will fill with random stuff
For now, we'll just park a carousel of photos here with things we've hauled in the F-150's bed.
Our only needs for the F-150 so far consist of those little things that are unimpressive conveniences to a truck owner but are heaven-sent for non-truck-owners. We used the tie-down cleats and eye hooks to keep a fleet of rental tables and chairs from bouncing out. We brought that scrap wood home so the kids could build a weekend project. We picked up that bicycle. We easily loaded up those bags of mulch from the local nursery. Stay tuned for more.
"I love the fold-up rear bench in this truck. Yes, the ginormous bed is terrific for anything I'm willing to expose to the elements, but the cargo area in the rear of the cab is useful in a way I hardly have to think about." — Jake Sundstrom, editor
As the saying goes, "have F-150, will use F-150 to move"
"This truck was an absolute lifesaver for my move. It fit the vast majority of a married couple's one-bedroom place (including some furniture) in two trips. We were able to stuff the cabin to the brim and load up the bed, and the truck seemed to not even notice. The smooth power and ride comfort meant that not only did I enjoy the ride, but I felt comfortable that all of my fragile items and things riding in the bed were safe. The multitude of tie-down locations ensured that I was able to position my belongings and straps so that everything was secure. The biggest compliment I have is that after the two days of putting it through a move and LA traffic, I genuinely started to think about what it would be like to own." — David Lucio, post production coordinator
I really like our F-150 Hybrid, and I am by no means a truck guy. I don't need anything this big on a day-to-day basis, but it's been really great around town, save for a few tech hiccups. We've already talked about the replacement touchscreen, but I've had some strange audio issues too. I regularly use Apple CarPlay, especially for navigation, as I have work, home and a few other places pinned. CarPlay is wireless, too, and connects quicker than most vehicles I've used it in.
But on a couple of occasions, I had experienced an issue where audio would only play from one speaker. It wasn't like I'd shifted the sound focus; I double checked the audio settings to see if that was the issue. The music just wouldn't play, and because the song I was listening to was in stereo, I only heard part of the music. Switching to the radio or turning on a podcast didn't change things. What did fix it was turn-by-turn navigation.
When the turn-by-turn voice popped on, the audio was suddenly coming through normally. I replayed some songs and experienced no further issues. Obviously, this isn't as big an issue as the entire center screen going out, but it's still frustrating to see small tech issues like this continue to plague an otherwise pretty great truck.