All the Most Innovative New Features on the 2021 Ford F-150

The latest version of Ford’s iconic truck features over-the-air updates and can even be used as a generator.

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All the Most Innovative New Features on the 2021 Ford F-150 © All the Most Innovative New Features on the 2021 Ford F-150

The 2021 Ford F-150 is going high-tech in a big way, adding the first full hybrid system in a half-ton pickup. That isn't the only impressive piece, though. Ford included all kinds of tech to make life at home, on vacation or on the worksite much easier on every new F-150. 

From a robust tailgate that opens with the press of the remote to over-the-air updates that promise to upgrade and add features, there's plenty to be excited about. Here's the highlight reel of all the clever, high-tech features in Ford's bread-and-butter truck. 

SYNC4: Over-the-Air Updates and More

The F-150 is the first Ford after the Mach-E to get the marque's next-generation infotainment system, SYNC4. Regardless of whether you opt for the standard eight-inch touchscreen or the embiggened 12-inch version, SYNC4 is standard on all new F-150s. The 12-inch screen comes standard on the upper-level XLT and higher trims while allowing occupants to control two features at once using a split-screen interface. 

The most exciting part of SYNC4 is the truck's ability to receive over-the-air updates. These will offer both system upgrades and new features over time, thus reducing the need to take the truck into a shop. Your maps system (which you can pinch to zoom in and out using SYNC4's touchscreen, by the way) will never look too old, and you'll have all the correct streets. Most updates will happen in under two minutes without any interruption in use. If there's a longer update, though, the owner can schedule it for a convenient time. 

Through SYNC4, you can access a digital owner's manual complete with how-to videos. There's also hands-free voice and music controls and a host of the usual features you'd expect from a modern infotainment system, such as wifi, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and available SiriusXM satellite radio. An 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen Unleashed sound system is available on the Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trucks, which integrates speakers in the front headrests and headliner.

If you need to drive into a tight spot, the truck's five high-resolution cameras positioned around the truck and the overhead 360-degree display have your back. 

Also available is a customizable 12-inch digital gauge cluster, where you can find information related to the F-150's different drive modes, off-roading data and another navigation view. 

100,000 Miles of Hands-Free Driving

Ford's second-generation Co-Pilot360 system includes the first hands-free driving system in a pickup to-date: Active Drive Assist. 

Approximately 100,000 miles of pre-mapped divided highways in the United States and Canada are available in the Active Drive Assist system. Instead of forcing the driver to keep their hands on the steering wheel, Ford's system monitors head position and eye gaze to ensure the driver is paying attention. 

Trucks will be available with the Active Drive Assist hardware when they go on sale, but the software is expected to become available for an extra fee in the third quarter of 2021. That software will be available as an over-the-air update or through a visit to the dealership. 

In addition to the usual safety systems for most 2021 models such as pre-collision detection with automatic braking, pedestrian detection, and automatic high beams, Ford added a couple of other upgrades to its latest iteration of Co-Pilot360. Active Park Assist 2.0 will take care of everything involved in parallel or perpendicular parking while the driver holds down the button that controls it. Intersection Assist detects oncoming traffic in left-hand turns and will brake to lessen impact or avoid a potential collision. 

Your Truck Is the Mobile Generator

Ford's Pro Power Onboard system is everything we needed to haul track toys, like, yesterday. Instead of having to bring a separate generator to power the lights and power tools you'll want to use when said track car inevitably breaks, your truck is the generator. 

In addition to interior power outlets, the Pro Power Onboard system includes up to four 120-volt, 20-amp outlets in the bed. Conventionally powered Fords get a 2.0-kilowatt output, whereas the hybrid drivetrain ups that figure to 2.4-kilowatts or an optional 7.2 kilowatt-system. With the 7.2-kilowatt system, you can also get a 240-volt, 30-amp outlet to use for even bigger tools. 

Those can power a lot, as Ford explained in some handy graphics:

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The F-150 Is Also a Lamp

The F-150's Zone Lighting lets you illuminate all around the truck itself, and also lets you turn off which lights you don't need at the moment, all from within SYNC4 or the FordPass app. 

Yes, Your Truck Has Its Own App

If you're not inside your car, congratulations, you can still access some of your truck's functionality. The FordPass Connect app can do all kinds of things, such as alert you if your trailer gets disconnected and schedule a remote start. You can control the Pro Power Onboard outlets, unlock your truck, adjust the Zone Lighting and check your trailer lights, all from the app. 

Your Fleet Has Its Own App, Too

Fleet operators have another trick up their sleeve: Ford Telematics. It's a subscription service that uses the F-150's (and other Fords') built-in modem to send data back to a fleet operator, who can look at the status and location of each truck in real-time through the Ford Telematics web app or the Ford Telematics Drive mobile app. They can even set geofenced boundaries, get reminders on service and analyze driver behavior, all of which can help figure out how to save fuel in the long run.

The Shutters Are Functional

Full-size trucks may be as big as a house nowadays, but the shutters Ford added to the new F-150 actually have a purpose, and they sit where you can barely see them behind the grille. 

Ford touts this as its most aerodynamic F-150 yet, a claim aided by an all-new cab and tailgate design as well as some active aerodynamics trickery. When the truck needs more cooling, the shutters can open up and let that air in, but if not, they can shut to let the big behemoth cut through the air a little better. There's also an active air dam that deploys at certain speeds for the same purpose: to help a large truck cut through the air more easily.

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The Most Useful Power Tailgate We've Seen

Being able to gently open your tailgate from afar like it's a normal trunk is nice, but it's what the tailgate can do when it's down that caught our attention. 

Every F-150 tailgate comes with clamp pockets to hold down materials to work on them right then and there. Cleats are integrated into the sides of the tailgate to use as tie-downs for hauling longer objects. 

One of the best features of the tailgate isn't even all that high-tech. The optional Tailgate Work Surface transforms the folded-down tailgate into a portable workspace with built-in rulers, a place to prop up a tablet, a pencil holder, and of course, a cup holder. 

  • Stowable gear lever., <i>Ford</i>
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The Center Console Becomes a Side Table

If you'd rather work inside your truck, there's the optional Interior Work Surface. With the push of a button, you can stow the gear selector when you're parked to make room for a flat surface that folds out from the center console. 

The available front Max Recline power seats recline to an almost flat napping surface if said work is that boring. The bottom cushion rises to meet the top one and the upper back tilts up to 10 degrees forward to make it truly feel like a little bed in there. Sadly, that feature is only available on King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trim trucks.

Everything That Makes Towing Easy

Another trick included in the F-150's version of SYNC4 is the ability to make towing much easier through its Trailer Reverse Guidance and Pro Trailer Backup Assist systems, which are the only features of their kind available on a light-duty full-size pickup. 

Trailer Reverse Guidance isn't brand new for Ford, but it's been brought over from the Super Duty trucks. It uses the truck's high-res cameras to overlay graphics that tell the driver where to turn when backing up. Pro Trailer Backup Assist takes this help even further, allowing you to control the direction of your trailer with a knob on the dashboard as you back up. The F-150 takes over the steering direction from there. 

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  • Pro Trailer Assist knob, <i>Ford</i>
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