We live in an age of convenience. Shop for indulgences with a click. Punch your takeout order into an app and dinner soon appears at your door. Watch the latest movie on your couch. Everything is designed to make life easier these days. Including the modern pickup truck.
Take the new hybrid version of the most popular pickup truck in North America. The number of F-150s Ford sells every year is truly incredible. Here’s a ludicrous metric to measure them by: If you lined up all the F-150s sold in 2019 nose to tail, and then flew the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane overhead at its top operational speed of 3,500 kilometres an hour, it would take about an hour and a half for the plane to cover all 896,526 of them. That’s wild.
The explosive popularity of pickups these days is because they are, quite simply, some of the most highly developed and practical vehicles on the road. The old Silverado I used to borrow from my neighbour for runs to the lumber yard had character, but it did not stop, turn, or brake particularly well, and it had the fuel economy of a cruise liner.
This hybrid F-150, by comparison, has slightly better city fuel economy than a Subaru Outback XT. A combined 570 lb-ft of torque means this truck will get up to 100 kilometres an hour as quickly as a Volkswagen GTI, and it stops from highway speeds over about the same distance as a Toyota Prius. No, it’s not the best canyon carver in the world, but it’s stable and immensely comfortable.
This is far more vehicle than the average driver actually needs, and the price tag reflects it. In an effort to at least slightly test the hybrid’s prowess, I packed up the kids and took the F-150 up the Fraser Valley for some backyard camping at my parents’ house near Chilliwack, B.C.
For longer-distance camping trips, you’d probably want a canopy on your pickup to really load up on gear. It should also be pointed out that the upcoming all-electric F-150 Lightning’s huge front trunk or “frunk” would have been an advantage here for tents and sleeping bags and so forth.
However, while I have taken my kids camping with everything from a Honda Civic hatchback to a Ford Mustang, there’s nothing that can touch a pickup for hauling gear. Perhaps a minivan. But you can’t plug a movie projector and an electric go-kart into the back of a minivan, and with the Ford F-150, you can.
If you use a generator while camping, note that the F-150′s in-bed plugs are simple to use, and capable of providing up to 7.2 kilowatts. The truck’s engine is also much quieter than a stand-alone generator, and because it has to conform to automotive standards, also much cleaner-running.
Camping in your parents’ backyard is hardly roughing it. We had all the fun of sleeping out under the stars, with basically none of the effort. My mom even brought us toast and marmalade in the morning, at a social distance, of course.
The F-150 was part of that convenience. In fact, perhaps it was a little too convenient. There are certainly some drawbacks to living a life of easy and instant gratification, and buying machines that offer far more capability than we actually need. It’s easy to see the appeal of a life where everything is comfortable and our wishes are instantly gratified. It might not be good for us in the long run, but it’s just so convenient. Such is the appeal of the Ford F-150 hybrid.
2021 Ford F-150 hybrid
Base price/as tested: $61,845/$82,215
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 turbocharged hybrid
Transmission/drive: 10-speed automatic/four-wheel-drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 9.8 city/9.7 highway
Alternatives: Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Silverado
With lots of chrome and powered step-rails, this Lariat trim F-150 is more civilian-grade than some of the F-150′s more aggressive packages. The red paint really makes the truck, and LED lighting does a lot to add a signature look. It’s curious that Ford doesn’t use the label “hybrid” on the F-150; it just gives it a PowerBoost badge.
Very comfortable and flexible, the Ford’s inside is set up well for work or play. The fold-down desk in between the front seats is a genius piece of design for a tradesman with a laptop, and also makes a decent picnic table on a roadside stop. There’s an immense amount of storage, and the materials used are of a quality befitting a truck that costs this much. Having said that, Ford needs to stay on its A-game here because rivals like the Dodge Ram are equally good.
The F-150 hybrid’s 1.5-kilowatt-hour battery is fairly small, but Ford has said the choice was made to keep weight down so as not to reduce towing and hauling capacities. With 430 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, the F-150 hybrid can tow an impressive 5,760 kilograms, and accommodate a payload of just under 1,000 kilograms. It’s fully capable of hauling your boat or camper, and it can also charge the batteries on either.
The F-150 hybrid’s on-board generator is, like the rest of the truck, immensely capable. A single 30-amp, 240-volt plug provides enough power to run your entire house during a power outage for up to ten days. Below, a battery of four 120-volt plugs can power any camping or other accessories you might wish. The engine runs periodically, but sometimes the F-150 will just shunt power from its 1.5kWh battery.
The F-150 hybrid comes as a Supercrew (four-door) version with a 6.5-foot (2,032-millimetre) box. Currently, you can’t get the longer box with the hybrid system.
A pickup truck that is capable of handling any extreme situations you might encounter in your driving life, up to and including a power outage.