The 2021 Ford F-150, Spied Testing, Looks Pretty Evolutionary

Andrew Wendler
Photo credit: KGP Photography

From Car and Driver

  • The current Ford F-150 pickup is one of the biggest-selling vehicles of all time, so we expect evolutionary updates to the upcoming 2021 model, even though Ford may market it as entirely new.
  • To the surprise of precisely no one, a solid rear axle is still employed as the third member, although two different versions are in use in photos shown here.
  • We expect the new F-150 to make its debut in 2020 as a 2021 model, possibly with a 4.8-liter V-8 replacing the current 5.0-liter V-8.

They call it camouflage for a reason, and Ford's liberal application of chic wavy-dot-patterned vinyl wrap to these F-150 mules surely lives up to the name. To the surprise of precisely no one, the new F-150 is still a three-box-design truck with the engine up front, the people in the middle, and the payload and empty beer cans in the back, just as God and Henry Ford intended.

Due to the large initial expenditure to create the current F-150's aluminum body, we figure this generation will be an evolution rather than a wholesale redo. The camo is comprehensive, and you can clearly see where Ford created a mask for the trademark style-line notch located along the driver's doorsill, where it meets the rearview mirror. The kick-up on the trailing edge of the cab roof is almost certainly a mule-only fabrication.

Photo credit: KGP Photography - Car and Driver

Rolling stock is the primary cosmetic differentiator between the two trucks shown here. The low-budget version is wearing pedestrian wheels, while the ostensibly upmarket mule is wearing 21- or 22-inch rollers. But looking closely reveals rear differentials of the two trucks are of a different shape; the small-wheel mule truck's diff is more ovoid, lacking the beefy gussets of the other. The bumpers are identical, as are the trailer-harness hookups, exhaust pipes, and trailer hitches.

To try to shed some light on the discrepancy, we ran the numbers with and without the prefixes from the tag on the lighter-duty unit-reading either "XCW43909" or "XCW48909," depending the quality of your monitor-through a Ford parts search and an internet search engine, but neither returned a hit. This means little on its own and these could very likely be current production units, but considering the long-running rumor of a new Ford 4.8-liter V-8 arriving in 2020 or 2021 to replace the current 5.0-liter V-8, we shouldn't rule out additional powertrain changes under the skin.

Photo credit: KGP Photography - Car and Driver

After first seeing it mentioned in a report by Reuters in late 2016 detailing Ford's deal with the UAW, we haven't heard much additional information about the 4.8-liter V-8's development. We also expect to see a plug-in-hybrid variant of the new F-150, and independent rear suspension has also been rumored.

What is sure to change with the F-150 update is the interior. Fiat Chrysler put all truckmakers on notice with the release of the plush 2018 Ram 1500, and its competitors are scrambling to bring their interiors up to the same level of refinement and detail. On that point, the entire interior of the F-150 mule with the larger wheels is covered up, including the spot in the dash where a large screen of the type to compete with the monster in the new Ram would reside.

The truck wars never sleep, and neither do our spy photographers. This is likely just the first round of next-generation Ford F-150 pickup spy photos we'll see before its official debut.

Photo credit: KGP Photography - Car and Driver

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