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After 2 Years and 26,000 Miles, It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Our 2021 Ford F-150

ford f150 hybrid supercrew limited 2021 108 black dynamic exterior front angle truck scaled jpg 2021 Ford F-150 Limited hybrid | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

It’s time once again to cue up the Boyz II Men and crank “End of the Road” as we say goodbye to our longest-serving long-term test car, our 2021 Ford F-150 Limited hybrid. We’ve put over 26,000 miles on the truck in just over two years of ownership, and we’ve used it in a variety of ways during that time. We’ve taken it on numerous road trips with and without trailers, clocked it at the drag strip and even used it to charge an electric vehicle. We’ve found things we like — and things we don’t — in that time; the built-in 7.2-kilowatt Pro Power Onboard generator system remains a hit, though we’ve been consistently disappointed by our truck’s observed fuel economy relative to its official EPA estimates.

Related: Our Long-Term 2021 Ford F-150’s Active Air Dam Was Damaged — Again

As we approached the end of the F-150’s time in our hands, we asked our staff a simple question: Knowing what we do after two years of ownership, would you buy this truck again? The answers varied considerably; the general consensus seems to be that the F-150 is a good truck overall, but the hybrid drivetrain may not be the ideal one if you don’t need the available high-output onboard generator.

How Fuel-Efficient Was Our Truck?

Unfortunately, our F-150 didn’t achieve anywhere close to its 24 mpg combined EPA rating. Over 26,852.3 miles, our calculated fuel economy was 17.1 mpg. We used just over 1,551 gallons of premium fuel — Ford recommends premium for the F-150 hybrid — at a cost of $6,612.04, which works out to an average of $4.26 per gallon. We also tracked trip-computer fuel economy when towing, which was as low as 10.9 mpg when towing a large Airstream travel trailer and as high as 16.8 mpg when towing a car on a flat trailer.

There are a lot of factors that could explain our low overall fuel economy: Our calculated gas mileage includes towing, lots of city miles, drag-strip runs, onboard-generator use, adverse weather conditions and no consistency regarding driving modes or climate-control use. Our truck is also a well-equipped Limited model with 22-inch wheels that weighs 6,100 pounds. Plus, the truck’s power-deployable air dam — meant to improve aerodynamics — was damaged multiple times during our ownership. Even so, user-reported fuel economy to the EPA’s website ranges from 17 to 20 mpg for the F-150 hybrid, meaning our observed gas mileage isn’t a complete outlier.

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Would We Buy It Again?

While I have lots of positive memories associated with this particular truck — it helped me introduce my fiancee to my family, and its massaging front seats have prompted her to ask if every vehicle I drive has that feature — I’m not sure I would get another F-150 hybrid, whether a loaded Limited or even a lesser trim. The unimpressive fuel economy from our truck is one reason; the less-than-stellar unladen ride quality with our truck’s 22-inch wheels and nonadaptive suspension is another. (Ford introduced an available adaptive suspension for the F-150 later in the 2021 model year.)

That’s not to say I don’t like the F-150 overall. I think the interior is comfortable and well laid out even if it’s not quite as well done as the Ram 1500. The towing and hauling capabilities of any F-150 are likely more than I would ever reasonably need, but they’re nice to have just in case. I would happily spend Cars.com’s money on another F-150 but would simply configure it differently (ideally, “Raptor R” differently).

Here’s what some of our staff had to say about our F-150:

Damon Bell, Senior Research Editor

I was surprised to see our F-150 hybrid did as well as it did in the fuel-economy test against the Tundra hybrid. I’m sure this has been expressed before, but the overall real-world fuel economy of our F-150 is quite disappointing. I had the efficiency-coach display activated for most of my time in the vehicle, and I really focused on driving efficiently (very light touch on the gas pedal, lifting frequently so the gas engine would turn off and put me in EV mode as often as possible). The best I could manage according to the dashboard display (which is usually optimistic) was 19.4 mpg. That’s way off the 24/24/24 mpg city/highway/combined EPA rating for the four-wheel-drive 2021 F-150 hybrid. (That rating has been downgraded to 23/23/23 mpg for ’22 and ’23 models. It seems like it should be downgraded more because I’ve seen plenty of other reports of F-150 hybrids falling well short of the EPA numbers in real-world driving.)

Given the hassles and what it’s cost to have it fixed (more than once), the power-retracting air dam is clearly not worth it … as other owners will likely attest. We will have paid much more to fix it than it saved us in fuel costs during our time with the vehicle.

I didn’t spend as much time with the feature as Brian did, but my experience with BlueCruise pretty much mirrored his. Sometimes the system would not detect when my hands were on the steering wheel, and there was a “ping-pong” effect that was subtle yet annoying — even after the vehicle had centered itself in the lane, it would often have to correct its position even on relatively straight roads. Also, that “center” sometimes didn’t feel truly centered to me; it was a bit too close to the left-hand side of the lane for my liking. It’s been a few years since I’ve driven a Super Cruise-equipped car (and it was the earlier version of Super Cruise), but I recall GM’s system feeling more polished. I prefer Super Cruise’s steering-wheel-rim indicator lights, as well; they’re easier to see in my peripheral vision.

Aaron Bragman, Detroit Bureau Chief

My one big experience with our F-150 was using it as a cross-country tow adventure vehicle, lugging an Airstream trailer from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Louisiana for two nights of feasting at a friend’s incredible restaurant before trekking up through the Missouri Ozark foothills for a long weekend at another friend’s lakeside redoubt. The reason I wanted our truck was for its Pro Power Onboard generator system — I figured it’d be a great way to test the system by pulling an air-conditioned camper through the American South in July, and I was absolutely right.

I maintain that this system is an absolute game changer for anyone who has a camper but, like me, hates sleeping in heat and humidity (or needs electricity to power a continuous positive airway pressure machine overnight). Pro Power Onboard allows you to bivouac off the grid in complete comfort, as we found out during a 24-hour stint parked amid the vineyards of a middle Tennessee winery, well away from anyone or anything except the pinot grigio grapes. The truck powered the air conditioners in our camper all night and used about 20% of a tank of gas, running fairly often throughout a 12-hour stint to keep us nice and cool. If I had a camper trailer of my own, I’d say that an F-150 hybrid with the Pro Power Onboard system in its maximum power configuration is an absolute must. It opens your options to destinations and adventures where previously you would have had to lug along a separate generator.

Jonathan Earley, Producer

I probably haven’t had as much driving time as others, but I wouldn’t want to own an F-150 myself. The biggest turnoff for me is how large it is. It’s huge! It is not meant to be in the city. If I lived in the suburbs with a driveway, that would be one thing. But I feel uncomfortable with it when I have it in the city. Street parking is impossible.

It is a comfortable ride, I’ll give it that. It eats up road imperfections pretty well. Apple CarPlay works great, and it has a good sound system. There’s lots of room for rear-seat passengers, too. The steering feels like you’re turning a boat, but that’s to be expected in a big truck.

Jennifer Geiger, News Editor

The 2021 F-150 hybrid originally appealed to us in part because of its impressive blend of utility and fuel economy. After two years of ownership, did it deliver? Sort of. On the utility front, it excelled and slid into many editors’ everyday lives in a variety of useful ways, from towing cars and campers to using the Pro Power Onboard system to power up a variety of camping goodies. We even charged a Mach-E with it, which was pretty cool — but only makes sense in an emergency. The truck also earned points as a family vehicle thanks to ample room and very easy connections for three car seats.

On the fuel-economy front, we were less enthused. The 2021 F-150 hybrid has impressive EPA-estimated gas mileage — but not our truck. It routinely failed to meet EPA estimates and only met them on two trips during the time we owned it.

It also could’ve done better in the tech features and reliability departments. With the former, we were left in the lurch waiting for the much-anticipated BlueCruise system. When we finally got it, it turned out to be a pretty solid system, but it took more than a year for our truck to receive the software update necessary to activate it. Lastly, in terms of reliability, the truck was plagued with issues from almost day one, making for a frustrating ownership experience.

Overall, the F-150 hybrid was mostly an asset to the fleet, but it failed to fully live up to our expectations.

Mike Hanley, Senior Road Test Editor

Our long-term hybrid F-150 Limited has proven itself to be a capable and comfortable full-size pickup truck. The available Pro Power Onboard generator system has been able to power most things we threw at it during our ownership and remains one of the truck’s most compelling features. Whether towing on the open road or navigating urban streets, the F-150’s refined driving manners have also impressed.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing with the truck, however, with some computer glitches and rusty underbody components tarnishing the initial days of our ownership. We’ve also been unimpressed with the design of the truck’s active air dam, which has been damaged twice and replaced once. We also haven’t been able to regularly achieve our truck’s EPA-estimated gas mileage of 24 mpg combined, which was one of the selling points of the F-150’s available hybrid drivetrain.

It’s been more than two years since we bought our hybrid F-150, so hopefully some of the bugs we dealt with during our ownership have been worked out in the 2023 models now on dealer lots. If you’re concerned about surface rust, however, be sure to give the underbody of any F-150 you’re interested in a thorough inspection before taking possession.

Corinne Hanshaw, Copy Editor

The F-150 has really grown on me. At first, I really didn’t like it because of how clunky it is and its sluggish highway passing power. However, after accepting its flaws, I like it. I like that I don’t have to fill it up frequently thanks to its 30.6-gallon fuel tank, how comfortable it is, the amount of passenger space, the big center storage compartment, how fast it warms up when remote starting it and how well my phone works with its wireless Apple CarPlay.

Patrick Masterson, Chief Copy Editor

On paper, buying the F-150 Limited hybrid looked like a great idea. From the 7.2-kW Pro Power Onboard generator system to the active air dam below the front bumper for improved fuel economy to the promise of Ford’s BlueCruise driver-assist system (via over-the-air update!) to the general reputation of it being America’s most popular vehicle, a lot of pieces were in place to make it one of our staff’s most popular Best Of buys.

There’s no doubt the Pro Power Onboard system works, which we tested extensively to good effect, and though the luxury elements weren’t Ram 1500-beating, the Limited trim is at least competitive as a luxury pickup. Unfortunately, the rust issue we observed early in our ownership process portended the rocky road ahead: Most of my time behind the wheel was spent on long road trips where fuel economy came up short (though there was a notable exception when we tested it directly against the Toyota Tundra Capstone hybrid, which it beat). There were a series of recalls. There was the (repeatedly) damaged air dam and chattering gear selector. There was the worsening shudder of the hybrid powertrain when the gas engine kicked in. There were back orders on replacement parts. There was a significant delay to BlueCruise access. It goes on.

The question, then: Would we buy this truck again? I’m normally on the charitable end of our staff when it comes to these evaluative wrap-ups, but I don’t think I could say yes to another F-150 Limited — at least not a 2021 model. Some of my misgivings could be put down to the pitfalls of Ford trying a new powertrain on a full-size truck and may eventually be sorted. But enough went wrong over the course of the first nine days, let alone the ensuing two years, that though I hold out hope for the future of full-size hybrid pickups and what they can do for us environmentally, the present remains unconvincing proof that it’s a better option.

Jennifer Newman, Editor-in-Chief

I wouldn’t buy the F-150 hybrid again. The selling point of any hybrid is the fuel economy, and with the F-150, we rarely were able to achieve its EPA-rated 24 mpg combined. For a pickup truck that prefers premium gas, that’s a huge miss.

Jane Ulitskaya, News Editor

I found the F-150 to be a convenient daily driver, and its upscale interior was the highlight for me: The front seats are spacious and comfortable, while the second row offers plenty of room for passengers. The space between the front- and second-row seats was large enough for all the items I didn’t want to transport in the bed (I mainly hauled only small items like grocery bags). The F-150’s technology and connectivity features were additional highlights: The pickup’s large touchscreen was simple to use and responsive, and wireless connectivity to Android Auto did not pose many issues; although it took a while to connect initially on a couple of occasions, it never dropped the connection.

Even with the parking-assist cameras, parking in tight spots proved challenging at times. Highway driving was enjoyable with ample power to merge and pass, but the F-150’s pickup truck qualities emerged on poorly paved roads where the ride was rougher.

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What’s Next?

For the F-150, it’s moving to a new, loving home: Our Production team plans to use it for hauling gear and as a camera platform. As for our long-term fleet, we still have a 2021 Tesla Model Y, but our 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat hybrid will also be leaving us soon. Will we replace the F-150 and Maverick hybrids with another Ford hybrid pickup? Probably not. But stay tuned for the next addition to our long-term test fleet.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Brian Normile
Road Test Editor Brian Normile joined the automotive industry and Cars.com in 2013, and he became part of the Editorial staff in 2014. Brian spent his childhood devouring every car magazine he got his hands on — not literally, eventually — and now reviews and tests vehicles to help consumers make informed choices. Someday, Brian hopes to learn what to do with his hands when he’s reviewing a car on camera. He would daily-drive an Alfa Romeo 4C if he could. Email Brian Normile

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