The 2021 full-size pickup trucks continue to raise the benchmarks for towing and payload capability while simultaneously introducing technology to make towing less stressful. Connectivity and technical innovations continue to transform these vehicles into even more efficient work tools. Let’s take a look at the latest innovations in the full-size pickup truck market.
Ford F-150 Sets New Standard for Connectivity
Ford Motor CompanyThe 2021 F-150 introduces standard over-the-air update technology to constantly keep software on the leading edge. This technology allows potential enhancements, from system upgrades to new feature offerings, throughout the life of the truck. The majority of updates will be completed in under two minutes and can be performed at times customers choose.
When designing the F-150, the design team also set out to target the most towing, payload, torque and horsepower in the light-duty full-size pickup segment. To achieve this goal, Ford introduces a new power option — a 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid powertrain with Pro Power Onboard, an integrated power generator. The 3.5-liter PowerBoost full hybrid V6 powertrain is available on every trim level from F-150 XL to Limited. The PowerBoost system adds instant electric torque to Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. This powertrain option is targeting an EPA-estimated range of approximately 700 miles on a single tank of gas and will deliver at least 12,000 lbs. of available maximum towing.
PowerBoost combines Ford’s EcoBoost engine and 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with a 35-kW (47-hp) electric motor integrated into the transmission. The powertrain’s software is calibrated specially for truck use, including drive modes like tow/haul mode to help customers better manage towing heavy trailers. The electric motor applies regenerative braking energy capture to help recharge the 1.5-kW-hr lithium ion battery. The battery resides underneath the truck, leaving the cab and cargo box capacity unchanged. The system is capable of sustained battery usage at extreme outside temperatures or under heavy loads.
The F-150 pickups provide generator levels of exportable power to work sites. Pro Power Onboard offers a 2.0-kW output on optional gas engines, while the PowerBoost-equipped F-150 comes standard with 2.4 kW or an optional 7.2 kW of output. Power is accessible through in-cabin outlets and up to four cargo bed-mounted 120V 20A outlets, with a 240V 30A outlet on the 7.2-kW version. The system even provides power on the move to charge tool batteries in between jobs.
The 2021 F-150 adds ten new driver-assist features, including Active Drive Assist, which allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada. Its driver-facing camera tracks head position and driver eye gaze to enable hands-free driving when available. It allows owners on certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways to drive with their hands off the steering wheel. The Active Drive Assist prep kit contains the hardware required for this feature, while the software to enable functionality, expected in the third quarter of the 2021 calendar year, will be delivered by over-the-air update or dealer visit.
Another new available feature is Intersection Assist, which detects oncoming traffic while the driver is attempting a left turn. If there is risk of a collision with an oncoming vehicle, the F-150 will apply the brakes to mitigate or avoid it. The F-150 is also currently the only light-duty full-size pickup with available Active Park Assist 2.0, which handles all steering, shifting, braking and accelerator controls during a parallel or perpendicular parking maneuver while the driver holds down a button.
Chevrolet improves trailering capability and adds Multi-Flex Tailgate
General MotorsThe 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 offers mechanical and technological updates, including the addition of an available Multi-Flex Tailgate. The Multi-Flex Tailgate offers Silverado customers six unique functions, allowing for easier access to bed cargo, enhanced loading solutions and a standing workstation. With a weight capacity of 375 lbs., different configurations for the Multi-Flex Tailgate activate using a key fob or two tailgate-mounted buttons, one for the full gate and another for the second-tier loading and storage options.
The 2021 Silverado also features increased conventional trailering capability for two of its most efficient engines compared to the 2020 model year. The 2.7L Turbo adds thousands of pounds of trailering capacity to every configuration. The popular Crew Cab Short Box model increases its rating by 2,500 lbs. to a maximum capacity of 9,300 lbs. in two-wheel drive. A new Regular Cab Long Box model provides the maximum 2.7L tow rating of 9,600 lbs. and increases the Silverado’s overall maximum payload to 2,280 lbs. in 2WD.
The 3.0L Duramax turbo-diesel adds an additional 1,900 lbs. of trailering capacity to nearly every configuration and provides the maximum capacity of 9,500 lbs. to 2WD models.
Chevrolet is confident these engines meet or exceed most trailering needs, as 96% of light-duty pickup owners tow less than 10,000 lbs., according to data from MaritzCX, an InMoment Company.
Enhanced trailering technology adds additional views and confidence. The latest generation Silverado launched by offering up to 15 unique camera views. The 2021 models will offer even more enhanced trailering technology, including:
- Trailer Length Indicator: When making a lane-change maneuver with the turn signal activated, a red overlay twice the length of the compatible trailer is shown on the center console screen, which can help show when other vehicles are present.
- Jack-Knife Alert: It tracks the position of the compatible trailer in relation to the vehicle and provides an alert if a potential jack-knife situation is imminent.
- Cargo Bed View enhancement: Cargo Bed Zoom View and Bed Hitch Guidance are now available, which help to align and hook up a gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailer.
- Rear Trailer View now features guidelines and Trailer-Angle Indicator: It is enhanced to include assisting guidelines when backing a compatible trailer into place and a Trailer-Angle Indicator shows the relationship between the truck and trailer.
- Rear Side View enhancement: It now provides a split view, automatically biased based on the trailer’s angle, of the left and right sides of the truck and compatible trailer. This view was previously only available while driving forward and is now available in reverse for better visibility when positioning a trailer.
GMC Sierra Offers More Innovative Trailering Tech
General MotorsThe 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 will feature increased conventional trailering capability for two of its most efficient engines. Compared to the 2020 model year:
- The 3.0L Duramax Turbo-Diesel adds up to an additional 1,900 lbs. of trailering capacity on 2WD configurations with a maximum trailering capacity of 9,300 lbs.
- The 2.7L Turbo adds an additional 2,300 lbs. of trailering capacity to nearly every configuration with a maximum trailering capacity of 9,200 lbs.
The 2021 Sierra 1500 and Sierra Heavy Duty will build on the trucks’ suite of customer-focused towing technologies with new features that include Trailer Length Indicator, Jack-Knife Alert, Rear Trailer View with guidelines and trailer angle indicator, Rear Side-View enhancement and cargo bed enhancement.
When the Trailer Length Indicator is enabled and driving forward with the turn signal activated, the center console screen displays a red overlay twice the length of the compatible trailer and shows when other vehicles are present and may interfere with a lane-change maneuver.
The Jack-Knife Alert tracks the position of the compatible trailer in relation to the vehicle. If the front of the trailer approaches the rear of the vehicle, an alert is displayed when there may be a potential jack-knife situation.
The Rear Trailer View has been enhanced to include guidelines that assist when backing a trailer into place and a trailer angle indicator to show the relationship between the truck and compatible trailer. Rear Trailer View requires the customer-installed available GM auxiliary accessory camera.
When driving forward on the 2020 Sierra, Rear Side View provides a split view of the left and right sides of the truck and compatible trailer that is automatically biased based on the trailer’s angle. In the 2021, Sierra, drivers will have access to this view while driving in reverse, making it easier to see surrounding vehicles and objects while positioning a trailer.
Cargo Bed Zoom View and Bed Hitch Guidance are now available, which can be helpful for aligning and hooking up a gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailer.
New additions to the 2021 Sierra Heavy Duty include enhancements to the trucks’ premium trims. HD Surround Vision and Bed View camera technology are now standard on the Denali. The new Sierra HD Denali Black Diamond Edition will include 20-in. high-gloss black wheels and new power-retractable assist steps. Other additions to the Sierra HD include making the MultiPro Tailgate standard on the SLE and three new color choices.
Ram Trucks Provides Driver Assistance Technologies
Ram TrucksRam Trucks is introducing new technology to its Ram 1500, including a Heads-up Display (HUD), digital rearview mirror option, Trailer Reverse Steering Control, power fold trailer mirrors, Trailer Light Check and Trailer Tire Pressure Monitoring.
The HUD unit is the first application in an FCA vehicle. It is an optional full-color unit that can show up to five different content areas at once and can be customized through the available Uconnect 4C 12-in. touchscreen. The HUD unit can show areas of interest that include Lane Departure, Lane Keep Assist, adaptive cruise control, turn-by-turn navigation, current speed, current gear and speed limit
A digital rearview mirror is an available option with a 9.2-in.-wide LCD monitor. It displays video in real time from a rear-facing camera and can be turned off to revert back to a traditional reflective mirror.
Trailer Reverse Steering Control joins the available trailer package and allows the driver to enter a few measurements before the camera tracks the trailer position to back up and guide the trailer. Simply rotate the dial left or right in the direction you want the trailer to go, while the system controls the steering wheel.
With the available Trailer Tire Pressure Monitoring system, get live pressure readings for up to four trailers, and up to 12 tires per trailer, on an in-vehicle, high-definition Driver Information Digital Cluster Display.
To further enhance safety, Pedestrian Detection has been added to the Advanced Safety Group that includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Lane Keep Assist, automatic high beams, 360˚ Surround View camera and Parallel/ Perpendicular Park Assist. Active safety and security systems also include Forward Collision Warning, Blind-spot Monitoring and Ready Alert Braking.
The 2021 Ram 1500 features up to 12,750 lbs. of towing capability and 2,300 lbs. of payload. The eTorque mild hybrid system delivers improved fuel efficiency in both V6 (standard) and V8 configurations. The diesel-powered version pumps out 480 lbs.-ft. of torque and offers a towing capability up to 12,560 lbs.
Available features include a multifunction tailgate, 60/40 split doors and the RamBox Cargo Management System.
Ride and handling are enhanced via a link-coil rear suspension system with optional Active-level four-corner air suspension. Electronic Stability Control, Trailer Sway Control and Electronic Roll Mitigation help you stay in control.
Toyota Offers Special Editions
ToyotaFor 2021, Toyota introduces the Tundra Trail Special Edition. It puts emphasis on extra storage and convenience. It is based on the SR5 Crew Max and offers the choice of 2WD or 4WD. The SR5 Upgrade Package includes a larger fuel tank, front bucket seats with driver’s power lumbar support, front center console, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, three front cupholders and an anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer.
Toyota is also unveiling the Nightshade Editions. The 2021 Nightshade Tundra is built on the Limited grade model with black leather trim seating and a black exterior trim. This is accompanied by a darkened chrome grille, black mirror caps and black door handles. The Tundra Nightshade Edition will also offer the choice of 2WD or 4WD.
Powered for 2021 exclusively by the 5.7L i-FORCE V8 engine that offers up to 10,200 lbs. of towing capacity and a maximum payload of 1,730 lbs., Tundra is available in Double Cab and CrewMax four-door cab styles. Tundra is offered in many configurations to fit varying needs.
The Toyota Safety Sense-Pedestrian (TSS-P) active safety system is standard on all models and grades. It includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection function, Lane Departure Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Automatic High Beams. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are designed to help detect vehicles in the vehicle’s blind spot (available on SR5 and Limited; standard on Platinum and 1794 Edition). Rear Cross Traffic Alert warns drivers of cross traffic via indicator lights in the side-view mirrors, along with an audible warning buzzer while backing up.
Tundra offers the convenience of Smart Key with push button start to numerous models, including SR5 with TRD Off-Road or TRD Sport packages, Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition and TRD Pro.
Nissan Showcases Intelligent Mobility Technologies
NissanThe 2021 TITAN showcases Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies, starting with standard Nissan Safety Shield 360, a suite of six advanced driver-assist systems. It includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and standard Rear Automatic Braking.
The TITAN also features a number of other advanced technologies, including standard Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, which uses a radar sensor located in the front of the truck to detect distances between the two cars ahead plus their relative speed, thus allowing the system to assess the situation in front of the vehicle.
The 2021 TITAN is powered by Nissan’s 5.6-liter Endurance V8 gasoline engine rated at 400 hp and 413 lbs.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated with a 9-speed automatic transmission with a large final gear ratio of 3.692:1. The 9-speed gear range means enhanced coverage for optimal power for standing starts and confident highway passing.
Every 2021 TITAN features an Off-Road Gauge that displays the vehicle’s tire angle, relative pitch and roll angles. Without using a gyroscope, a method was developed to calculate the vehicle’s orientation using accelerometer data and calculating its G-force.
The 2021 TITAN XD offers the comfort of a light-duty truck with the towing confidence of a heavy-duty hauler. It features an extended 151.6-in. wheelbase — about 15 in. longer than TITAN models (Crew Cab comparison). Compared to the standard TITAN, XD is 3 in. taller, 11.8 in. longer in wheelbase and 14.8 in. longer overall.
The TITAN XD shares the standard TITAN half-ton’s 5.6-liter Endurance V8 gasoline engine. The axle is a purpose-built design. The rear differential measures 9.84 in. with 3.5-in. axle tubes, while the front differential measures 9.25 in.
Among the list of TITAN and TITAN XD’s available towing aids is an Integrated Trailer Brake Controller, Trailer Sway Control, Tow/Haul Mode with Downhill Speed Control and a Trailer Light Check system that allows one-person hook-up operation — checking turn signals, brake lights and running/clearance lights from inside the cab or with the key fob.