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The pickup truck has become a symbol of hardworking people. Over the years, they have evolved to not only offer power and capability but comfort and convenience as well. A truck can just as easily serve as the family car as it can the work vehicle.
Very few trucks are as well known as the Ford F-150. It has been completely redesigned for 2021, launching the 14th generation of this icon. For the first time ever, you can even consider getting your F-150 with a hybrid powertrain, proving that Ford is keeping up with the times.
Perhaps one of the most significant contributors to the F-150's enduring popularity is its versatility. It is offered in six different trim levels, ranging from relatively bare-bones all the way up to full-blown luxury.
As helpful as having a lot of options can be, it can also make it difficult to find the right model for your personal needs. To aid with this, the following guide has been created to point out what makes each of the trims unique.
Compare the 2021 Ford F-150 XL vs XLT - What is the Difference?
The entry-level XL is considered a respectable choice. It comes standard with a 3.3L V6 engine with the ability to make 290-horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Paired with this is a 10-speed automatic transmission. All that said, the XL offers an incredible five optional powertrain setups to drivers.
Buyers can choose a 2.7L EcoBoost four-cylinder that creates 325-horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Or, they can choose the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 that kicks things up to 400-horsepower and a hearty 500 lb-ft of torque. There is also a more traditional 5.0L V8 that can make 400-horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque.
Diesel fans are covered by the available 3.0L Power Stroke turbo V6. It has the 2021 F-150 creating 250-horsepower along with 440 lb-ft of torque. Finally, you can opt for the brand-new hybrid powertrain in the XL. It consists of a 3.5L V6 and an electric motor and gives you the ability to make 430-horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque. All of these engines get paired with a 10-speed automatic.
The standard 4x2 drivetrain can be upgraded to a 4x4. While 17-inch wheels are the norm, there are a variety of upgrades to be explored. You can go all the way up to 20-inches even. The bumpers, door handles, and tailgate are all black for the XL.
Manual air conditioning is standard for the base model, along with cloth upholstery. When looking at the tech features, things get a bit fancier. The XL comes with an 8-inch touchscreen and the Sync 4 infotainment system, which includes smartphone integration. The FordPass Connect Wi-Fi hotspot capability is found here as well. The productivity screen measures in at 4-inches.
A tire pressure monitoring system, automatic high beams, and a rearview camera are part of the standard equipment list. Slightly more impressive is the included dynamic hitch assist feature. It provides drivers with a sightline to make backing their F-150 up to a trailer easier. The F-150 also comes standard with pre-collision assist featuring automatic emergency braking.
This more or less sums up the standard equipment for the XL model. That said, it is available with many packages and options to customize the truck. More advanced safety features can be had, for example, as well as a towing package.
The powertrain situation is exactly the same when it comes to the F-150 XLT. Like the XL, this model sits on 17-inch wheels, albeit slightly fancier ones. It can also be upgraded to a variety of sizes and styles. Setting the XLT apart from the XL on the outside is the chrome on the bumpers, grille, and door handles.
Cruise control, which is merely optional for the XL, is standard when you choose the XLT. The same is true of power door locks. Technology features remain the same, although the XLT has many more available upgrades.
The real difference between these models is found when comparing driver aids. The XLT comes with a lane-keeping assist system as well as the reverse sensing system that makes backing out of your driveway or parking spot feel safer. A blind-spot monitoring system is included as well. The XLT also has more available driver aids, such as intelligent cruise control and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Compare the 2021 Ford F-150 XLT vs Lariat - What is the Difference?
Many consider the Lariat to be where the F-150 gets to be a bit more upscale. This model comes standard with the 2.7L EcoBoost engine and leaves open the ability to upgrade to either the V8, the EcoBoost V6, the diesel, or the hybrid. The standard wheel size is increased to 18-inches.
The side mirrors for the Lariat are both heated and power-folding and have turn signal integration. They even have a memory feature in case you share driving responsibilities with someone else. For the tailgate, the Lariat gets a remote release feature and an LED light. Although fog lamps are found on the XLT, the Lariat takes things to the next level by making them LED. The headlamps are LED for this model as well.
Inside the cabin of the Lariat are nice touches such as push-button start and dual-zone automatic climate control. This is the first model on the list to get a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Seat surfaces are also leather-trimmed. The F-150 Lariat gives the driver's seat power-adjustment.
An auto-dimming rearview mirror helps reduce glare at night. The front seats are both heated and ventilated to keep you comfortable in a variety of weather conditions. This model even adds power-adjustment to the pedals.
The infotainment system gets upgraded voice recognition technology, making the already user-friendly Sync 4 setup even more so. It is displayed on a 12-inch touchscreen. The blind-spot monitoring system is upgraded to include trailer tow coverage.
With a starting price nearly ten grand higher than that of the XLT, the Lariat kicks up the stakes for the 2021 F-150. Buyers who can afford the hefty price tag may want to do so for the added comfort and tech features found here.
Compare the 2021 Ford F-150 Lariat vs King Ranch. What is the difference?
For the King Ranch, the 5.0L V8 is the standard engine. It can be upgraded to the EcoBoost V6, diesel, or hybrid. On the outside, the King Ranch adds gray step bars to make entering and exiting the F-150 easier. While the Lariat sticks with chrome accents, the King Ranch instead utilizes an accent color for more sophistication. This trim is also available with two-tone paint.
Another significant upgrade involves the LED headlights, which gain dynamic bending. Essentially, they can corner with the truck for increased visibility at night. This is the first model that gets treated to LED taillamps as well.
The heated steering wheel found in the King Ranch is a nice touch, along with the heated rear seats. Another one that buyers are sure to enjoy is the wireless charging pad that is perfect for keeping the cabin of the F-150 clutter-free. A universal garage door opener, which is optional for the Lariat, is standard when you choose the King Ranch.
An eight-speaker B&O sound system is standard. It includes an integrated microphone so it can monitor background noise and make adjustments as needed. Another fun tech upgrade is the connected navigation feature, which gives you real-time traffic and weather updates. It also points out restaurants and gas stations along your route for added convenience.
Intelligent adaptive cruise control, which has been available up until this point, is standard for the King Ranch. Adaptive steering is also added. With this, the F-150 makes adjustments to the steering responsiveness depending on the situation. Rain-sensing windshield wipers are part of the King Ranch's standard equipment list.
Once again, the F-150 jumps up over $10,000 when comparing the Lariat to the King Ranch. The extra comfort and safety features are not necessarily enough to justify this large increase in price.
Compare the 2021 Ford F-150 King Ranch vs Platinum Trim Level. - What is the Difference?
When moving up to the Platinum, the price increase is much smaller. This model has the same standard and available powertrains as the King Ranch. Choosing the 2021 F-150 Platinum model does give the truck 20-inch wheels. This is also the first trim where the SuperCrew models come standard with power deployable running boards.
For the Platinum, the F-150 has body-colored accents. These models are not available with the two-tone paint jobs you can choose for the King Ranch. On the other hand, the tailgate gets a satin aluminum applique.
Inside, there are absolutely no differences when comparing the King Ranch and Platinum. Buyers will have to decide if they like the Platinum trim's look more and if it is worth an extra three grand.
Compare the 2021 Ford F-150 Platinum vs Limited Trim. - What is the Difference?
Finally, there is the Limited model. This trim costs over twice as much as the entry-level XL. It comes standard with the 3.5L EcoBoost engine, and the only available option is the hybrid, meaning those after a diesel will have to look elsewhere. The only wheels available for the Limited are 22-inches and show off polished aluminum.
The Limited model is where you will find a power tailgate standard. It also has a handy tailgate step complete with a work surface. Not only does this feature make it easier to get in and out of the F-150's bed, but it also gives you a usable surface for when you are out camping or on a worksite.
SuperCrew models of the Limited come standard with a twin-panel moonroof. While many other models offered a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the Limited is the only one that has blue leather. The sound system gets a significant upgrade to an even more impressive 18-speaker sound system from B&O. Utilizing speakers in the front headrests and headliners, it gives you an immersive experience inside the F-150.
Pro trailer backup assist is a feature that a few trims list as optional. It is standard for the 2021 F-150 Limited. This highly-advanced system can make backing up with a trailer easy for anyone, allowing you to tell the trailer which way to go by rotating a knob in the cabin.
The Limited trim level starts out significantly more expensive than the King Ranch. This is likely due to the standard engine, although the convenience and practical upgrades undoubtedly drive up the price as well. The 2021 Ford F-150 Limited may be the most well-rounded truck out there, but not everyone is ready or able to drop that kind of money on their next vehicle.
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Which Trim to Choose?
For anyone planning on using their 2021 Ford F-150 as more than a work truck, the XL should be skipped over. Families will want to go up to at least the XLT, which adds extra safety features. This model is still relatively unimpressive, however.
The Lariat is where most drivers will find the sweet spot. It has enough luxury and comfort to make it enjoyable for everyday drives, plus plenty of power and capability. The 12-inch touchscreen alone may be enough to convince drivers.
A strong case can be made for the King Ranch, although many of its upgrades are not strictly necessary. Both the Platinum and Limited models come with plenty of bells and whistles, but not enough to justify their enormous price tags.
The 2021 Ford F-150 Lariat is a pickup that can satisfy the needs of most drivers.
• Compare the 2020 Ford F-150 Trim Levels