- the ford f-150 is all new for the 2021 model year, with a new hybrid powertrain option and more standard features.
- one of these features is the latest sync 4 infotainment system, which ford says has twice the computing power of the previous sync 3.
- ford also announced at the launch on june 25 that the new truck will have siriusxm satellite radio with 360l, which adds more choices by combining on-demand and live-streaming content.
when you look at a new truck, and in this case it's the just-revealed 2021 ford f-150, you want to know how capable it is—and one big part of a modern truck's value to the customer is found in that infotainment screen right up front. the truck wars are in full swing, so we wondered, how much of an upgrade is the new f-150's infotainment system compared with the 2020 model, and how well does it compete against the latest systems on chevrolet, gmc, and ram pickups?
an encouraging sign is that the new ford gets the latest sync 4 infotainment system, which debuted on the 2020 ford explorer. all trim levels of the 2021 f-150 will be getting this next-gen sync, which ford claims has twice the computing power of the older sync 3 system. they'll also get siriusxm satellite radio with 360l, which combines on-demand with live streaming for more choice. the 360l system will be available on other future ford vehicles after making its debut on the 2021 f-150.
the standard screen is 8.0 inches, while there's an optional horizontal 12.0-inch screen, which is shown here. that's a big leap up from the previous-gen f-150, which had screen sizes of 4.2 inches for lower-end trims and 8.0 inches for the higher-end models. speaking of top trim levels, the maximum number of speakers from the bang & olufsen system has gone up to 18 for 2021, compared to 11 for 2020. some of those speakers are located in the front headrests, just as on the cadillac escalade. the biggest ford screen lets users split the screen to control more than one function at a time. the new system supports siriusxm satellite radio, bluetooth connectivity, apple carplay, android auto, waze, and ford + alexa, and there's plenty of on-demand content via the system's streaming service. wi-fi connectivity will carry over as well, which, along with the workspace-oriented features, such as the stowaway shifter and interior work surface, should make the new f-150 a great mobile office. on paper at least, the 2021 f-150’s infotainment system stands as an improvement over the system in the 2020 f-150.
as for camera assistance using that system, the f-150 has optional trailer reverse guidance and backup assist, showing multiple camera views and graphics to help the driver turn the wheel the right way while backing up. ford claims the the f-150 is going to be the only light-duty pickup with this level of trailer assistance available.
meanwhile over at gm, the silverado and sierra have a standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen (pictured above) optional on higher trims. they come with satellite radio, apple carplay, android auto, and a wi-fi hotspot. the two trucks have an optional bose nine-speaker system that can be paired with the larger screen. the gm trucks come with comprehensive optional trailer assistance packages that make it easy to maneuver with your trailer because they offer eight cameras that give 15 different views.
ram is more competitive on the screen size against the new f-150—at least if you get a higher trim level. the fca truck division offers three different touchscreen sizes on the 1500: 5.0 inches, 8.4 inches, and 12.0 inches. the choice makes a big difference in what you get. the smallest system only has bluetooth, the middle system adds satellite radio and navigation, and the top system has all of the above. the systems are all powered by fca’s uconnect software, which is now in its fourth generation. the 8.4- and 12.0-inch screens have apple carplay and android auto connectivity as well as a wi-fi hotspot, while the 5.0-inch system doesn't have either.
the 12.0-inch screen looks as if a tablet was stuck into the center console, and the system operates like one, too. it’s a highly customizable display that we had the opportunity to make use of over 40,000 miles in our long-term test of a ram 1500 limited. opting for the tablet-like 12.0-inch screen also brings along a 19 speaker harman/kardon audio system. unlike ford, chevrolet, and gmc, ram doesn't offer a dedicated trailer guidance and assistance system, but it does come with a surround-view and rearview camera that displays a large, clear image on the screen. it's also worth noting that, because of their different designs, the 12.0-inch screen in the f-150 doesn't look at all as big as the 12.0-inch screen that's in the ram 1500.
so the f-150's infotainment system appears to be in the goldilocks zone between the offerings on the ram 1500, chevrolet silverado, and gmc sierra: it has the connectivity features that all the trucks now have, but also has the large screen size that the gm trucks lack and the trailer assistance features that the ram lacks. the f-150’s optional 18-speaker system from bang & olufsen falls one speaker unit short of the ram’s optional harman/kardon system but handily beats the bose nine-speaker system in the silverado and sierra. if what you want is the biggest screen, the f-150 is right up there with the competition now, and that's a positive change for the wildly popular pickup.