Fifty years into its unequaled success, Ford decided it needed more from its lightweight pickup trucks. The Super Duty lineup, including the F-250, was introduced.
The family of haulers comprises the country’s best-selling vehicles, and it’s been that way for decades.
With its siblings, the F-350 through F-750, the F-250, which debuted in 1998 as a 1999 model, features a heavier-duty chassis and heavier-duty suspension. The result is a pickup truck with a complementary role as a rugged small apartment on wheels.
Pickup truck owners accustomed to the girth and power of the beasts will rejoice. The F-250 ideally defines the segment. It’s in charge on the road with a commanding presence but without having to prove its appeal with bravado.
2021 Ford F-250: Lots of choices
The 4×4 Super Duty features a 7.2-liter, 385-horsepower engine propelled by a 10-speed automatic transmission. Three cab configurations — a regular, extended (aka SuperCab) and a crew — can be paired with either a 6.8-foot or 8.2-foot bed. Rear-wheel drive is standard on most trims and four-wheel drive is available on all options.
For 2021, Ford has let success rest — with a few exceptions. The truck hasn’t been redesigned since 2017. But the new offering is now available with exterior colors named with creative writers’ embellishments — Antimatter Blue, Carbonized Gray and Lithium Gray.
Trailer-tow mirrors with heated glass and manually adjustable-and-telescoping abilities have been added to the base model with a dual-rear-axle. A bed step is now available on all models.
Long gone is the era of pickup trucks as cargo haulers beset with occupant discomfort. The F-250 in the Lariat trim, one of six varieties offered, includes leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch infotainment display screen and an 11-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system.
The Lariat trim also includes: a power-sliding rear window, rear parking sensors, power-adjustable front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The top-end features offer comfort and encouragement for pickup truck novices accustomed to driving sedans, sports cars and even medium-sized SUVs.
Negotiating the F-250 properly requires mastering a learning curve. Forget using regularly sized parking spots or any notion of negotiating nimble U-turns. It’s not what the F-250 does best. Its strengths are workhorse duties, hauling cargo to towing an RV.
Despite its proportions, the 2021 Ford F-250 handles the road with more refinement than might be expected. The automatic transmission shifts are smooth; the overall ride quality is balanced and quiet.
For more rugged responsibilities, hill-hold assist and optional adaptive steering are stress reducers. The engine brakes, in auto mode, to allow the driver to preserve the truck’s disc brakes and advance at a set speed on wicked descents.
The Tremor Package is further appealing. It’s a collection of stuff for off-road negotiations: twin-tube dampers, a unique rear stabilizer bar, locking rear differential and 35-inch tires.
The package also includes lifting the F-250 to provide 10.8 inches of ground clearance, a 33-inch wading depth and a newly angled front fascia. The Tremor offering isn’t available on XL and Limited trims.
As an RV companion, the F-250 has several towing limit options. The base-level 6.2L V8 engine has a 15,000-pound maximum when properly equipped. When equipped with a 7.3L V8, the maximum capacity is 24,200 pounds. The truck earns best-in-class maximum gooseneck towing of up to 37,000 pounds, best-in-class maximum 5th-wheel towing of 32,500 pounds. The maximum payload capacity is 7,850 pounds.
With its extensive power and performance, the F-250 guzzles fuel, with EPA estimates of 11 miles per gallon in city driving, 16 mpg on the highway. With its full complement of automotive, working person’s bling, the 2021 Ford F-250 is priced at just under $64,000.
Ford sold about 800,000 F-Series trucks in the 2020 pandemic year, about 12 percent less than in 2019. Yet it maintained its top-selling status.
The 2021 Ford F-250 offers plenty of reasons why the manufacturer will likely remain on the top perch for at least one more year and likely longer.
Article Last Updated: September 6, 2021.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.