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Aerodynamic Changes Highlight Subtle Exterior Difference For 2021 Ford F-150

14th-generation F-150 is Ford’s most aerodynamic yet with deployable air dam, grille shutters, tailgate geometry all to help reduce drag and improve fuel consumption. While MPG is not available yet for 2021 F-150, all of these features are some of the highlights of the exterior and serve a specific purpose.

One of the early (and misguided) criticisms of the 2021 Ford F-150 was that it didn’t look different enough from the current generation. That is a generality and not really true when you actually look closer at the 2021 Ford F-150.

First, as I reported on, there are 11 different grille options with 13 different wheel choices, so it’s practically customizable and some of the trims have vastly different grilles. This means no two F-150s will look the same.

Beyond that, Ford’s design team, in coordination with Ford’s engineers worked hard to improve the drag and aerodynamics of the 2021 Ford F-150. Designing in a wind tunnel is always important as you can see the effects certain design elements have a vehicle’s drag.

I remember asking my friend Gale Halderman, the recently departed designer of the original Mustang and who worked 40 years at Ford as a designer, including over the Truck Design studio, what it was like designing trucks. Gale said trucks were just “four corners” and thus were a challenge, since essentially a pickup must keep its basic shape each time. And that is true.

Gale also said that once Ford started using wind tunnels that it really changed the way they did things in the design studio. Using the premise known as the coefficient of drag (COD), it helped make vehicles more fuel efficient.

With all that background information, I approached the seemingly subtle differences of the 2021 Ford F-150 and grew to appreciate them for their intent and purpose. Here are some of the aerodynamic changes that can be found on the 2021 Ford F-150.

2021 Ford F-150 deployable air damAutomatically Deploying Active Air Dam
The 2021 Ford F-150 has an air dam that lowers and retracts. At speeds around 40 mph, the air dam automatically deploys. This plays a big role in reducing airflow underneath the truck.

The average consumer may not notice this or take it as a selling point, but you will likely notice it during highway driving, and even towing.

At lower speeds the air dam retracts. This is good if you take the F-150 off the road, so it won’t scrape on uneven terrain, and you don’t need the efficiency in that situation either.

The automatic deploying air dam is available for all models of the 2021 Ford F-150.

Check out this video that demonstrates how it works.

Active Grille Shutters
A nuanced difference barely noticeable on the 2021 Ford F-150 is the addition of active grille shutters. Ford claims that by adding these, it reduces the drag by 3 percent.

One has to worry that with road grime, snow and salt, if these will malfunction or limit the fuel savings it would otherwise create in pristine conditions.

Active grille shutters are available on each trim of the 2021 Ford F-150.

2021 Ford F-150 tailgate carbonized grayFord’s new tailgate in the 2021 F-150
With new tailgate appliques and new tailgate geometry, the overall fuel efficiency of the 2021 F-150 is improved. Ford has not released any of the EPA ratings yet as it’s still liking going through the final testing process, but expect an increase in fuel economy.

I documented the awesome concept of the new tailgate for the Ford F-150 in this article. And certainly the diversity and clever design of the tailgate serves a practical and well-though-out purpose, but between new tailgate geometry along with some minor tweaks to the cab’s all-aluminum body geometry, the subtle new exterior makes it the most aerodynamic truck Ford has ever built.

2021 Ford F-150 headlamp sketchWhat Are Some Of The Other Exterior Highlights of the 2021 Ford F-150?
One subtle change that hasn’t gotten much hype is the new available side mirrors. While I’ve not seen them up close, the new side mirrors appear to aid the driver with extensions for towing and blind spot notification. The Trailer Coverage mirror alerts the driver if a vehicle is detected in the blind spot. It’s a simple concept, but a good one and will likely be part of a towing package option for the F-150.

For anyone who has towed, this could be of great assistance.

Also, the new headlight shape is not just an aesthetic change, but it serves a practical purpose too. The C-Clamp look is a general theme found on the 2021 Ford F-150. Again the look is subtle, but noticeable.

With this new look in mind, there’s a new headlamp shape that is available in halogen, LED reflectors or LED projectors. Headlight availability will vary based upon trim. The LED projectors will bend as the truck heads around corners. I’ve seen these type of headlamps in other vehicles and it’s very cool.

The last feature to touch on, I mentioned as one of my five favorite things about the 2021 Ford F-150. The full-length, extendable power running boards not only improve the aesthetics of the truck, but also serve a useful purpose. A kick switch slides these out for easy entry into the F-150.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.


JACK BENNETT (not verified)    July 28, 2021 - 3:58PM

I have the new 2021 F150 XLT and I am happy with it's performance.

I am concerned that Ford Pass App doesn't seem to work properly as the system either goes into deep sleep mode and won't allow to access starting the truck etc. and even when I don't get the notification of deep sleep mode it seems to only work occasionally. I've done all the deleting and adding as noted by others and now taking back into the dealership to see what they can do.

Also the air dam seems like a neat idea and I do get good gas mileage with the truck, but I do have an issue as after the air dam deploys and after driving 80 MPH, I am finding that when the air dam retracts it catches on the air shield it would be hidden behind. Every time I drive I have to push it back so it will retract, so having the dealership look at this as well. (Air dam is all plastic and seems to flimsy to me, but hope there is an adjustment so it won't catch anymore.

David Bailey (not verified)    November 27, 2021 - 8:25PM

Quote: "Air dam is all plastic and seems to flimsy to me," I seen the vid of it working.. Appears flimsy when deployed.. shaking. I bet some will remove it after it gets stuck down in the snow.. I order my 150 in September from Cal Worthington Ford in Long Beach, Ca,,,,,,,,,,, I just got a VIN.. However ford does not have a build date yet...Bummer.. Guess it will be a 2022 ?