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Best Fords of 2021: Blue Oval Goodness

Whether you’re a Ford fan, or not, there’s no denying the company has an intriguing vehicle lineup. So, which ones qualify as the best Fords of 2021?

Full disclosure: I’m a Ford fan. I used to work there, family spent careers there, and there have been many Blue Ovals in our driveway over the years. So, discussing the best Fords of 2021 is not a hardship tour. I will say it’s a bummer that Ford scrapped their sedan lineup, but from my perspective, they continue to make interesting, exciting, and all-around cool vehicles. Here are five of the best Fords on the market this year.

Mustang

2021 Ford Mustang - ford.com
2021 Ford Mustang - ford.com

The Shelby GT500 is a beast, the Mach 1 is killer, but the GT Fastback is that sweet spot of Ford’s pony car. Were the GT350 still in production, it would receive the nod here but alas, it is no longer. Thankfully, the Mustang has two doors so was not on the sedan chopping block. I daresay the 5.0-liter V8 and standard 6-speed manual did not hurt. I mean, would Ford be Ford without the (real) Mustang?

That Coyote power plant cranks out 460 ponies and 420 lb-ft of torque, ready to roast the rear rubber on command. Choose a color – Antimatter Blue looks nice – delete the rear spoiler for zero dollars and pick up your 2021 Mustang GT for $37,480. You can of course go bananas and load up the amenities, but that’s a screaming deal for so much power and sharp looks.

2021 Ford Mustang - ford.com
2021 Ford Mustang - ford.com

A Mustang makes this list because it unofficially defines FoMoCo, specifically with the 8-cylinder engine. It has a unique note on startup and acceleration that gets the petrol pumping. Five years ago, I got wind that my father-in-law was ready to buy an EcoBoost Mustang because of its superior gas mileage. Clutching my chest and gasping for breath, I ever so calmly explained to him the error of his ways. Mercifully, he went for the GT and all is well – especially after I got behind the wheel.

Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco - ford.com
2021 Ford Bronco - ford.com

Everyone likes a Bronco, they’re just cool trucks. And considering the current popularity, along with eye-popping prices of restored models from the ‘70s, it seems Ford’s decision to resurrect the nameplate is prescient. Available with two- or four-doors, a dizzying array of off-road kits, and a believe-it-or-not manual transmission, the 2021 Ford Bronco makes this list for pulling nostalgic heartstrings without overcooking the retro vibe.

Available in six trims ranging from the $28,500 Base model to a $47,000 Wildtrak, but may I suggest the Black Diamond getup? At that $36,000 price point, you can get sweet steel wheels with the 7-speed manual, which I would be verboten from skipping. Plenty of included features like a locking rear-differential, skid plates and 32” all-terrain tires prep the Black Diamond for dirt road duty.

2021 Ford Bronco - ford.com
2021 Ford Bronco - ford.com

The soft-top is standard equipment making fair-weather driving that much more enjoyable. Moreover, there’s plenty of up-to-date tech like an 8” infotainment touchscreen with wireless smartphone tech. Post-adventure cleanup is a breeze with the rubberized flooring and integrated drain plugs plus marine-grade, easy to wipe down vinyl seating surfaces. Altogether, it gives the new Bronco plenty of gotta-have-it feels for anyone itching to get off the beaten path.

F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning - ford.com
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning - ford.com

I don’t know what’s better, sticking the Lightning nameplate on all-electric vehicle or the ability to buy an all-electric Ford F-150. Ford has some recent history of upending full-size pickup truck stereotypes, from championing a V6 over a V8 to swapping out steel sheet metal for aluminum. So, why not an electric powered F-150? The F-150 has to be any list of Best Fords due to its popularity and capability, but beating every other automaker to the electric pickup punch puts the new Lightning, specifically, on this list.

The last generation F-150 Lightning was a Special Vehicles Team hotrod with a beefed up V8 and sport-tuned chassis. Today’s Lightning is a straight up screamer when equipped with the extended range battery pack. Though still in reservation mode, it’s expected to put 563 hp and 775 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels which should translate to a ludicrous, 4ish second sprint to 60 mph. But that’s not all…

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning - media.ford.com
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning - media.ford.com

10,000 pounds of towing capacity, 300 miles of driving range for the bigger battery, and BlueCruise hands-free driving will all be on hand with the electric F-150. And how about bi-directional home charging that allows the Lightning to push power into your house and run things for up to 3 days when the power goes out. The list of tech, amenities, and capabilities goes on and on, but suffice it to say, the Ford F-150 Lightning looks ready to upend the traditional, full-size pickup truck market – again.

Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick - media.ford.com
2022 Ford Maverick - media.ford.com

At the other end of the pickup truck scale is Ford’s just-released Maverick. While it doesn’t look like the 1970 era namesake car, unibody construction and petite-size does blend a pickup layout with car-based handling. Slotting below the Ranger, this modern Maverick fits into an underserved niche of utility vehicles that don’t require a fat checkbook and oversized parking space. Plus it has a hybrid powertrain capable of 40 mpg in the city, so it makes the cut for best Fords.

Base Mavericks sticker at under $25,000 and come with a stack of standard tech like an 8” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Though not a hardcore off-roader, the Maverick is ready for the average dirt road you’ll traverse to find a good spot for camping or surfing. To that end, a new “Flexbed” is designed to encourage DIYers with creating their own custom rack or cargo management system.

2022 Ford Maverick - media.ford.com
2022 Ford Maverick - media.ford.com

Another counterpoint to the F-150 approach is the Mavericks lineup simplicity versus the head-scratching levels of powertrain, drivetrain, cab style, and bed length that come with its full-size brother. You can select from XL, XLT, or Lariat trim and either a 2.5-liter hybrid or 2.0-liter EcoBoost gas motor. A snazzy, hybrid-powered Maverick Lariat with a wild Cyber Orange paint job, 18” wheels, LED lighting, and dual-zone climate controls can be yours for about $27,500.

Transit Connect

2021 Ford Transit Connect - ford.com
2021 Ford Transit Connect - ford.com

The only vehicle on this list with a name that didn’t exist – in the States – 25 plus years ago, the Transit Connect minivan makes the best Fords of 2021 list because of its impressive interior packaging, low cost, and Euro-tastic styling. The Transit Connect in my driveway is affectionately referred to as the Cupcake Delivery Van since so many people assume we deliver flowers, cakes, or other baked goods with it. The snickering is taken in stride because this former cargo vehicle is an unsung family hauling hero.

If you require sliding doors in the pursuit of child rearing, your vehicle options are somewhat limited. And a new Honda Odyssey, while super sweet, is hard to find for under 35 grand. Enter the Transit Connect with its 16” rims and $27,400 base price. Though 15” shorter than the Honda overall, the wheelbase is 3” longer. This translates to incredible interior packaging feats like being able to stand my 6’ frame almost all the way up inside. When it comes to manhandling, I mean calmly helping, children into their seats, this literal leverage is not to be overlooked.

2021 Ford Transit Connect - ford.com
2021 Ford Transit Connect - ford.com

Also, I’m a fan of big diameter, low profile wheels like the baller 19-inchers on an Odyssey Elite. However, the wee 16” tires on a Transit come with far cheaper replacement costs and a far lower likelihood of kinked rims due to our nation’s questionable infrastructure. An Odyssey or Sienna or pretty much any other minivan will hold more cargo on a cubic foot basis, but we have three kids and the requisite piles of stuff and I can confidently say the Transit Connect will flip, fold, and slide to accommodate all of it.

Ford’s Transit Connect passengers-not-cupcakes trim levels are on the basic side versus a Honda, Toyota, or Chrysler minivan. However, it’s also cheaper and gets the child-raising job done which puts it squarely on this list.

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Niel Stender

Niel Stender grew up doing replacement work on his 1990 Cherokee and 1989 Starion, so it’s not surprising that he would put his mechanical engineering degree from the University of New Hampshire to use in the car world as a vehicle dynamics engineer. Now engineering sentence structures, his writing infuses his auto experience with his time in marketing and his sales experience. Writing about cars for close to a decade now, he focuses on some of the more technical mechanical systems that are found under the hood and throughout a vehicle.

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