This year’s new trucks and SUVs offer outstanding performance and exciting new features
Ready for 2021?
Boy, we sure are. Not just because 2020 has been a, ahem … challenging year, but because the 2021 model lineup is perhaps the most exciting we can recall. Extreme performance ramps up the fun, while more RV-specific features than ever are bringing a new level of confidence to towing, especially for newcomers. It’s going to be a great year — so without further delay, here are some of the coolest new vehicles and model updates. Pass the champagne!
Get it while it’s hot, and we mean HOT. The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is the most powerful SUV ever, with a zero-to-60 time of just 3.5 seconds, an NHRA-certified quarter-mile elapsed time of 11.5 seconds and a top speed of 180 MPH — but it will only be offered for the 2021 model year.
Historically, hot-rod SUVs and trucks have been rubbish at towing — but not so with this hot hauler. The Durango SRT Hellcat can tow a best-in-class 8,700 pounds, so if you want to make sure you’re never late for a campsite reservation again, you can’t do better than this beast. Like the other Hellcat-powered members of the SRT family, the Durango SRT Hellcat is powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 that churns out 710 horsepower at 6,100 RPM and 640 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 RPM, managed by a TorqueFlite 850RFE eight-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel-drive.
Hurling nearly 3 tons of steel down the quarter-mile at supercar velocity requires some serious brakes to bring all that mass to a stop, so this sinister SUV is fitted with massive 15.7-inch Brembo rotors front and 13.78-inchers rear, pinched by six-piston and four-piston calipers, respectively.
If you’re considering a less hellish version of the Durango, you’ll be happy to know that the entire lineup has been refreshed with revised exterior styling, a new interior with a Challenger-inspired, driver-centric cockpit and five-times-faster Uconnect 5 on an available, largest-in-class 10.1-inch touchscreen.
Though the exterior may not have changed much since the redesigned 2019 model year, the 2021 RAM 1500 sports a list of new RV-specific features. Taking a few cues from its competition, the newest RAM 1500 now offers Trailer Reverse Steering Control (similar to Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist) as well as Trailer Light Check and Trailer Tire Pressure Monitoring in the available Trailer Package. Power-fold trailer mirrors are now available as a standalone option or with the 360-degree Surround View camera, and a Wired Trailer Camera Prep Kit is available on all 2021 RAM 1500 models.
If that’s not enough to get your pulse racing, then consider the all-new, completely bonkers RAM 1500 TRX, which RAM humbly proclaims is the quickest, fastest and most powerful mass-produced truck in the world. No argument here. With the popular supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 under the hood, the TRX pummels its competition with 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, good enough for zero-to-60 sprints of 4.5 seconds and a quarter-mile E.T. of 12.9 seconds at 108 MPH. But the TRX is more than a drag-strip star — in RAM’s words, it’s “engineered to handle the most punishing conditions with extreme capability and to outperform every other truck.” To that end, this Alpha-RAM utilizes a new high-strength frame, a high-torque-capacity TorqueFlite 8HP95 eight-speed transmission, full-time active transfer case, all-new suspension with forged steel upper/lower control arms and the legendary Dana 60 solid rear axle. With more than 13 inches of wheel travel on all four corners, the TRX is the official truck of the zombie apocalypse. And it can still tow up to 8,100 pounds.
The super cool and capable Jeep Gladiator lineup now includes the powerful 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, plus two new trims: an 80th Anniversary Edition (appearance package) and a Gladiator Willys, with additional off-road gear like a limited-slip differential, rock rails and 32-inch mud terrain tires. Gladiator Overland models now offer a forward-facing TrailCam off-road camera to help you navigate steep terrain.
The biggest news on the Jeep Wrangler is an updated powertrain menu that now includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder (automatic only), 3.6-liter V-6 (manual transmission only), 3.6-liter with mild-hybrid eTorque assist (automatic only) and 3.0-liter EcoDiesel (four-door models only). MSRPs were not available at press time.
Enhanced/revised content: Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee
Minor updates: RAM 2500/3500
Fiat Chrysler, www.fcagroup.com
Watch out Jeep Wrangler, the Ford Bronco is back, and it’s taking no prisoners. Discontinued in 1996, the last Bronco Ford produced bore very little resemblance to the original and didn’t carry with it the same adventurous spirit or off-road cred. Now, it’s making up for lost time, successfully capturing the spirit of the original but with modern technology and design elements that will resonate with Bronco fans old and new.
It’s certainly got the features to keep off-roaders satisfied. A base 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder pumps out a respectable 270 horsepower/310 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission with crawl gear for a total of seven cogs. Optional is the 2.7-liter EcoBoost six-cylinder, which produces a strong 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, matched with a standard 10-speed automatic. This transmission is also available as an option with the 2.3-liter powerplant. We’re told that the max tow rating will be 3,500 pounds.
Two 4×4 systems, seven driver-selectable terrain modes, trail control and other features increase driver confidence off-road, while the available 35-inch tires make up to 11.6 inches of ground clearance and up to 33.5 inches of water-fording capability possible.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bronco if you couldn’t take stuff off of it, so the new model also allows you to shed roof panels and doors if the mood strikes. There’s so much more to talk about than what we have room for here, but you can learn more and reserve your own for just $100 at www.ford.com.
Ford says its all-new 2021 F-150 is purpose-built to be the toughest, most productive F-150 ever. Considering that it’s updated with more power, capabilities and features nearly every year, that’s saying something.
Aside from the things you might expect, like a stronger frame and a redesigned exterior, the new F-150 brings with it some unexpected features that will surprise and delight RVers. First and foremost is an all-new 3.5-liter full-hybrid V-6 powertrain Ford calls PowerBoost, which integrates a 47-horsepower electric motor into the 10-speed automatic transmission. In total, the system produces a potent 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque, bestowing Power-Boost-equipped F-150 models with a tow rating of up to 12,700 pounds and a target range of up to 700 miles, according to Ford. Like other full hybrids, PowerBoost incorporates regenerative braking, which will help recharge a 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery located underneath the truck.
Part and parcel to PowerBoost is standard Pro Power Onboard — a power generation system offering 2.4 kilowatts of output, accessible through in-cabin outlets and up to four cargo bed-mounted 120-volt 20-amp outlets. An available 7.2-kilowatt version also includes a 240-volt 30-amp outlet for heavier electrical demands. The non-hybrid 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine is now rated at 400 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, a jump of 25 horsepower and 30 lb-ft, respectively.
When equipped with the Max Tow Trailer Package, the 2021 F-150 EcoBoost is rated for an astronomical conventional tow rating of up to 14,000 pounds. The 5.0-liter V-8 also gets some love, with a bump of 5 horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque — good enough for a max payload rating of 3,250 pounds in a long-box, regular cab 2WD configuration. Wow.
This new F-150 is also the first full-size pickup in North America with standard over-the-air updates, which Ford says can include all-new functions and additional features throughout the life of the truck. The latest driver assist features are delivered via Ford Co-Pilot 360 2.0, which for the first time will allow hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada. MSRPs were not available at press time.
Enhanced/revised content: Edge, Escape, Explorer, Expedition
Minor updates: Ranger, F-Series Super Duty, Transit
Ford Motor Company, www.ford.com
There are a lot of choices when it comes to full-size SUVs, but none more iconic than the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban. For 2021, there are a number of meaningful changes — not the least of which is an all-new chassis that features independent rear suspension. In addition to a significant increase in ride quality, the new suspension offers better handling and a significantly lower load floor, promoting a more natural seating position. Add the option of Magnetic Ride Control and Air Ride Adaptive suspension, and you’ve got the most advanced suspension system in the segment, according to GM. A longer wheelbase nets 10 additional inches of third-row legroom for the Tahoe, along with 66% more cargo space behind the third row. Even the longer Suburban benefits from 19% more cargo space.
The 3.0-liter Duramax inline six-cylinder, introduced last year on GM pickups, is now available in the Suburban/Tahoe, as are updated gasoline engines, including the top-dog 6.2-liter that pumps out 420 horsepower. All engines are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with push-button electronic shift.
Recognizing that trailering is important to many full- size SUV customers, the 2021 Suburban/Tahoe include new trailer technologies introduced on Silverado pickups. An available Max Trailering Package includes a high-capacity radiator and cooling fan, integrated trailer-brake controller, Hitch Guidance with Hitch View and up to nine camera views. With this package, the max tow rating for the Tahoe is 8,400 pounds, and 8,300 pounds for the Suburban. Additional features include a trailering app with trailer profiles, trailer tire pressure/temperature monitoring and Side Blind Zone Alert for trailering.
Not surprisingly, there are similar changes afoot on the GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, but one notable exception is the off-road-oriented Yukon AT4. Like the Sierra and Acadia AT4 models that bowed before it, the Yukon AT4 features a two-speed transfer case, 20-inch Goodyear all-terrain tires, a Traction Select System with off-road mode, Hill Descent Control and skid plates on vulnerable areas. Inside, there’s AT4-exclusive leather-appointed seats and other luxury details. Moreover, all Yukon 4WD models benefit from an all-new Active Response 4WD System, which includes an auto two-speed transfer case, Traction Select, and a new electronic Limited Slip Differential.
The Yukon Denali gets its own interior, as well as exclusive content and more standard features. Its corporate cousin, the Cadillac Escalade, gets some cool new features like Super Cruise hands-free driver assist, an OLED display with 38 inches of total diagonal viewing area, night vision, and many other upscale details.
More power and more features — that’s the gist of Chevy’s Silverado lineup for 2021. The small but mighty 2.7-liter turbo adds “thousands of pounds” of trailering capacity to every configuration, according to GM, with a newly available regular cab long-box model capable of towing up to 9,600 pounds. The 3.0-liter Duramax diesel gains an additional 1,900 pounds of trailering capacity in nearly every configuration and receives a $1,500 MSRP price reduction for 2021 models. On the heavy-duty front, Chevrolet engineers increased max towing capacity to 36,000 pounds on the Silverado 3500 HD Work Truck, Regular Cab, dual-rear-wheel, two-wheel-drive models equipped with the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel, 10-speed Allison transmission and Max Tow Package.
The six-position tailgate introduced on GMC’s Sierra 1500 pickup last year makes its way to Chevy 1500 models this year as the Multi-Flex, and both the Silverado and GMC Sierra benefit from two new features to make towing easier: Trailer Length Indicator and Jack-Knife Alert. In addition, other available features have been enhanced to make them even more useful to RVers on both light-duty and heavy-duty models. For example, Cargo Bed View is now equipped with a zoom feature and bed hitch guidance, which will make connecting a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch easier. Rear Trailer View has been updated to include guidelines as well as a Trailer-Angle Indicator. Finally, the Rear Side View feature can now provide a split view of the left and right sides of the truck/trailer while in Reverse.
Enhanced/revised content: Chevy Equinox, Chevy Traverse (available later in 2021 as 2022 models)
General Motors, www.gm.com
A frequent contributor to Trailer Life, Chris Hemer is the former technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome, and has been an RV and automotive journalist for more than 20 years. An outdoor enthusiast who now makes his home in Portland, Oregon, he enjoys camping, motorcycle riding, mountain biking and hiking.