CAPE TOWN – Ford has taken its already boldly styled Ranger double-cab bakkie and added a dash of extra street cred with this new optional Fx4 package. While the Fx4 is billed as a “limited edition” model, Ford South Africa could not confirm exactly how many units would be made available locally.
So, what is it?
The Fx4-badged Ranger is essentially the Blue Oval’s way of giving its South African customers what they have been indirectly asking for: a more imposing bakkie. The optional Fx4 package can be fitted only to the 3,2-litre double-cab 4×4 XLT model (in either manual or automatic form), for an additional R15 000. Read how the Fx4’s donor fared in CAR’s 2017 double-cab bakkie shootout here.
The majority of the extra kit fitted is purely aesthetic, but we’ll get into the details a little later. The Fx4 test unit supplied to CAR boasted a sinister black-on-black colour scheme and rode on black-finished 17-inch alloy wheels. It must be mentioned that the donor XLT derivative can also be fitted with black alloy wheels as a no-cost option. In basic form, the Fx4 comes in frozen white, while an extra R1 200 can be spent on either moondust silver, sea grey or the panther black paint you see in the images above.
Being the most popular new vehicle locally in the first half of 2017, the Ranger is a common sight on South Africa’s roads. If the flagship Wildtrak (read our Wildtrak vs. Hilux comparison here) is a little too common for you, and a Ranger fitted with one of the many popular exterior Raptor body kits that void the factory warranty isn’t an option, could the special edition Fx4 be the solution?
Where does the Fx4 name come from?
The Fx4 moniker is used on Ford F-150 pick-ups in the United States, referencing an optional off-road package that better prepares the big bakkie to tackle really rough terrain.
Unlike the F-150, though, the Ranger Fx4 package in South Africa does not include much in the way of functional kit. Based on an XLT 4×4, a very capable off-roader and hauler, the Fx4 does come fitted with all the equipment one would expect from an off-road-ready double-cab. A rear locking differential, hill descent control, hill launch assist, roll-over mitigation and trailer sway control are all part of the standard specification, while the on-the-fly drive selector is another neat addition. The claimed wading depth of 800 mm, too, cannot go ignored.
So, what exactly do I get for the extra R15 000?
Over and above the standard specification of the Ranger XLT, this model gains some additional exterior trim pieces and a smattering of Fx4 decals. Black detailing is added to the side-mirror covers, fog-lamp bezels and roof rails. Perhaps most noticeably, a black front grille replaces the chrome unit of the XLT and the tailgate and door handles receive a similar treatment.
The side-steps, rear bumper and tubular sports bar also gain a black finish, while a useful load bay protector is furthermore included in the package. If you look carefully, you’ll notice the bed-liner has place for your glass or bottle once the tailgate is folded down – a thoughtful touch considering that tailgates are sometimes used as a makeshift tables.
Lastly, a black vinyl covering adorns the bonnet and is cut to emphasise the prominent creases. The interior remains unchanged, but we feel a handful of Fx4 motifs would not have gone unappreciated.
Living with the Fx4…
Like its donor, the Fx4 is refined and comfortable considering its rugged underpinnings and offers the best rear legroom in the segment, according to our measurements. A five-star EuroNCAP rating offers peace of mind for the family buyer, particularly considering the rival Volkswagen Amarok scored just four stars.
As part of the standard Ford Sync 3 infotainment system in the Fx4, you gain an easy-to-use eight-inch touchscreen, through which you can access functions such as mobile phone settings (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and the now-standard navigation system.
A powerful six-speaker audio system is also fitted, while the nifty dual 4,2-inch TFT screens placed in the instrument binnacle can be configured to display a variety of useful snippets of information. A pair of USB ports and three 12V charging sockets are also found in the cabin, where four adults can be seated comfortably. Take note, however, that the rear bench remains rather upright in the typical double-cab fashion.
On the road…
On the open road, the Fx4 feels solid and the high driving position offers a commanding view of the road ahead. The gearbox and engine combination work well together and the power delivery is smooth, with the transmission keen to kick down when the chance arises to overtake. With its 3,2-litre inline five-cylinder turbodiesel mill, the Ranger never feels quick, but you do marvel at how easily it seems to lug around its considerable mass. One gripe here is an evident lack of responsiveness at pull-away and at very low speeds, with the Ranger feeling particularly hefty when pointed at a gap in slow-moving traffic.
Ford has fitted this model with light electrically assisted power steering, a reverse parking camera and parking distance sensors to make manoeuvring in tight spaces a tad less stressful. At 5 354 mm long, the Ranger pokes out of most standard parking bays and caution must be taken when entering into small parking areas.
There is no doubt that this bakkie will haul your boat or caravan to your next holiday destination with ease or get you through some really challenging off-road obstacles. And being a bit tricky to park is a small price to pay for a wide scope of abilities.
While the light steering is great for parking, it does not weight up suitably at speed and remains numb and somewhat vague through faster corners.
The Fx4 is as big as it looks and feels colossal to drive when confined to narrow suburban streets during peak-hour traffic. To counter this cumbersome feel in the city, the assertive disposition of the Fx4 may well convince fellow motorists to give it the right of way. And this is what the Fx4 is all about; it turns heads and people notice it coming the other way. And isn’t that ultimately one of the reasons you buy a special edition vehicle?
On the whole, the Fx4 offers the decked-out, aftermarket look that Ranger enthusiasts seem to crave, without coming across as too brash. It should ultimately serve to bolster the Ranger’s impressive performance on the South African automotive sales charts, depending of course on the numbers made available. And all, crucially, with the warranty firmly intact.