There’s a new Ford Ranger on the way next year (sharing its platform with the next Volkswagen Amarok) and we know that as models run to the end of their production life, some of the best variants become available. In this case, the Ranger FX4 is an example of the good stuff that surfaces at the end of a run.
Not only is the Ford Ranger a favourite among bakkie buyers in SA, but the Blue Oval knows how to keep punters interested in its products. Last year, we saw the introduction of the Thunder (tested in March 2021 and May 2021 as part of our long-term fleet); now the updated FX4 is under the microscope. This bakkie includes relatively minor updates but lifts the profile and visual aesthetic over an XLT model. Somewhat confusingly, the FX4 is based on the XLT (and is called as much) which slots in below the Wildtrak and Raptor and above the XL, and is available in both 4×2 and 4×4 versions.
Our test unit arrived in bright Race Red with a healthy tint applied to the windows that complemented its black rims, which certainly makes it stand out from the crowd. Unlike the Thunder, the loading bay is plain with no roller shutter and its black sports bars run along the length of the load bay back towards the cab. Look at the Ranger from the rear and there is a handy high-mounted brake light in the horizontal bar above the rear window.
Inside, we can report it is near identical to our long-term Thunder. There is red stitching throughout while the seats have neat FX4 prints on the upper half of the seatbacks. The Sync3 system is in place and performs all the infotainment duties we expect from a Ford. In terms of technology, the Ford Ranger FX4 boasts the firm’s new FordPass system. In automatic models with a starter button, this piece of tech enables you to start the car with your cellphone, check the fuel status as well as lock and unlock the car. These will be alluring features for those interested in the latest connectivity. Even the tyres – Continental Cross Contacts – are the same as found on the Thunder.
While the Thunder services the upper part of the model range with its bi-turbo 2,0-litre engine, the FX4 comes with the single-turbo engine. As a reminder, here it develops 132 kW/420 N.m. That may be 25 kW and 80 N.m less than the Thunder but during everyday driving – hand on heart – we found it difficult to tell the two apart. It was only on our test strip that the marginal difference became evident. Our 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 11,47 seconds is just 1,25 seconds slower than the Ranger Thunder … as we said, barely noticeable. However, if you’re towing or loading heavy equipment, that additional power will be of benefit. A bigger gap was evident during the in-gear acceleration where the Thunder did the 120-140 km/h sprint in 6,17 seconds and the FX4 in 8,09 seconds.
More importantly, it was during our standard 10 emergency brake stops that the Ranger performed poorly. This was the case with the Thunder we tested; however, it had already racked up over 12 000 km. The FX4 is a brand-new vehicle. The Thunder recorded an average braking time of 3,80 seconds, and the Ranger FX4 posted a time of 3,69. In our books that gives it a “poor” rating.
All things considered, the FX4 rides as well as any of the Rangers we’ve tested over the years. The steering is light, the engine responsive and there is little to fault in the connected cabin. But this is a bakkie after all. Move to the rear quarters and as we’ve mentioned before, here passengers have ample space as the cabin floor has a lower footwell resulting in comfortable seating. As a daily bakkie, it ticks most of the boxes and in this trim, it has all the features offered on more expensive Rangers. The only thing we would suggest is rubberising that loading bay.
Painted in Race Red (one of five available colours for the FX4) with black rims, this double cab received a lot of attention from fellow road users. With the open loading bay and the painted sports bars, the Ford Ranger FX4 comes fitted with nearly all of the kit we’ve enjoyed on the Thunder and is a lot cheaper. There’s a marginal drop in performance, sure, but it’s just as eye-catching. Several of our team agreed it could possibly be the pick of the range in terms of an everyday leisure-lifestyle bakkie. It is only the poor braking that detracts … we’re hoping the 2022 Ranger will address this issue.
Engine:2,0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power:132 kW @ 3 500 r/min
Torque:420 N.m @ 1 750 - 2 500 r/min
0-100 km/h:11,47 seconds (tested at the coast)
Fuel Consumption:7,5 L/100 km (claimed)
Maintenance Plan:6-year / 90 000 km (service plan)