Reviews

Ford Ranger FX4

We test the limited edition Ford Ranger FX4

The Ford Ranger FX4 has done two things in South Africa.  Besides taking it to the King of the Hill, the Toyota Hilux, it has managed to change my mind about double-cab bakkies. Secondly, it has managed to make me fall in love with it.

Up until now, I did not like double-cabs at all. My reason for this was quite simply the fact that they had many functions but they couldn’t quite get any of them right.

The FX4 or Wolf, as we referred to it, managed to bring sense to these type of vehicles.

I also never became a fan of double-cabs due to my experience with them 12 years ago. I drove a 2004 Nissan Hardbody 3.3l V6. After my experience with it I never wanted to see this type of vehicle again. A double-cab should be a vehicle that allows you to go off-road when the need arises or carry a small load whenever necessary but still be comfortable enough to live with on a daily basis.

The Hardbody had terrible ride comfort and the gear ratios were not suited for daily driving. The rear bench was so low that you felt like Aladdin each time you sat on it. Fuel consumption was not bad.  It was scary!

With the big 3.3l engine I expected it to be reasonably fast but it wasn’t. When you did try to accelerate it just made a big vacuum cleaner-like sound and remained at the same place. To its credit though, it had torque, lots of it, enough to probably pull the moon.

I had an opportunity earlier this year to tour the Ford plant where the Ranger is made. The Ranger is locally built and provides employment for us Mzansi folk. Each time you see a Ranger on the road you should know that a local family was fed. The plant also makes cars for export to other ccountries.It was quite weird seeing so many left hand drive cars driving around the plant preparing for export.

Left-Hand drive Ford Ranger just after being assembled

It is impressive to see how the Ford staff genuinely pride themselves with these bakkies. At some point it actually felt as though we were touring an art gallery rather than a car manufacturing plant. It is without question that the Ranger is Ford South Africa’s pride and joy, the Beyoncé of the entire Ford range of cars.

Double-Cab Ranger in the Assembly Line
Single-Cab Ranger in the assembly line

So how does Wolf look? Aesthetically, Ford got it right. This is how a bakkie is supposed to look. Macho. Aggressive. Purposeful.

All the modern lines and touches that make a car look new but without it being too round and cute. One should never look at a bakkie and think it’s pretty.

I think the fact that Ford is an American brand helps a lot with the way this bakkie looks as the F150’s design heritage is evident in its presentation. We all know that Donald Trump’s people love their pick-up trucks (as they call them) and they do a pretty good job designing them, making them modern but still keeping those hard lines that make a bakkie what it is.

When it comes to aesthetics I think Ford was right on the money with this design. The Japanese are going round and cute with their bakkies. While this approach may work on smaller hatchbacks and sedans it doesn’t work with bakkies. I am happy that Ford kept it tough.

Ford describes the Ranger FX4 is a limited edition; I think special edition would be better suited than limited edition though. Dear Ford let us not just throw around words like limited edition too easily. Standing side by side next to a normal Ranger it becomes very clear that this is indeed special.

It comes with 17 inch black alloy wheels which really look great. On closer inspection I realized that these where actually the same wheels as you would get on a Ranger XLT, the only difference being the colour. This is a small change that makes a big difference.

The whole exterior of the car gets the black treatment. The following additions have been made to distinguish it from normal Rangers:  Black radiator, black fender grille, black roof rails, steel step rear bumper – painted black and black fog lamp bezel. No one can question its blackness. This is the one to drive when you’re chasing a BEE construction deal.

All these black touches are what led us to terming it the wolf, it looks very potent in the night. The changes made to this car from a standard XLT seem small and insignificant but they make a world of a difference. The FX4 is a fantastic looking bakkie. It manages to capture all of the essence that make a car stand out but without being over the top.

The accessories added to it don’t end up defeating the purpose of a bakkie you will still be able to do bakkie stuff with no worries. The Ford Ranger is the country’s most customised bakkie and this one we would leave as is.

Ride comfort. This is something that is quite important in a car like this, as I once stated in a different double-cab test, double cabs are now mostly used as daily cars which people drive in the city to and from work and with their family. Ride comfort is important. Thankfully the Ranger’s comfort levels are fantastic and could be driven daily with no quarrels. Ride comfort is actually better than some SUVs. Shall we name drop or nah?

So all these accessories, stickers and black paint would make you think it has been beefed up under the hood but you would be wrong. Performance is the same as an ordinary XLT Ranger. 5 cylinder 3.2l engine with 147kw and 470nm of torque is more than decent and I was never left feeling like I needed more power. Our test unit came with an auto gearbox which was smooth and never hunted for gears. Old-school bakkie lovers can rest assured with the knowledge that they can also pick up a manual FX4. I strongly recommend the automatic transmission though.

The interior is also pretty decent, a good place to be in. With all the little bits that one would expect to make motoring even friendlier, including Ford’s fantastic sync 3 infotainment system, steering controls and a brilliant screen with Navigation.

At the rate that fuel prices are breaking the ceiling fuel consumption is an important factor when doing any test on any vehicle. And, for such a big car fuel consumption wasn’t bad at all I managed an average of just under 11l/100km.

The Ford Ranger Wildrak has always been the double-cab bakkie I would have chosen if I had to purchase a double-cab bakkie.  However I have always thought it is a bit conspicuous (especially in the Bronze colour). The FX4 slots in beautifully between an ordinary rather mundane-looking XLT and the more extreme Wildtrak. Of all the double cab bakkies on offer today this is the one I would go for. It is the one you should go for. Fantastic vehicle.

 

Marcus

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Marcus@MzansiRides.com

 

Edited by Low Benz

 

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