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Driven: Ford Ranger FX4 3.2 is Wildtrak’s worker edition

What free Wi-Fi is to millennials, accessories are to double-cab bakkies owners: indispensable. Of all the double-cabs available in South Africa, no brand has suffered from the enthusiasm of its customers to find accessories in the aftermarket, challenging warranty T&Cs, quite like Ford’s Ranger.

Those Raptor-grille imitation kits are everywhere and the best method of dealing with an issue is not pretending it doesn’t exist (unlike government), but rather embracing it – dialogue defuses, conflict resolution experts tell us. And with its latest Ranger derivative, Ford’s talking to its customers in their own language.

It’s called the Ranger FX4 and for R15 000 more than an XLT double-cab, you get some value-added bits, without having to spend Wildtrak money. That’s the idea, but a Ranger FX4 3.2 4×4 is on the SARS personal audit side of half a bar, and at R608 900 it trades at a mere R11 000 discount to Ranger’s alpha orange derivative. Truth is, money doesn’t matter bakkie buyers, which is why Ford sells more than 3000 Rangers each month. Price is less important than ability, but image is everything – especially for the double-cab owner, hence FX4’s raison d’être.

From the accompanying images, it’s rather obvious what Ford’s done with Ranger FX4, adding back detailing to nearly everything: the grille, foglamp bezels, side-mirror edges, roof rails and tailgate. It rolls on a set of appropriately named ‘Panther Black’ 17-inch alloys too. Our black hued test unit didn’t quite do the package justice, but an Ranger FX4 in optional Frozen White would be quite the contrast colour attraction.

In principle, we should all hate on bakkies garnished with non-functional accessories, in much the same way as performance cars with decorative – instead of functional – diffusers. But with Ranger, that’s not easy to do. The 2/3rds F-150 styling resonates, making it the bakkie (along with Amarok) that most closely resembles those chunky Tonka truck proportions that we cherish – remembering those square double-cabs of our youth in Mzansi.

A unique engine configuration bolsters the Ranger’s core competencies too; that five-cylinder 3.2 turbodiesel sounds unlike any rival and it is intuitively responsive at low-speeds, gliding up the steepest, loosest, gradients without strain – or F1 stress-testing passenger neck muscles with torquey delivery spikes. Whether you have 995kg between that tailgate and rollbar, makes no difference, Ranger’s 470Nm rolls you very effortlessly along.

Bakkies are hardly appropriate city cars and the FX4’s dimensions (5.3m bumper-to-bumper) do become a bit real when you’re inching into – or out of – a covered parking bay flanked by pillars. Fortunately, FX4’s rearward field of view camera renders a resolution which is metaphorically closer to 4k than 720p – and if you’re burdened by cabin multitasking, there’s brilliantly intuitive voice-activation of certain infotainment features with Ford’s Sync 3.

Beyond the trimmings, Ford’s Ranger FX4 remains a hugely accomplished bakkie – with both the stylings cues and robustness to do a day’s hard work and look good whilst doing it. There’s just one issue, those black alloys, which are great at masking brake dust accumulation, but will be scratched to ruin after a few thousand kilometres of gravel roads. Pity.

SPECIFICATION

  • R608 900 (as tested)
  • 3198cc 5-cyl, turbodiesel, 4WD, 147kW, 470Nm
  • 8.3l/100km, 221g/km
  • 0-100km/h 10.3secs, 180km/h
  • 2117kg
  • Tester’s notes: Less agile or comfortable than Amarok, far handsomer than Hilux. Ranger 3.2 is symbolically the thinking buyer’s bakkie.

 

 

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