With the biggest derivative list of all in the segment, there is no shortage of Ford Ranger variations on offer – but wait, there’s more – we get behind the wheel of the latest special edition Ranger FX4.
The bakkie segment is complex, made so by the very nature of what a bakkie is and the variety of uses for which it is employed. Just a few days ago, Ford Motor Company South Africa offered no less than 32 Ranger derivatives comprising the Single Cab, Super Cab and Double Cab options. Yesterday, Ford announced yet another 2 options have been added to the mix: The Ford Ranger FX4 4X2 and 4X4 DC.
The FX4 nameplate is not new to the market, having made an appearance in 2017 in 3.2 TDCi DC 4x4 guise. It was a limited-run product with a few additional features and accessories bolted on. Fast forward 4 years, and Ford has opted to do it again, this time more tastefully in our opinion.
The new Ranger FX4 is a limited-run special model introduction based on the 2.0-litre single turbo XLT Ranger. The updates are entirely aesthetic, comfort and trim additions.
Ford has enjoyed great success with the recently put together Ford Ranger Thunder and the FX4 seems to be yet another in-between model that separates the Wildtraks and XLTs. You’ll note the ebony black grille in the design carried over from the Thunder. It’s suitably more exclusive sans the red side surrounds that stand out on the more expensive Thunder. The LED headlamp clusters are also off the more expensive brethren in the range.
Special Editions generally mean more badging and sticker work and the FX4 is no different. New 3D FX4 badging graces the rear tailgate and some bold yet inoffensive sticker work runs along the flanks with a dynamic design and yes, large FX4 logo placements.
In case you missed it, you’ll tell the FX4 apart from the others by blackened sports bars at the rear that extend all the way to the tailgate. They’re uncommon designs but they work and set the FX4 apart. Ford asserts that these make the FX4 sportier (we agree) and more practical. We’re not sure about the latter but we’ll put this theory to test on a more in depth review. Finishing the special look are 18-inch black alloys that take the place of the 17-inchers on the XLT. Overall the FX4 looks eye-catching enough to get your attention and robust enough not to make you uncomfortable in the middle of wild country. Speaking of which…
A Wild Launch Drive
The introduction of the FX4 took place in a stunning part of the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast. It’s spectacularly wild indeed, seemingly untouched in several places and where that proved beautiful in some respects, it also reminded me that some ‘untouched’ places need a thriving economy to make some changes. Ford’s major announcement of a R15-billion investment into the Ranger facility is massive and its these sorts of investments that we need to see more of.
Nonetheless, we powered through remote parts of the region in and around the winding hills above the Mzimvubu river as it runs its course into the ocean. Our trip explored the rich lagoons and pristine beaches as our backdrop to discovering more about the FX4 – of which there’s a whole lot, yet not so much at the same time. The Ranger is a car we know well and even in this Special Edition guise, there’s certainly nothing entirely new about which to report. (Except the massive introduction of the Ford Pass and Ford Pass Connect Apps featured here).
Under the FX4’s skin lies the 2.0-litre single turbo diesel mill mated to the 10-speed auto. 4x2 variants are also on offer, but our launch drive was solely in the 4x4 variant and it was a pleasant reminder of an engine/transmission partnership that delivers suitably practical and resourceful performance. The 132kW mill pulls strongly and smoothly under most circumstances, and with the manually selectable gears, the auto box can be commandeered to do exactly what you need, especially when navigating up a slippery sand dune to take in the view. This engine is well known for its efficiency as far as these types of vehicles go and Ford has been smart to mate this combination of engine and transmission to this offering, as it punches above its price class.
The Ranger FX4 4x4 derivative is kitted out with the full push button fanfare of modern 4x4s including each to use, shift-on-the-fly selectable 2H, 4H and 4L drivetrain settings. Add a Hill Descent Control feature and a diff lock to this repertoire and exploring anything rough and tough is a seamless and comfortable affair.
Comfort is courtesy of the well-appointed cabin. Red-stitched and FX4 branded soft leather pews are welcome touches as are the usual additions of FX4’d floor mats. The only glaring thing keen-eyed spotters may miss from the Thunder is the adaptive cruise control and automatic braking features as well as the Tyre Pressure Monitoring system. These are reserved for higher-priced fare.
So is it worth it then?
In a word – Yes. The FX4 for me is the pick of the bunch because it combines generous amounts of kit without any of the fluff that Wildtrak and Thunder boast. At a price level where high-spec leisure bakkies play above R700k, this FX4 is a little cheaper and a little more down-to-earth. Everything from side steps to tow bars, SYNC 3 connectivity and climate control – all in.
Ford is doing everything it can to remain a close second to Toyota in this segment. They’ve done a good job and the FX4 will drive that plan even further. It’s about giving customers more choice, and giving Toyota more headache because try as I might, I’m hard pressed to find the right Toyota at similar spec for less or similar money. It’s a jibe. A test. Another play to see how the game looks after this move. Either way, the consumer has more options.
South African Pricing of the Ford Ranger FX4:
Ford Ranger 2.0SiT FX4 AT DC 4x2 R618 900 (incl VAT)
Ford Ranger 2.0SiT FX4 AT DC 4x4 R687 900