“Aweh, kief, aikona and bakkie” – all words that are as unique to South Africa as, well, its love of the latter; the ever-mighty, all-conquering and indomitable bakkie.
No matter how you slice it, the pick-up truck makes the southern tip of the African continent where a braai, biltong and babbalas are just part of the average day spin around, almost as if by its own axis. Don’t believe me? In 2020, just the top-three best-selling bakkies accounted for more than 40,000 sales – and that’s during a pandemic!
So, what then, you may be asking, is the point of this heritage tribute to all things that make SA great? Again, it comes down to the bakkie and, more specifically, the Ford Ranger FX4. In short, it’s a special edition of the Ranger XLT that slots in beneath the Wildtrak but is better endowed than the more run-of-the-mill XLS… not all that complicated, right? But that’s us South Africans, we’re a complicated bunch; we love pick-ups but any special edition… well, we just about go nuts over that.
The thing is, Ford knows this and what better way to boost sales and create reinvigorated nametag-awareness than launching a meaner, sportier, better-looking version of an already handsome pick-up… It did, after all, work with the Ranger Thunder.
Unlike the Thunder, however, it didn’t receive the lipstick grille inserts, or even quite as much road presence. It does, though, have a mesh-patterned grille, gorgeous 18” black alloy wheels – an inch up over the standard XLT – and an attractive sports bar that does its thing at the back of the cab; the thing it does, though, is still debated but that’s a topic for another day.
Inside the cabin, it’s pretty much still Ranger – can I use that as an adjective? In any case, there are several buttons on the centre console just to optimise the cabin temperature and the usual array of buttons on the steering wheel for scrolling between different driving information screens that are incorporated into the instrument cluster oh and naturally, cruise control which worked seamlessly during my stint with the FX4.
What really catches your eye, though, is the tasteful finishing of the cabin with its red-stitching-everywhere design philosophy that, should you forget, just serve to remind you that you are indeed seated in a special Ford. I even showed the interior to current Ford Ranger owner, let’s call him Tom, who scrutineered the cabin and gave it his nod of approval. “I like this one, I really like it”.
So, the business of driving? There’s still, despite advancements on all fronts of road adhesion, the misconception that bakkies ride on suspension that was meticulously carved from expensive granite. It's not. So much for dispelling that notion then…
In fact, I'm pretty confident in my claim that ride quality, and especially in the FX4,is as close to an SUV as it has ever been. Yes, it's that good! No bone-jarring, no broken spines just a bit of a rearwards twitch stemming from the load bin when driving over a less-than-ideal road surface.
On to the business of drive, and things are a little less rosy in Ford’s corner. The2.0-litre turbodiesel oil-burner at the front produces a plentiful 132 kW and 420Nm of torque while all these digits are displaced to the road employing a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Yet, while these figures are ample, it just doesn’t always feel that every kilowatt-digit is continually rendered to the road when encouraging the right-side pedal. In simple terms, it feels like it should have more to give more often.
It is my opinion that, in part, this can be attributed to the gearbox that oftentimes feels like a modernised take on the musical chairs classic with a “where are the gears going to land now” temper. I don’t really see how 10 gears, even if 8th,9th and 10th are overdrive gears, can achieve what a more conservatively-geared approach can’t. But then again, I'm no decimal expert in ratio spreads.
While I was initially sceptical of Ford’s decision to implement the 2.0-litre turbodiesel to essentially replace its 147 kW 3.2-litre mill, on the economy front this efficiency mindset is paying dividends. On the highway, the trip computer consistently registered in the high 7-litres / 100 km range but it’s the average consumption of 8.7-litres / 100 km that impressed me no end – this while inner-city driving dominated my stint with the Ranger.
Let’s, however, get to the biggest question of all; price. The Ford Ranger FX4 4x4 I’ve tested costs R704,500 and for that money you get inherent bundu-bashing capabilities, all the conceivable safety bits and bobs, Fordpass Connect that enables you to monitor and track fuel levels, oil life, vehicle location and even remotely start the FX4 all from an app on your smartphone. Oh, and there are plenty of style points on offer too, should you be so inclined…
We South Africans love our wood-charred meat, chakalaka and unique vocabulary, but most of all we love bakkies. However, make it a special edition pick-up and we bunch just can't help ourselves – even if we have to make it a bit more special ourselves with some aftermarket road intimidator stickers that can convert a workhorse into a Raptor. And therein also lies the argument for the FX4: all the elements we love and cherish available from your nearest Ford dealer. What more could you want?
Words: Deon van der Walt
Images: Deon van der Walt & Ford SA