The local Ford Ranger FX might not be a pimped up off-roader like it is overseas, but rather an attractive bakkie at the right price.
Our long-term Ford Ranger FX4 landed in this writer’s care for a few weeks recently where it elicited a rather fond piece of nostalgia.
Unlike in the United States where the FX4 moniker serves as an off-road focused designation on the Ranger and F-150, in South Africa it denotes an appearance package. It is essentially the conventional Ranger XLT with no Raptor-esque alterations to the suspension or dampers.
Nonetheless, its overseas debut in 2017 caused yours truly, then stationed at now defunct fellow Caxton publication Autodealer, to make a case for the keys should it arrive locally.
That moment eventually arrived towards the latter stages of said year, but it wouldn’t be until the next year that a press unit would become available. While my case had been approved by the powers that be, predictably when a Moonstone Silver-coloured FX4 showed up, my attention had been drawn to another test vehicle, which ironically bears little relocation in mind today.
Still, I approached my then editor and remarked that I would rather swap the FX4 out with either him or my colleague and take the now anonymous newcomer instead. The look of shock and horror on his face at my sudden change of heart then turned into an evil smile as he threw the ball back into my court.
“You have been moaning for how long about driving this?” he said. “A while,” I replied. “Exactly. Here is the key. It is all yours,” he said, sensing perhaps that my refusal after months had been a ploy to secure the FX4. Admittedly, I was happy that my “plan” had worked.
Fast forward to 2021. The “new” FX4 follows the same path as the original, but with its gloss black grille and decals down the sides taken from the now departed Thunder. It arguably looks more tasteful than the black bonnet and tailgate finish of its predecessor. Complimented by the gloss black 18-inch alloy wheels and the sports bar, the FX4, even in its mundane Frozen White paint finish looks spot on.
Of course, the biggest change has been up front where Ford has replaced the five-cylinder 147kW/470Nm 3.2 TDCi engine with the single-turbo 132kW/420Nm 2.0-litre oil-burner. The six-speed automatic gearbox has also been swapped for the ten-speed self-shifter. Despite the apparent downgrade, the combination of the single-blower and the transmission suits the Ranger a touch better than the bi-turbo in spite of the box being caught out as a result of its tendency to skip ratios too often.
Where it didn’t though was off-road. As has become the norm, the FX4 had its four-wheel-drive dial switched to low range. And apart from bogging down once as a result of its driver applying too little momentum and having to reverse, our usual, rather easy off-road course presented little challenge.
With enough low-down grunt, it easy sailed up the rocky inclines with the standard Hill Descent Control also working a treat when going down.
Back in the role of commuter, it continued to perform well in spite of the ride being on the bouncy side and the look of the interior showing its age together with some of the materials.
It is however still a comfortable place to be with the same features as the XLT and a R24 200 credit over the equivalent 3.2 XLT 4×4 auto, aspects which has this writer asking the same question as he did with the original FX4, “how much more Ranger do you need”?
By Charl Bosch