SOME OF THE most common questions we get from folks checking out our Ranger pertain to the front bar. Everyone seems to love it and they want to know where they can get one, and what it costs. Well, the bar comes from a relative newcomer to the Australian 4x4 industry: AFN 4x4 Accessories. If you haven’t heard of them before, expect to be seeing more of them in the future.
AFN is based in Portugal, where it has been making frontal protection for 4x4s for many years. There isn’t a huge market for these products in Europe, but there is in nearby Africa, and much of AFN’s output is fitted to military, United Nations and NGO vehicles operating in those countries.
AFN has opened shop in Australia, where the 4x4 protection business is booming, and AFN 4x4 Australia is now dictating back to the head office in Portugal just what our market wants and needs. As a result, AFN carries a huge range of products for all the popular 4x4 vehicles sold here including the hot-selling Ford Ranger.
We wanted an AFN hoopless bar on our Ford Ranger even before we took delivery of the vehicle. We first saw one on a show car at the Brisbane 4x4 Show and loved the upswept style for excellent approach angles, the low-line overall look, the mounting rail along the top, and the solid construction and quality finish.
No, this is not a bullbar; it’s a steel full-replacement front bumper which is stronger than the standard plastic bar. It also improves approach angles, provides mounting points for the winch, driving lights and aerials, and has built-in recovery points. If we wanted a full bullbar, AFN does one for the Ranger, including side rails and side steps. There’s even a rear step bar available from AFN. The AFN hoopless bar retails for $2250 plus installation.
Our AFN bar was installed by AFN’s Victorian distributor No Limit 4x4 in Dandenong. The crew there stripped back the front of the then-new Ranger, fitted the Warn Zeon winch in the bar’s cradle, mounted the Bushranger Nighthawk lights to the bar, fitted the bar, and then installed the underbody protection which is also from AFN. This is a full bumper replacement, so the installers don’t need to cut up the original bumper to make it fit.
The quality of the AFN bar is evident when you look at it. It is folded from heavy steel, with soft radius curves on the leading edge that can only be achieved with state-of-the-art machinery. The thickness of the steel varies from 6mm in the winch cradle and chassis box, to 3.2mm on the outer skin, so there’s nothing flimsy about it.
The main channel is a single piece running the full width, and it’s not made up of several sections screwed together. The main section contains laser-cut grilles for air flow and provisions for parking sensors and radar cruise control or AEB. The only screws affix the splash panels to the lower edges.
The mounting rail for the accessories, along the top edge of the bar, provides slots for multiple mounting positions. These are okay for smaller mounts such as those on the bottom of driving lights, but we had to drill a few of them wider to accept the bigger mounting bolts for a sand flag and UHF antenna. The bar also has provisions for using a Hi-Lift jack, a pair of recovery points, LED indicator and fog lights, and it comes finished in black powdercoat. It can be colour-coded to your vehicle if desired.
We also got the full underbody protection package from AFN. This comprises four pieces of 6mm AW5754 aluminium plates and extends from under the bar, where it protects the bottom of the radiator, and back over the steering components, sump, transmission and transfer case.
The AW5754 aluminium is used due to its resistance to corrosion, and the plates are milled, not laser-cut, so there is no heat stress which could weaken them. It is solid, fits well and provides all the protection we need for this car. The four plates are available separately or the full complement will cost you $1310.
We haven’t had to test the bar on any wildlife, but the extra clearance around the front wheels and approach angles has been appreciated when off-road. Plus, it sure gets the looks.
Ready for the outdoors with 4x4 gear
Available from: www.afn4x4.com.au
RRP: $2250 (hoopless bar); $1310 (underbody)
We Say: Good-looking, high quality and great protection.