How does it stack up in an increasingly cut-throat sector?
WHAT IS IT
The Ranger remains the best-selling vehicle in Ford Australia’s portfolio, so adding a special edition to the line-up seems a no-brainer. The FX4 might tread a familiar path insofar as it throws accessories and optical enhancements at an existing model, but it’s competing against a bunch of wily operators and new entrants.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
We’ve taken to the Ford Ranger in previous drives, and the Aussie public has too, the big Ford eclipsing the Toyota Hilux as the nation’s favourite light commercial. But can the FX4 successfully part customers with an increasingly sizeable sum for what amounts to a bit of dressing? We were keen to see how convincing the FX4 transformation has been.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The unvarnished reality of the Ranger FX4 is that Ford is charging almost $3500 over the price of an XLT for what is ostensibly a black optics pack. Inch-bigger alloys, roof rails and leather seats are the key upgrades, which call into question the FX4’s value-add. Manufacturers seem to think there’s so much price headroom in the ute market that it’s a gold seam just waiting to be mined, but savvy buyers might want to look elsewhere in Ford’s range for a smarter deal.
PLUS: Macho styling; decent ride quality (for a ute); useful SYNC3 infotainment system
MINUS: No tonneau; no rear air vents; engine vocal when pushed; opportunist pricing
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THAT the Ford Ranger is a better ute than the Toyota Hilux is a fact that takes some time to get used to. How do you go about beating the unbreakable legend? It turns out that doing the basics right like offering decent ride quality, a gutsy engine, strong value and keen utility are enough. It’s like Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson by the simple expedient of stepping to the side to negate his bull-like power. Sometimes the most obvious solutions are hidden in plain sight.
Ford shifted almost 31,000 4x4 Rangers last year, and almost two-thirds of them were upspec XLT and Wildtrak versions. The success of similarly high-end versions of the Holden Colorado and Volkswagen Amarok coupled with Mercedes-Benz’s intention to join the fray with its Navara-based X-Class clearly has Ford convinced that the target market for these vehicles has a lot of disposable income looking for a new home. The FX4 special edition builds on the XLT with a black optics pack, some 18-inch ‘Stark Grey’ alloys, black roof rails and leather accented seats, monogrammed with the FX4 badge.
It’s hard to argue with the aesthetic. The FX4 looks squat and purposeful; the Magnetic Grey paint of our test car (a $550 option) even delivering a degree of subtlety for a car that looks to have had most of Ford’s options list plastered to it. Given that the smallest price difference between mechanically-identical trims of the Ford Everest is $6,000, is the FX4’s $3,420 impost over the XLT really that insurmountable an ask? It would appear not, given the rate that the 2200-vehicle allocation is disappearing.
Prospective FX4 buyers interested in adding the optional $800 Tech Pack (adaptive cruise control and lane departure assistance) to their purchase would do well to consider the range-topping Wildtrak version. This features those inclusions as standard and comes in at $125 less than a Tech Pack-equipped FX4. Plus you get features like heated seats, puddle lamps and a roller shutter for the tray.
Like all premium PXXII Rangers, the FX4 is powered by a Euro5 compliant 3.2-litre turbo-diesel lump good for 147kW and 470Nm. It’s a pretty vocal thing with this weird sound when you roll off the throttle, like Darth Vader with catarrh. While the five-pot doesn’t have the muscularity of some of its rivals, the Ranger can maintain a decent pace cross country, helped by a ride quality which vies with the Amarok for the current best in class. How the leaf-suspended Ranger manages to ride better than the coil-sprung Navara is a bit of a head-scratcher. Other attractions? The SYNC3 infotainment system is a good deal cleverer than anything else in the class and the Ranger’s safety gear and towing capacity betters even the heavy-hitting Amarok V6.
And there’s the nub of the Ranger FX4’s appeal. The dressing drags punters in off the street. What keeps them coming back is that under the glitz it still feels an authentic working vehicle, all hard plastics, sibilant engine and no-nonsense practicality. The moment premium utes lose that authenticity, manufacturers will discover the price ceiling to this market extremely quickly.
Model: Ford Ranger FX4
Engine: 3198cc turbodiesel dohc inline-5
Max power: 147kW @ 3000rpm
Max torque: 470Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Economy: 8.7L/100km (claimed)
On sale: Now