BUSH RANGER IN THE SHADOW OF SOARING RAPTOR

Is there no end to the ute-noir genre, the phenomenon by which a tradie workhorse throws off its workaday trappings to be fashioned into a uber-assertive show pony with attitude – and an often eye-watering price tag?

Ford, flush with success of its Ranger dual cab pick-up, says it channeled the Raptor to produce the FX4 MAX, a more rugged off-road team-mate to its performance flagship.

Unique to the FX4 MAX are a dedicated off-road suspension with FOX shocks, 32-inch all-terrain tyres and all-weather interior incorporating switch array and new materials and finishes.

Standard technology includes FordPass Connect embedded modem, SYNC 3 with built-in satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone compatibility.

At $66,190, plus on-road costs, the FX4 MAX has it over the Raptor price by $13,000, all at little tech and spec shortfall.

All Ranger customers take advantage of a five-year / unlimited factory warranty as part of Ford Service Benefits, which include service loan car, auto club membership and sat nav mapping updates to eligible owners.

STYLING
Unique to this car is Conquer Grey paintwork with red-and-black ‘go-faster’ stripes on bonnet, doors, box sides and tailgate ($750) highlighted the test truck’s almost five-and-a-half metre length.

The FX4 MAX turns to the Raptor for further embellishment with Ford performance pieces such as the ‘F-O-R-D’ anointed mesh grille with dark grey surround, also featured on the skid plate, exterior mirror caps, door handles wheel arch mouldings and rear surrounds.

Encapsulating the rig is a full-length sports bar in matt black, incorporating in-tray lighting, while sidesteps – designed to avoid damage in rocky going – are body-mounted metallic hoops.

The alloy wheels match the grey of the grille, with wheel lip mouldings, a first for Ranger, in a bid to emphasise the vehicle’s wide stance and, with beefy off-road tyres, bolster the impact of the visual upgrades. Naturally, the spare is a matching full-size version.

INTERIOR
The so-called all-weather cabin interior features easy-care floor mats and new-to-Ranger seating materials, including carbon accents with suede inserts and FX4 MAX stitching.

Ranger Raptor sports pedals are designed for instant action, while a leather-bound steering wheel with Black Alley inserts matches door trims and dashboard.

INFOTAINMENT
Also on a Ranger debut is a bank of six auxiliary switches positioned atop the 8-inch touchscreen, giving FX4 MAX owners the chance to connect accessories such as light bars, winches and spotlights. Also fitted is a specific 250A alternator to support power to multiple pieces of equipment, reducing a drain on the vehicle’s battery.

The full-colour high-resolution touchscreen is the link to built-in satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone compatibility.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Ranger Raptor link extends to the FX4 MAX with its latest generation 2.0-litre bi-turbo, four-cylinder diesel engine, putting out 157 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque.

This is mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission, which includes a lock-out feature to hold specific gears when using the standard fitted towbar.

SAFETY
The FX4 MAX includes a full package of safety features including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, plus full colour high-resolution reversing camera.

DRIVING
The FX4 MAX, with its latest generation 2.0-litre bi-turbo, four-cylinder diesel engine, putting out 157 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque, claims a combined fuel consumption of 8 litres per 100 kilometres.

The test vehicle came up with 11.9 litres per 100 kilometres in city and suburbs and 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the open road. Like most diesel motors these days, the FX4 MAX tunes in to its transmission with little harshness, while wind noise was all but absent across all speeds.

Chassis and suspension, like all Rangers, has had the benefit of extensive development in a range of Australian conditions, including at the You Yangs proving ground, and have been matched to deliver a combination of off-road capability and first-class carrying capacity. Hence, FX4 MAX payload is 981 kg and towing capacity 3500 kg with braked trailer.

The BF Goodrich All-Terrain 265/70R17 K02 tyres, shared with the Raptor, boast high traction in unsealed going but, with tougher sidewalls, pick up every blemish on the bitumen with accompanying road noise.

The tyres, together with 20 mm suspension lift, has the FX4 MAX riding 31 mm above the Ranger XLT, with greater approach and departure angles able to take advantage of the dual 4×4 system.

Time did not permit a full off-road hit-out – that’s for another time – but the FX4 MAX gave the impression of being able to handle the most testing times off the bitumen while remaining comfortable in the urban and highway environment.

SUMMARY
While the FX4 MAX has much going for it, Ford is about to launch the next generation Ranger, which by all accounts, will be well worth waiting for.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL LINE-UP
Ford Ranger FX4 MAX: $66,190
Tech Pack: $800
Prestige Paint: $650
FX4 MAX decal set: $750
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Ford dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Ford Ranger FX4 Max 2.0 litre bi-turbo, four-cylinder diesel, ten-speed automatic, 4×4 pick-up)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.996 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 157 kW @ 3750 rpm
Maximum Torque: 500 Nm @ 1750-2000 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.0 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 210g/km

DRIVELINE: Ten-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, 4×4

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 5446 mm
Wheelbase: 3220 mm
Width: 1977 mm
Height: 1852 mm
Turning Circle: 12.7 metres
Kerb Mass: 2219 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Drum

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Five years / unlimited kilometres

RATINGS:
Looks: 8/10
Performance: 7/10
Safety 6/10
Thirst 5/10
Practicality 8/10
Comfort 6/10
Tech 7/10
Value 6/10
Overall: 6.6/10

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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