Residents of Cape Town were treated to sights of a robot dog walking through the CBD as Dwyka Mining Services showcased Boston Dynamic’s Spot….
The Ford Ranger is a car that is in constant battle with the Toyota Hilux for the title of South Africa’s most popular bakkie. It has to be doing a lot of things right regardless of what the all-new FX4 package brings to the table.
And make no mistake, special editions such as this, along with others such as the Wildtrak, Thunder, and the scary-looking Raptor, are extremely popular to warrant scrutinising what a couple tens of thousand Rands extra will get you.
Prices for the double-cab FX4 start at R641 300 for the 4×2 and R712 300 for the 4×4.
After a week of patrolling the streets of Cape Town (and even running a few errands to the dumpsite with it), here’s what we thought of the new Ford Ranger FX4…
What the FX4 package gets you
In a nutshell, the Ranger FX4 features the specification as the Ranger XLT model, though with some unique details to help it stand out in the lineup.
You get 18-inch black alloy wheels, black-painted door handles, black front grille, and a drop-in bedliner with a power socket and unique sports bar. You also get interior upgrades, including new partial leather seats and finishes, and FX4 logos and red stitching dotted about the cabin.
The FX4 also marked the arrival of FordPass Connect, the carmaker’s integrated mobile app that gives partial control over the vehicle’s functions and lets you sync your device directly to it.
But is this all worth the R30 000 bump in price up from the XLT?
The cosmetic upgrades have a positive influence on what was already a great-looking vehicle. The grille and wheels look excellent, the sports bar rounds off the sharp edges of the bedliner nicely.
It’s enough to distinguish the variant, and any colour you choose will look fitting, but the overall impression is lacklustre.
As for FordPass Connect, mileage may vary. Some of the app’s features such as vehicle tracking and Remote Start are impressive and have real-world functionality.
The app itself is easy to set up and use. But other features such as fuel, service, and actual mileage tracking are all stuff you can do without your phone without less sense of convenience.
Interior and features
A bakkie needs to look and feel solid (and at this price, well-equipped). Sitting in the FX4, one is presented with a field of black leather, the red stitching, and a very conventional dashboard.
Ford has always had a handle on its ergonomic execution and this is no different. Climate controls and the infotainment sit squarely in the centre with large, reachable buttons.
Everything from the fittings such as the door handles and handbrake, as well as the plastic surfaces leading from the doors down into the footwell, looks and feels sturdy.
And there’s space for everyone in it. Legroom and headspace are more than adequate in the back row with the width and height of the vehicle allowing for the three additional passengers.
Tech-wise, the car features Ford’s SYNC entertainment system with six speakers, two USB ports, and wireless connectivity — all controlled through an 8-inch touchscreen display.
The entire interface, which also includes the two displays on each side of the rev counter, is easy to read. That said, they can be confusing to navigate, especially with the buttons on the wheel.
(Side note: If Ford wanted to drive home the connectivity and high-tech elements of the FX4 package, some extra features, maybe a wireless charging platform for mobile devices, would have been a big boost)
Additional features include keyless entry, 12-volt power points, cruise control, and an electrochromatic rearview mirror. Seven airbags, traction and stability control, and EBD cover safety (Euro NCAP rating is five stars, everything one would look for is there).
Performance and driving
Under the FX4’s bonnet is Ford’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Good for 132 kW of power and 420 Nm of torque, the engine is attached to a ten-speed automatic gearbox with power distributed via a selectable four-wheel-drive system.
Driving the Ranger is downright spooky. The power steering creates an incredible disconnect that leads you to forget how big and heavy the car is. And thanks to that, it is incredibly easy to manoeuvre (also thanks to good all-round visibility and the reversing camera).
Despite the sound of the diesel engine, the cabin is well-insulated. Highway driving speeds of 100km/h and above are covered in comfort.
The powertrain delivers on a sufficient amount of oomph to carry mass loads. Packing the bedliner with an assortment of junk one Thursday afternoon, power remained on tap and we were able to make our way without the sensation of feeling weighed to the ground.
As with any automatic, there is a distinct lag between applying the throttle and subsequent acceleration. And to be honest, one feels sorry for the gearbox.
In the pursuit of trying to deliver smooth power delivery at low revs, the ten-speed is constantly changing gear to the point I felt compelled to take the reins myself.
Ford Ranger XLT Double Cab FX4 4×4 review verdict
It neither improves nor detracts from the already near-perfect formula. The Ford Ranger FX4 is a great bakkie that would look great in an Instagram post.
The Ranger remains an excellent utility vehicle with a luxury edge. It has excellent build quality and a great level of standard kit.
The only mechanical criticism one can level is at the foot of its busy, indecisive gearbox.
However, its FX4-ness could be asserted better with more features or a stronger delineation from other Ranger models.
Featured image: Sam Spiller/Memeburn