Ford Ranger FX4

Special edition aims to cash in on the cashed-up

ANDY ENRIGHT

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE THAT the Ford Ranger is a better ute than the Toyota Hilux takes some time to get used to. How do you go about beating the unbreakable legend? It turns out that getting the basics right, like offering decent ride quality, a gutsy engine, strong value, and keen utility are enough. Itís like Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson by the simple expedient of stepping to the side. The most obvious solutions are often hidden in plain sight.

Ford shifted almost 31,000 4x4 Rangers last year, and almost two-thirds of them were up-spec XLT and Wildtrak versions. The success of similarly high-end versions of the Holden Colorado and Volkswagen Amarok coupled with Mercedes-Benzís intention to join the fray with its Navara-based X-Class clearly has Ford convinced that the target market has a lot of disposable income looking for a new home. The FX4 special edition builds on the XLT with a black optics pack, 18-inch ĎStark Greyí alloys, black roof rails, and leather accented seats monogrammed with the FX4 badge.

Itís hard to argue with the aesthetic. The FX4 looks squat and purposeful, the Magnetic Grey paint of our test vehicle (a $550 option) even delivers a degree of subtlety for something that has had most of Fordís options list plastered to it. Given that the smallest price difference between mechanically identical trims of the Ford Everest is $6000, is the FX4ís $3420 impost over the XLT really that insurmountable an ask? It would appear not, given the rate that the 2200-vehicle allocation is disappearing.

Like all premium PXXII Rangers, the FX4 is powered by a Euro5 compliant 3.2-litre turbo-diesel lump good for 147kW and 470Nm.

Itís a pretty vocal thing with a weird sound when you roll off the throttle, like Darth Vader with catarrh. While the five-pot doesnít have the muscularity of some of its rivals, the Ranger can maintain a decent cross country pace, helped by a ride quality which vies with the Amarok for the current best-in-class. The leaf-suspended Ranger even manages to ride better than a coil-sprung Navara.

Other attractions? The SYNC3 infotainment system is a good deal cleverer than anything else in the class, and the Rangerís safety gear and towing capacity betters even the big-hitting Amarok V6.

And thereís the nub of the Ranger FX4ís 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, gruff engine, and no-nonsense practicality. The moment premium utes lose that authenticity, manufacturers will discover the price ceiling to this market extremely quickly. treet. g l hicle; ne, . ose rers g y.

Wild card

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. That sounds like money spent a bit smarter to us.

PLUS & MINUS

Macho styling; decent ride (for a ute); SYNC3 infotainment system Engine vocal when pushed; no tonneau; opportunist pricing