A (per­fect) shot in the dark

As if Ford’s flag­ship Ranger didn’t look in­tim­i­dat­ing enough, the com­pany has re­leased a spe­cial model where all the cus­tom­ary chrome is painted black in all the right places.

Go! Camp & Drive - - New Wheels - Text Charles Thompson

Every few years, bakkie man­u­fac­tur­ers breathe new life into an ex­ist­ing model by re­leas­ing a slightly dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the same prod­uct. Toy­ota, for ex­am­ple, had the Hilux Dakar and Leg­end 45, Isuzu the KB X-Rider, and Volk­swa­gen the Amarok Ul­ti­mate. Th­ese types of lim­ited edi­tions of­ten have noth­ing more than a shiny bumper and a few stick­ers on the body, an up­grade for which you shell out tens of thou­sands of rands. Ford re­cently ex­panded its pop­u­lar Ranger range with just such a lim­ited ver­sion – the Fx4. And it’s a very spe­cial ad­di­tion.

Ap­pear­ance mat­ters

It’s not for noth­ing that Ford refers to it as the “black pack” to de­scribe the changes to the Fx4. The bakkie gets 17-inch Pan­ther al­loy wheels and a pitch black Fx4 roll bar and roof racks. With its pitch black grille and bumper, the Fx4 looks se­ri­ously mean from the front, and the pic­ture is com­pleted with a black steel rear bumper. Even the fog lights, door handles, and side mir­rors have matte black cov­ers, and we par­tic­u­larly like the big black sticker that cov­ers the largest part of the bon­net – very im­pres­sive. The Fx4 can be or­dered in white, sil­ver, grey or black. In black – like our test model – this sturdy Ford looks al­most like a big cat that’s get­ting ready to pounce.

Pop the hood

Un­der the bon­net, there is the same mighty 3.2 tur­bod­iesel en­gine (147 kW @ 3 000 rpm and 470 Nm torque be­tween 1 500 rpm and 2 750 rpm) as used by its fel­low Rangers, and you can choose be­tween a sixspeed au­to­matic or six-speed man­ual gear­box. And while Ford’s au­to­matic gear­box for the Ranger might not be the most so­phis­ti­cated one in a lo­cal bakkie, it’s still depend­able and does its job. The gear­box “gets to know” your driv­ing style over time, and af­ter a few days it starts chang­ing gears al­most al­ways when you think it should do so. You also get the same tough lad­der frame chas­sis,

ground clear­ance of 237 mm, wad­ing depth of 800 mm, and a tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 3 500 kg. The 17-inch wheels are suit­able for both tar and off-road. And be­cause the Fx4 is built on the same chas­sis as the pop­u­lar XLT, you get the same tough 4x4 and work abil­i­ties. The in­te­rior The Fx4’s in­te­rior is the same well-known stylish cabin as the flag­ship XLT model. And there is al­most noth­ing from the sev­enseater sports util­ity ve­hi­cle, the Ever­est, that you won’t also find in this bakkie. There is Ford’s Sync3 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, a neat and in­tu­itive com­puter sys­tem that in­te­grates and con­trols every­thing from the air con to the satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and Blue­tooth on an eight-inch touch screen. The sys­tem runs smoothly, with no de­lays when you’re mov­ing be­tween pro­grammes or en­ter­ing com­mands. The in­ter­face also didn’t lock up once while we drove with the bakkie – very of­ten a glitch with th­ese types of ve­hi­cle com­put­ers that try to do too much with lim­ited com­put­ing power. We are also im­pressed with the amount of power sock­ets in the cabin. There are two USB and three 12 V sock­ets (two in front and one for the pas­sen­gers at the back). More bakkie man­u­fac­tur­ers should start fol­low­ing the same recipe. One USB socket for the whole fam­ily isn’t enough any­more. Like the Ever­est, the Ranger Fx4 also has two dig­i­tal screens in the con­sole in front of the driver. Only the speedome­ter is ana­logue – all the other info is dis­played on two colour screens to the right and left of it. Be­cause you have dig­i­tal screens, you have con­trol over what is dis­played. For ex­am­ple, you can de­cide if you want to see the tachome­ter and fuel gauge, or the fuel gauge and your fuel con­sump­tion, or a dig­i­tal speedo-me­ter that gives your speed in dig­its. On the left-hand screen you can choose be­tween op­tions like a com­pass, the name of the al­bum or ra­dio sta­tion you’re lis­ten­ing to, or di­rec­tions if you’re us­ing the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem. Let’s drive The Fx4 re­mains one of the more com­fort­able bakkies on the road, es­pe­cially with an au­to­matic gear­box. The EPAS elec­tronic steer­ing sys­tem makes steer­ing a breeze, and the dy­namic sta­bil­ity con­trol and roll over mit­i­ga­tion helps to make the ride much more com­fort­able. The Ranger also fea­tures trailer sway con­trol to as­sist you when the car­a­van or trailer starts to swerve out of con­trol. It also fea­tures a handy sys­tem that min­imises the im­pact of a heavy load on the drive qual­ity and steer­ing con­trol of the ve­hi­cle. Seven airbags, one of which pro­tects the driver’s knees, help to give the Ranger a five-star NCAP safety rat­ing. That’s the high­est mark awarded, and the Ranger was the first bakkie in the world to achieve this.

Price ..... R608 900

BATMOBILE. Shod in men­ac­ing all-black trim, the Ranger Fx4 casts an im­pos­ing shadow, with de­tails like the model-spe­cific stick­ers, bulky roll bars, and black 17-inch wheels set­ting it apart from lesser Rangers. CLOCKS. In­stru­men­ta­tion con­sists of an ana­logue speedome­ter, flanked by dig­i­tal colour screens that can be cus­tomised to dis­play ex­actly what the driver wants, such as nav­i­ga­tion in­struc­tions, au­dio or even a com­pass.

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