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.
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.
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.