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    Ford Ranger 2021 review: FX4 Max off-road test

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    If you're in the market for a Ford Ranger and you can't quite justify spending the big bucks on the line-up's off-road-ready Raptor – $77,690 (plus on-road costs) – but you won't settle for an XLT, then perhaps the FX4 Max might satisfy your desire for a Ford ute.

    Ford has already pretty much made a ute for everyone in their current line-up, but does this FX4 Max special edition – part performance ute, part family car, and part work truck – miss the mark entirely by trying to be something for everyone?

    Read on.

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    Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

    The Ford Ranger FX4 Max is available only as a dual-cab ute with a tub, only with a 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine, and only in 4X4.

    It has a 10-speed automatic torque-converter transmission.

    The FX4 has a Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price of $65,940 (plus on-road costs), but our test vehicle has the optional Conquer Grey paint ($650), as well as the decals (fancy name for stickers, $750), and the $800 Tech Pack, which includes adaptive cruise control and active park assist, among other things.

    Standard features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touch-screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touch-screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

    Those additions bring this FX4 Max's price as tested to $68,140 (plus on-road costs).

    Otherwise, standard features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touch-screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, AEB, lane keeping assist, reversing camera, and a rear diff-lock.

    It does not have blind-spot monitoring.

    Among its other more noteworthy enhancements over something like the XLT are its 265/70 R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2 tyres. Among its other more noteworthy enhancements over something like the XLT are its 265/70 R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2 tyres.

    The FX4 Max costs about $5000 more than the XLT, but that price premium may be well worth it if you consider that this ute has a hard-core suspension set-up in the form of 2.0-inch mono-tube Fox Racing shock absorbers (front and rear), tuned coil springs and retuned leaf spring rear, as well as a 29mm front stabiliser bar.

    It also gets a raft of styling changes (detailed below under ‘Is there anything interesting about its design?'), but among its other more noteworthy enhancements over something like the XLT are its 265/70 R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2 tyres, which we'll go into more detail about in the ‘What's it like for touring?' Section, further down this page, and an upfitter auxiliary switch pack and upgraded 250A alternator, so the driver can control aftermarket accessories, such as light bars, winches and air compressors, from the driver's seat.

    Is there anything interesting about its design?

    In terms of exterior dimensions, the FX4 Max measures 5446mm long (with a 3220mm wheelbase), 2163mm wide, and 1852mm high.

    It has a listed kerb weight of 2219kg.

    It looks a bit beefier than a standard Ranger largely due to its wider wheel track (26mm more than the XLT), chunky side-steps and aggressive-looking tyres.

    • The special edition FX4 Max is a new breed of Ford Ranger. The special edition FX4 Max is a new breed of Ford Ranger.
    • It looks a bit beefier than a standard Ranger largely due to its wider wheel track, chunky side-steps and aggressive-looking tyres. It looks a bit beefier than a standard Ranger largely due to its wider wheel track, chunky side-steps and aggressive-looking tyres.
    • It has stickers all over the place – you can’t fail to notice those, for better or worse, and while they may be your cup of tea, they’re not mine. It has stickers all over the place – you can’t fail to notice those, for better or worse, and while they may be your cup of tea, they’re not mine.

    Due to its upgraded suspension, it stands taller (at 1852mm) than a standard Ranger (at 1821mm), but is shorter than a Raptor (at 1873mm). It has 256mm of ground clearance, and that's 19mm more than an XLT, but 27mm less than a Raptor.

    The FX4 Max has a distinctive look: massive eye-catching FORD grille, flared dark-grey wheel arches, matte black body-mounted side steps, suitably aggressive BFG KO2 tyres on Bolder Grey rims, matte-black tubular sports bar in the tray and stickers all over the place – you can't fail to notice those, for better or worse, and while they may be your cup of tea, they're not mine.

    The interior includes leather-accented seats with suede inserts and FX4 Max embroidery, Black Alley trim, sports pedals, and all-weather rubber floor mats.

    In terms of exterior dimensions, the FX4 Max measures 5446mm long. In terms of exterior dimensions, the FX4 Max measures 5446mm long.

    What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

    The FX4 Max has the line-up's 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine – producing 157kW@3750rpm and 500Nm @ 1750-2000rpm – matched to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

    This is a proven combination, quietly effective and efficient, and though I'm a big fan of Ford's 3.2-litre engine, the smaller capacity engine is also capable of helping to deliver a fuss-free driving experience.

    It has a selectable four-wheel drive system – with two-wheel drive (2H), four-wheel drive high-range (4H) and four-wheel drive low-range (4L) – and an electronic locking rear differential.

    The FX4 Max has the line-up’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine. The FX4 Max has the line-up’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine.

    How practical is the space inside?

    If you've ever been in a Ranger cabin, then you know to expect a nice, comfortable space.

    The FX4 Max's interior is a mix of hard plastic surfaces, like those on the dash, and rubber mats, and premium-style materials, such as the leather-and-suede combination on the seats and the FX4 Max embroidery. The blend of family- and work-friendly suitability with more than a dash of prestige feels a little peculiar but it all kind of works.

    There are all the usual amenities we all now expect in a contemporary ute: a multimedia touch screen – with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (USB-connect) functionality – that works nicely, charge points for your devices (two upfront) and a 12V outlet (one upfront), as well as storage spaces, cup holders, bottle holders, and a shallow centre console.

    • If you've ever been in a Ranger cabin, then you know to expect a nice, comfortable space. If you've ever been in a Ranger cabin, then you know to expect a nice, comfortable space.
    • The front seats are very comfortable and easy to spend long drives on. The front seats are very comfortable and easy to spend long drives on.
    • The back seat is very comfortable with plenty of head, knee and toe room – but keep in mind I’m the size of a Hobbit. The back seat is very comfortable with plenty of head, knee and toe room – but keep in mind I’m the size of a Hobbit.

    There is also the auxiliary switch panel atop the dash, which is there to control your aftermarket gear stuff like lights, winch, an air compressor – and that's a pretty handy addition.

    The front seats are very comfortable and easy to spend long drives on. The driver's seat is six-way manually adjustable.

    The back seat is very comfortable with plenty of head, knee and toe room – but keep in mind I'm the size of a Hobbit.

    The tub is 1549mm long (at floor height), 1560mm wide and 1139mm wide between the wheel arches. The tub is 1549mm long (at floor height), 1560mm wide and 1139mm wide between the wheel arches.

    Features for back-seat passengers include cup holders in the fold-down armrest, seat-back map pockets, bottle holders in the door, a 230V Inverter and a 12 volt outlet in the rear of centre console.

    All in all, it's a nice, comfortable space.

    What's it like as a daily driver?

    There are few surprises here.

    Steering is light, precise and well-weighted, a well-documented Ranger characteristic.

    The bi-turbo engine and 10-speed auto worked well together as they always have, and throttle response is punchy.

    Steering is light, precise and well-weighted, a well-documented Ranger characteristic. Steering is light, precise and well-weighted, a well-documented Ranger characteristic.

    Ride and handling aren't as Raptor-like as you'd imagine though, with the FX4 Max yielding a choppy experience, exhibiting noticeable body-roll through sharper corners.

    Noise, vibration and harshness levels in the cabin are kept to a background hum, with even the knobbly BFGs producing only a low-level rumble, something I didn't have an issue with at all. The big wing mirrors generate some wind-rush noise – again, nothing terrible unless you're particularly sensitive to those sorts of things.

    What's it like for touring?

    I've driven Ford Rangers of pretty much all variants on all sorts of terrain – with plenty of challenging four-wheel driving thrown into the mix – and I've always been impressed with how well they've performed.

    But there's some good and not-so-good news here.

    First, the good news: you have plenty of visibility in the FX4 Max, because it's a good commanding driving position in a taller vehicle than a standard Ranger and you can see all around you at all times, which is crucial in selecting the correct line on a track.

    The engine and auto are just as effective during low-speed, low-range 4WDing as they are at suburb and highway speeds.

    Throttle response remains spot-on, helping the driver to maintain controlled, sustained momentum up and down hills and through deep ruts.

    There is plenty of torque at low revs and that's crucial when you're tackling challenging terrain because it'll help to keep you trucking along. 

    The off-road traction control system is also effective as is hill descent control, which manages to hold the FX4 Max to around the 3-4km/h mark on steep declines.

    The BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tyres are really well suited to difficult off-roading and they really proved their worth here. There was consistent rainfall on our off-road test day and the clay soil of our proving ground became quite slippery and treacherous. The tyres' tread become congested with sloppy clay, seriously compromising traction on a steep rock-step climb that we'd successfully tackled several times earlier that morning. We did the right thing and did not have any more attempts until the rain had stopped, the climb had dried out, and we'd cleared mud from the tread. We had another crack – and the FX4 Max did the climb over and over again, no worries.

    Of note also was the fact that previously at this patch of bushland, we'd scraped the bellies of other Rangers, with less ground clearance than this FX4 Max, but no such ‘rubbing dirt' moments occurred this time.

    It has a selectable four-wheel drive system – with two-wheel drive (2H), four-wheel drive high-range (4H) and four-wheel drive low-range (4L). It has a selectable four-wheel drive system – with two-wheel drive (2H), four-wheel drive high-range (4H) and four-wheel drive low-range (4L).

    The FX4 Max has approach, departure and ramp break-over of 31, 23 and 25 degrees respectively – besting standard Rangers in those measures. It does have one degree more in its ramp break-over angle than the Raptor, but Raptor wins in terms of approach (32.5) and departure angles (24 degrees).

    Now for the not-so-good news: the blend of suspension, especially at the rear (with leaf springs and Fox Racing shocks) doesn't yield as much of a discernible benefit as you might expect. In fact, the set-up produces a kind of choppy, unsettled ride with some body-roll thrown in and that's obvious on bitumen, at speed on undulating dirt tracks and it's even noticeable during low-speed, low-range, four-wheel driving. It's not particularly horrible or even very annoying, but it's noticeable – this is no Raptor.

    Due to its upgraded suspension, it stands taller (at 1852mm) than a standard Ranger (at 1821mm), but is shorter than a Raptor. Due to its upgraded suspension, it stands taller (at 1852mm) than a standard Ranger (at 1821mm), but is shorter than a Raptor.

    While the FX4 Max may not perform quite as well as the Raptor does off-road, it does win out in a few other areas.

    Payload is listed as 991kg and that's 223kg more than the Raptor's. It has claimed towing capacities of 750kg (unbraked) and 3500kg (braked) – so it can tow one ton more than the Raptor.

    It has a listed GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 3200kg and a GCM (gross combined mass) of 6000kg.

    The off-road traction control system is also effective as is hill descent control, which manages to hold the FX4 Max to around the 3-4km/h mark on steep declines. The off-road traction control system is also effective as is hill descent control, which manages to hold the FX4 Max to around the 3-4km/h mark on steep declines.

    The tub is 1549mm long (at floor height), 1560mm wide and 1139mm wide between the wheel arches. It is 511mm deep and rear loading height is listed as 871mm.

    The tub has a durable-looking tub liner with a built-in 12V outlet, as well as four sturdy tie-down points.

    How much fuel does it consume?

    What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

    This ute has a five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing in 2015.

    Safety gear includes six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), rev rear view camera, parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking (AEB, operational at speeds above 3km/h) with pedestrian detection (at speeds of 3km/h-80km/h), lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, trailer sway control, tyre-pressure monitoring system and more.

    The optional $800 tech pack brings Adaptive Cruise Control and Active Park Assist into the safety suite.

    The Ford Ranger is a decent ute in most variants already. The Ford Ranger is a decent ute in most variants already.

    What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

    The FX4 Max is covered by Ford Australia's five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

    Service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing is available for the first four visits, costing $299 each.

    Pricing & SpecsInsurance Quote

    The Ford Ranger is a decent ute in most variants already, which is why I don't see a real need for the FX4 Max, other than for Ford to possibly cater to another niche within a niche within a niche, which makes solid business sense, of course.

    This ute seems to awkwardly straddle the fence between trying to be a performance-type ute, like the Raptor, and trying to be a work-and-family vehicle – but it never really entirely succeeds at being either.

    Still, the Ranger is a refined daily driver and solid bush tourer and its pedigree and efficacy as such is well proven.

    $65,940

    Based on new car retail price

    VIEW PRICING & SPECS

    Daily driver score

    3.6/5

    Adventure score

    3.6/5

    adventureguide rank

    • Light

      Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

    • Medium

      Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

    • Heavy

      Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

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    Price Guide

    $65,940

    Based on new car retail price

    Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.