If there's something definitive about pickup trucks today, it's that they have come a long way from just being utilitarian vehicles. Originally built for hauling and towing the heavy stuff, the modern pickup has become, more or less, an active lifestyle vehicle.
When it first arrived in the country back in 2012, the T6 Ranger may have literally changed the rulebook. For the Blue Oval brand, a pickup should not only be tough. It has to look good, be easy to drive anywhere, and has to have a fair amount of in-car amenities and safety systems. In other words, the pickup is no longer just a workhorse. It has to be a jack-of-all-trades of sorts, switching roles between a family car, off-roader, cargo hauler, etc.
With pickups fast becoming the default choice for those that need a proper 'ute', Ford Group Philippines decided to introduce a new, suave-looking variant of the Ranger, the FX4. Essentially an XLT Ranger wearing a 'power suit', the FX4 presents itself as a cool, calm and collected ute that oozes style. But has the FX4's good looks undermined its pickup credentials? Let's find out.
On looks alone, the FX4 is quite the dashing pickup. This one in particular is finished in Aluminum Metallic, a nice contrast against the black body graphics found on the hood, side panels and tailgate. The matte-finished sports bar, 18-inch gloss black alloy wheels, and blacked-out front grill further enhances the FX4's dark tone. Did I forgot to mention that the mirror caps, roof rails and door handles are also painted black? If Henry Ford had his way, I think he would just straight up 'murder out' everything on the FX4 and call it a day.
“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black,” Henry Ford once famously said.
Climb inside and you are greeted by the familiar dashboard derived from the new Everest. Besides being pleasing to the eyes, it's also very ergonomic as everything is placed where you expect them to be. Compared to the standard XLT, this special edition Ranger gets leather upholstery on the seats and a multi-function steering wheel as standard. To remind the occupants they are in something special, the front seats also have embossed FX4 logos.
It does not get Ford's new SYNC 2 or SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment. Instead, it has the gen-1 SYNC system. Granted it's dated, I still like it as it's relatively easy to use. The drawback, however, is that it does not come with navigation as standard. Still, the system supports several inputs like USB, Aux, Bluetooth and CD.
Cruise control, automatic headlights, power folding side mirrors, multi-information display, stability control, and voice command round up some of the in-car features that are standard equipment in the 2017 FX4.
Only one engine is available for the FX4, the 2.2-liter Puma inline-four turbo-diesel. It is slightly more powerful than the previous version of the 2.2 mill, producing 10 PS and 10 Nm more. Despite the relatively minor bump in power output, this updated powertrain feels more responsive and boost from the turbo comes in earlier. Peak power of 160 PS is achieved at 3200 rpm, 500 rpm (less than the pre-facelift model), while maximum torque of 385 Nm is readily available from 1600 – 2500 rpm.
All well and good numbers, but the true test is driving the pickup out on the open road. A light prod on the accelerator is all that is needed to get things moving for the Ranger. Despite being smaller than typical turbo-diesels, power delivery was smooth and refined. Put your foot down, however, and the turbo kicks in while the transmission drops a gear for instant overtaking.
But what about its performance on the highway? Back then, the pre-updated 2.2-liter engine had a tendency to lose steam at the mid to upper rev range. With the updated mill, however, Ford was able to mend that and the engine is now more than capable of delivering power to the rear wheels.
I mentioned rear wheels as the FX4 is only available in 4x2 configuration. This comes as a surprise as the moniker 'FX4' is synonymous with off-road ready models of the F150, North American Ranger and others. For the Philippine (as well as the ASEAN market), Ford gave the FX4 a new designation, a styling package that gives the Ranger a cool finish. It would have been nice if the special edition Ranger was available with 4WD, but nonetheless, the FX4 is still a nicely packaged pickup.
The term 'agile' maybe an oxymoron for pickups, but the Ranger is one of the few pickups that handles rather well. The adaptive electronic power steering is practically a godsend when driving vehicles of this size. It feels light when you're slowly cruising around parking lots or along side streets, but gets heavier as you go faster along highways or expressways. The suspension itself was able to absorb road bumps with ease which made for a decent ride quality.
In true diesel fashion, the Ranger delivered admirable fuel consumption. Around town and along light city traffic, it was able to return 9 km/l. Take it out to the highway and that figure will climb up to about 14.3 – 14.5 km/l. Despite the moderate increase in power, Ford was still able to make a fuel-efficient powertrain for their one-ton pickup.
Personally, I liked what Ford did to the FX4. They were able to make what was already a good-looking pickup, look even more handsome and capable. It was able to turn some heads with its blacked-out add-ons but retained its pickup capability with no penalties whatsoever. A 4WD system would have been a nice addition, but then again, it would already be knocking on the price of the top-of-the-range Wildtraks.
To be frank, I was not particularly sure how I would perceive the 2017 Ranger FX4, but after getting to drive it for myself, Ford was able to deliver a very neat, very stylish pickup. At PhP 1,359,000, the Ranger FX4, with a 6-speed automatic, is PhP 80,000 more than the XLT automatic. But if one is in the market for a dapper 4x2 ute without the shiny chrome bits, the FX4 is definitely a nice choice.