There's no way around this: the Ford Ranger is old.
This T6 generation was first revealed in 2010, and we first drove it in Thailand in late 2011; yeah, almost 10 years ago. There was a facelift a few years later in 2015, and another (albeit milder) a few years later. It has spawned many variants like Wildtrak, FX4, and Raptor, including a return to North America as a 2019 generation. There are many derivative models that use the Ranger's platform as a base such as the Everest, some Chinese market versions (through Ford partner JMC), and even the new Bronco.
Yes, the Ranger has been around, and the new generation replacement is expected to be revealed in a year or so. So why then am I reviewing another Ranger? And why do I actually like it?
The Ranger that Ford handed me the keys to is the FX4 Max, and by far it may be my favorite variant yet even though it doesn't have as many of the niceties of the Raptor or the Wildtrak.
At first glance, it looks like a Ranger Raptor with the F-O-R-D grille. Even the stance looks similar to the Raptor as do those shocks that you can catch a glimpse of through the wheel arches. But look closer and you'll see a few differences. For one, the bumper is color-keyed and not black, and it doesn't have that bash plate underneath either. There are no Raptor decals on the body; instead, it's got FX4 Max on the back.
It may sound like a bummer, but it isn't. I like a lot of the details on this truck like that front bumper, those side steps that are unique to this variant, as well as the choice of rolling stock which may seem like Raptor wheels, but the design is somewhat different. I also like that there is not a hint of chrome on this Ranger; I never was a fan of that and I much prefer the “Bolder Grey” color on the details. Just about the only thing I would want to be changed is the tiny FX4 Max decal; it's not, uh, MAX enough.
The bed is the same as any dual-cab Ranger variant, measuring 1549mm long (along the floor), 1560mm wide (1139mm between the wheel wells), and 511mm tall. The 871mm bed height from the ground is actually a bit higher than, say, a Wildtrak (840mm) because the ground clearance of the vehicle is higher. This FX4 Max has 256mm of minimum ground clearance (probably measured from the bottom of the rear diff); for comparison, the ground clearance of the Ranger Wildtrak is 232mm while the Raptor's is at 283mm.
There is no 12-volt socket in the bed, nor is there a tailgate assist/helper spring for easier lifting. As with many other trucks, the tailgate on this FX4 Max doesn't lock/unlock when you lock/unlock the vehicle; that one was reserved for the Wildtrak and Raptor.
The bed does have a nice liner to protect the metal, which I like. There's also a roll bar, but it's not the fully functional kind; you know, the type that's bolted directly onto the chassis to make it a true roll bar/roll hoop. Instead, it's the faux kind or a sports bar, meaning primarily for design as it is bolted onto the top of the side panels. Ford's execution was pretty nice because it does have a plastic base that neatly conceals how it was bolted on.
Inside, the FX4 Max looks just like any Ranger. The dash, seats, controls, and all the buttons are familiar. The only real cosmetic change is the upholstery which is leather and fabric with FX4 MAX embroidery. Other than that, if you've ridden in any other high-grade Ranger variant (dual-zone climate, SYNC3, voice commands, etc.) this will feel very familiar and everything is where you'd remember it to be.
There are, however, some minor but important differences. For one, the mats are not carpet-type pieces: these are the all-weather kind. But perhaps the most obvious change is that thing sitting on top of the dashboard: it's called an "upfitter" auxiliary switch panel or pack.
Basically, it allows the owner to wire up to six electrical accessories to a control panel. Think things like winches, extra lights (i.e. lightbars, rock lights), an air compressor, a front differential lock, so on and so forth. That means no need to splice (I think) and definitely no need to drill holes in your dashboard; all those bits and pieces can be connected to that panel and will be a good way to make use of a label maker. Oh, one more thing: since this FX4 Max is intended from the ground up to be fitted with electrical accessories (some of which will need plenty of amps), this Ranger comes standard with a 250 amp alternator.
The reason the FX4 Max has that switch pack is that it's a truck geared for off-road enthusiasts. That's why it has an extra 24mm of ground clearance, the wipe-to-clean interior mats, and why it comes with a locking rear differential. Yes, the Wildtrak also has that locking rear diff, but the FX4 Max has the all-terrain tires too, and a pretty aggressive set of BFGoodrich A/Ts at that.
What makes the FX4 Max special is that it has a similar suspension system to that of the Ranger Raptor. Those shocks underneath are from Fox; yes, the same company that makes that gloriously slick long-travel suspension for the Raptor. The pair in front are 2-inch monotube shocks, while the pair in the back have reservoirs.
While on the surface it may seem to be exactly the same, the suspension setup is different. The front suspension isn't exactly the same; it's steel (the Raptor has aluminum) and has thicker anti-roll bars (29mm). The rear, however, is the big difference: this FX4 Max doesn't use coil-over Fox struts in the back. This still has a retuned set of leaf springs to match up with the shocks.
That combination of leaf springs with the Fox shocks is very significant because it's intended to balance comfort and stability off-road with the load capability of leaf springs. Coil springs tend to squat more especially when used in the back of a loaded pick-up; that's why you'll see Raptors with heavy loads with the nose up whereas leaf springs are more resistant to such tendencies. The difference is in the numbers too: the full payload for a Raptor (passengers + cargo) is rated at just under 750 kilograms while the FX4 Max can manage 981 kilograms. You can probably do more with the Raptor, but it's not recommended and you may damage those expensive shocks in the long run.
Press the ignition button on the FX4 Max and that 2.0-liter turbodiesel springs into action. Yes, this FX4 Max has the same 213 PS 2.0L bi-turbo diesel engine as the Ranger Raptor, and it also has the same 10-speed automatic gearbox.
As expected, the FX4 Max is a nice and balanced vehicle to drive even when unladen. Those shocks really do their job in taking on the many bumps our streets can throw at them, and they definitely work well off-road. The reworked rear suspension also feels great and as expected; it's not as bouncy as a standard Ranger, and neither is it super absorbent like the Raptor's. And these KO2 tires are superb and uncannily quiet for an A/T even when on concrete; much of that is because of the tread design to reduce noise. Ford found a just-right combination with this setup that would make goldilocks proud.
Acceleration is good; expect 10.6 seconds for the 0-100 km/h acceleration times at full throttle. I like the way the transmission goes through the gears; there's some gear hunting at first, but once you get used to it you can modulate your right foot to compensate. Fuel economy in urban scenarios is at a very impressive 10.0 km/l (20 km/h average) and on the highway a fantastic 16.1 km/l (88 km/h average).
Being that this Ranger has electric power steering, the wheel feels a bit light compared to its peers. That's not to say it's bad, but maybe a little bit more weight would be nice for feel. Still, it's nice to maneuver around town and on 90-degree streets. And even if you do misjudge a curb, the extra ground clearance and tires give an extra margin of error. Oh, and speaking of clearance, Ford didn't say if the water wading improved from the standard 800mm, but since the height of the vehicle has been raised, it is possible that the water wading improved too.
The quarantine may have prevented us from truly testing the off-road capabilities of the FX4 Max (I drove this under MECQ), but we can make a few logical conclusions. The tires, the clearance, and the suspension are great off-road; and by off-road, I mean the slower crawling trail kind, not the dune bashing, high-speed dirt hooniganism that the Raptor was meant for.
We've put a variety of Rangers to the test off-road, and the manners were already good, and I expect this to be better. However, I have questions about how the 10-speed automatic will perform on trickier trails because such terrain (i.e. ascending a slope) requires you to stay in a gear. And only an extended trail test will show that.
I did enjoy the Ranger FX4 Max, probably more so than the Raptor because -unless I live in Ilocos where I can bash on the dunes- I can't maximize it. The FX4 Max looks good (even with that faux roll bar), drives nicely, and was clearly intended to suit a certain target market. That's why it didn't come with advanced safety features like autonomous braking and forward collision alert, among others; Ford put the priority on features and upgrades that the target market wants. The price is very nice too: at PHP 1,758,000 (including SG), I won't be surprised if I see quite a few on our roads.
There is, however, one criticism that really needs to be reiterated: I still would have wanted a bigger engine. I have been critical of the 2.0L and 10-speed of Ford because I think they may be asking too much of such a relatively small engine and an advanced gearbox. My opinion is that a tiny engine tuned to pump out a lot of power together with a complicated gearbox for a large and heavy vehicle is a combination that may be overworked and can ultimately sacrifice long-term reliability.
I had similar misgivings about Ford's DCT (as used in the Focus, EcoSport, and Fiesta) very early on; it was advanced for the sake of being advanced and to use cliches like "class-leading" or "game-changer", and we all know how that turned out. But hey, that's just my opinion. Let me know if you agree in the comments below.