Ever since the effectivity of the Republic Act No. 10963 or the TRAIN law in 2018, cars on the local market have generally become more expensive. This tax increase affected most models, save for the humble pickup truck. In order to incentivize the sales of what the government considers to be “utilitarian vehicles,” TRAIN actually lowered the taxes on pickups, making them more affordable than similarly equipped SUV counterparts.
This led to a mad dash to buy pickups, and most brands benefited immensely. None so much as Ford, however, thanks to the halo effect of the outstanding Ranger Raptor. While Ford’s humble Ranger had been selling relatively well over the years, sales shot up and stayed up since the introduction of the high-performance Raptor variant.
It’s easy to see why sales have been so brisk. The Ranger is a generally well-equipped truck at a price near and around the P1-million mark. In 2019, it accounted for 68% of Ford’s Philippine sales, so it’s no surprise the carmaker went all-in and boosted the lineup with multiple variants, including this, the FX4. The question is, does it provide any meaningful benefits over the stock Ranger? Or is it more just a styling exercise?
Say what you want about the Ranger, but there’s no denying that its latest generation is a handsome beast. The proportions are about right, with a chunkiness that embodies the old slogan of ‘Built Ford Tough.’ The FX4 variant takes it up a notch with various bits and bobs that are specifically chosen to give the truck a more macho stance.
The first thing that strikes you is the blacked-out grille and side mirrors, the awesome black 18-inch rims, and the rear tubular sports bar. These items look great against a bright color, as seen on the test unit sent to me. Old-school FX4 decals also run alongside the black running board flanking the sides of the Ranger. It just looks the part of the American truck for modern sensibilities.
Stepping into the cockpit, you realize it’s a generally handsome interior, but aside from some red stitching and FX4 logos on the black leather seats, most of it is disappointingly identical to the regular Ranger’s cabin. A quick look around reveals some annoyingly garish chrome accents, most notably, the chrome on the central A/C and multimedia control dials, and around the air vents. Chrome just doesn’t work for a pickup, and it goes against the tough image that Ford is going for. While it’s easy to like the cockpit, we wish that the exterior black-out treatment had been extended to the inside as well.
Gripping the steering wheel of the Ranger, you are reminded as to just how well-equipped the Ranger is as a pick-up. Your thumbs move around the wheel and feel all the different available buttons for the various audio, telephone, and cruise control functions of the truck. Is it cluttered? A bit. Is it usable? Well, while it could have been more ergonomically laid out, it is something that you get used to after only a few hours of driving.
Powering the FX4 is the same 2.2-liter turbodiesel as the regular Ranger. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the truck puts out a respectable 158hp and 385Nm. Power is entirely adequate for the size of the truck. Stepping on the gas gives a slight hint of turbo lag right before the diesel’s torque presses you back into your seat. Rangers have always had decent powertrains, and this is no different.
The relatively fast-shifting six-speed transmission makes for easy overtaking maneuvers on the open road, and while it’s no Raptor, the FX4 can easily hold its own against other similar pickups.
Ride and handling
Here lies the rub with this Ranger: Despite the FX4 moniker, it was initially available only as a rear-wheel-drive truck, which is the case with this unit we have here. Most buyers who don’t plan to venture off paved roads likely won’t mind, and four-wheel-drive FX4s were eventually launched last year.
In any case, the Ranger rides on a double-wishbone front suspension with coil springs, with the bed supported by rear leaf springs. As truck suspension systems go, this is one of the better ones on the market as it keeps typical pickup bounciness to a minimum. True, it’s still not as good as an SUV equipped with an independent rear suspension, but the leaf springs are tuned quite well, so if you’ve never considered a pickup because of the bouncy ride, this is one worth testing out just to see how far truck suspensions have come over the years.
The FX4 has some great features, but also a handful of glaring omissions. First, the good: Ford has committed to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in its vehicles, and the Ranger is no exception. An eight-inch touchscreen is the centerpiece of the infotainment system, and it functions as well as you would expect for smartphone integration. For those who have never tried either system before, they are literally game changers. Try them out and there is no going back.
Annoyingly, however, it would seem Ford has not worked out all the kinks yet; the skip-track steering-wheel controls do not work when you are playing music via Apple CarPlay, for instance. While we don’t know if this is an issue with the specific unit we had, it’s important to test this out, as it can be maddening to drive without being able to change tracks using the steering-wheel controls.
The truck has a long bed, and to this end, there is no reversing camera. Yes, there are parking sensors, but unless you are extremely familiar with the length of the bed, the lack of a reversing camera makes tight maneuvering more challenging.
The Ranger is no doubt one of the best pickup trucks on the market today. Unfortunately, the small niggles make the FX4—the 4x2 variant, in particular—more a cosmetic package than anything else, but what cannot be denied is the absolute value for money of the Ranger in general.
The FX4 4x2 automatic is priced at only P1,316,000—a genuine steal compared with cars (not necessarily just pickups) of the same value. When you look at that price, and the awesome exterior accessories included, it becomes easy to see why this is a great addition to the Ranger lineup.
SPECS: 2020 Ford Ranger FX4
Engine: 2.2-liter turbodiesel I4
Power: 158hp @3,200rpm
Torque: 385Nm @1,600-2,500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive layout: RWD