“The ‘FX4’ tag originated in ’02 as a badge on 4x4 American Ford trucks that had a little something extra”
Since its launch in late 2011, the ‘T6’ Ranger has been a smash hit for Ford, combining the swagger and power expected of an American truck with a Japanese-level price tag. The T6 has been so good, in fact, that it is the first international Ranger to be sold in the United States, two decades since the Global and American Rangers diverged. And it has brought a little piece of America with it to the global market, with the new off-road-ready Ranger Raptor, which made a splash on its debut here in 2018.
But the market is an unforgiving one. While the latest facelift brought the Raptor and a powerful new 2.0-liter ‘EcoBlue’ four-cylinder, the Ranger has had to fight tooth and nail for the entry-level and midrange pickup segments. Its lower-end variants now boast enhanced connectivity and entertainment, but something went missing with the last facelift: The special Ranger FX4 variant, with its evil, blacked-out trim, was conspicuously absent from the roster.
But now it’s back, and better than ever.
The ‘FX4’ tag originated in ’02 as a badge on 4x4 American Ford trucks that had a little something extra. These ‘Ford by Four’ packages offered rugged accessories and upgrades that set them apart from more utilitarian 4x4 variants—four-wheel drive is deemed a necessity in some US territories, not a luxury, as here—and eventually became popular trim levels on American Fords.
Locally, the FX4 sits above Ford’s ‘working’ variants, the XLS and the XLT. And right from the outset, it sets itself apart. While the Wildtrak uses a blacked-out—er...grayed-out variant of the chrome bar grille on the XLT, the FX4 uses a new, aggressive mesh-type grille with more Raptor-like associations. It still keeps the simpler bumper of the XLT, with a blacked-out front skid plate to differentiate it from the workhorse versions. Brand-new FX4 vinyls on the side sit over XLT-style step boards, while over the bed, you get the same tubular roll bar as on the last FX4, with an integrated third brake light and discreet LED area lighting for the bed.
Out back, you get a black bumper and blacked-out taillights as on the Wildtrak, rather than the XLT’s chrome. It’s a clean, unique, and attractive package, all tied together by bespoke branch-spoked gloss-black 18-inch wheels with gorgeous black-on-black Ford logo center caps.
On the inside, the FX4 offers customers—to paraphrase Henry Ford Senior—“any color trim they want, as long as it’s black.” The black dash features black glossy trim sitting under a black dash topper with red contrast stitching. The steering wheel, shift boot, door panels, and seats are all slathered in black leatherette with the same red stitching, the last featuring embossed ‘carbon-fiber’ inserts and FX4 logos—black-on-black, naturally.
Certainly, the cockpit exudes a feeling of specialness. But underneath, this truck is still a 2.2-liter Ford. As opposed to the new 2.0-liter mill that’s available in either 178hp or 210hp versions, the 2.2-liter Duratorq turbocharged engine only makes 158 ponies. Still, that’s a bit more than what the top-of-the-line 3.0-liter Ranger made just 10 years ago. And the 2.2 is an engine with few vices: It’s quite drivable, building boost in a linear fashion, and having more than enough torque for overtaking on the highway. The six-speed automatic and the approachable boost threshold of the 2.2 make the FX4 more tractable than some more powerful trucks. It’s no speed demon, true, but that’s what the 210hp Wildtrak is for.
There’s not much new on the handling front, either, which isn’t a big deal. The Ranger is already one of the better-handling trucks on the market. The steering is light—though not as disconcertingly light as in the Everest—and precise, and the Ranger corners in a flat and predictable manner. The ride, as with all Rangers, is on the firm side, to prioritize cargo capacity, but comfort isn’t half bad with the 265/60 R18 Bridgestone Dueler tires pumped down to the recommended 30psi. Even at the insanely high stockyard pressures we received the truck on—over 10psi higher!—it was still borderline bearable. If there’s any fault to be found in the drive, it’s the lack of the locking rear differential found on the 4x2 Wildtrak, but we doubt most customers would notice.
Perhaps it’s inevitable that such toys be excluded, in order to differentiate the FX4 from higher-priced Ranger variants. Thus there’s no keyless ignition or 230V accessory socket, no hill assist, and no side curtain airbags. And the electronic climate control panel is fully manual, not automatic as on the Wildtrak. Yes, there’s remote locking, but no smart key. Given what is there, however, given the price, it seems mean to complain.
The FX4 steps up its infotainment game considerably over the XLT, with the same eight-inch touchscreen system as the Wildtrak. Equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, it provides for easy plug-and-play integration through either of the two USB ports up front, allowing you to run Waze, Google Maps, or Apple Maps for navigation, and any number of audio players for entertainment. The standard steering-wheel audio, informatics, and cruise controls work a treat as well.
After a little fiddling, we found the audio quality to be pretty good—as expected of a Ford—and the thumping beats from the six-speaker system came through loud and clear from several cars away. Yes, you can play this audio setup at neighbor-annoying levels! Just to let them know your new truck has arrived.
But the FX4 is more than just the ‘Bad Boy’ of the month. At P1,256,000 for the 4x2 manual and P1,316,000 for the 4x2 automatic, it represents an incredible value for the urban cowboy. Granted, it doesn’t have the Wildtrak’s awesome power or go-anywhere ability, but Ford’s Evil X may just prove to be a dark horse in the competitive midrange pickup market of 2020.