• The new FX4 could be the Ranger bakkie most fans have been waiting for.
• The new Ford FX4 achieves nearly Raptor-like off-road ability without sacrificing too much utility.
• Engineers have built the FX4 to be 80% Raptor.
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Ford's new Ranger is expected to become available in South Africa by 2022 but before then, some exciting developments might be in the product pipeline.
Although the T6 Ranger has been on sale for nearly a decade, it remains an excellent adventure bakkie platform. This fact is proven by the Raptor derivative, which is by far the most off-road capable bakkie you can buy, in South Africa.
For all its amazing ability, the Raptor does have a weakness: payload and towing capability. Product planners at Ford had to make compromises to achieve the Raptor's terrific wheel trave and off-road performance, much of which is enabled by an Everest rear axle.
The result is a bakkie which carries far less than other Ranger double-cabs (1 207kg versus 758kg) and tows 1 000kg less, too. For most Raptor owners, this is not an issue. But if you desire a more capable Ford Ranger double-cab 4x4 with superior load ratings, the new FX4 might just the bakkie you have been waiting for.
This FX4 is a real Safari capable bakkie
Previous Ranger FX4s have simply been a trim level with some styling and equipment upgrades, but this latest version offers significantly improved off-road ability.
What Ford's product development team has done, is create an 80% Raptor, with the latest FX4. Beyond the Raptor side steps, similar 17-inch wheels and those huge BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tyres, all the best off-road components are also present. That means Fox Racing supplied 2.0 monotube dampers at all four wheels, with appropriately configured coil springs.
The Ranger FX4 sits comfortably between Raptor and a conventional Wildtrak or Thunder double-cab 4x4, in terms of ground clearance, at 256mm.
As a reference, the Raptor has 283mm of underbody clearance and a standard factory Ford Ranger double-cab 4x4: 237mm. The new FX4 also rides 20mm higher, which helps it to achieve a two-degree greater approach angle, which should prevent snagging in very technical off-road terrain.
A Raptor with leaf-springs
What really makes FX4 so appealing is how it manages to achieve nearly Raptor-like off-road ability without sacrificing too much utility. The most notable mechanical difference between the new FX4 and Raptor is the rear suspension configuration.
Whereas the Raptor uses a multi-link rear axle, similar to that of the Ford Everest SUV, engineers have built the FX4 with a more conventional leaf-sprung rear suspension. This accounts for the slight difference in ground clearance between the Raptor and FX4 (286mm versus 256mm) but also makes for a more robust towing and load platform.
The result is a that Ford's new Ranger FX4 can tow 3 500kg, which is 40% more than a Raptor, while stacking 30% more braai wood or kit in the loadbox, which is rated for 981kg.
If the idea of a leaf-sprung Raptor appeals, then the Ford Ranger FX4 makes a great deal of sense. Although it is only available in Australia for now, with a similar kit being marketed under the Tremor badge in North America, Ford has proven that it is not averse to eventually deploying special edition Rangers to all global markets – in time.
With South African adventure bakkie owners always keen on loading up a lot of gear and heading out into Namibia, Botswana or Mozambique, the FX4's combination of Raptor bits and carrying capacity would be a big win in the local market.