The new 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 Max is the thirteenth addition to the Ranger lineup. With so many variants to choose from, where does the FX4 Max fit in the brand’s diverse range of pickups?
Not counting the Ranger Raptor, the FX4 Max is the most aggressive Ranger out there. It doesn’t have the Raptor’s wide fender flares, but all of its aesthetic upgrades provide a functional benefit. As a matter of fact, this is basically an off-road-ready truck right out of the factory.
Upfront, it’s definitely hard to ignore its bold F-O-R-D grille and full-length tubular sports bar finished in matte black that allows easy access to the load box. There’s are also body-mounted metal hoop side steps with a non-slip finish that not only provides easier access to the cabin but also improves the pickup’s break-over angle. Lastly, the Ranger FX4 Max rides on a set of 17-inch alloy wheels with BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. And then up front, there’s a pair of projector halogen headlamps providing illumination up front, though we wish Ford equipped this model with full LED lighting instead, especially considering how this variant is closely priced against the Ranger Wildtrak.
The Ford Ranger FX4 Max’s interior has been upgraded to be able to take on the roughness of the outdoors. The leather seats feature carbon accents with Miko suede inserts and FX4 Max embroidery. The FX4 Max also comes with all-weather front and rear floor mats for easy cleaning. It not just about being functional though. It’s still a comfortable pickup on the daily grind thanks to its passive entry with push-button start, 6-speaker audio system, and an 8-inch color touchscreen with Ford’s SYNC3 user interface.
Perhaps the most important upgrade inside the Ford Ranger FX4 Max is the auxiliary switch pack. No need for messy wiring or poorly-fitted aftermarket accessories. Thanks to the auxiliary switch pack, off-road enthusiasts can easily connect and operate auxiliary accessories and equipment in a seamless and integrated manner. To support such additions, the FX4 Max features a specific 250A alternator to support power supply to multiple accessories and reduce reliance on the vehicle’s battery.
If you look carefully at the Ranger FX4 Max, you’ll notice that it has quite a different stance compared to the standard Ranger models. This is because this variant rides on a new set of 2-inch monotube Fox shock absorbers, just like in the Ranger Raptor. Unlike the Ranger Raptor though, which uses coil springs at the rear, the FX4 Max still uses leaf springs, and this preserves its ability to still carry heavy payloads. For perspective, the Ranger Raptor’s payload is at 758 kg while the FX4 Max can carry up to 981 kg.
But how does this combination of high payload capacity and increased off-road capability actually translate in the real world? Very spectacularly actually. The Ranger FX4 Max’s increased ride height also meant that it can tackle steeper slopes without scraping its nose. The chunky BFGoodrich all-terrain tires provided the pickup plenty of grip when traversing steeper terrain, though we’re curious on how the tire’s deep groves affect the pickup’s noise levels when driving on smooth pavement.
More importantly, the Ranger FX4 Max comes with a rear locking differential. Though not exactly unique to the FX4 Max, this feature locks the rear axle and splits the power 50:50 to each wheel, which further made it easy for this pickup to climb steep terrain. It’s a feature barely anyone talks about in the Philippines and we think it’s a feature that off-road enthusiasts should always consider. With the rear locking diff, the wheel with the least resistance does not spin freely, thus making it easy for a pickup to travel in situations where one wheel would lose contact with the ground or get stuck in loose surfaces.
On my way up to Tagaytay road, I noticed that the ride’s a little bit stiff when driven without a heavy load at the back, but it settles down when there are passengers at the backseat. The stiffness isn’t any different from other Ranger variants, which is a good thing because you can still use the FX4 Max on a daily basis. On a speedier drive on the tarmac road of Nasugbu, Batangas, the FX4 Max handles impressively. Despite having beefier all-terrain tires, road noise isn’t that much different from the standard Ranger or even the Wildtrak.
During my short off-road drive at the rugged valley road of Bacoor, the FX4 Max felt right at home, when it tackled easily some potholes and rough mounds it met with its engine at the right power for the said terrain. Credit to its .0-liter Bi-Turbo diesel engine that’s also found in the Raptor and Wildtrak 4×4 variants, which mean it also produces 210 hp and 500 Nm of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain provides the FX4 MAX a 981 kg payload as well as 3,500 kg of towing capability.
As I went up to a hill climb towards the mountains of Nasugbu, power and throttle response are quite good and acceleration is smooth without the need to apply much pressure on the pedal. Applying speed on flat highway surfaces, the FX4 MAX has an electric power steering (EPS) that provides soft steering at low speeds and gets firmer as you push it to higher speeds. If you plan to use it daily city-driving use, the low-end torque that the engine provides means you don’t need to rev the engine as much. However, fuel economy is so-so for the class. At 8.7 km/l, it’s one of the thirstier pickups out there.
Trying it out off-road, its 31 degrees approach angle and 23 degrees departure angle means there’s less of a worry for you to scratch its front or rear bumper. Adding to that a higher ground clearance than standard Ranger models helped me easily clear out the often-littered rocks at the quarry area. The addition of a rear locking differential means getting out of slipper situations is easy. Without it, the open differential in other pickups would normally power to the wheel with the least grip.
In sum, the new Ford Ranger FX4 Max has been designed for drivers who work hard and can play rough. Priced at P1,698,000, this Ranger fills the need of those who work hard for their business whilst having the ability to able to head to the mountains for the weekend when they want to. It’s basically a pickup that’s ready to be accessorized and be taken through the dirt stuff right out of the factory.