Tuesday, October 19, 2021
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2021 Ford Ranger FX4 MAX (car review)

WITH a serious on road presence, the 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 MAX sports an imposing body shape that screams chunkiness. It looks like you could seriously carve slices off it, add roast veg, pour over some gravy, and serve it to a hungry trucker.

The FX4 MAX comes standard with plenty of off road bits on the outside, and the mechanics to get you into the dirt with ease. The aesthetics side heavy duty side steps with a nice black non slip finish, and a chunkified F-O-R-D grille.

That alone surely contributes 50 per cent of the beefy look. A tubular sports bar in the tray with a high mounted stop light is perfect for when you want to roll it down a hill sideways for your actions scenes (don’t roll it down a hill sideways, we’re joking).

There are mud flaps front and rear. It’s also got some other bits that are not only good looking but are actually useful off road, like the wheel and suspension package made up of 32-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres wrapped around 17-inch Bolder Grey alloy wheels.

This duo is paired with 2-inch monotube FOX shocks inside coil overs, with a 29mm front stabiliser bar, and the same shocks in the back with remote reservoir and leaf springs.

Ford tells us that this has been done so it ‘soaks up the punishing impacts and smooths out bumps and ruts with ease’. So what do you think we did, well, we punished it, both on and off road. In the latter scenario it handled itself very well.

On some decent tracks, we worked our way through 4H and 4L, taking advantage of hill hold assist and were able to see how well the FX4 MAX did its thing. On dirt roads too, it really did ride nice, with minimal impact to the lower regions.

We were worried that would translate to a rough ride on the black top, but surprisingly, it did not. It ate up the road surfaces, with a serious arsenal of safety kit including lane keeping, autonomous emergency braking, and trailer sway control, just to mention a few.

Most impressively, it handles badly cambered corners really nicely. It doesn’t give you that “I’m a big chunky four wheel drive, and if you corner like an arsehole I’m gonna roll over and squash you” feeling.

As a crew cab for families, we think this is very important, plus it actually comes with roll over mitigation, which is some cool tech that monitors the car and automatically brakes and adjusts power to the wheels to arrest a possible roll over.

Let’s go inside and take a look. First things first, let’s get those child seats in. The child seat restraining points are in behind the back seat, so we pull a tab that lets that fold down. Easy, for now. We also found the tyre changing gear there.

So we hooked up the restraining strap of the first seat and then pushed the seat back, tightened the strap, threaded the seatbelt and locked it all in. Over to the other side, pull the tab and, that’s where things got a little complicated.

Back to the other side we went, undo the belt, un-thread it loosen the strap, you get the idea. The only bonus is you could do this while comfortably standing beside the car and not having to perform a contortionist act to fit the child seats like in other vehicles.

There’s not a lot of leg room for the kiddies once they’re in their seats and if you have a taller person in the front seat, forget about a comfy ride for adults in the back. The seats are great. They’re comfortable too. Leg room, not so much.

You do get a fold down centre arm rest with cup holders, individual air vents, and some power options (12v socket and 240v power point), but no USB. That technically means you could plug a power board in, given it has a 250A alternator.

So now you know that you’ve got the juice to run a small town, you can hook up as many light bars as you can legally fit, and then control them all from the ‘Upfitter Auxiliary Switch Pack’ – which provides six switches in total – that’s a lot of light bars.

The car dash features lots of dark tones accented with silver bits, while the seats have embroidered FX4 MAX branding. It’s functional, and feels very hard wearing. That said, it’s hard to get into the big Ford pickup.

We thought it was the step or maybe the raised height, but no it’s the distance between the steering wheel and the seat. It’s tight and you need to slide into the gap. Once you’re in, you start to understand why. Everything is big, like full truck big.

It’s so big that the air from the left air vent hits the back of the steering wheel and drops down to your leg and freezes it solid, so while your leg enters the second ice age you can then fumble around to find the start/stop button or the side mirror controls.

They’re not where you’d expect, and are hidden behind the Titanic sized steering wheel. We found ourselves peering around it like a desperate teenager looking for their crush trying to see what was going on with the car on the instrument cluster.

It’s all good though, because you are soon distracted by something down low, by your left leg. A small little storage space (we’re not sure what for, Tic Tacs maybe). With ample room in the door storage, centre console, and glove compartment, we wonder why.

You can take solace in the fact that the FX4 MAX has a user friendly entertainment and vehicle interface, and all the smart driving stuff that we mentioned before works well. It makes the trip enjoyable, without that feeling that you’re fighting the safety applications.

The FX4 MAX handles everything you throw at it well, and on the road the bi-turbo diesel engine delivers 157kW and 500Nm, through a 10-speed automatic transmission that feels decidedly CVT.

It has a 981kg payload, and a full 3,500kg braked towing capacity, so it can work and play hard. We wanted to hate it because of the attention seeking diva steering wheel and its poorly placed cabin bits, but we couldn’t, we just couldn’t.

Gosh it’s nice to drive. We found ourselves singing along with the radio, enjoying our time on the road and off it, in the 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 MAX. It’s priced at $69,949 drive away, and can be had in a host of colours, including Arctic White.

You can also choose Alabaster White, Aluminium, Conquer Grey, Lightning Blue, Meteor Grey, and Shadow Black. Ford offers a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and up to 7-years roadside assistance and Auto Club membership.

Our test vehicle was provided by Ford Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 MAX, contact your local Ford dealer.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Driving experience
7.75
Exterior styling
8
Interior look and feel
6.5
Technology and connectivity
7.5
Family friendliness
6
Value for money
8

SUMMARY

Pros - looks chunky; super capable 4WD; good towing capacity.
Cons - cabin design; rear leg room; CVT like transmission.
Ben Bonatesta
Ben Bonatesta is a genuine lover of nice things and quality workmanship. He also has a thing for stuff that isn't practical, but has that wow factor. A frustrated creative writer, Ben has a varied work history that has allowed him to pilot everything from top of the line sports cars to dirty old work trucks, farm equipment, and even trains.

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