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A brawny 4×4 joins Ford’s pickup stable
YOU MUST have heard that Ford Philippines recently launched its latest off-road monster — the highly capable Ford Ranger FX4 Max. The FX4 Max is inspired by the Ranger Raptor, and is packaged as a laudable 4×4 machine that offers serious off-road essentials — such as two-inch monotube Fox shocks and an auxiliary switch pack meant to control its aftermarket accessories — albeit at a price point that is a notch more affordable than the line-topping Ranger Raptor.
I was happy to have had the opportunity to test-drive it early on, and in its natural environment too — the untamed earth. Our team set forth to Basseri de Lipa in Batangas, which was where there was a technical off-road course waiting for us ahead. It involved a succession of pretty intimidating obstacles, which we were tasked to drive through alone (for social distancing), but with the guidance of an instructor who communicated with us via walkie talkie.
One of the things that I found impressive was the fact that we did not even have to engage in 4L (Four Low) throughout the entire obstacle course. The mighty FX4 Max breezed through every climb and dip, even as we remained in 4H (Four High). Mind you, the obstacle stages were not simple dirt road dips that one may occasionally come across say, driving around Tagaytay. We’re talking earth pits that I could practically fit into, and hill climbs of the kind that would get soft off-road vehicles stuck. Frankly, there is a minimum requirement of serious machinery to realistically gain the confidence to take on complex natural obstructions — and the FX4 Max far exceeds this minimum.
As you may have imagined, navigating through our off-road course meant quite a bumpy ride — but my favorite practical feature of the FX4 Max is its being equipped with high-performance Fox shock absorbers in both the front and rear. These, combined with its leaf spring architecture and tuned front coil springs, made every major roadblock and pothole feel like cushioned bumps that were really no big deal. I assure you, that the feedback inside the cabin was nothing compared to how hardcore the situation looked from the outside. And that’s a great benefit, in my opinion, to possess the thorough driving capability alongside noteworthy cabin comfort and special amenities such as leather seats and carbon accents with Miko suede inserts and FX4 Max embroidery. Its leather-wrapped steering wheel also adds a nice touch.
Greeting me inside the cabin is an eight-inch color touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth streaming, and Ford Sync 3 voice-activated controls. Two USB ports are also available for devices.
Moreover, I appreciated the vehicle’s sport pedals because keeping one’s feet snug on the pedals are of utmost importance during off-road driving. The FX4 Max’s body-mounted metal hoop side steps are the no-slip kind — rugged enough for the outdoors, easy to clean, and positioned high enough so as not to interfere with the vehicle’s ground clearance. This will also discourage any possible snagging of materials from the ground.
While the FX4 Max is a more hardcore off-roader than the more tech-driven Ranger Wildtrak, it is currently priced at an introductory price of P1,698,000, which makes it P300,000 less than the purchase price of a Ranger Raptor. Unique to the FX4 Max compared to the other two mentioned models is its handy auxiliary switch pack (this is also found in Ford’s legendary F-series), which is mounted on the dash to give the driver quick control access to his other aftermarket equipment and accessories installed in the vehicle. And in order to support the power supply to the (possible) other additional accessories installed on the truck, the FX4 Max carries a 250A alternator so it can better facilitate greater power demand. After all, the battery is another item we would especially like to conserve while in the wild outdoors.
Powering the brawny FX4 Max is the same 2.0-liter bi-turbo diesel engine used in both the Ranger Raptor and Wildtrak. It generates 213ps and 500Nm of torque, and is paired with a powerful 10-speed automatic transmission. This amount of power combined with the high-performing Fox shocks mean that the FX4 Max can handle a payload of up to approximately one ton! It also advertises a towing capability of up to 3,500 kg — and that means a lot for individuals who seek this type of vehicle not simply for off-road fun, but to fulfill a special need dictated by their work or environment.
Furthermore, driving the FX4 Max in Batangas also had me test the truck’s handy hill descent control down some long and steep inclines. In case you are unfamiliar with the technology, what it does is automatically apply the brakes for you while rolling downhill so that you can better focus your attention on steering the vehicle and navigating through the terrain. You can also easily slow down the descent by briefly tapping on the brakes, or accelerate it further by tapping on the accelerator pedal. We also demonstrated during this exercise that the HDC can be kept on, even while running further (and not just exclusively during steep descents).
PK Umashankar, Ford Philippines president and managing director, shared that, “The FX4 Max builds on the success of the Ranger as a rugged and versatile pickup while harnessing the winning off-roading capabilities of the Ranger Raptor. True to our Live the Ranger Life philosophy, the FX4 Max caters to customers who are up for challenges and go over the horizon to experience their adventure of a lifetime with the pickup truck’s uncompromising blend of toughness and power.”
At the end of the day, that was some pretty serious off-road driving that we did. It was immersive, enjoyable, and definitely impressive. When I look back at the technical stages and figure that at different points, we had a tire hanging in mid-air and other stunt-like moves like that, I realize that it really isn’t that hard to negotiate such obstacles, given the right kind of vehicle. So, yes — I’d give most of the credit to the Ford Ranger FX4 Max for deeming the off-road course a walk in the park!