Ford's FX4 Max is the Ranger that saves dollars and makes sense
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Ford Ranger FX4 MAX
Basically a cut-price Raptor
Extremely capable off-road
Factory-fitted auxiliary switches a nice touch
Big tyres don’t help fuel economy
Extra height doesn’t help with day-to-day usability
Utes and getting a bargain are two things that us New Zealanders seem to love unconditionally, so it only makes sense that Ford’s Ranger FX4 Max feels right at home here.
Revealed late last year as an alternative to the Raptor, our interest was piqued considering that this FX4 Max was over $15,000 cheaper than the range-topping Ranger. With this in mind, it’s also worth noting that the FX4 Max is around $13,000 more expensive than the FX4 2WD, but it’s worth that comparison in my eyes.
This is because the FX4 MAX rides on a Fox suspension system that’s not too different from that of the Raptor’s. If we’re getting technical, it gets exactly the same Independent SLA system up front with the 2.5-inch FOX dampers, but uses a slightly different set-up at the rear.
Unlike the Raptor, the FX4 still makes uses of a leaf system alongside the FOX dampers back here, but this is a compromise that I can get behind. Famously, the Raptor loses out on practicality with its suspension system and was left with a 2.5-tonne towing capacity. These leaves at the back of the FX4 mean that it manages to retain the Ranger’s full 3.5-tonne towing capability as well as a one-tonne payload. It’s a win-win situation!
With this FOX suspension package, the MAX is lifted 31mm higher than a standard XLT, but gets non-slip steps down the side to help climb up into it. This extra height is also thanks to the BF Goodrich K02 tyres and wheels that it shares with the Raptor, although they’re slightly smaller in this application.
On this inside, this all-conquering theme carries through with its rubber floor mats and auxiliary switch set that comes as standard.
If this ute looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s exactly the same one that was tested alongside the Ranger Wildtrak X earlier this year. While David’s road test was a comprehensive tale of usual Ranger duties (on the tarmac), I decided to take to the sand to test the Fox suspension out in its natural habitat.
It could just be down to the fact that I’m still relatively new to the whole beach driving thing, but the access way at Muriwai always seems to be a nerve-wracking experience for me. I’m yet to get stuck, but it always feels like quicksand beneath the tyres.
With the beefy BF Goodrich rubber beneath, the Max made light work of this loamy access way, happily rolling beneath the 30km/h posted speed limit. Considering the lack of wheel spin, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make it through in 2WD mode, but I wasn’t game enough to test this out.
Once on the sand, the FX4 Max comes into its own, with the Fox suspension working in perfect unison with the tall sidewall tyres to soak up every rut and hole with ease. Even in the softest sand, the MAX never felt out of its depth, and made light work of estuary crossings.
Like most modern vehicles, completely turning off traction control completely is impossible, but as the off-road enthusiast-friendly ute that the Max is, it’ll allow for more sideways angle than most before stability control will start grabbing the brakes. In 2WD, the stability control system will interfere almost instantaneously, but switching to 4WD mode seems to remedy the issue.
Out of every ute I have had the pleasure of testing, this one was (predictably) the closest to the Ranger Raptor off-road, and made light work of almost every situation that I threw at it. While the big tyres might affect fuel economy on the road, they don’t produce road noise like other all-terrain tyres have the tendency to do, and are a dream to drive on and off-road.
With its practicality, its off-road capabilities, and its price point, I’d argue that Ford’s Ranger FX4 MAX is one of the best offerings currently on the ute market, and you’d be hard-pressed to find something that does it all for less money.