The Ford Ranger Raptor has a new, more affordable sibling that can tow 3500kg.
Ford has finally answered the call for a ute with the DNA of a Ranger Raptor, but the towing and payload capacity of a workhorse.
The 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 Max will start from $65,940 plus on-road costs when it arrives in Australian showrooms in December – which slots the new model between the popular Ranger XLT and flagship Ranger Raptor.
Unlike the Ford Ranger Raptor which is limited to towing 2500kg due to its high-performance suspension and coil-spring rear end, the Ford Ranger FX4 Max can tow 3500kg because, although it also has Fox shocks, it retains a leaf spring rear end.
The new suspension set up means the Ford Ranger FX4 Max has a 981kg payload, versus 748kg for the Ranger Raptor.
Although the new model shares some of its components with the 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor unveiled in the US, the 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 Max is unique to Australia and comes exclusively with the same twin turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel (157kW/500Nm) and 10-speed auto as the Ford Ranger Raptor.
While previous Ford Ranger FX4 models sold in Australia have been limited-edition packs with stickers and black wheels, the FX4 Max is the result of a major engineering overhaul with significant changes under the skin.
However, even though the Ranger FX4 Max is much more than a sticker pack – and shares its DNA with the Raptor – Ford Australia said it did not consider using the ‘Tremor’ name from the US.
The 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 Max will initially be built in limited numbers on the same production line as the Raptor. However, if the model proves popular, Ford has the option of making it a permanent addition to the line-up.
Key changes include the adoption of the Raptor-style ‘F-O-R-D’ grille, Fox shocks, 32-inch BF Goodrich K02 off-road tyres on unique 17-inch alloys, metal ‘hoop’ sidesteps, and a full-length sports bar with tray lighting.
The interior gains suede-accented seats, metal pedals from the Raptor, a lather steering wheel, gloss black interior trim, and a new pod for six auxiliary switches in the middle of the dash.
Other features carried over from the XLT include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, embedded navigation, a digital speed display and USB, 12V and a household power socket.
As with the XLT, the Ford Ranger FX4 Max has a tub liner and 12V power to the ute tray as standard.
Although the Ford Ranger FX4 Max does not get the Raptor’s bold front and rear fenders, it gets a slightly wider track. However, even with this change, the track is still not quite as wide as the Raptor.
The unique wheels have a slightly different offset (+42mm) to create a 26mm wider track.
The FX4 MAX also includes a matching full-size alloy spare and tyre.
“Following in the tyre tracks of the Ranger Raptor, the FX4 MAX is offered in a specific colour range, which includes the previously Ranger Raptor-only conquer grey paintwork. FX4 Max is also offered in Alabaster White, the first pearlescent colour offered on Ranger, recently introduced on XLT and Wildtrak. An optional graphics pack is available for the bonnet, flanks and rear of the vehicle.
Metallic paint adds $650 and radar cruise control adds $800.
Interview: Ford Australia boss Andrew Birkic
In a media statement the boss of Ford Australia, Andrew Birkic, said: “The Ranger FX4 Max channels the Ranger Raptor with its unique look and stance, while bringing customers both work and play capability with its locally engineered suspension, chassis tuning and unique Fox Shocks.”
As with the rest of the Ford Ranger line-up, the FX4 Max was developed in Australia.
“Our goal with the suspension was to extend Ranger’s off-road capabilities, and we started with the basics: suspension travel, vehicle track and shock damping capability,” Tony Tsiandikos, Ford chassis engineering manager, said in a media statement.
“The changes mean greater control of the vehicle in more aggressive terrain. As well of course as testing at our proving ground in the You Yangs, we took the FX4 Max through its paces, from the Victorian High Country to South Australia, and we’re confident that these are the very places that FX4 Max customers will take their own vehicles.”
The FX4 Max comes with new 2.0-inch monotube Fox shock absorbers front and rear, with a remote reservoir for quicker recovery from prolonged off-road use.
“They’re teamed with tuned coil-springs at the front, and a staggered shock arrangement at the rear to manage loads,” says Mr Tsiandikos. “The leaf springs have been tuned to provide greater compliance off road, while balancing payload and towing capability.”
Completing the suspension upgrades are new “lock-stop profile steering knuckles”, new front jounce bumpers, and a 29mm front stabiliser bar.
Combined, the 20mm suspension lift and BG Goodrich tyres increase ride height by 31mm compared to Ranger XLT, with outright ground clearance to the rear differential increased by 19mm to 256mm.
In addition, the FX4 MAX delivers greater approach and departure angles than Ranger XLT, to take full advantage of its switchable 4×4 system.
Ford Ranger XLT
Approach 29 degrees
Departure 21 degrees
Rampover 25 degrees
Ground clearance 237mm
Ford Ranger FX4 Max