Text and Photos By Monch Henares
|The 2021 FORD FX4 MAX shines in one of its many natural elements. Ending a day of adventure with the reflections of a glowing sunset, somewhere in Lian, Batangas.|
At First Glance
I was in awe seeing this truck up close. It was screaming "Hey, I'm a FORD truck! Get out of my way!" -- Proudly displaying the "FORD" brand in bold letters on its glossy black grill, the Ford Ranger FX4 MAX in Meteor Grey stood quite tall and had masculinity written all over it.
I thought that this would just be another Ranger, and I was wrong. It's a truck built for work and play. It's the perfect toy for your next off-road adventure. It's a Ranger Raptor that went on a diet.
Walking around the truck I could not stop noticing that this 2021 year-model Ranger was equipped with outdated halogen-type headlamps. I would like to think it would have modern energy-saving LEDs as a standard feature. It wasn't a negative factor to me, though, because I still think halogen beams have more penetrating power than their LED counterparts.
|Hologen Projector Headlamps and Fog Lamps.|
Fitted on rigid and handsome-looking 17-inch alloy rims (in gun-metal) were these 32-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires. The wall-to-wall tread on these tires looked like those you'd find on those high-end rock climbing shoes.
|Handsome-looking 17-inch alloy rims (in gun-metal) with 32-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires|
Catching my attention at the rear was a robust, but sleek-looking roll bar that Ford calls a "Sports Bar". No guys, it's not anywhere close to the girls-in-skimpy-shorts hoot-hoot Hooters kind, but I'm sure it would excite any guy in a different way though. Perched at the very top is the third-brake-light.
The cargo bed had a thick and rugged Bed-Liner installed with 4 Inner Tie-Downs on each corner. Its 4 molded Cup-Holders and convenient knick-knack trays on the rear gate make it a perfect place for a weekend tailgate party.
It was time to mount the beast, and the only safe way up was to get my foot on to this rugged yet sporty-designed non-slip side step-board. It looked and felt like it was coated with #30-grit sandpaper. Gone are the days of the boring plank-type step boards. Ford designers went out-of-the-box creative on this one. Good job!
It comes with a Smart keyless entry with a push-button engine start. I just love the convenience of leaving the keyfob in my pant pocket and using my fingers to function as the key. As I would say, "Fingers is Key".
The 2021 Ranger FX4 MAX has wide comfortable leather seats made for all body types. The Miko suede insert kept my back cool and prevented my behind from sliding side-to-side during my wild off-road run.
I just wished Ford had made the front seats or at least the driver's seat power-adjustable with lumbar inflatable bags too. Yes, they are both manuals. Boohoo!
The rear seats are comfy as well and a Folding Center Armrest with a built-in Cup Holder comes in handy. Three adults can sit loosely with lots of legroom to spare. What I found missing were B-pillar grab handles that are very convenient for passengers to hold on to as they step up into the rear cabin. It's those little things that matter.
|Comfy and spacious rear Leather Seats, Folding Armrest with Cup Holders, and a 12-volt Power Outlet.|
The Dual-Zone Climate Control surely keeps the peace between the two front passengers. I can imagine a 4-hour trip spent adjusting the temperature every 30 minutes. I would probably end up wearing a jacket to keep everyone quiet. But why Ford designers decided to emit including airconditioning vents for the rear passengers really boggles me.
The dashboard has a classic Ford design to it. Functionality, clean lines, and blended colors of silver, grey, and black. I didn't need to read the owner's manual to make things work.
Buttons and switches are all clearly labeled and strategically placed within arms reach. No variant badges in sight, except for the "FX4MAX" embroidered on the front seats which looked quite sporty.
|Cockpit: Clean modern design with touches of brushed aluminum and matte-grey finishes.|
|Clear informative instrumentation.|
As soon as I turned the ignition on, I was taken aback by two very detailed and informative 4.2-inch blue-and-red themed digital instrument cluster displays.
The left cluster displayed the vehicle operating data such as the tachometer, trip counter (1 & 2), fuel economy, and driver-assist settings. The right cluster on the other hand displayed the infotainment settings, compass, and time.
A bright and detailed mechanical speedometer took center stage. All these could be manipulated and set at the touch of well-laid-out button-clusters on the steering wheel.
I may prefer a large infotainment screen, not because it's the "in" thing (It's Teslas fault), but because I find it hard to read squinty-eye small print. It must be my age.
Ford chose to install an 8-inch Infotainment Touchscreen with SYNC3 (with voice activation) plus Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Don't fret, this 8-inch unit sounds great, has a clean layout, is user-friendly, is voice-activated, and it can even play CDs. Why a CD player? Who even brings CDs on trips anymore? I can't even remember the last time I held a compact disc in my hands.
There are two USB ports up front, one you can use as a charger, and the other is used to connect your phone to the system. Sad to say, there are no USB ports for the rear passengers, they all must share a 12-volt power outlet installed on the rear part of the center console.
|8-inch Infotainment Touchscreen with SYNC3 (with voice activation) plus Apple Carplay and Android Auto|
The steering wheel had the right thickness. The grip was good and my hands felt quite relaxed even after a few hours of driving. I couldn't get my driving position sweet spot though because the steering column didn't have a telescopic adjust. I could only adjust the height.
How convenient could it be that the manual (+/-) gear selector (rocker type) is placed on the Shifter knob. I liked the feel of shifting manually with just my thumb. Shifting between gears had a short lag, but maybe unnoticeable to the less discriminating.
I was happy to use the dial-type electronic 4X4 Selector and Electronic Diff-Lock button. A novice off-roader will never get muddied shoes on his next outdoor adventure. The switching was flawless, quiet, and easy to use.
|Shifter knob with manual gear select button, dial-type electronic 4X4 Selector, and Electronic Diff-Lock button|
What makes the 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 MAX stand out from the other Ranger variants including the Raptor? It is the only variant that has an Auxiliary Switch Pack. It sits on the center of the dash and is used to switch on and off (6)12-volt accessories. Cool stuff such as fog lamps, auxiliary lighting, a winch, etc. Supporting all these battery-draining power components is a 250Amp Alternator.
All the FORD Rangers are known for their firm but comfortable ride. I always bring along this delicate special tool to measure the ride and comfort of the vehicle I am test-driving. I didn't see her bouncing around her seat or hear her saying "Ouch". She even uttered, "This truck rides smooth, and look, I'm not bouncing around". Arabelle Jimenez is my very specialized ride and comfort measuring tool, a must-have on every trip.
The 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 Max's ride quality is a few notches better than the rest. I certainly noticed the difference when I encountered deep ruts on a paved road or when I went full speed on an unfinished rough patch of road. The 2-inch Fox monotube shocks with modified front and rear suspensions I believe are definitely the game-changers here. This truck road high, thus it had more than normal wheel travel, and the suspension just would not bottom out. Awesome all-around suspension tuning by Ford.
|Giving the 2021 Ranger FX4 MAX its awesome ride are these 2-inch Fox Monotube Shocks with modified front and rear suspensions.|
Powering the 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 MAX is a 2.0-liter Bi-Turbo Diesel engine with 210 HP and 500 Nm of Torque. It runs quiet and is mated to a 10-speed Automatic Transmission. Overtaking and climbing steep hills took no effort at all.
It has the exact same powertrain as the Ranger Raptor. It's rated to carry a maximum of 981 kilograms of payload. That is almost the weight of 20-bags of cement. You could also tow double the amount of cement by loading it onto a large trailer weighing 3500-kilograms in total.
|2.0-liter Bi-Turbo Diesel engine with 210 HP and 500 Nm of Torque. This picture just shows how much fun we had on our latest off-road adventure.|
It had a Sport Mode setting which I rarely used because I didn't really need it. It's a truck, not a sports car. The Sport Mode makes your car more responsive. It would make your transmission shift later at higher revs and also downshift sooner. In the end, you end up using up more fuel.
Without the Sport Mode on, the FX4 MAX in my one week of testing averaged 9.5 km/ liter (mixed highway, city, and off-road). Not bad at all.
Off-roading can be intimidating and scary for some, but with the right vehicle, it can be loads of fun. The FX4 MAX has a 256mm ground clearance, 31-deg approach, 23-deg departure angle, Launch Assist, Hill-Descent Control, Traction Control, and is capable of wading a depth of 800mm, making it ready for the avid adventure-seeker straight out of the showroom.
Maneuvering this huge truck in a tight dark place was a challenge. Yes, it did have Rear Parking Sensors, but it lacked a reverse camera and front sensors. Instinctively, I couldn't trust just the rear sensors. With safety in mind, I always need to see what is coming up from behind. Its wide 12.7-meter turning radius just added to the complexity.
Other safety and convenience features include the following: Electronic Stability Control with Roll-Over Mitigation and Traction Control, ABS and EBD braking systems, Rain-Sensing Wipers, Cruise Control, and Power-Folding Side Mirrors.
It's a handsome-looking truck that has one of the smoothest rides in the mid-size pickup segment (Thanks to the Fox Suspension), a powerful Bi-turbo diesel engine, awesome hauling capability, and is built tough.
For its price range, I was expecting more safety and convenience features to come as standard equipment like a reverse camera, rear airconditioning vents, powered driver's seat, telescopic steering wheel adjustment, LED headlights, and lighted sun visor mirrors.
On a scale of 1.00 -10.00 with 10 being the highest, I give the 2021 Ford Ranger FX4 MAX a Monchster Rating of 8.75
|Another fun day of adventure with the RANGER FX4 MAX ends with this beautiful sunset.|
|Ford Truck Grill in Piano Black, Bi-Turbo Side Vent garnish, and Radio Roof Antenna.|
|Push-Button Start, Manual Shifter Button, Rotary 4X4 Selector, Traction Control-Diff Lock-Hill Descent Button Cluster, and Lighting Switch with Automatic setting.|
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He is also a tech and motoring specialist, inventor, and automotive engineer. He managed the motor pool for the largest limousine company in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. He is now based in the Philippines, and together with his partner, Arabelle Jimenez, they co-founded motourismo.ph. Monch is currently the President of BuildMeUp Corp, a digital media company.
You may e-mail him at email@example.com
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