This Thing Just Keeps Getting Better | 2020 Ford Ranger FX4 Review
I have to admit, the more I drive the Ford Ranger the more I like it. The Ranger is currently Ford’s smallest pickup truck (keep an eye out for the upcoming Maverick), and it excellently combines throwback style ride and handling with modern safety and convenience. A bit over a year ago we had the opportunity to spend a week with a Sport Appearance Pack equipped Ranger Lariat, and we really enjoyed our time with it. Fast forward ~13 months and we were once again placed behind the wheel of 2020 Ranger FX4, but this time we got to let it flex its off road abilities quite a bit more.
This truck just eats up this soft sugar sand. For those doubting this sand as a performance testing medium, I have personally over heated a Gen 1 Raptor in this stuff. It's legit, as is the Ranger.
First, I have to say that every positive aspect we noted in our previous Ranger review has only improved. The Ranger is one of those vehicles where the more time you’re given to appreciate it, the more you will like it. It is highly maneuverable, gets respectable mileage, and is supremely useful. The interior is comfortable, with all the basic creature comforts one would expect, and this little truck has to have the hottest seat heaters I have ever experienced. If you were looking for a light duty truck to perform daily driver duties while still being able to do respectable levels of work, the Ranger is something you should consider.
However, that’s nothing you haven’t heard from me before. What you haven’t heard is my opinion of the off road prowess of the Ranger’s FX4 package. While we did get the last truck in the dirt just a bit, for this one we made the trip out to some soft sand. In this area of South Carolina, we call this particular type of fine grain white stuff “sugar sand”. The dryer this stuff is the worse it is. It doesn’t take much of a screw up to bury your rig up to its frame when you’re in the sugar. Preservation of momentum is key.
Flexing out. For the mainstream FX4 Off-Road package this is a very respectable amount of travel.
The Ranger FX4 has quite a few features that work well in sand. First; the rear locker works nicely, as does the four-wheel drive system. It does an excellent job of finding traction where little exists. The second feature is the 2.3L EcoBoost and 10R80 drivetrain combo. It has the power to push this two-ton small truck through deep sand. I never felt like the rig was lacking power. I could easily modulate the throttle to maintain forward momentum while not getting the wheels spinning to the point of digging into a hole. This thing just ate up the terrain. Def check out this vid to see just how capable this Ranger is:
The Black Appearance Package looks great against the Ranger's Race Red paint.
Another situation I found where this truck shines is on a rough road. The route to the sugar sand is a packed graded dirt road. It’s well traveled by heavy quarry trucks and ends up being quite wash-boarded in a lot of places. My personal F-350 will jar your fillings loose on this road. In contrast, the Ranger ate it up. While it was not Raptor-level comfortable at speed, it was pretty damn good. I had no issue running 35-45 MPH comfortably. It you have to run roads like this on the regular, I think you’ll appreciate the Ranger FX4. The model specific shocks and springs keep the ride bearable, and the skid plates protect the underpinnings from a rock being kicked up at high speed. The FX4 is made for this.
You are crazy if you don't get the spray-in bedliner option. It is very good.
The EcoBoost 2.3L engine is a decent match for the Ranger chassis, but a 2.7L EB would be even better.
In the week we spent with this truck the only issue we noticed was a cold engine high idle leads to some weird clunks in the transmission. That’s likely something Ford will address with a flash update at some point. However, if you don’t want to wait for the Blue Oval boys an aftermarket tune will do wonders on the Ranger’s drivetrain. It’s no secret that EcoBoost engines love a little tuning, and the 10R80 transmission can be tuned to perfection by a talented calibrator. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, if I were to purchase a new style Ranger the first thing I’d do is tune it.
If there's one stand-out weakness in the Ranger's interior it's this gauge cluster. It looks like it came out of a 2009 Ford Edge. The Ranger should have something better. Full compliment analog works for me.
Are you listening Ford? Insert the Bronco's 7-Spd Manual Transmission here please.
My ultimate take-away from my time with this truck is an eagerness to get some seat time in a 2021 Ford Ranger Tremor. The FX4 package on this truck worked great in the situations we were able to test it in, and I believe the Tremor will be even better. The only thing I feel that package is missing is an upgraded front differential. The Tremor Super Duty features a limited slip differential in its Super-Dana 60 front axle, and the F-150 Tremor has a full-on locker in its front 8.8. The Ranger Tremor really should have something more significant than an open front diff. Beyond that, the upcoming Ranger Tremor package looks great, and should be a nice step up over the FX4. This truck really makes me look forward to that Truck. But until that one hits the dealership lots, the FX4 Ranger is an impressive package. You should check it out.
Borrowed from the F-150 frame design team, this kick-off beam is designed to prevent the front wheel from intruding into the foot-well in a front end collision. This simple piece of square steel tubing will prevent countless broken legs and foot injuries.
I used to have a V8 Sport Trac Explorer, so getting a chance to check one out next to the Ranger brought back a lot of memories. Check out the vid below for a walk-around comparison.