Ford’s new Ranger FX4 Max is the Ranger Raptor for those who want to head off-road. And tow. And lift heavy things.

Ford has fused some of the tough looks, big wheels and modified suspension of the Ranger Raptor with the load-lugging mechanicals of the regular Ranger FX4 to create a serious off-roader with muscle: the FX4 Max.

Crucially, the Ranger FX4 Max has a Raptor-crushing 981kg payload and can tow up to 3.5 tonnes, a full tonne more than the Raptor. Priced from $64,940 plus on-road costs, think of it as the Raptor for those who want to get serious.

Ranger FX4 Max revealed

The Ranger FX4 Max is similar to the Ranger Tremor that was just revealed in the US, although Australia has chosen to given the FX4 Max more of the Raptor look, complete with a Raptor-inspired bold “FORD” grille and the optional “conquer grey” paint previously reserved for the top-shelf Ranger.

Newly-appointed Ford Australia president and CEO Andrew Birkic says the FX4 Max delivers a unique proposition that teams off-road enhancements with traditional ute attributes.

“We wanted to reach out to a customer that really wanted to push into the enthusiast off-roading space,” says Birkic. “It allows the customer to push into off-road but also maintain its payload and towing, and we think that’s really important.”

The FX4 Max may share much of its nameplate with the limited edition Ranger FX4, but it’s arguably got more in common with the Ranger Raptor.

Key to the FX4 Max’s adventurous style are Fox shock absorbers similar to those in the Raptor. However, instead of a coil-spring rear-end that’s more about desert-racing pace and control, the FX4 Max gets the leaf spring rear-end reserved for other Rangers.

Ford says the rear leaves have been “tuned to provide greater compliance off-road”, plus they’re controlled by Fox shocks – similar to those used in the Raptor. Those rear shocks even have a remote reservoir, helping cool the fluid within, something that would be terrific for corrugations and other high frequency or high-load applications.

The suspension has also been raised 20mm, combining with the taller tyres to provide a 31mm ride height life, translating to an extra 19mm of ground clearance at the rear differential. Other suspension tweaks include the addition of “lock-stop profile steering knuckles”, a larger 29mm front stabiliser and new front jounce bump stops. The track is also 26mm wider, but only because of the chunkier tyres.

Ranger FX4 Max revealed

Whereas the Raptor gets unique front and rear wheel arches, the FX4 Max sticks to the Ranger’s regular bodywork, albeit with additional arch flares to cover the larger 32-inch BF Goodrich tyres. Those tyres are the same used on the Raptor, but they’re wrapped around unique 17-inch alloys.

Metal side steps make it easier to get into the higher cabin; no doubt not all will be happy with the steps that look like they could catch on rocks or logs.

Under the bonnet is the Ranger’s newer 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel hooked up to a 10-speed automatic. The diesel makes 157kW and 500Nm.

Ford has stopped short of loading the FX4 Max with accessories and gear – although a towbar is standard – to ensure it has a usable payload. That’s one thing that differentiates it from the Raptor: whereas the Raptor’s payload tops out at 748kg, the FX4 Max can carry 233kg more thanks to its 981kg payload. Its tow capacity also matches other non-Raptor Rangers at 3500kg.

Ford has also dived in the F-150 parts bin by adding a six-button auxiliary switch set on top of the dash.

It allows for easy control of up to six additional features, from lights to a winch. The alternator has also been beefed up to 250-amps to cater for higher electrical loads. Other interior updates include seats with fake suede, and fake carbon-fibre inserts around the cabin.

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