Johannesburg - Ford's Ranger bakkie is one of the most customised vehicles around and there seem to be scores of them wearing a Raptor grille or some other fancy kit these days.

Trouble is these aftermarket jobs can void your warranty so Ford has launched its own factory-approved ‘custom’ Ranger in South Africa called the Fx4.

Based on the Ranger XLT 3.2 TDCi Double Cab 4x4 manual and auto models, this special edition comes straight out of the box as a blinged-up version. 

Street cred these days seems to be about getting blacked-up (the Ranger’s great rival, the Toyota Hilux, was also recently launched in a Black Edition) and Ford’s one-tonner gets a number of its body bits painted in Darth Vader’s favourite colour including the custom radiator grille, fog lamp bezels, exterior mirrors, roof rails, the 17” alloys, as well as the door and tailgate handles. Completing the package are black side steps, a tubular sports bar and fitted bedliner.

The Fx4 package gives the already butch-looking Ranger a more gangsta look without getting over-the-top garish like some of the aftermarket kits we’ve seen.

It all comes at a 20 grand price premium over the standard Ranger XLT, with the Fx4 manual selling for R593 900 and the auto for R608 900. The regular four-year/120 000km warranty applies, as does the five-year/100 000km service plan and three-year/unlimited km roadside assistance. Service intervals are every 20 000km, with free 4x4 training provided with the purchase of any Ranger four-wheel drive model.

If too much darkness isn’t your thing the Fx4’s not just available in black, as per Henry Ford’s dictum all those years ago, and you can also have it in a choice of three other body colours: frozen white, moondust silver, or sea grey.

The ‘F’ in the badge is a nod to the Ford F-Series pick-ups offered in North America. And x4, as you might have guessed, refers to the four-wheel drive.

Nothing changes mechanically and the Fx4 is powered by the familiar 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel engine. It’s only available in 4x4 form, but buyers do get to choose between six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

Our test vehicle was the automatic which, as we’ve noted in previous write-ups, makes a happy pairing with that burly turbodiesel. It’s a smooth-shifting six-speeder that doesn’t hunt excessively, and it has a sport mode to liven things up when you need more instant grunt in the traffic. At 10.9 litres per 100km the fuel consumption is notably thirstier than the 9.3 litres we achieved in the rival Hilux 2.8GD-6 though.

Interior specification is identical to the regular Ranger XLT, which was recently upgraded with the Sync3 intotainment system with navigation. Sync3 has its moments but there are some irritations too, and using the touchscreen icons to control the aircon can be finicky if the road’s anything but smooth. There are physical buttons to control the climate too, but these are just as small and finicky. For the rest, Sync3 is quite user friendly and the screen’s large and vivid.

The gadget count inside this Ranger is generous and includes a cooled glovebox, reverse camera, auto headlights, cruise-control, twin 12v power sockets, and rain-sensing wipers. Safety is in good supply too, with standard ABS brakes, seven airbags, stability control, and trailer-sway control.

It’s very roomy and family-friendly inside, and the Ranger lays on SUV-like trimmings and refinement. All this soft and cushy stuff is underpinned by a tough ladder-frame chassis that’s capable of hard day’s work on all sorts of terrain.

Turning the Ranger from urban cruiser to offroad bruiser is a simple matter of twisting a knob to switch from 2wd to 4wd, which can be done while the vehicle’s moving. Combined with its rock-straddling 237mm ride height, the Ranger’s selectable low range, rear diff lock and hill descent control system make child’s play of off-road adventures - and you’ll have one of the meanest-looking 4x4s in the mud pit.