The two most popular pickups in Australia are about to get some hardcore 4×4-focused upgrades, promising capability to match what you can source through the aftermarket, with greater convenience and factory warranty.
Both Toyota and Ford are clearly eager to cash in on customer demand for modified versions of their respective offerings. The result are the updated 2021 Toyota HiLux Rugged X and the newly launched Ford Ranger FX4 Max, billed as an ‘almost’ Raptor with more payload.
Each also has distinctly Australian flavours, thanks to extensive engineering work conducted on these shores. Both launch by the end of the year, and we will be testing each as soon as we can. But for now, how do they compare on paper?
The Ford Ranger FX4 Max wears a sticker price of $65,940 before on-road costs. If you want adaptive cruise control and auto park assist that’ll be an extra $800, and a decal set is $750. The total is $67,490 before on-roads.
The revised Toyota HiLux Rugged X is pricier than the pre-updated version, but also looks to be a superior vehicle. Its list price is a similar $69,990 before on-roads.
- Ranger FX4 Max: $65,490
- HiLux Rugged X: $69,990
Prices exclude on-road costs.
The Ford uses the familiar 2.0-litre BiTurbo (sequential) four-cylinder diesel making 157kW of power at 3750rpm and 500Nm of torque between 1750 and 2000rpm.
It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Ford claims combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.4L/100km and offers a 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity.
The Toyota gets an uprated version of the old Rugged X’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder single-turbo diesel now making 150kW of power at 3400rpm and 500Nm between 1600 and 2800rpm. It’s the same donk as other MY21 HiLux autos.
It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and like the Ford the braked-trailer tow rating is now 3.5 tonnes.
|Ford Ranger FX4 Max||Toyota HiLux Rugged X|
|Transmission||10-speed auto||6-speed auto|
|Drive||Switchable 4×4||Switchable 4×4|
The Ranger FX4 Max gets extras over more humdrum Rangers including 2.0-inch Fox shocks at both ends, retuned coil springs at the front and load-friendly leafs at the back (therein lies one differentiator from the Raptor), new steering knuckles, jounce bumpers, and a different front stabiliser bar with 29mm diameter.
There are also more obvious additions in the form of 265/70 R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain K02 tyres (the same as the Raptor’s), and new alloys, widening the track by 26mm.
Combined, the new suspension and bigger tyres give the FX4 Max a 31mm lift over its donor vehicle, upping clearance (the lowest part is the rear diff) by 19mm to 256mm. Its approach and departure angles are 2 degrees superior.
Like the Ford, the HiLux rocks leaf suspension at the rear and ‘heavy-duty’ front springs as part of its double-wishbone/stabiliser bar setup. Toyota says it has improved unladen ride comfort thanks to new bushes and chassis mounts.
Unlike the Ford, it forgoes electric-assisted power steering (EPAS) in favour of a hydraulic power-steering pump. The tyres are Dunlop Grandtrek All Terrains (265/65 R17) and like the Ford it upgrades to darker alloy wheels.
The Rugged X’s 4×4 upgrades are largely focused on physical touchpoints. There’s heavy duty steel front and rear bumpers, an underbody bashplate, a 66cm-wide and 120W LED light bar, a snorkel, LED driving lights, front- and rear red recovery points, and rock rails along the side.
|Ford Ranger FX4 Max||Toyota HiLux Rugged X|
|Tyres||265/70 AT BF Goodrich K02||265/65 AT Dunlop Grandtrek|
|Wheels||17-inch dark-finish alloy||17-inch dark-finish alloy|
|Front suspension||Coils (Fox shocks)||Coils|
|Front/rear tracks||1586mm/1586mm (est)||1535mm/1550mm|
Other cabin and exterior extras
Inside there are all-weather mats, and embroidered seats with ‘carbon’ accents and suede inserts. The Raptor’s sports pedals are fitted too.
Positioned above the 8.0-inch touchscreen (which hosts satellite-navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto) are six auxiliary switches as found in the F-150, giving you a place to connect and operate auxiliary equipment such as light-bars, winches and spot lights. The FX4 Max features a model-specific 250A alternator to support it.
Active safety features include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane-keeping assist. The FordPass app is also enabled. Active cruise costs $800.
Beyond the new wheels and tyres, stylistic add-ons include wheel arch mouldings, Conquer Grey and Alabaster White paint options, a new grille with ‘F.O.R.D’ lettering, body-mounted metal hoop side steps, and full-length tubular sports bars in the tub.
Most of the updates are in line with other MY21 HiLuxes, meaning the new Rugged X gets a better (8.0-inch) touchscreen with control knobs, a JBL 9-speaker sound system, navigation, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
The black, perforated leather ‘accented’ seats have grey bits, there are new all-weather mats, plus there’s now an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and a digital speedo in the TFT trip computer.
Active safety features include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, high-speed active cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering-assist-by-braking, and road-sign assist.
There are also three new paint options: Feverish Red, Saturn Blue, Oxide Bronze. Beyond these stylistic additions are new wheel arch and body-side plastic mouldings, a tub liner, and a black sports bar made from steel and bolted/welded into place. It has a tie-down rating of up to 200kg.
All Rangers were developed and tested in Australia, at Ford’s You Yangs proving ground near Geelong. The FX4 Max’s “bespoke” suspension was tuned locally, the company adds.
“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,” said Ford chassis engineering manager Tony Tsiandikos.
“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 Rugged X’s new front end was engineered and designed in Australia, as was the integration of the safety systems’ radar and camera. Toyota added its Melbourne designers “played a significant” role in the new look, and says exterior add-ons are locally engineered and given final assembly at its inner-western Melbourne HQ (the old one was finished at Webb Dock).
The company claims that the durability of the Rugged X grille “was confirmed through millions of cycles of shaking at its ‘resonance frequency'” in a vibration chamber. The stress testing also included temperatures from minus 30 degrees to 80 degrees.
“The expertise of our local teams has ensured these fully fledged models offer more power and torque, more relaxed towing and overtaking in all conditions, sharper steering and handling, and suspension refinements that deliver excellent ride quality in all conditions,” reckons Toyota Australia sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley.
Warranty and servicing
Both the Ranger and HiLux get five-year/unlimited mileage factory warranties.
The Ranger’s servicing intervals are annual or 15,000km and the first four are capped at $299 per visit. The HiLux’s intervals are six months/10,000km and the first six visits are capped at $250 a pop.
Check out our video in the Ranger FX4 (not the Max version).