For our 2002 Pickup Truck of the Year competition, which appeared in the January issue of Four Wheeler, we tried to get our hands on an F-150 equipped with the new FX4 package. Unfortunately, one could not be made to roll off of the assembly line in time for us to grab hold of it. By now, however, we've turned a couple of calendar pages, and we've found an FX4 to put through its paces. So was it worth the wait?
The FX4 moniker is applied to both the F-150 and the Ranger, but though the name is the same for each of these trucks, the packages are different. For the F-150, the FX4 package consists of 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, Rancho shocks, skidplates, 3.55 gears, and 265/70R17 tires. Oh, yes...and the FX4 decals. All of these components... except obviously the decals...are geared to make the F-150 a bit more adept on the trail.
While the components of the FX4 package were new to us, the rest of the F-150 is quite familiar. Under the hood of our tester was the 5.4L V-8 that produces 260 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque at a very low 2,500 rpm. Just as in our previous test of the F-150, we again found the power of the 5.4L V-8 to be merely adequate. Additionally, the F-150's general performance was not helped much by the 3.55 gears with which it was equipped. The optional 3.73 gears would have been a better choice to help wake up performance.
Other familiar components include the 4R70W four-speed automatic transmission. It provides firm shifts without being overly harsh. Indeed, downshifts are immediate and are made without hesitation. This truck's BorgWarner 44-06 transfer case is another component that works very well. Operated by an electronic shifter, it went into and out of gear whenever asked without any fuss, and it provided a low-range of 2.64:1 to crawl around in.
Moving from the underneath to the inside of our F-150 Lariat, we found leather captain's chairs that seemed worth the $490 they cost as an option. They provided plenty of comfort and support, and a wide range of adjustment. However, the adjustments for the chairs were half manual and half power. This arrangement always strikes us as somewhat odd. Power seats ought to be power seats... or at least that's how we reason. Another odd area of the Ford is the dash that is all one color and texture, which some of us feel provides a bland appearance. At least the instrument panel does provide plenty of information through a full contingent of gauges.
Access to the rear of the SuperCab is gained through two smaller-sized rear doors. While the doors make it easy to load and unload people, we wouldn't want them sitting in the rear seat for long. Quarters back there are cramped, with little legroom and with an almost vertical rear seat-back. The rear of the SuperCab just isn't suitable for fullsize humans. It is, however, a handy and secure place to store cargo.
To get to the trail to see how the FX4 package worked, we first had to endure plenty of highway driving. Here we discovered that the Ford has an amazingly stiff ride. The Rancho shocks did not have the ability to absorb the small bumps, ripples, and expansion joints that litter the roads of Southern California. Every flaw in the pavement made its way to the driver. The only reward of the stiff suspension was an improvement of the F-150's ability to handle twisty roads. With little body roll, the FX4 Ford could be pushed faster through the corners than the standard F-150.
Also helping the F-150's pavement manners was its steering, which was amazingly responsive. Just as important as the ability to steer around something rather quickly is the capacity to stop in a hurry. Found at every corner of the F-150 are disc brakes that did a good job of stopping the big Ford, but which lacked pedal feel. Modulating the brakes is difficult because of this lack of information to be gained through the pedal.
But enough about the pavement manners of the Ford. If you are going to opt for an FX4 packaged F-150, you would probably take it in the dirt, right? Unfortunately, the F-150's suspension performed much the same way in the dirt that it did on the street. Graded dirt roads made for a teeth-shattering, vision blurring, internal-organ liquefying experience, as the shocks didn't want to absorb the washboard bumps at all. Larger impacts were handled well, however, and this helped the Ford at speed in the dirt and in the rougher and much slower sections of the trail, where the shocks absorbed the impact from bigger bumps quite nicely.
Another drawback our Ford F-150 possessed was the lack of a limited-slip differential. Available as an option, a limited-slip would have helped the Ford find traction and expanded its off-road capabilities. Without one, the F-150 often hunted for traction without results. A truck equipped with an off-road package, but without a limited-slip, seems like a very strange package.
Aiding the Ford on the trail is its height. The F-150 is one of the few remaining pickups that you actually have to step up into rather than just get in. This extra height gave the Ford plenty of clearance in the rougher sections of the trail. Never once did its underside scrape or drag on anything.
So does the FX4 package make the F-150 into a better truck for the trail? Unfortunately, for now, the answer is no, it doesn't. However it is a good start and with the F-150's strong foundation to build upon, it is bound to become a popular package that will benefit from a little more work.
|VehicleModel ||2002 Ford F-150 FX4 |
|BasePrice ||$29,915 |
|PriceAs Tested ||$33,645 |
|Options As Tested ||5.4LV-8, electronic shift 4x4, |
sliding rear window, FX4 off-road
package, leather captain's chairs,
6-disc CD changer, two-tone paint
|Type ||SOHC 16-valve V-8 |
|Displacement ||5.4 liters/330 cubic inches |
|Borex Stroke (in.) ||3.55 x 4.16 |
|CompressionRatio ||9.0:1 |
|FuelDelivery ||Port Fuel Injection |
|Horsepower ||260 @ 4,500 RPM |
|Torque(lbs./ft.) ||350 @ 2,500 RPM |
|RecommendedFuel ||87 Octane |
|Transmission ||4R70W four-speed automatic |
|Ratios: ||First 2.84:1 |
|Second 1.55:1 |
|Third 1.00:1 |
|Fourth 0.70:1 |
|Reverse 2.33:1 |
|AxleRatio ||3.55:1 |
|TransferCase ||BW 44-06 |
|Low-RangeRatio ||2.64:1 |
|CrawlRatio ||26.6:1 |
|EngineRPM @ 65 mph ||1,850 |
|Frame ||ladder-type |
|Body ||steel |
|Front ||Dual A-arms, torsion bars,tubular shocks, antiroll bar |
|Rear ||Live axle, leaf springs, tubularshocks |
|Type ||Power-assisted recirculating ball |
|Turns(lock-to-lock) ||3.75 |
|Ratio ||16.5:1 |
|Front ||12.3-inch ventilated discs |
|Rear ||13.3-inch solid discs |
|ABS ||Four-wheel |
|Wheels(in.) ||17x7 aluminum |
|Tires ||LT265/70R17 Goodyear WranglerAT/S |
|Dimensions& Capacities |
|Weight(lbs.) ||5,030 |
|Wheelbase(in.) ||138.8 |
|Overalllength (in.) ||225.8 |
|Overallwidth (in.) ||79.3 |
|Height(in.) ||75.5 |
|TrackF/R (in.) ||65.4/65.4 |
|Minimumground clearance (in.) ||7.2 |
|Turningdiameter, curb-to-curb (ft.) ||45.8 |
|Beddimensions (LxWxH) (in.) ||78.0 x 50.0 x 20.0 |
|Approach/DepartureAngles (deg.) ||29.0/25.0 |
|GVWR(lbs.) ||6,500 |
|Payload(lbs.) ||1,725 |
|MaximumTowing Capacity (lbs.) ||8,000 |
|SeatingCapacity ||5 |
|0-30mph, empty/half payload (sec.) ||3.79/4.34 |
|0-60mph, empty/half payload (sec.) ||10.60/11.69 |
|30-50mph, empty/half payload (sec.) ||3.98/4.61 |
|50-70mph, empty/half payload (sec.) ||6.68/7.54 |
|Quarter-Mile(sec. @ mph) Empty/Half Payload ||17.92 @ 77.88/ |
18.87 @ 75.21
|Braking60-0 mph, |
Empty/Half Payload (ft.)
|Fuel Economy |
(miles per gallon)
(miles per gallon)