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Most 4×4 owners who use four-wheel-drive in their outdoor pursuits tend to modify their vehicles for better trail capability. The accessories they use typically come from the aftermarket, but many truck-makers are now offering options that you can buy (and finance) right off the showroom floor. Ford, for example, has developed the FX4 equipment group for F-150 and Ranger pickups. This package features larger tires and wheels, heavier-duty shock absorbers and other bolt-on accessories.

The FX4 option on the F-150 SuperCab we tested included LT265/70R17 Goodyear Wrangler AT/S tires (just a tick over 31.5 inches tall), alloy wheels, Rancho shock absorbers, 3.55:1 axle gearing and extra skid plates. The package added $860 to the truck’s base price (just over $30,000) but was definitely worth it.

Bought separately, these components would cost well over Ford’s package price. The equipment seemed like an even better investment when we were off-road. The big Goodyears gave the truck excellent traction on dirt roads and sandy trails, while the shocks soaked up a lot of punishment without a hint of fade.

On the highway, however, the dirt-eating Goodyears were not as sure-footed and the shocks seemed better suited to off-road pounding, as they made the already firm-riding pickup feel a bit jittery. Plus, the taller stance of the FX4 package tires meant a higher climb to get behind the wheel and a bit more work if you’re in waders or muddy boots. Bottom line: Choose the FX4 option only if you’re willing to trade some convenience and on-road ride quality for solid off-road capability.

We’ve traveled many miles in Ford’s venerable half-ton, and we’ve always found it to be a well-designed, no-frills, hard-working truck.

Ford’s options for the F-150 go far beyond the FX4 system. Those who trailer should order the 260-hp, 5.4-liter V-8, as its 350 ft-lb of torque is well suited to the tow capacity. If passenger room is a priority, we’d recommend the four-door SuperCrew model, with its SUV-like seating capacity. However, the SuperCrew comes with only a 5.5-foot-long bed. For a good mix of cargo space and passenger room, the SuperCab version is a good compromise. Rear-seat legroom is a bit snug for adults, but it’s available with either a 6.5- or 8-foot bed.

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