13 Mar
Exploring new heights

If it’s a comfortable off-road, solidly built SUV you’re after, then the Ford Everest is worth looking at, says Gavin Foster

So, the festive season has come and gone, and, thank goodness, the family’s still talking. We all need to de-stress and it’s time for a new car. That’s it! We’ll buy an SUV and explore our glorious province as it’s never been explored before!

Hang on, though. What’s an SUV? A high-riding family wagon? A double-cab bakkie with a bull bar? A jacked-up budget city car with some cheap plastic trim and a “Crossover” badge tacked on? In the old days “truly-dirt-capable vehicles” were simply called 4X4s, while anything else was a car, station wagon or bakkie. Somewhere along the way a marketing type came up with the term Sports Utility Vehicle, with a true SUV traditionally being a large 4X4 passenger wagon with low-range transmission, built upon a rugged bakkie chassis. Because research later showed that most buyers rarely venture off-road, the latter features are those often omitted to keep costs down, and the lines between SUVs built upon bakkie chassis and those using one-piece bodies derived from passenger vehicle platforms have blurred.

Toyota’s Fortuner and Ford’s Everest are the most popular bakkie-based SUV’s in South Africa today, but the Fortuner has outsold the Everest by a considerable margin over the past couple of years. That’s because the Toyota range consisted of eight models with varying off-road capabilities and a choice between four petrol and diesel engines, priced from just under R450 000 to more than R650 000. Ford’s Everest was available in just two upmarket versions, both highly specified 4X4s and both featuring powerful five-cylinder 3.2-litre turbodiesel engines. Starting at R635 000, the Ford thus competed only with the most upmarket Fortuners – until late last year when Ford introduced six new Everest models, five using their four-cylinder Duratorq 2.2-litre turbodiesels, while the sixth is a 4X2 automatic version of the 3.2-litre models.

The smaller engines and lower specs in the new models mean the pricing now compares favourably with that of the Fortuner, ranging from just north of R450 000 for the 2.2 TDCi XLS manual 4X2 to R699 000 for the 3.2 TDCi Limited six-speed automatic 4X4. All models are full seven-seaters and all are comprehensively specced, with the flagship Limited including a host of safety and luxury features, like adaptive cruise control with a heads-up display, forward alert with collision mitigation, active park assist to enable hands-free parallel or perpendicular parking, a blind-spot information system with cross traffic alert to warn of unseen vehicles encroaching on your territory, an electronic tailgate, and power-fold for the third row
of seats.

The new Duratorq 2.2-litre turbodiesel TDCi unit is a goodie, with 118 kW of power at 3 700 rpm and 385 Nm of torque at 1 500 to 2 500 rpm. It lacks the raw punch of the 147 kW/470 Nm 3.2-litre models, but it gets the job done without any fuss, and it’s very easy to find yourself unwittingly cruising at between 140 and 150km.

One of the Everest’s strengths is the ride quality, which is exceptionally good for such a dirt-competent bakkie-based SUV. The 4X4 versions utilise Ford’s electronic Terrain Management System that allows the driver to switch between four driving modes via a rotary dial to suit the circumstances. There is, of course, a low-range transmission and a rear diff-lock, both of which are essential for serious 4X4 use. At the new model launch, we drove around a short 4X4 track and the high ground clearance and decent approach and departure angles help make the Everest a winner in the dirt. The 4X2 versions enjoy most of the off-road advantages except the low-range and four-wheel-drive, and cope well over rough terrain, as long as there are no serious traction issues.

The Ford Everest is a highly competent SUV based upon the excellent Ford Ranger platform. It’s spacious and comfortable, refined, well built and is now accessible to a much wider range of income groups. It comes with a four-year/120 000km warranty, a five-year 100 000km service plan, three-year unlimited-distance roadside assistance, and a five-year corrosion warranty. Buyers of the 4X4 models qualify for complimentary off-road training.


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