The Ford Everest tries to be a lot of things – a seven seat people mover, a torquey gear hauler and an off-road adventurer that's comfortable on the freeway and around town. So has Ford bitten off more than it can chew with its flagship SUV?
Somewhat remarkably, the answer is no. The Everest manages to do most of these things very well, and do them with a healthy dose of luxury and sophistication.
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Our test rig was the top-of-the-line Titanium model of the Everest built for the Australian market, packing 20-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, panoramic power sunroof, lashings of leather, blind spot warning, park-assist, and loads of other tech onboard.
Under the hood is a 3.2 L, 5-cylinder, turbocharged diesel mated to a six-speed transmission and making 143 kW at 3,000 rpm and 470 Nm of torque. It's not the world's most refined power unit, especially at low speeds where it can be a bit loud and rattly, but on the move it's a willing companion, with more than enough torque to get the Everest moving without too much fuss.
The Everest is built on the Ranger platform, but Ford manages to deftly hide its ute DNA. When we recently reviewed Toyota's Fortuner, it felt like we were riding in a modified Hilux, but the Everest feels like quite a different vehicle to the stablemate it shares its architecture with.
As a full time 4WD with 225 mm of ground clearance, 800 mm wading depth, hill descent control, electronic rear diff lock and various terrain settings ready at the twist of a dial, you'd expect the Everest to be capable off the beaten track ... and it is. While we didn't get the chance to throw it at anything too extreme, the wagon soaked up bumps and handled smoothly over rutted out gravel roads, sandy tracks and steep inclines, at all times feeling like there was plenty of power on tap.
Ford's dynamic stability control, Watt's Linkage Suspension system and Torque-on-Demand system, which transfers torque between wheels to optimize traction, means the Everest also feels very stable and sure-footed on winding country roads where you often find one side of the car on the bitumen and the other in softer stuff. On these types of roads and on the highway, body-roll is surprisingly minimal and steering is surprisingly light and responsive.
The same applies around town. This hefty SUV manages to handle more like a car, there's enough power to get you out of trouble when overtaking and the six-speed auto transmission makes good decisions in stop-start driving. Don't get me wrong, this is still a big boat, but it's a boat with a solid keel and a sure rudder that won't have you reaching for the rail to reverse engineer your breakfast.
Technology in the form of a cross-traffic warning system, blind spot detection, rear camera and active parking assist also offers a helping hand when navigating around the city. While the parking camera did have trouble dealing with trees in Melbourne's leafy streets, these systems generally make this task much easier in what is not, after all, a very carpark-friendly vehicle. Also aiding in tight spots is the Everest's steering, which is essentially weightless during parking maneuvers. Considering its sheer size, the fact you can park the big Ford with a coffee in one hand is pretty impressive.
On the highway the tech assistance comes in the form of auto high-beam, rain sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, which pre-charges the brakes and beams a row of red dots onto the windscreen in front of the driver when a potential collision is detected. Both this and the adaptive cruise are well calibrated, though the latter seems most effective and least annoying when switched to its least sensitive setting.
The interior feels solid, comfortable and well appointed without being over the top – there's no walnut panelling or Swarovsky-sponsored gearstick, but there is soft leather, heated seats and dual-zone climate control. An 8-inch touchscreen with Ford's Sync 2 system, which we've spoken to before, takes care of infotainment, and a digital instrument displays keeps the driver informed.
Ford's digital instrument binnacle is one of the best in the business. There are a few off-road specific functions buried within the menu structure, but for the most part it's rooted in the same logic as the system you get in the Mondeo, Focus and Fiesta. The tiny tachometer doesn't make a great deal of sense, but generally the steering-wheel button control system is intuitive and the menus don't force you to spend too much time with eyes off the road.
There's also a bit of nostalgia in the form of a pointing metallic thing that you plug in and twist to start the car ... yes, it has a key. We can't remember the last test car we had in the garage with one of those, but the lack of push button start is hardly a big cause for complaint.
Further back in the cabin there's plenty of cargo room helped by the fact that the power-folding third row of seats fold flat to the floor, leaving 1,050 liters of space behind the second row. When it's not in use, the third-row might as well not be there, giving you access to a wide, unimpeded load bay. That's more than can be said for some of the competition, who force you to strap the extra seats to the side of the boot, robbing space and ruining your over-the-shoulder visibility. Getting to (and sitting) in the third row is a bit ungainly, but ample for young agile types in a pinch – which is what it's intended for.
The Everest does like a drink, though. Ford claims fuel economy of 8.5 L per 100km (27.6 mpg), but we averaged above 10 L per 100km over our week-long test, which included a fairly even mixture of city, freeway and light off-road driving. Granted we weren't exactly hypermiling, but we imagine achieving the claimed figure would require a fairly delicate right foot.
The all-round polish of the Everest puts it ahead of competitors like the Toyota Fortuner and the Holden Colorado in many areas, but that's reflected in its AUD$54,990-$76,990 price range. Both these things edge it towards Toyota Prado territory and that's a comparison prospective buyers will likely be taking a close look at. Ford has also just announced a rear-wheel drive version of the Everest, which maintains the four-wheel drive variant's ground clearance and 3,000 kg towing capacity but, in Trend spec, cuts $5,000 from the sticker price.
If 98 percent of your off roading is done negotiating the muddy verge on the soccer field, this probably isn't the car for you – there are plenty of front-drive four-wheel drives out there which use less fuel and deliver a smoother drive in the urban jungle. On the other hand, if you like to load up the tribe and head to the middle of nowhere on the weekends, the Everest will get you there in style.
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