The new Ford Everest is a seven-seat 4x4 SUV with genuine off road credentials from the Blue Oval. Designed and developed in Australia, among other places, the Everest will partly fill the shoes of the Ford Territory, while also taking on the likes of Toyota’s Prado 4x4.
Ford’s new Everest is the culmination of a long period of developing a wagon off Ford Ranger’s T6 chassis/platform. It’s also Ford’s short-term replacement for a seven-seat SUV once the Territory ceases to exist at the end of next year.
Everest is not expected to be the only vehicle to fill this role, as it is a light truck-based SUV as opposed to the passenger car-based Territory. Ford’s American-made Edge SUV is tipped to be the vehicle to complete the two-pronged Territory replacement strategy.
Everest should not be considered a replacement for Territory. It can’t deliver the on-road dynamics and passenger-car comfort of the Australian-made, Falcon-based SUV. What it does bring is a broader spectrum of ability, adding true off road capability, durability and a 3000kg towing capacity.
Ford has done well to engineer refinement and functionality into a light commercial-vehicle-based wagon. In difference to the Ranger truck, the Everest wagon employs a multi-link, coil sprung rear suspension in lieu of more commercial leaf springs.
This set up incorporates a Watts-link for lateral location of the live axle to improve on road characteristics, a system that was successfully used on Falcon cars for many years in the past.
While it’s by no means a modern design in terms of passenger cars, this set up provides a good compromise between what’s needed for on- and off-road driving applications. It betters controls the rear end, taming the usual tendency to move around under the car over irregular surfaces and under lateral dynamic loads.
The suspension supported the five-door, seven-seat wagon relatively flat and composed over twisting roads with poor surfaces on our drive in rural Thailand, leading us to think that it will work well on our crook roads in Australia.
It certainly exhibits far less roll and pitch than the Prado, which Everest will be targeting in the market. The electric-assisted steering is light at low speeds where you want to it be and firms up at speed, although it doesn’t give the same connected feel of hydraulic power steering. But this is not a sports car and most SUV drivers wouldn’t be affected by this characteristic of fuel saving electric power steering.
Everest’s separate chassis design helps isolate the body from road NVH even on the low-profile, 20-inch tyres fitted to these test vehicles. Top-spec Australia Everest Titanium models will also ride on the 20s, while the mid-spec Trend is on 18s and the base Everest on more practical and comfortable 17s.
The interior is clever practical and functional. The centre and rear rows of seats fold flat to offer cavernous cargo space. The third row seats individually fold electrically in the Titanium model at the touch of a button from the rear door opening.
Head room in the back seats is limited by the sculptured roof lining that houses the ducting for rear air vents. Notably absent are a keyless start button and entry, and reach adjustment for the steering column, which like the rear seat headroom, should only be an issue for taller occupants.
Cabin refinement is also aided by several technologies, including Active Noise Cancelation, which, like similar technology in high-end audio headphones, transmits an opposing ‘sound’ to the cabin to cancel out ambient noise. This includes the sound of the diesel engine, where the low–frequency growl has been particularly targeted and reduced.
The inline, five-cylinder 3.2-litre diesel engine will be the only power plant offered in Everest in Australia and although carried over from Ranger, it has been refined with new fuel injectors operating at higher pressure to reduce diesel-clatter. It also features a revised EGR system and uses Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to help clean up emissions and meet Euro 6 standards needed for passenger vehicles.
As a result of the cleaner tune in the Everest, the engine makes four-kilowatts less than it does in Ranger; 143kW, but produces the same 470Nm of torque. This is ample enough to keep the hefty wagon on the move, and is aided by a positive-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission. There are no steering column/wheel-mounted shift paddles, although, the transmission can be manually operated using the floor shifter.
All Australian-spec Everests will be 4x4, for now at least. 4x2 is available for other markets and isn’t being ruled out for us down the track. The full-time 4x4 system is aided by the clever Multi Terrain Selector that offers the driver modes for Normal; Snow, Mud, Grass; Sand; and Rock driving. These are designed to make it easier for the novice off-road driver to manage different conditions. Low-range gearing, a locking rear differential, hill descent control, and 800mm wading depth also add to Everest’s off-road capabilities, although we weren’t able to put them to the test on this drive.
This well-equipped off-road armoury will make the Everest the vehicle of choice for families who not only dream of visiting places like Kakadu National Park or the Simpson Desert, but also those who actually go out and experience them.
The drive did show us that the Everest will be a smart choice for family buyers looking for a 4x4 wagon with a good mix of on road refinement, performance and all terrain ability. It will be an alternative to the Prado as well as similar truck-based models such as the Fortuner, Holden Colorado 7, Isuzu MU-X and the just revealed new Challenger from Mitsubishi.
|Engine||I5 3.2L diesel|
|Max power||143kW @ 3000rpm|
|Max torque||470Nm @ 1750rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed auto, fulltime 4x4|
|Price||$54,990 to $76.990|
|On sale||October 1, 2015|
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