UNLESS you read the magazine from back-to-front, you would have seen that our Ford Everest has worked its way up the Oodnadatta Track to Alice Springs.
Last month we left off at Marree, which marks the start of the track and also where it meets the Birdsville Track. From there we travelled north, taking in the usual tourists sites at the various railways sidings: Coward Springs, the William Creek Hotel and the Pink Roadhouse.
Heavy rainfall the weeks preceding our trip had closed the Oodnadatta Track, but it was opened just days before we left Peterborough. It was still closed north of the Pink Roadhouse – where the track veers west to meet the Stuart Highway – due to flooding, which suited us as we had planned to follow the line of the Old Ghan Railway to Finke and then on to Alice.
Stopping at the Roadhouse for fuel, an ‘Oodna Burger’ and some local info revealed that many travellers heading to the Finke Desert Race had passed through the open roads earlier in the day. Even though the roads were open, they were still very wet in places and the muddy conditions gave us the chance to sample the Everest’s Terrain Management System (TMS).
The Everest’s full-time on-demand-drive system works almost like a two-wheel drive set-up under normal driving conditions, with very little drive being sent to the front axle. It’s only when wheel-slip is detected at the rear axle that the system sends more torque to the front wheel. This is reactionary and there is a bit of a delay in how quickly it works – enough of a delay to get you stuck in the wrong conditions.
To avoid the delay and reduce the risk of getting stuck, the driver can select one of the off-road modes in the TMS: Snow/Mud/Grass; Sand; or Rock. You can feel the differences in the TMS system by flooring the throttle on wet grass or another equally slippery surface.
In Normal mode, the rear wheels slip before the front wheels take up the slack and pull you forward. In any of the off-road modes the drive to the front is instantaneous and doesn’t allow the rear wheels to slip as much.
Snow/Mud/Grass mode was selected for the slippery conditions, and we either mashed it through the mud and ruts or worked our way around the detours that had been formed in places where the track was impassable. Needless to say, the Everest got us through – helped by the more aggressive Cooper AT3 tyres we’d fitted to it.
One complaint about the TMS is the dial used to select the mode. Instead of having four detented positions, it is infinitely adjustable both clockwise and anticlockwise. So instead of being able to select a mode by feel without looking away from the track, you need to divert your gaze to see what mode it is in. To its credit, the TMS mode is displayed on the gauge binnacle as well, but it would be much nicer if you could do it with a simple turn of the dial.
After a couple of days in Alice Springs, and following the Finke off-road race, the Everest returned to Melbourne via a tour of the West MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon and Uluru.
Read part one of our Ford Everest Trend long-term car review.