WE’VE made no secret that we here at 4X4 Australia like the Ford Everest.
We were instantly impressed with the ability of the Australian-developed wagon when we went on a development drive through the Simpson Desert with some Everest prototypes more than a year before they were launched.
We were again knocked out by its ride and refinement when we finally drove the production models in Thailand, and then back home in Victoria when we pitched it against some key rivals in the 4x4 wagon class.
When we lined the Everest up in the strongest 4x4 Of The Year field in many years it took top honours as the pick of 2015, and it backed up that award when we drove our long-term tester on an outback adventure back in June.
The only thing left to know was how well the Everest performed with some touring kit on it. Unlike many other vehicle manufacturers, Ford Australia has dropped the ball when it comes to offering a strong range of off-road-focused accessories for its 4x4s; so it’s left that to an aftermarket industry that is only too happy to jump on the opportunity.
ARB certainly took up the challenge, and this vehicle is loaded with products it offers for the Ford. As the Everest shares many components with the Ford Ranger ute, ARB already had many products to suit, but some had to be re-engineered for the wagon, while others had to be specifically developed for it.
SUSPENSION & PROTECTION
THE first upgrade most owners will make to any new 4x4 to improve its all-terrain performance is to replace the tyres, and the standard rubber on this Everest Trend was replaced with a set of Cooper ST Maxx on the factory 18-inch alloy wheels. The ST Maxx is an aggressive all-terrain-style tread pattern and is well-suited to a family 4x4 that sees double duty in both the bush and the ’burbs.
The tyres work with ARB’s Old Man Emu suspension package, which consists of raised coil springs that give a 40mm lift in ground clearance, along with matched OME Nitrocharger Sport shocks. While the increased ride height keeps the undercarriage a bit further away from the terrain, the underside also benefits from a replacement underbody protection plate made from 3mm zinc-coated steel.
This better protects the area under the engine and steering from those obstacles that can’t be cleared. With its independent front suspension the Everest is prone to bottom out on the cross member and, while the firmer suspension does limit its compression, the protection plate still gets well used. The underbody plate also has allowance for the rated recovery point that is secured to the front cross member.
Also protecting the Everest is an ARB Summit steel bullbar, brush bars and side steps, each colour-matched in Ford’s Sunset Red. As with all of ARB’s body protection bars, the Summit bar and side protection bars are airbag compliant and improve the safety of the vehicle without compromising any of the OE safety systems. This includes the front parking sensors, radar cruise control and emergency brake warning systems.
The bullbar provides the mounting point for a Warn Zeon winch and ARB Intensity LED lights. We have criticised Ford’s factory head lights and, specifically, the high beam as performing poorly on dark outback roads, so a quality LED light such as the Intensity is a must-have for any Everest owner. They make a significant improvement to night driving in the Ford.
Not everything added to this Everest comes from ARB, but it all can be bought through ARB stores. The air-intake snorkel, for example, comes from Safari 4x4, another great Australian aftermarket accessory company.
While the mechanical package on this car remains otherwise standard, we have seen the 3.2-litre diesel engine in the Everest woken up with an aftermarket intake, exhaust and tune package.The roof rack on the Everest comes from the Rhino Rack catalogue and is one of the Pioneer platform designs. These versatile racks can be customised to carry all manner of gear and/or sporting equipment, but here it just mounts an ARB Touring side awning to provide a roll-out shelter when camping. It could have been handy on our wet day out in the forest.
SLIPPIN’ & SLIDIN’
THE tracks outside Melbourne were wet and slippery on our day out with the Everest. Mud tyres might have been more appropriate for the conditions, and we were limited to the tracks we could cover.The spate of wet and windy weather had left many of the tracks deeply rutted and, despite the added ground clearance afforded by the suspension, the underbody protection proved its worth as it straddled the ruts. Likewise, the side steps got a workout getting over the many trees and branches down across the tracks.
We noticed the added height as soon as we got in to the cabin of the ARB car. It’s a bigger step up and you look down on the road more than you do from the standard wagon. Yet the Everest has a nice, large glasshouse giving the driver plenty of vision forward and around the vehicle, and you only just notice the top of the bullbar peeping above the bonnet line.
When driving on gravel roads the ARB suspension feels firmer than standard and offers more control of the vehicle with less fore and aft pitching under brakes. It’s not too stiff, but we did end up dropping the tyre pressure for more comfort and to better cope with the gloopy conditions. There was no way we would have driven some of those tracks on the OE road tyres!
With these mild modifications the Everest improves its all-road touring ability, but not at the cost of the attributes that we have awarded it for in the past. The engine is still that lopey, torquey five-cylinder diesel; the six-speed automatic is positive and sure shifting; the electric power steering is well calibrated at both low and road speeds; and the overall fit, feel and ability of the car is top-shelf. The additions make a good thing better and turn the Everest into a tourer you could happily take the family around Australia with.