LOCAL HERO IN A TUX

TEST EVEREST V DISCOVERY V PRADO

F O R D E V E R E S T T I T A N I U M

It may have started life as a ute, but the Ford Everest Titanium is now as fl ash as they come.

JUST in case you didnít know, the Everest is essentially a wagon version of Fordís highly successful Ranger ute. Aside from the obvious body change, there are coil springs in place of leaf springs for the rear axle, disc brakes instead drums at the rear, and an Ďactiveí full-time 4x4 system rather than the Rangerís more utilitarian part-time system.

The wheelbase has also been reduced from the Rangerís extraordinarily long 3220mm (which is even longer than a Toyota LC79 cab-chassis) to 2850mm, which is the same as a Toyota LC200 (still very long).

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

THE EVEREST shares the 2015 facelifted Rangerís 3.2-litre inline fivecylinder diesel engine. Changes from the original Ranger engine include a smaller, more efficient turbo for faster spool-up, a more sophisticated higher-pressure common-rail fuel system, and other changes to the cylinder head designed to improve engine NVH.

What the Everest has that the Ranger lacks is SCR pollutant-reducing technology, which allows the Everest to meet upcoming Euro 6 emission regulations. The Everestís maximum power of 143kW is 4kW less than the Ranger, although torque max remains at a solid 470Nm, which comes on-stream at a low 1750rpm.

Thanks to its strong low-rpm power and five-cylinder design, the Everestís engine has a nicely relaxed low-revving gait on the highway, despite having the shortest gearing of the three wagons here. Itís not as refined as the Kakaduís new 2.8 or the Discoveryís V6, but itís still a generally polished engine. The Everestís 3.2 is the largest-capacity engine here, but it canít match the heavier bi-turbo Discovery for pedal-to-metal performance; although, it does have the wood on the slightly lighter but taller-geared Kakadu.

The Everest comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, which is the only gearbox option for the Ford wagon. It offers smooth and decisive shifting and has a closer spread of gears than the new six-speed in the Kakadu.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING

FORDíS engineers have done a good job on the Titaniumís on-road dynamics. Despite its weight, height and off-road-capable suspension, it feels quite sporty through corners. What part the Wattís linkage rearaxle location (instead of a simpler Panhard rod) plays is difficult to say, but the whole thing works nicely Ė even if the live axle at the rear can make its presence felt through bumpy corners.

On the flip-side, the Titaniumís ride is a little sharper than the plush-riding Kakadu or even the Discovery. That the Titanium is on 20-inch tyres wouldnít help here.

Like the facelifted Ranger, the Everest has electric power steering, which is exceptionally light at parking speed but firms up nicely at higher road speeds, without ever quite offering the feel and feedback of a good hydraulically assisted system.

OFF-ROAD

THE Everest doesnít have the front or rear wheel travel of the KDSS-equipped Kakadu, and it canít match the front travel of the Discovery. However, it has the benefit of a driver-switched rear locker, the performance of which is further enhanced by the fact that engaging it doesnít cancel the traction control across the front axle.

Like the Discovery, the Titanium also has an Ďactiveí electronic self-locking centre diff, whereas the Kakadu has a mechanical limited-slip centre diff that has to be locked by the driver.

The end result of all this is that the Titanium generally competes well off

road against the other two very wellcredentialed vehicles. If anything lets it down in this company itís the relatively poor vision from the driverís seat. The sidesteps are also a bit low, but bounce back into shape if bent up, something you canít say for those on the Kakadu.

Not so practical are the Titanium 20-inch wheels and 50-series low-profile tyres. We had two punctures on gravel roads, where small stones penetrated the crown of the tyreís carcass. However, this can be attributed to the tread design rather than to the aspect ratio. The good news is that the 17s and 18s from the lower-spec models can be fitted to the Titanium. Given these smaller wheels carry Prado-sized tyres, thereís a huge range of options here.

CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION

THE Titaniumís cabin is well-finished and exceptionally well-appointed, but the lack of steering wheel reach adjustment is poor at this asking price.

Still, itís easy for the driver to get comfortable, even if it takes some time to get used to the Titaniumís fiddly buttons and controls.

Life in the backseat matches the Prado, but itís not as good as the Discovery Ė the Titanium has the most cramped third row.

On the plus side, the space behind the third row is better than the Kakadu when the third row is deployed.

PRACTICALITIES

THE Everest is rated to tow 3000kg, so thatís 500kg more than the Kakadu and 500kg less than the Discovery. The Titanium, despite being the heaviest Everest, has a decent payload Ė even better on paper than the Discovery SDV6.

Not so good is the 80-litre fuel capacity, especially as the Everest engine isnít as thrifty as it could be. The aforementioned 20-inch wheels also do nothing to enhance the Titaniumís practicality.

The Everestís driver-switched rear locker doesnít cancel traction control across the front axle