Ford Everest

Climbing Everest puts the Blue Oval in new Territory

MATT RAUDONIKIS

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

EVEREST is the culmination of a long gestation period developing a wagon off the Ford Rangerís T6 platform. It also resolves Ford Australiaís short-term need for a seven-seat SUV once the Territory ceases to exist at the end of next year.

Priced from $55k, it is not expected to be the only vehicle to fill this role as itís light truck-based as opposed to the car-derived Territory. Fordís US-made Edge SUV is expected to complete a two-pronged Territory replacement strategy.

Everest should therefore not be considered a direct replacement for the Australian-made Territory.

It canít deliver the on-road dynamics and passenger-car comfort of the Falcon-based SUV.

What it does bring is true off-road capability, durability and a 3000kg towing capacity.

Ford has done a commendable job engineering refinement and functionality into a wagon that started as an LCV.

Everest gets a multi-link, coil-sprung rear suspension in lieu of the Rangerís leaf springs.

This set-up incorporates a Watts link for lateral location of the live axle to improve on-road characteristics, a system used successfully on Falcons for many years. While by no means a modern design in terms of passenger cars, it provides a good compromise between whatís needed on and off the road. It better controls the rear end than a leaf-spring design.

On our drive in rural Thailand, the seven-seat wagon sits relatively flat and is composed over twisting roads with poor surfaces, so it should work well on our likewise crook roads in Australia. It exhibits much less roll and pitch than the rival Prado.

The electric-assisted steering is light at low speeds where you want to it be and firms up as speed rises, although it doesnít give the same connected feel of hydraulic assistance.

Everestís separate chassis helps isolate the body from road NVH, even on the lowprofile 20-inch tyres that will be standard on the top-spec Titanium models.

The interior is clever, practical and functional. The centre and rear rows fold flat to offer a cavernous cargo area. In Titanium spec, the third-row seats individually fold electrically at the touch of a button located at the rear door opening.

Notably absent are keyless entry/start and reach adjustment for the steering column, which may inconvenience taller drivers.

Cabin refinement is aided by Active Noise Cancellation that, like similar technology in highend headphones, transmits an opposing Ďsoundí to the cabin to cancel out ambient noise. This includes the sound of the diesel engine, where the low-frequency growl has been targeted.

The 3.2-litre turbo-diesel is strong enough for the hefty wagon, aided by a positiveshifting six-speed automatic.

There are no shift paddles, but the transmission can be manually operated using the floor shifter.

The full-time 4WD system is aided by a clever Multi Terrain Selector that offers four driving modes designed to make it easier for novice off-road drivers to manage different conditions.

Low-range gearing, a locking rear differential, hill descent control, and an 800mm wading depth add to Everestís off-road capabilities, although we werenít able to put them to the test on this drive.

The drive did show us that the Everest will be a smart choice for family buyers looking for a 4WD wagon with a good mix of on-road refinement, performance and all-terrain ability.

03 Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Ford Everest Titanium 3198cc in-line 5cyl; dohc, 20v, TD 143kW @ 3000rpm 470Nm @ 1750-2500rpm 6-speed automatic 2495kg n/a 8.5L/100km $76,990 October

PLUS & MINUS

Lack of steering-wheel reach adjustment; centre-row seat headroom On- and off-road ride and comfort; cabin refinement; clever tech

01 AIR HEAD

Head room in the back seats is limited by the sculptured roof lining that houses ducting for the rear air vents.

02 WHEEL CHOICES

Top-spec Titanium models will ride on 20-inch wheels. Midspec Trend gets 18s and the base model more comfortable 17s.

03 STANDARD 4X4

All Australian-spec Everests will be 4WD, for now at least. 2WD is available for other markets and isnít being ruled out for us down the track.

Oil refinery

THE five-cylinder offered 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 has also been tuned to meet Euro 6 emission standards, as required to meet passengervehicle standards, and consequently produces 4kW less than in the LCV Ranger, though maximum torque is unchanged. 3.2-litre turbo-diesel will be the only engine

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Isuzu MU-X LS-T $53,500

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