FORD EVEREST

ON-ROAD COMPROMISES BEG THE QUESTION: HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT TO SCALE THAT MOUNTAIN?

TOBY HAGON

T W E N T Y C A R O F T H E Y E A R S I X T E E N

Stage ONE

NEVER has a ladder-framed SUV impressed at COTY, especially one designed for serious off-road work, as Ford’s Everest is. Based on the locally developed T6 architecture that underpins the Ranger ute (see sidebar, right), the Everest’s entry to COTY was no patriotic inclusion.

It had impressed us with its refinement and comfort at its media launch in Thailand. Plus, it’s a seven-seat SUV that, for some, will effectively replace the Territory, the first – and, so far, only – SUV to have been awarded a COTY gong. Yet it’s the Toyota Prado that Everest’s formulaic styling is hoping to attack.

Its first test during dynamic driving at the proving ground dragged this 2.5-tonne seven-seater as far from its dusty, bumpy, corrugated comfort zone as any of the hundreds of local Ford engineers who honed it could imagine. After all, this is a wagon designed to wade through 800mm of water, with the electronics in its clever permanent fourwheel drive system (complete with locking rear diff) tailored to handle snow, mud, sand and rocks.

All while towing up to three tonnes. It’s designed to tackle parts of Australia that city dwellers never see. And, importantly, get you back again.

On bitumen, that means compromises. Everest’s jostling ride is tiresome and the light steering detracts from driver confidence, something more significantly challenged by quick direction changes or high-speed bends, each of which will have Ford’s big bus lurching messily.

That said, its ESC is brilliantly tuned, even on dirt. The electronics efficiently work out what’s not going right and gently step in to put things back on track. Stopping distances over slippery corrugations were superb, too, meaning Everest can punt along confidently – and briskly – on less than perfect surfaces. An extension of the ESC, Curve Control, quickly determines if all that mass is unlikely to obey the driver’s instructions, applying the brakes to quell any potentially dangerous situations.

The gravelly, if vaguely charming, five-cylinder diesel brings torque aplenty to the table, but it has to work hard to bring all that mass up to speed.

And it’s brusque when revved beyond 3000rpm.

Unexpectedly for a wagon based on a commercial vehicle, the Everest has refinement on its side, admirably quelling road and wind noise.

Its interior is thoughtful, too, especially for families prepared to live with its dynamic deficiencies. Its third row accommodates child seats (a rarity) and roof-mounted air vents feed fresh stuff throughout.

Far less convincing is Everest’s value, especially given the cabin’s cheap dashboard and partsbin appearance. By aligning it more closely with Toyota’s larger Prado, Ford has priced the Everest beyond its more natural, ute-based rivals.

BODY

Type 5-door wagon, 7 seats Boot capacity 450 litres Weight 2370 – 2495kg

DRIVETRAIN

Layout front engine (north-south), AWD Engine 3198cc 5cyl turbo-diesel (143kW/470Nm) Transmission 6-speed automatic

CHASSIS

Tyres 265/65R17 – 265/50R20 ADR81 fuel consumption 8.5L/100km CO2 emissions 224g/km Collision mitigation .

Crash rating 5-star (ANCAP) Prices $54,990 – $76,990

D I V I D I N G R A N G E

Based on the hot-selling Ford Ranger ute, the Everest has been given a significant overhaul in the transition to civilian duties. As well as tweaking the five-cylinder turbo-diesel for refinement (resulting in a 4kW drop to 143kW), the Ranger’s leaf-sprung rear-end has been replaced by a more refined coil-sprung live axle with Watts linkage for Everest.

That adds comfort for third-row passengers, while still enabling a three-tonne towing capacity.

“BEST ESC AND ABS ON DIRT BY FAR … BUSH BUS OF THE YEAR!” JOHN CAREY “PRETTY GOOD ROADHOLDING BUT INCAPABLE OF PASSENGER-CAR DYNAMICS” NATHAN PONCHARD