The skinny: Ford’s new seven-seater hides its commercial origins well, boasting impressive refinement and driveability in a handsome, family-sized package. It’s not cheap considering some of its rivals, but you do get what you pay for.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $54,990 - $76,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 143kW/470Nm 3.2 turbo diesel 5cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.5 l/100km | tested: 10.3 l/100km
The rutted, potholed backroads of Thailand are the perfect venue to test Ford’s brand-new Everest SUV, which goes on sale in Australia next month as the Blue Oval’s Prado-fighting seven-seat off-roader.
Ford bills it as being both rugged and refined, “tough, but not rough”. If it can handle the cracked concrete of regional Thailand without spilling our iced tea, that claim will be validated.
And it delivers. After a day driving the imposing Everest Titanium along the highways, back streets and muddy tracks that criss-cross the countryside around Chiang Rai in the country’s north, the Everest not only kept us out of the weeds, but in good comfort the entire time.
And so it should have. Though engineered in Melbourne it’s been designed with countries like Thailand in mind. Australian conditions should be a cakewalk.
- Standard equipment: Everest - Remote keyless entry, cruise control with speed limiter, rear view camera, rear park sensors, single zone air conditioning, seven seats with fabric trim, 4 x 12V and 1 x 230V power sockets 17-inch alloy wheels.
- Standard equipment: Trend (in addition to Everest) - Powered tailgate, auto high beam control, heated power folding morrors with puddle lamps, leather trimmed steering wheel, electrochromatic rear view mirror, rain sensing wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, adaptive cruise control with collision alert and heads up display, 18-inch alloy wheels.
- Standard equipment: Titanium (in addition to Trend) - HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, semi-auto active parallel park assist, powered panoramic sunroof, eight-way powered front seats, leather seat trim, leather gear shifter, power fold third row seats, illuminated scuff plates, blind spot monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, 20-inch alloy wheels.
- Infotainment: Everest - SYNC1 with Voice Control and Emergency Assistance, 8-speaker single CD, AM/FM audio system.
- Infotainment: Trend (in addition to Everest) - SYNC2, 10-speaker audio system with DAB+ and subwoofer, Interior Command Centre with high resolution 8-inch colour touch screen, 2 x USB ports and SD card slot
- Infotainment: Titanium (in addition to Trend) - Satellite navigation with traffic management channel
- Storage: 450 litres, behind the third row, 1050 litres behind the second row
This isn’t just a seven-seater wagon body plonked on top of the Ranger’s ladder-frame. Though it shares its base architecture with Ford’s popular 4x4 ute, there’s much to the Everest’s underpinnings that’s entirely bespoke.
Everything aft of the gearbox crossmember, in fact.
It’s a unique chassis that’s designed with carrying people in mind, not cargo, and the packaging that results is with few compromises.
Up front, a tall seating position affords a great view of the road ahead and to either side. Over-the-shoulder vision isn’t bad either, and the large wing mirrors are a godsend for such a beast.
Our Titanium-spec car had the panoramic glass sunroof that’s standard on Australian Everest Titaniums, and that ate into headroom a touch. This 5’8” journo was fine, but if you’re well north of six-foot you may feel your scalp graze the rooflining.
The second row is not wanting for space, especially with the sliding 60/40 split bench moved to its rearmost position.
Legroom is plentiful, the roof-mounted vents supply plenty of air (and are independently controlled) and the cushioning is neither too firm or too soft. It’s wide enough for three adults to sit across it too, though the middle passenger will need to perch their feet atop the transmission tunnel.
The third row can even take two adults at a pinch, and in reasonable comfort if you slide the second row forward a fraction. You’ll need a knees-up posture to make it work, but headroom is decent and the third row also gets its own roof mounted air vents.
But what’s most impressive is how refined it is. Every Everest variant comes standard with active noise-cancelling technology, which listens for road and wind noise through four microphones mounted in the roof, analyses the signal, then pipes opposite-phase sound through the speakers to neutralise it.
It works remarkably well. On the craggy pavement of Thailand’s rural road network we were impressed by the low intrusion of wind and tyre roar.
The engine note is evident and it’s not the quietest diesel around, but between the noise cancelling technology and the liberal use of sound deadening, it’s not overbearing at all.
The Everest’s reconfigurable dual-LCD instrument panel can display a wealth of information and the SYNC2 infotainment system is fairly intuitive to use, but the cabin presentation is a touch dull. The gear lever reminds of earlier model Falcons, and so does some of the switchgear.
Plastic quality could do with a lift too, especially considering the Everest’s price. The junction between plastics around the handbrake is quite rough and sharp, and there’s too much hard surfacing on the upper door cards and centre console.
However, Ford Australia points out that Australian-spec cars should get better-quality plastics than the Thai-spec cars we drove.
It’s a capacious cabin if you need to carry cargo .The third row folds electrically in the Titanium and it knees down to become flush with the boot floor.
The second row backrest folds level with the boot as well, and in this configuration you can jam 2010 litres of cargo into the Everest.
Keep the second row up and boot capacity is 1050 litres if loaded to the roof. Raise the third row and there’s 450 litres of space from floor to roof - sufficient for a few shopping bags.
And those who like to embrace the great outdoors but don’t want to give up all creature comforts, the Everest even sports a 230-volt power outlet on the back of the centre console, capable of powering a portable fridge.
ON THE ROAD
- 143kW/470Nm 3.2 turbo diesel in-line five cylinder
- Six speed automatic, four wheel drive
- Double wishbone front suspension, rear watts linkage, four-wheel coil springs
- Towing capacity: 3000kg (braked
Though very closely related to the Ranger’s 3.2 litre turbo diesel inline five, the Everest’s motor has more than a few differences.
Differing emissions requirements for commercial and passenger vehicles mean the Everest makes 143kW of power - 4kW less than the Ranger.
Peak torque of 470Nm is identical to the Ranger, though it’s available over a slightly narrower rev range 1750-2500rpm, versus the Ranger’s 1500-2500rpm.
Out on the road, it’s no great debit. The 3.2 litre diesel is tremendously muscular and happy to lope along at low rpm. The Everest may weigh a mighty 2495kg, but it doesn’t struggle .
While the Everest is available in other markets with a 2.2 litre diesel and two-wheel drive, all Everests sold in Australia will have the five-cylinder 3.2, a six-speed automatic and a full-time 4WD driveline.
With a nominal 40/60 front/rear torque split, the Everest’s 4x4 hardware is always taking drive to all four wheels. At a cruise that split settles to a more rear-biased 20/80 ratio, but it’s constantly varying according to conditions.
In fact, the Everest’s drivetrain can take up to 98 percent of torque to a single wheel, if needs be.
A two-speed transfer case provides more low-down pulling power for truly rough going, and the rear differential can lock for even more traction. Without it, torque can be vectored from side-to-side via the braking system.
The Everest can also switch between four distinct drive modes: normal, snow/mud/grass, rock and sand.
Each mode uses a unique calibration for the throttle, gearbox and stability control settings, though any time you're in low range the stability control is switched off.
There's also hill descent control, which automatically holds the Everest to a predefined speed when travelling downhill.
Speed can be adjusted using the cruise control buttons (the system is smoother than that used by the Toyota Prado). Handy when faced with an especially slippery slope.
Combined, it's a slicker system than many of its competitors, most of which require the driver to manually select whether the car is in 4x2 or 4x4 mode. For user-friendliness, this system scores highly.
On a brief off-road sojourn, the Everest didn't skip a beat. Water crossings, steep ascents and lumpy terrain never slowed it down, even with a wheel cocked in the air. Once cars become available in Australia, we'll be putting it to a more challenging test.
The Everest's electrically-assisted steering is a first for the category and is quite light. It's not rich in feedback, but for a family-oriented SUV it's appropriate.
The last thing you want when threading this mountain of a car through a crowded carpark – or a tight Thai backstreet - is a heavy tiller.
It loses some of its sheen when it comes time to visit the bowser. After a couple of hundred kays we were averaging 10.3 l/100km, which is well above the factory claim of 8.5 l/100km. Another thing we'll be looking at in detail when we test the Everest on local roads.
Lastly, the Everest can tow a full three-tonnes behind it without much fuss - an appealing attribute for many Aussie motorists.
ANCAP rating: The Ford Everest has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Dynamic stability control with roll stability control, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and traction control, emergency brake assist, driver and front passenger airbags, side front airbags, side curtain airbags (to 3rd row), driver’s knee airbag, and a beltminder system (for 1st and 2nd row occupants) comes standard accross the range.
Trend adds lane keeps assist and lane departure warning, while the Titanium gains blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, and tyre pressure monitoring.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Ford is reluctant to compare the Everest with other ute-based SUVs like the Colorado 7, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Challenger, instead preferring to line it up against the similarly-priced (though ultimately more expensive) Toyota Prado.
Nevertheless, its similarities with the others are hard to ignore if all you’re after is a rugged seven-seater, and they all wear far more attractive price tags. The Toyota Fortuner will join that group too, and promises to be sharper value.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Ford is optimistic that the Everest can challenge the Prado's grip on the heavy-duty large SUV, and we think the confidence is justified.
We'll be able to make a definitive call once we can get behind the wheel on Aussie soil, but our first experience of the Everest revealed a rugged 4x4 with a surprising amount of polish.
It's unlike any of the other ute-based seven-seaters that are currently on the market, and the premium the Everest carries over those cars is somewhat balanced by its superior refinement. Simply put, it's less obvious that this car shares its bones with a commercial utility.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Everest - $54,990
- Everest Trend - $60,990
- Everest Titanium - $76,990
- Tow bar (3000kg capacity) - $1000
- Satellite navigation (Trend) - $600
- Prestige paint - $500