Ford executives would reveal little about the new Everest’s Australian specifications at its unveiling event in China this week, but we did glean one detail: this is the 4WD SUV that Ford customers have been asking for.
Speaking at the global unveiling of the new Everest, which is largely identical to the concept revealed last year, Ford’s David French told TMR that customer feedback played a major and ongoing role in the new SUV’s development.
That’s no small thing - detailed buyer input is less common in new model development than some might think (despite the importance manufacturers attach to customer satisfaction).
Work on the Australian-developed Everest began in earnest in 2010, but conceptually it had been “in the works for sometime before that,” Mr French said.
And while it has been reported that the Everest is largely a Ranger with a wagonised bum and a fresh face, Mr French said this week that the two are further apart in design and purpose than previously believed.
Both 4WDs share a ladder-chassis design, but where the Ranger’s backend rides on cargo-style leaf springs, the Everest gets coil springs matched to a live axle with a Watts linkage.
The Everest will also feature disc brakes all-round, rather than the drums fitted to the Ranger’s rear.
Ford promises a tune that will make the Everest stand out from the pack for on-road passenger comfort.
And, while the off-roading aspects of its design make it unlikely to match the Territory SUV for refinement, Mr French says the Everest will drive “like all other Fords: taut, precise, rewarding”.
There’s also a more family-focused look and feel to the technology-loaded cabin - but, with the doors locked during the Everest’s unveiling, we weren’t able to confirm a premium feel to the materials.
All of this makes the Everest a hugely important vehicle for Ford in Australia, allowing the carmaker to battle in a niche that it has lately been less-than-ideally equipped for: off-roading families.
Still, it is clear that Ford has its sights set not on the usual ute-based suspects - the Colorado 7 and Isuzu MU-X - but rather the Toyota Prado and, although no longer a proper off-roader, the Nissan Pathfinder.
That will likely also provide a hint on pricing, because while the Holden and Isuzu models begin in the low to mid $40,000 range, Prado pricing kicks off $10k higher at $55,990.
If the Everest does enter at a higher price point than its Holden and Isuzu-badged rivals, it should at least have the features to back it up.
Australian specifications are still to be confirmed, but this week’s global unveiling revealed class-leading safety and convenience technologies.
These include advanced parking assist, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, cross-traffic alert with front and rear cameras, adaptive radar-based cruise control, Terrain Response 4WD System and Ford’s latest SYNC2 infotainment system with an eight-inch screen and voice control.
Ford’s ‘Curve Control’ is also fitted, which helps drivers maintain control if they approach a corner with excessive enthusiasm, while roll stability control, 'Forward Alert with Collisions Mitigation' and Active Park Assist are all standard.
Precisely how many of these features will come to Australia is still to be revealed, but, according to Ford Asia Pacific’s boss of SUVs and Commercial Vehicles, Richard Tilly, “there will be a lot of kit to talk about, even with entry models”.
Former Ford Australia and now Asia Pacific PR boss, Sinead Phipps, echoed Mr Tilly’s comments, adding that “Australia and New Zealand will get the most sophisticated models, customers there expect high levels of features”.
Watch for more on the Everest’s local pricing and specifications to surface in the coming months.
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