Launched: Everest defies commercial roots

Launched: Everest defies commercial roots

You have a ute that has taken the market by storm, given you overall market leadership, has been well received critically by the media, and desired by the public.

It would seem good sense then to launch an SUV off that platform? Many have done this – Holden, Isuzu, Mitsubishi and Nissan, all having ute passenger models on their fleets in recent year. Simple, rugged.

Many assumed Ford was doing the same with their new Everest, but Ford took the project to an entirely different level, ending up with a unique vehicle, capable and rugged enough that falls more naturally as a Prado (or even Land Cruiser) competitor, yet is refined enough that Ford customers stepping out of the soon-to-be-discontinued Territory, or other car-based trucks, will be incredibly happy.

everest interiorCar and SUV were the first in New Zealand to reveal pricing and specification for the Everest on Monday. The range will begin at $75,990 for a Trend, up to $87,990 for the Titanium. In light of the pricing of other ute-related SUVs we suggested the Titanium’s price was ‘whopping’. We may be wrong.

For more on the New Zealand line-up, read here.

Ford’s Shanghai-based vice president of product development for Asia Pacific, Trevor Worthington, was extremely keen, and rightly so, to make the distinction clear between Ranger and Everest.

“The T6 platform is as flexible as it needs to be to deliver what our customers require for first Ranger, and now Everest,” he says.

“Ranger has been out there so long this could be seen as just a derivative of the range,” he explains. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.

“What Everest is has been totally defined by what customers tell us they want in an SUV.”

everest rearAnd a lot is different. Ford engineers say not a panel is interchangeable between the vehicles, the interior is entirely different – although aspects will be coming to Ranger – while underneath some of the basic frame is shared, but steering shifts to electronic power assistance, and in the rear the leaf springs are gone in favour of a Watts-link controlled live axle with ‘coil-over’ springs and shocks.

Chief program engineer Ian Foston, who learnt his trade at Land Rover before coming to Ford, defended the live axle setup as offering the best compromise for handling with towing and load carrying ability – Everest will pull 3000kg braked, 750kg unbraked.

Despite the new electronic steering assistance, the Everest can still wade to a depth of 800mm, and its addition allowed for such features as lane-keep assistance and park-assist to be added to the platform.

everest interior 4Both NZ Everest’s get the 3.2-litre Duratorq five-cylinder TDCi diesel engine, featuring 143 kW of power and 470 Nm of torque. That is down four kW, thanks to a move from Euro 4 to Euro 5 emissions regulations. To meet the emissions target, a catalyst system using a urea-based AdBlue solution has been added, with enough fluid carried that should see fills required only at the 12,000km service intervals.

Our only transmission choice is the familiar six-speed automatic, with a high-low transfer case, and full-time four-wheel-drive. Torque is normally split 60/40 favouring the rear, although this can be distributed where needed. The rear-differential is lockable for more challenging off-road work.

Fuel economy has been reported at 8.5 litres per 100/km while we saw 9.1 litres per 100/km over a short urban/rural run.

everest interior 3Teamed with the hardware is a ‘Terrain Management System’, familiar to those who have driven a modern Land Rover, which provides four preset modes – Normal, Snow/Mud/Grass, Sand and Rock – that alter the vehicle’s throttle response, transmission, intelligent four-wheel drive system and traction control to provide the best results – or as one Ford engineer said to us, ‘flatter the driver’, depending on the road condition.

We get only seven-seat models, with the second and third rows both able to fold flat – on Titanium the third-row power-folding. With both rows down the vehicle will take 2010 litres of cargo. With all rows up storage behind the third row is modest.

The interior follows a ‘Basalt’, dark colour scheme, fabric in Trend and leather in Titanium. Ford has definitely thought about usability with a multitude – Ford counts 30 – storage spots in the cabin, and well thought out points like the glovebox being able to handle a 16-inch laptop, rear ventilation controls with vents even for the third row, and 240v power in the middle row and rear of the vehicle. Titanium gets a panoramic sunroof. The tailgate is powered.

Front seats are 8-way electrically adjustable. There are seven airbags.

Where many buyers will be impressed is how much of the Ford tech arsenal has been picked up by the Everest, both our models get SYNC 2 as standard, which means an 8-inch colour touch screen with navigation, and voice controls for not only the very sharp sounding 10-speaker audio system, but also the climate control and navigation systems. Tell it you are hungry and SYNC will suggest you a restaurant.

The stereo is also utilised as part of an active noise cancellation system. Ford staff suggested they were the first non-premium brand to roll out the technology, which uses three microphones to listen to the interior noise and broadcast frequencies that cancel out the sound. This reportedly also allows the drivetrain to be tuned to run at a lower rpm in some cases, where it would traditionally become ‘boomy’, increasing efficiency.

The instrument cluster itself has just a speedometer, everything else being taken care of by LCD screens to either side, which changes based on selection – carrying info such as fuel, a tachometer, trip, navigation and the interfaces for its driver assistance functions.

These include a front collision warning – the Everest will warn you and pre-load the brake, but will not brake itself in the event of a pending collision. All models also get an active cruise control, able to track and adjust to the speed of the car in front.

On top of electronic stability control and roll stability control, Everest gets ‘Curve’ control. If the car thinks you are entering a corner too fast, such as if it detects too much steering input for your speed, it can hit the brakes to slow you down, and hopefully make the corner.

Titanium caps the tech suite off with Ford’s ‘BLIS’ blind-spot hazard detection system, and lane keep assist, which uses a camera to monitor lane markings and can guide you back into the lane and warn you should you continue to drift.

Car & SUV drove and rode in the Everest on a 150km loop of urban, rural and off-road roads, and came away struggling to find negatives in the Everest experience.

The substantially-sized Everest chassis is incredibly well controlled considering its underpinnings, and even on poor roads suffered none of the jump and movement often associated with a live axle setup.

Steering was relatively crisp and responsive for a vehicle of the size, and roll well controlled.

The interior is surprisingly quiet, the active voice cancellation doing a surprisingly good job at reducing road noise, while still allowing the lovely burble of the 5-cylinder.

The leather-wrapped and stiched dash lifts the environment well away from its commercial cousins, while the dark ‘basalt’ interior chosen for New Zealand is far nicer than lighter options sold offshore.

We were also surprised at the quality of the ‘very early production’ models driven, and material quality is also extremely strong for a mainstream vehicle.

If we had to pick at the car, front seats are possibly a little short in the base squab, and the driver gets tilt adjustable, but not reach adjustable, stirring. Second-row space is prodigious, but the third row remains an option more for children, an adult very much only when necessary.

Ford New Zealand says they are hoping to have the car on the ground here mid-September, and that pre-orders have been promising. Ford would not be drawn on sales expectations.

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