Everest set against lofty expectations

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If ever a name captured a sense of extreme adventure it’s the new king-size Ford Everest, but this name comes with some lofty expectations and pressure to perform.
The company is hoping to cash in with this model on a resurgence of buyer interest inute-based wagons. Toyota returns to this market with the Hiluxbased Fortuner.
Holden has been enjoying some sales success with its Colorado 7 while its cousin, the Isuzu MU-derived D-Max ute, is a more modest sales achiever.
One of the longest-standing models in this market is the Mitsubishi Challenger, whose origins go back to the original Triton ute. In 2016, it still uses the same formula based around the latest Triton, but has morphed into the Pajero Sport.
Being based on the same chassis and running gear as the top-selling Ford Ranger ute should give the Everest a good leg-up in the race for sales in this highly competitive market segment.
To ensure it isn’t accused of being a clone of the Ranger, the Everest doesn’t share any body panels with its ute sibling.
Body-on-frame construction plus a clever 4WD set-up featuring a Terrain Management System make it a formidable off-road machine.
This system with four preset modes — normal, snow/mud/grass, sand and rock — alters the vehicle’s throttle response, transmission and intelligent 4WD system to extricate the vehicle from most imaginable sticky situations and a few unimaginable ones.
Adding a bit more gloss to the Everest’s 4WD credentials are a water-wading capability of 800mm and 225mm of ground clearance — that’s 5mm less than the Ranger Ute.
The pricing of the two-model Everest range could prove something of a financial mountain for some to scale, leading off at a lofty $75,990 for the entry-level Trend provided for this road test. From there, it’s a $12,000 price hike to the flagship Titanium.
Everest ownership has come at a slightly higher price than most pundits were picking, and it is more expensive than most of the competition. The argument could be made that this price differential is justified, given it’s larger and more lavishly equipped.
It will be fascinating to see how many are prepared to dive that deep into their bank balance to buy their very own Everest.
Under the bonnet is a lusty turbo diesel plucked from the bowels of the Ranger ute, although it produces 4kW less at 143kW. This latest version of Ford’s soldthe-world-over 3.2-litre Duratorq fivecylinder turbo has some technology upgrades that improve fuel efficiency and the delivery of power and torque.
However, as it does in the Ranger, the engine can feel gruff and lumpy. Part of that’s down to an odd-number fivecylinder configuration that emits a distinctive engine throb. I find it pleasant enough, but understand it’s a slightly offkey sound that may not strike a positive chord with everyone.
Power and a decent dollop of it from this quirky five-cylinder is produced within a relatively skinny 1500-2000rpm power band. Punch past 3500rpm and it loses some of its performance mojo. As with the Ranger ute, keeping the engine working as much as possible in its 1500-3000rpm happy place (and it does require a bit of concentration) makes for a more rewarding and invigorating driving experience.
The six-speed auto does a good, rather than outstanding, job. Based on the same transmission found in the Ranger ute, it packs a few extra enhancements, including advanced driver recognition software.
This learns your driving style through all manner of clever electronics and then adjusts its gear change to your driving style, whether it’s sedate, frenetic or somewhere in between. Despite this innovative technology, there were times when the gearshifts felt slightly out of step with the motor, and lacked the crispness and confidence I was expecting.
A spacious cabin seats seven with ease with plenty of rear head and legroom for everyone. A first-in-class power-fold third row of seats, power tailgate and a fold-flat second row add the sort of flexibility and versatility many buyers are wanting in their SUV.
Advanced connectivity and driverassistance wizardry abounds in this vehicle and one of the smartest bits of kit on board is SYNC2. For the uninitiated it’s Ford’s latest generation in-car connectivity system. With natural voice commands, you can manage the entertainment system and airconditioning controls and connect to mobile devices more easily than ever.
Coil-spring suspension with Watt’s linkage provides a nice blend of combativeness to see off the rough stuff, and has sufficient handling nimbleness to keep this king-size machine calm, composed and on its best behaviour over tight and twisty roads.
Height and weight are the two major roadblocks to handling stardom for a vehicle of this size, because of the body lean it generates during up-tempo cornering. The Everest isn’t immune from these traits either. To its credit, its bodyroll containment through tight bends at moderate-to-brisk speeds is neat, tidy and generally well sorted.
Like the Ranger ute, the Everest enjoys a good off-road workout, mastering badly worn and weathered tracks or boggy paddocks with equal ease. Competent onroad and not afraid of a bit of dirty work off it, there’s lots to like about this vehicle.