New Ford Everest is smooth, sexy and oozes quality

Everything about the new Ford Everest is smooth and sexy.

001-off-my-wheelsBrian Joss – It’s also big with an in-your-face attitude and it can wear the iconic Blue Oval with pride. It’s a truism that Ford makes good products although now and again a dud may slip off  the assembly line like the old MK5 Escort or the Sierra.

I remember driving the Sierra around the Aldo Scribante race track near Port Elizabeth when it was launched all those years ago. To my mind it seemed a clumsy kind of car but apparently it was built to last as I still see some of them tooling round Cape Town’s suburbs.

The Ford Everest 3.2 4x4 Limited AT: Smooth driving. Picture: Quickpic
The Ford Everest 3.2 4×4 Limited AT: Smooth driving. Picture: Quickpic

Enough of Memory Lane. The old Everest was a capable vehicle when it hit South Africa in 2009, but that’s all it was, capable. The all-new Everest which made its debut here late last year is, to use a  cliché,  a different kettle of fish. It has been reborn, in fact, from the ground up, and packed with technology that was scarcely dreamed about back in the day. There are only two models in the range: the Limited, the flagship of the range which was the test vehicle and the XLT both powered by a 3.2-litre five cylinder TDCI turbo-diesel engine that produces 147kW and 470Nm mated to a torque converter six-speed automatic transmission with manual and sport mode settings. The Ford Everest is a four-wheel drive vehicle, but because of circumstances I was not able to head for the rough stuff, so I stuck to tar and a few rutted farmyard tracks. A feature is the All Terrain Management System which allows you to switch between all-wheel drive: normal, rock crawl, snow, mud and sand and an electronic locking rear differential.  It is a rear wheel driven vehicle and the snow, mud and grass mode should make short work of most mountainous terrain, especially with the low down torque available.

Oh, and as I mentioned it is big, very big, inside and out. I had to go to Cape Town International to fetch four people, not small people with their luggage, and not overnight bags that I was expecting but holiday sized luggage. And everyone and their baggage fitted in, in reasonable comfort and with six up, including the front seat passenger, the Everest didn’t seem to mind the load. The tailgate is electric And you can move the two back seats electrically which helped to get everyone in, although it was a bit squashed for the passenger on the single seat at the back. You have to be quite agile to get in and out so the running boards and grab handles proved their worth.

Because of its four-wheel drive credentials, you would expect Ford to ignore ride quality and the interior trappings. However, it’s like flying first-class sans the turbulence. The Ford Everest gives smooth ride, more in keeping with a top-of-the-range sedan, and it sticks to the road like drying tar to the soles of your shoes. But the ride was a bit soft, in my opinion. It weighs 2.5 tons and despite its size there is almost no body roll.

On my test route it sailed over hills and down dales quite happily, and though the transmission has a torque converter the six-speed was as smooth as satin and there was no lag, at least I didn’t detect any.

The electric power steering in  heavy city traffic is a boon and it works well in conjunction with the park assist. This proved its worth at the Home Affairs office in Malmesbury. Parking is always at a premium there and we had to go to collect our Smartcards. The Everest mounted the pavement without any problem and I managed to squeeze into the small parking bay without any mishap. It also drew a lot of admiring glances from people waiting outside for their number to be called. The SUV is a stylish looking vehicle, so it’s not surprising.

The quality is evident throughout the interior which oozes sophistication. The cabin is remarkably quiet without any noise intrusion. There’s lots of leather and an 8 inch touchscreen which includes Sync®2 that recognises 10 000 natural voice commands (I didn’t try each one) but you can control the entertainment system, climate control and connected mobile devices more easily than previously and the menu is easy to navigate. The instrument cluster focused around the central analogue speedometer. Dual four-inch colour screens flank the speedometer and can be customised to provide a wide range of ancillary information, including switching between the digital rev counter and off-road driving gauges. There is also an electrically operated moonroof. Not sure why Ford didn’t call it a sunroof. The premium sound system is just that – premium with super reproduction. You won’t have trouble find space for odds and ends. There are over 30 storage spaces.

Some of the technology includes curve control, a blind spot information system including cross traffic alert and parallel park hands-free on the Limited: all  you do is  brake, shift and accelerate. All these features work, as I found, and it was particularly useful when I had to reverse out of parking bays, and the camera also helped. Safety measures include roll stability control. seven air bags, high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps and LED daytime running lights. Adaptive cruise control which made its debut in the Ford Fusion last year (tested) is also employed in the Everest.  The system uses a front-mounted radar that constantly measures the distance to vehicles ahead and is designed to maintain a driver-set cruising speed and distance by controlling the powertrain and brakes, and will either slow the vehicle down or speed up according to the prevailing traffic conditions.  The radar also incorporates distance indication and distance alert functions, which measure the distance to moving objects in front. When a vehicle ahead is too close visual warnings are given on the built-in head-up display. The impressive list of safety features includes ABS brakes with EBD, hill launch assist, hill descent control and trailer sway control.  Fuel consumption appears to be reasonable. Ford claims 8. 5 litres/100km and my figures weren’t much more than that. From Milnerton we went twice to Stellenbosch, once to Malmesbury, a few side trips to the airport, Pinelands, Claremont and Table View and there was still half a tank left in the 80 litre tank. With the Everest, Ford is clearly taking aim at Toyota’s Fortuner  and the Land Rover Discovery Sport.  I think it will pose serious competition for those popular marques.

The Ford Everest 3.2 4×4 Limited AT is an impressive package: it is comfortable, with plenty of space for kit and caboodle as well as the kitchen sink. The Everest is as much at home in heavy traffic as it is on the open road.

The two models in the range are the XLT and the flagship Limited which comes with a price tag of R663  900. The price includes service intervals of 20 000km, a five-year/1000 000 service plan, three-year roadside assistance and a comprehensive four-year/120 000km warranty.

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