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Car reviews - Ford - Everest - Trend

Our Opinion

We like
Great to drive in all scenarios, permanent 4X4, onboard technology, willing drivetrain, Trend packs in plenty of equipment
Room for improvement
Cabin a bit low-rent, feels big, no Isofix, no steering reach adjustment, fiddly AC controls

Ford logo30 Jun 2016

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

Price and equipment

ALTHOUGH Everest pricing may seem on the steep side and Ford is targeting the Prado in its marketing efforts, comparing the mid-spec Trend tested here ($60,990 plus on-road costs) against a top-spec Toyota Fortuner Crusade with automatic transmission ($61,990 plus on-roads) reveals that Ford has packed in a substantial amount of value.

Once optioned with the $600 sat-nav upgrade, the Everest Trend comes in slightly less expensive than the Toyota and apart from a lack of leather upholstery, has all the equipment of the Fortuner plus dual-zone climate control, a bigger 8.0-inch touchscreen and hi-tech driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, driver alertness monitoring and automatic headlights/wipers. Blind-spot monitoring is oddly absent from this list, but the only feature we really missed over the Toyota was electric driver’s seat adjustment.

A friend who was considering buying an Everest while we had the Trend on test said their local dealership offered to arrange fitment of leather upholstery to sub-Titanium variants for around $2500, so it is worth asking about this if a lack of leather is a deal-breaker. In the end, our SUV-searching friend opted to trade their Territory in for a Hyundai Santa Fe.

Compared with the basic part-time four-wheel-drive system of the Fortuner, the Everest has an advanced multi-mode permanent system that puts it into the LandCruiser/Land Rover/Jeep camp – and its third-row seats fold flush with the boot floor rather than being clunkily stowed at the sides as in the Fortuner.

For those deigned to take their shiny new Everest off-road, in addition to Ford’s well-publicised tough development and test regime in Australia’s harsh outback conditions, the spec sheet includes an electronic locking rear differential, wading depth of 800mm (100mm higher than the Fortuner), and ground clearance of 225mm (same as the Fortuner).

Approach and departure angles of 29.5 and 25 degrees respectively are almost on-par with the Toyota, which has a slightly better approach of 30 degrees, while the Fortuner has a higher 23.5 degree breakover angle compared with the Ford’s 21.5 degrees.

Standard safety gear across the Everest range includes a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, hill-descent control, hill-hold assist, trailer sway control, seven airbags, electronic stability control and Ford’s Emergency Assist function, which uses a tethered mobile phone connection to dial the emergency services if the airbags are deployed and the occupants do not respond to prompts from the voice-recognition system.

Interior

Initially the Everest interior is impressive, but searching fingers soon uncover the fact it is firmly in the rugged ute-based wagon segment and struggles to compete with plusher cabins found in its notional Toyota Prado and Land Rover Discovery rivals.

Hard, hollow plastics abound and the more we looked at it, the more we realised the dashboard has too many colours and textures going on at once. This is a matter of taste, of course, but a number of passengers who rode in our test Everest made comments to this effect and generally agreeed that it lacked class with its unconvincing finishes and scratch-prone metallic surfaces.

And there is no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which is so last-generation and we did find ourselves wishing we could bring it a bit closer for the perfect driving position. Ford’s explanation that engineering a push-button start into the Everest precluded a telescopic steering column has the whiff of organic fertiliser, and if it’s really true, we’re surely not alone in preferring to turn a key once per journey over driving arms-outstretched for hours at a time.

We also got annoyed by the low-set, fiddly, dark push-button air-conditioning controls with poor contrast on the labels. We repeatedly found ourselves accidentally retuning the radio using the rotary dial just above when we really wanted to adjust the temperature. Using the touchscreen to control temperature and airflow instead is also a slow process.

Better is the quality and type of fabric used on the seats. As a result, we never lamented the lack of leather. The front seats are among the most comfortable we have experienced in this class, at least as good as the Prado and far superior to the Fortuner.

Middle-row passengers have plenty of space, their own ventilation controls and decent visibility. The bench is roomy for three-abreast travel and the squab supportive. These seats slide and recline to balance out interior space and comfort and the release system is one of the segment’s easiest to use.

Losing points for the Ford was a lack of Isofix child seat anchorages. Ford didn’t even reply to our email asking the reason for this glaring omission from a family car or when this might change. Better for carrying infants was the relatively low and non-shrill nature of the Everest’s various notification chimes, including that for the automatic tailgate, which was pleasantly quick in operation.

Third-row seating is not the most spacious, but at least the headrests are not too close to the rear windscreen when they are deployed.

Inexplicably, there are no air-conditioning controls back there, instead relying on the driver or front passenger to set the flow and temperature using the touchscreen. This could prove annoying on a long trip as requests for adjustments must be relayed from two rows behind. Vents for both rear rows are in the ceiling, rather than at face level.

Talking of the touchscreen, functionality is good and we had the useful $600 sat-nav upgrade, but operation was a little laggy and suggested some beefier electronics behind the screen were required. Ford’s voice control is more intuitive than most and responds intelligently to a number of conversational-style commands.

Ford tends to do decent instruments and the Everest is one of the best with the analogue speedometer nestled between two large colour multi-function screens.

On the right is a choice of digital speed readout, various off-road angle data, a rev-counter and heaps of trip computer options while the left screen offers sat-nav and entertainment info. It all works brilliantly and the inclusion of DAB+ digital radio was much appreciated.

Bluetooth is good too, with easy device pairing, streaming and telephone functions working well and good call clarity. But for music fans, the decent-sounding audio system has a disappointingly low maximum volume.

Other on-board tech was a bit quirky, with the adaptive cruise control sometimes racing up behind a car then slamming on the brakes as if it noticed it way too late. Sometimes it would hunt around, speeding up and slowing down as if it were structuring to judge of the distance between the Everest and the vehicle in front.

For those bringing their own devices, there are numerous 12v outlets, USB ports and even a 220v mains-style socket.

Storing all those gadgets is easy due to the large glovebox, a big (cheap and plasticky feeling) bin between the front seats and another recess in front of the gear selector. The door bins can accommodate drinks bottles, there are cupholders in the front, centre and rear seating rows and a couple of other cubbies dotted around the cabin including a sunglasses holder.

Engine and transmission

Australian-delivered Everests rely on Ford’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, which in this application develops 143kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm from 1750-2500rpm.

Throttle response is crisp, sometimes a little too eager for smooth progress around town. As expected from the performance figures, there’s always plenty of poke. It is not an engine that pushes occupants back in their seat on a wave of turbo torque, but it delivers an effortless build-up of speed in an easygoing, linear and free-spinning manner.

Likewise the transmission, which we rarely gave thought to – one of the biggest compliments we can pay to a cog-swapper. It’s slick, quick, kicks down intuitively and we didn’t select Sport mode until quite late in our test, because the standard mode was impressive enough.

But despite Ford’s efforts with noise cancellation technology, the engine is noisy when cold and at around 2000rpm under motorway cruising conditions it emits a frequency that set our teeth on edge. Other than that, road and wind noise levels were low, even on corrugated dirt or coarse-chip bitumen.

A six-speed automatic transmission drives all four wheels and combined-cycle fuel consumption across the range is listed as 8.5 litres per 100km. CO2 emissions come in at 224g/km.

We achieved 9.4L/100km during our week-long test, although it must be noted that around 500km of our 700km was motorway slog, so those doing a lot of urban and suburban work can expect much higher. For comparison, we got 9.5L/100km in our Fortuner road test and 10.2L/100km in a Prado.

It’s a better drivetrain package than the two Toyotas, but when compared with the Prado, the Everest’s relatively small 80-litre fuel tank limits its appeal overlanders adventuring to remote locations.

Ride and handling

This department is where the Everest beats all-comers, although there is still a little shimmying over some bumps to remind occupants this is a body-on-frame ute with a boot. Middle and rear-row passengers endure a firmer ride than those in the front, too.

Like the Ranger on which it is based, the Everest suffers from a feel of ‘bigness’ that makes threading it through tight urban streets and into parking spaces a little more fraught compared with rivals from Mitsubishi, Toyota and Isuzu, all of which seem to shrink around the driver and feel smaller than they really are. Some people might appreciate the Ford’s bulky feel, but we didn’t.

But out on sweeping, bendy country roads is where the Everest really shines.

First of all is the excellent forward vision, which combined with the incredibly accurate steering to provide complete confidence the car would go where we pointed it.

Although the steering is pretty feel-free, we quickly learned how faithfully the Everest tracks along the driver’s chosen line, with a remarkable resistance to understeer and none of the feeling of being about to trip over its own front tyres as we have experienced in the likes of the Toyota Fortuner.

On corrugated dirt, the Everest felt pretty imperious provided there was some throttle input. Under braking or other throttle-off scenarios, there was a little skittishness.

With heaps of grip, we could keep up a lot of momentum along the dynamic bitumen section of our road test route, diving into corners almost unfeasibly fast for a vehicle of this type. Only glancing at the speedometer revealed some of the corner speeds achieved, such was the lack of sensation. We were deeply impressed.

Likewise the brakes. We found the sensations of acceleration, speed and deceleration in the Everest so deceptive that only watching the speedo plummet revealed the strength of its stoppers, which also have a pleasantly positive pedal feel.

The Ford was our companion for an early morning 200km drive during the east coast low weather event that famously decimated a number of Sydney waterfront properties, and although its impact on our Queensland road test location was not as severe, the wind and heavy rain made for some extremely challenging road conditions.

How glad we were to be aboard the Everest on that day. It felt rock-solid on soaked, windswept motorways and shrugged off ankle-deep standing water at 100km/h like it wasn’t even there while standing firm against howling cross-winds.

The permanent four-wheel-drive system provided heaps of sure-footed confidence in these difficult conditions and the numerous driver aids and safety tech helped marshal the big SUV through areas of poor visibility. The driver alertness monitor even accurately picked up our fatigue from the high concentration levels this journey required.

The same conditions scuppered our plans to test the Everest’s off-road abilities by turning the local tracks into lakes interspersed by sections resembling thick chocolate sauce, but it is well known how prodigiously this vehicle copes off the beaten track.

Ford has styled the Everest with a confident look. And confident was the feeling we got when driving it.

Safety and servicing

The Everest is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty and service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km.

A lifetime capped-price servicing program requires $390 for the first visit, $520 for the second and $480 for the third (correct at time of writing). These prices do not include AdBlue exhaust additive top-ups (when required), brake fluid replacement (two-yearly) and other more long-term jobs such as coolant, diff or transmission fluid replacement (done at 10 years or 240,000km). As an incentive to use its dealership workshops, Ford includes 12 months state motoring club membership and roadside assistance, plus a free loan car, with each service.

ANCAP awarded the Everest a maximum five-star safety rating, with 35.98 points out of a maximum 37 overall. It scored 15.38 out of 16 in the frontal offset test and perfect scores of 16 out of 16 in the side impact test and 2 out of 2 in the pole test. Pedestrian protection was deemed ‘acceptable’ and whiplash protection judged ‘good’.

Standard safety gear across the Everest range includes a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, hill-descent control, hill-hold assist, trailer sway control, seven airbags, electronic stability control and Ford’s Emergency Assist function, which uses a tethered mobile phone connection to dial the emergency services if the airbags are deployed and the occupants do not respond to prompts from the voice-recognition system.

Verdict

Compared with its competitors, which are all impressive in their own right, the Everest is the off-road-ready seven-seat SUV that gives the least away in terms of on-road manners to its bush-bashing abilities. Its real point of difference is the masterful way it carves up curvy country lanes.

It’s still not quite as refined as the best car-based SUVs such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, both of which offer more equipment and interior plushness for the money, but the big Ford offers extra ruggedness and towing capability over those vehicles.

We have compared the Everest to the Prado that Ford would like us to think it competes with and the Fortuner we think it actually does. But we feel the car that comes closest to matching the Everest’s breadth of abilities is the humble Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

Once Mitsubishi releases a seven-seat version of the that model in Australia, Ford will have more of a fight on its hands because the Japanese car has similarly flush-fitting rear seats and the option of running in permanent four-wheel-drive mode, while lacking the Everest’s bulky round-town feel.

That said, the Everest is a better car overall but the the Mitsubishi has keen pricing and one of the industry’s longest warranties on its side.

Until the seven-seat Pajero Sport arrives, the Everest is king of the hill, and the Trend variant is the one to have from a value for money perspective.

And something no Mitsubishi, or Toyota or Isuzu can claim is to originate from a team of talented Australian designers and engineers. It’s hard to put a price on that.

Rivals

Toyota Fortuner Crusade from $61,990 plus on-road costs
A swish-looking interior and impressive drivetrain blended with unstoppable off-road skills and a reputation for dependability, but the Everest shades it on the road while offering a slightly better on-paper proposition.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed from $52,750 plus on-road costs
Value pricing and a long warranty add to generous amounts of equipment and formidable off-road ability plus surprisingly good on-road skills, but for the moment lacks a third seating row.

Toyota LandCruiser Prado GXL from $61,990 plus on-road costs
Like the Everest it has permanent 4x4 with selectable terrain modes and a versatile seven-seat interior. Can’t compete with Ford on equipment at this price, feels a generation or two old inside and only really feels at home off-road or on high-speed highways.

Land Rover Discovery TDV6 from $69,630 plus on-road costs
More expensive than the Everest and with a pricy options list as long as the lineage of its recently deceased cousin, the Defender. But it similarly matches the Ford’s blend of on- and off-road abilities while rocking an outstanding premium interior.

Isuzu MU-X LS-T AWD from $54,000 plus on-road costs
Closely related to the Holden Colorado but with some chassis, equipment and interior differences plus a different engine and five-year warranty. Underbody armour makes this one tough off-roader.

Holden Colorado 7 LTZ from $51,490 plus on-road costs
A comprehensive and intriguing facelift with new Trailblazer nameplate is on the horizon, but for now the Colorado 7 is old-fashioned off the pace, plasticy inside and noisy. It’s cheaper, but the Mitsubishi wipes the floor with it for just $1200 or so more, making it hard to justify.

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