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Exclusive: Ford guns for Prado with 2015 Everest

Check this: Ford’s Ranger-based Everest SUV racks up the test kilometres at Ford’s You Yangs proving ground in Victoria.

Toyota SUVs seen at Ford proving ground as Everest pitched against SUV benchmark

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Ford logo1 Apr 2014

FORD engineers are testing the Australian-developed 2015 Everest SUV against Toyota’s class-leading Prado in shakedown testing at the You Yangs proving ground near Geelong in Victoria.

Left-hand-drive Prados have been spotted going through their paces alongside prototype 4x4 Everest ‘mules’ as the Australian design and engineering team prepares the Ranger-based SUV for global production in Thailand from next year.

Although the Ford vehicles are camouflaged in black-and-white war paint, two distinct nose and tail designs appear to be in the offing for Everest – a standard treatment for mainstream models and a bolder design for an upmarket version that could be the Everest equivalent of Ranger’s chrome-heavy Wildtrak sports flagship ute.

While rival Holden’s engineering operation is being scaled back as projects dry up under General Motors’ savage Australian cuts, Ford’s Australian engineering team is working flat out on at least four simultaneous projects – the seven-seat Everest due in 2015, a Ranger ute facelift scheduled within the next 12 months, the last-hurrah FH Falcon large sedan and ute (and related Territory SUV) due in the fourth quarter of this year and the Escort budget medium sedan being developed for China.

As GoAuto reported last week, the production Escort is expected to be revealed on April 20 at the Beijing motor show ahead of its showroom debut in the second half of this year, when it will slot between the top-selling Focus small car and larger Mondeo in the Chinese range.

Developed jointly by an international team that includes Ford Australia, the Escort will be made in China by Ford and its Chinese joint-venture partner Changan, and is unlikely to venture into western markets, although India remains a possibility.

On the other hand, Ford last week confirmed that the Everest – also known as Endeavour in some markets – will be produced for global markets at Ford’s Rayong plant in Thailand, running down the same production line as the Ford Ranger that was also developed in Australia.

Previous Everests have not been offered for sale in Australia, as they have been regarded as too agricultural, but the new model almost certainly will, thanks to five-star safety standards, slick road manners and high levels of equipment on premium models.

Although Everest is built on the Ranger platform, Ford has done away with the Ranger’s rear leaf springs, replacing them with coils on the solid rear axle which is to be anchored by trailing arms and Watts links.

The fact that Ford is using Toyota Prados in back-to-back testing with the seven-seat Everest indicates the lofty targets set for the all-new SUV, as the rugged Prado is widely regarded as a benchmark for serious four-wheel-driving.

Test Everests spotted by GoAuto have been equipped with a multi-mode 4WD drivetrain that will cater for a variety of driving conditions, from icy roads to off-road.

The feature – called Terrain Management System – is likely to have been adapted from Ford’s large North American SUV, the Explorer, which has four driving modes – normal, snow, sand and mud/ruts driving – controlled by a simple rotary knob on the console for on-the-fly changes.

Similar to Land Rover’s Terrain Response and Jeep’s Selec-Track, the Ford system is expected to be applied to automatic transmission-equipped Everests, particularly those upmarket models aimed for western markets such as Australia.

Everest test vehicles have been seen recently in Scandinavia where they are presumably trialing the Terrain Management System on snow and ice.

And if the system is being applied to Everest, there is a chance it will surface on some versions of the related Ranger, which is also being prepared for a mid-life facelift to coincide with Everest production.

Disguised Ranger development vehicles – with their noses cloaked in black sheets to hide the new look – have also been photographed by GoAuto going through their paces at the You Yangs.

Everest and Ranger are likely to get a similar family look, partly for parts commonality reasons at the Thai factory.

Ford announced Everest production for Thailand at last week’s Bangkok motor show where the Blue Oval company showed the Everest concept for the first time since it appeared in its global reveal at a Ford event in Sydney last year.

Ford has promised that Everest will continue the company’s heritage of “class- defining SUVs”.

Apart from Prado, the Everest will go into battle against Holden’s Colorado 7, Mitsubishi’s Challenger, Nissan’s Pathfinder, Isuzu’s MU-7 and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee.

So far, all the Everest test vehicles spotted by GoAuto have been powered by diesel engines, most probably the TDCi unit from Ranger.

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