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Ford to add two-wheel-drive Everest

Two into four: Ford’s mid-range Everest Trend will get a two-wheel-drive version that chops $5000 from the price.

2WD looms as new battleground for heavy SUVs as Ford expands Everest range

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Ford logo20 Jun 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

FORD Australia will introduce a two-wheel-drive version of its Australian-developed, Ranger-based Everest seven-seat large SUV in September, just as production of the locally produced Territory draws to a close.

The company denies the move is to help cover for the lack of a seven-seat family version of the expected Territory replacement, the Canadian-built Edge five-seat SUV, with Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman saying the developments are unrelated.

“We are trying to expand our SUV line-up wherever we can see an opportunity,” he said. “This is independent of the Territory replacement discussion.”

While Ford is holding back on its announcement of the Territory replacement – they say it is imminent – the company has gone ahead with the announcement of a two-wheel-drive alternative to the (until now) four-wheel-drive Everest, but only at the mid-range Trend specification level.

The two-wheel-drive Everest Trend will be $5000 cheaper than its 4WD counterpart, taking it down to $55,990 plus on-road costs – $1000 dearer than the entry level Everest Ambiente 4WD at $54,990.

This is still dearer than the most expensive two-wheel-drive Territory, which tops out at $52,720 for the diesel Titanium.

The company says it has no immediate plans to add a two-wheel drive version of the Everest Ambiente, which could have driven down the price of entry to the Everest range to below $50,000.

Mr Whickman defended the decision to include 2WD only on Trend, saying this configuration was based on customer feedback and competitor activity.

He said customers wanted certain features that fitted with the Trend equipment levels.

“We also have seen some competitor activity there, and as one of the mainstream brands, we want to jump in there quickly ahead of some other brands, as we think that could be an area of good potential,” he said.

So far, one of the few rivals to offer a 2WD variant in the heavy-duty SUV class is Isuzu with its MU-X that starts at $40,500 for the LS-M and stretches to the 2WD LS-T at $46,700.

Like the Everest, the MU-X comes standard with a diesel engine and automatic transmission, but unlike the Ford, it offers all three specification levels in both 4x2 and 4x4.

According to Ford, about 20 per cent of MU-X sales are 4x2, while up to three quarters of Territory sales have been rear-wheel drive.

Toyota’s top-selling Prado and HiLux-based Fortuner, as well as Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport and Holden’s Colorado 7 are offered only in 4x4 guises.

Colorado 7 is set to be replaced by a new-generation model – this time adopting the Chevrolet name of Trailblazer – in Australian showrooms in the third quarter of this year. However, Holden says it has no plans for a 4x2 version.

Apart from the loss of 4x4 capability, the 2WD Everest Trend gets the same features as its all-paw Everest team-mate, including the 143kW/470Nm 3.2-litre diesel engine.

From September, those features will include Ford’s latest Sync3 connectivity on the Everest Trend and flagship Titanium, adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, what Ford describes as “more conversational voice recognition”, a new 8.0-inch touchscreen with capacitive touch technology that allows swipe and pinch movements like a smart phone, as well as improved graphics, move intuitive operation and compatible apps such as Spotify, Pandora and Google Maps+.

Another Everest 2017 model-year update is the addition of Isofix child seat anchorage points, alongside the existing five rear-of-seat anchorage points.

Ford says the Isofix anchor points on the outer second row seat positions will make it easier to fit child seats.

For now, Ford Australia has ruled out adding its 2.2-litre diesel Ranger engine to Everest, saying that while it is available, range complexity and customer desires rule it out.

So far this year, Ford has sold 1486 Everests, which makes it Ford’s seventh best-selling model. Its share of the large-SUV segment is 3.2 per cent – about half that of the Territory which, despite its age and impending demise, controls 6.5 per cent.

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