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Driven: RWD Ford Everest to poach Territory buyers

Mountain climber: The FWD Everest Trend will be followed in 2017 by a five-seat version of the Australian-developed SUV.

Rear-drive Everest to be followed by five-seater in 2017 in Ford showrooms

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Ford logo2 Dec 2016

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

FORD Australia has launched its first step in filling the void left by the Territory with a rear-wheel-drive Everest making its local debut this week, followed by an even more affordable five-seat version coming next year as the wait until the more car-like Edge large SUV stretches into 2018.

According to Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman, the rear-wheel-drive Everest will snare “10 to 20 per cent” of former Territory buyers, with more expected to step up to the company’s Australian-developed ladder-frame SUV as its pricetag continues to be lowered.

For now, the rear-wheel-drive Everest is available only in middle-tier Trend specification priced from $55,990 plus on-road costs. It costs $5000 less than the equivalent all-wheel-drive version but $1000 more than the entry-level all-wheel-drive Ambiente that gets significantly less equipment.

The Trend exclusively adds 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 17s), auto high-beam, adaptive cruise control, 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation and Sync3 infotainment including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto mirroring technology and digital radio, dual-zone climate control, front parking sensors, lane-keep assistance, power-fold door mirrors, auto wipers and a power tailgate.

The Everest will also soon acquire a circa-$50K starting pricetag thanks to the removal of the third-row next year – bringing it closer to the bulk of Territory volume.

“There won’t just be a rear-wheel drive, there will be a five-seat rear-wheel drive, so you can do your own math around that,” Mr Whickman confirmed at the national media launch of the rear-wheel drive Everest in Melbourne this week.

“By the time you put a rear-wheel drive with five seats you might get into that (sub-$50K) area.” When asked whether the Everest pricetag could start with a ‘4’, he said: “It might get in that space.” When further pushed on whether the entry model needed to be in the $45,000 region, he replied: “I don’t think we need to.

“At the end of the day they (Territory and Everest) are very different vehicles offering very different things to different people,” he continued.

“That’s why I think the crossover will be 15 to 20 per cent. They will be buying it for functional reasons.” Mr Whickman said there was a market for buyers who wanted the ride height and towing capacity of an Everest, but without its off-road capability.

“They want the size, the driving position, the functionality, but they’re not necessarily going to be taking it up a hill,” he explained, pointing to the popularity of two-wheel-drive medium SUV models such as the brand’s own Kuga/Escape as a reliable informant of interest.

“(But) the Everest is going to offer something more than that given its size and its capabilities around towing,” he added.

As for the sales split between two- and four-wheel-drive Everest models, the Ford Australia boss pointed to the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and its 15 to 20 per cent sales bias towards models with power going to half the number of wheels as a potential indicator.

“The market will tell us pretty quickly I think, I don’t think it’s going to be 50:50 but it’s hard to say,” Mr Whickman said.

Wholly locally engineered, the Ford Australia team removed the front differential, engineered a new propshaft, and revised the suspension settings and engine mounts for the rear-wheel-drive Everest.

Kerb weight falls by 98kg to 2309kg thanks mostly to the removal of the transfer case (-50kg) and rear driveshaft (-38kg).

Outputs for the single available 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel remain identical to the all-wheel-drive versions, with 143kW of power at 3000rpm and 470Nm of torque between 1750rpm and 2500rpm.

A six-speed automatic also continues as standard, and the two-wheel-drive Everest Trend can maintain the three-tonne maximum towing capacity of the all-paw model grades.

No performance figures are quoted, however combined cycle fuel consumption falls by 0.1 litres per 100 kilometres to 8.4L/100km.

However, the new addition of the 2WD Everest Trend and next year’s five-seat Everest Ambiente were not, Mr Whickman insisted, merely there to cover a hole in the line-up until the Territory’s spiritual replacement, the Edge, comes on line in 2018.

“We’ve already doubled our line-up of SUVs, when the Edge comes along it just adds to that, so it’ll be great when we have it,” he said.

“I just see that as another string in our bow, so to speak, when it comes along.”

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