Ford mounts an urban assault with updated Everest
FORD'S bush-bashing Everest has been to finishing school. The new model is more refined, has more technology and boasts the same bi-turbo diesel engine that powers the Ranger Raptor.
The Blue Oval is making a play for the faux-wheel drive fraternity with an emphasis on comfort and a more car-like driving feel.
Features such as keyless entry and push button start are now standard, along with satnav and upgraded infotainment with smartphone mirroring and digital radio. There are price increases of $1000-$2200.
Base grade Ambiente now starts from $49,190 before on-roads for the rear-wheel drive variant, whereas the top-shelf four-wheel drive Titanium is slightly cheaper at $73,990
Base models carry over the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel with a six-speed automatic. The engine is also available in the most popular mid-spec Trend exclusively with four-wheel drive.
Ford recognises some buyers are sceptical about the 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo from the Raptor. The company doesn't mention its capacity in media material and says the better fuel efficiency and increased torque and power numbers will speak for themselves.
The new bi-turbo diesel starts from $56,190 and the all-wheel drive version adds $5000.
About 85 per cent of Everests leave the showroom with a tow bar (capacity is 3100kg) and research shows about 40 per cent regularly get off-road use. For that reason, off-road
18-inch wheels are available on the Titanium.
Trend grade comes with leather trim, heated-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, power rear tailgate and LED running lamps. There is a no-cost optional cloth interior with manual seat adjustment.
Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian protection has been added from Trend models up. It will be standard on Ambiente from next year - a conspicuous omission for a family- focused, $50,000-plus vehicle. A welcome addition is speed sign recognition, which uses cameras to provide a constant reminder of the zone.
Titanium grade gets blind spot and cross-traffic alert, along with power folding third row seats, parking assist and 20-inch alloys.
New Ford Australia president and CEO Kay Hart says customer satisfaction remains pivotal to the success of the new Everest.
"Where my focus is, and where I have been working in past roles, is really that customer experience and working with our dealers," she says. "That's where our opportunity lies … working in that customer experience and rebuilding some of that trust."
The move to a five-year warranty across the range is a positive first step.
Under-the-skin changes mean the Everest is less prone to pitching its nose down over bumps and leaning through corners.
It feels more nimble when changing direction, an achievement considering its work truck underpinnings. It doesn't have the car-like feel of bitumen-focused rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento but it closes the gap to the Toyota Prado, the best of the genuine bush-bashers. Ford says interior serenity has been improved - the claim to have reduced cabin noise by 4dB is hard to disprove.
The new bi-turbo can sound a little agricultural at low speeds. Under way, it's a smooth and quiet ride thanks to the 10-speed auto - on the highway at 100km/h it chugs along at less than 1500rpm.
Ford marketing manager Karen Larkin says the focus on refinement was important as most Everests spend the bulk of their time in the city.
"Everest has established its 4x4 credibility. Last year we launched the rear-wheel drive and we have seen in the marketplace significant growth in SUVs generally. (We are) recognising a lot of the buyers are spending a lot of time in an urban environment," she says.
The bi-turbo "brings the refinement and quietness in the cabin the urban SUV buyers are looking for".
PRICE Increased $1200 for base Ambiente, mid-spec Trend is up $1000 ($2200 if you opt for the bi-turbo) but top-shelf Titanium has dipped $340. Third row seating for the Ambiente adds $1000, seven seats are standard in the remaining models.
TECH Keyless entry and push-button engine start-stop, power/folding side mirrors, SYNC3 infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Satnav is standard across the range.
PERFORMANCE New 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel gets an extra 14kW/30Nm, runs quietly and economically on the highway.
DRIVING Suspension has stiffer stabiliser bars, amended spring rates so there is less pitching over bumps and leaning in corners. For its bulk, it is relatively nimble.
DESIGN Minor changes to grille and bumpers to provide a wider appearance, alterations for trainspotters.
The hardcore Ranger Raptor may be on its way but don't expect souped-up versions of the Everest. Ford Australia president and CEO Kay Hart says there is no plan for a high performance Everest but she is looking forward to the arrival of the Territory replacement Endura SUV and new Focus later this year. Don't bet on a push to hybrid or electric drive.
"With electric vehicles to make it viable in any market, you need investment and infrastructure," she says. "We have a great range of electric vehicles and I'm sure when the time is right we will bring them here."
THE VERDICT Maintaining its off-road prowess, Ford has made its Everest metro-savvy. Most drivers would struggle to pick the difference between the 3.2-litre donk and the new bi-turbo and, no matter which engine you choose, the ride has improved and it's far more likeable around town.
FORD EVEREST TREND BI-TURBO
PRICE $56,190, 4WD $61,190 (on par)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5-years/unlimited km, $1940 over 4 years (OK)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl twin-turbo diesel, 157kW/500Nm (steady)
SAFETY 5 stars, adaptive cruise control with head-up warning display, traffic sign recognition and lane keeping, AEB with pedestrian detection on more expensive models (OK).
THIRST 6.9L-7.1L (thrifty)
SPARE Full-size (excellent)
CARGO 1050L (spacious)
TOWING 3100kg (good)