THE FORD EVEREST SUV IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS — IT IS MUCH MORE
Superior ride and cornering set the Everest apart from the ute-based SUVs and make it a worthy challenger for the Prado.
The tiny old woman from the mountain village deep in the hills of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand said something I had no chance of understanding as she slipped a colourful handmade bracelet over my wrist.
She happily chattered something else as she tied it on and scuttled away, still smiling happily.
“Oh crap,” I thought to myself, “this doesn’t mean we’re married now, does it?”
Not that I would be against the idea of living in the steaming, humid but utterly gorgeous jungle-covered hills of Thailand, it’s more that I couldn’t deal with the lack of basic amenities in the small hill-tribe village we were in during the launch of the new Ford Everest SUV.
As it turned out, the bracelet didn’t symbolise marriage, just “buy some more of our handmade souvenirs that you will never have a use for”.
But the trip into the hills of Thailand had proved one thing: the Ford Everest was anything but another rugged ute-based SUV.
Although it was easy to conclude the Everest was based on the Ranger ute — like its ute-based competitors Mitsubishi Challenger, Isuzu MU-X and the Holden Colorado 7 — Ford insisted otherwise.
The price of the Everest ($75,990 for the Trend and $87,990 for the Titanium) and the fact Ford repeatedly mentioned the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado as the natural prey suggested that it believed it had created something well beyond the usual ute-based SUV.
Ford said the Everest, rather than being based on the Ranger, was a completely different vehicle, although engineered using a similar platform.
“The T6 platform is as flexible as it needs to be to deliver what our customers require,” says Ford’s vice president of product development for Asia Pacific, Trevor Worthington. The Everest is the second vehicle spun off it. First impressions of the Everest do, however, start off on an extremely familiar foot — the 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel engine is instantly familiar and just as impressively torquey as it is in the Ranger, albeit somewhat quieter thanks to the Everest’s active noise-cancelling technology.
The engine produces the same 470Nm of torque as it does in the Ranger, but it is down on power by 4kW, to 143kW, due to the move from Euro 4 to Euro 5 emission standards.
But it is the ride and handling that truly surprises. If you approach the Everest as an expensive competitor to the Colorado 7, you will be astounded by the utter superiority of its ride and ability to go around a corner.
If, on the other hand, you do as Ford suggests and approach the Everest as a cheaper alternative to a Prado, well, you will still be astounded by the utter superiority of its ride and ability to go around a corner.
Ford has built a far better Prado out of a vehicle that that idiot “common sense” tries to write-off as a ute-based also-ran.
The secure and confident Everest proved to be as incredibly refined, comfortable and capable on the road as off it.
It is still an unmistakably large vehicle and almost instantly you realise this is not a Territory.
The Falcon-based Territory SUV is a far sharper on-road tool, but couldn’t go much further off-road than a grassy verge.
The Everest, on the other hand, is a different story.
Although we were “strongly encouraged” to use the Ford’s extremely clever off-road Terrain Response System, the off-roading we did could have easily been handled on the “Mud” mode. Not to say that it was easy, it is just the Everest is that remarkably capable in the muddy stuff.
The low range and locking diff are nice old-school touches that will most likely make the Everest utterly relentless off road, as opposed to merely extremely capable.
Ride comfort on and off the road was impressive. However these things can change when dealing with New Zealand’s coarse, uncompromising roads. Much like the worrying initial appearance of a tiny, wrinkled person wrapping a bracelet on your wrist as a threat of unwanted eternal union, the initial appearance of the Everest as a Ranger-based rough-as-guts off-roader is deceptive.
Neither perception happens to be even remotely close to the truth.