Cape Town - In the past 10 months, Ford South Africa has launched an onslaught of new vehicles locally. The new Everest marks its 7th product for the year and there are three more to come.
The new Everest is a huge step forward compared to the first generation launched locally in 2010 and an improvement over the refreshed version in 2013, at least it in terms of looks, capability, technology and all-round ‘toughness’.
It looks like it could possibly be the love child of the older generations and the soon-to-be-launched new Ranger set to arrive in October 2015.
Image gallery: 2015 Ford Everest
The Ranger is Toyota's biggest Hilux rival (just have a look at SA sales) but could the Everest top the Fortuner and Prado?
It's built from the ground up based on the automaker's global SUV platforms for the EcoSport and Kuga. Why will this new Everest win over SA customers? Because it thinks its a "super bakkie" and its comfortable enough to 'take home to mom'.
But more about its design later on.
Ford says its new SUV has a “rugged, sculptural design that reflects its unshakable toughness and technological prowess, which blends strength, smart features and style to bring consumers a tough and versatile SUV with true off-road capability”.
How Ford builds a car every 40 seconds
The Everest is powered by the latest-generation 3.2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq TDCi turbodiesel engine kicking out 147kW and a delightful 470Nm making it perfect for daily driving and serious off-roading or towing at the same time. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with some of the smoothest gear-changing yet in huge vehicle. It comes with a sport and manual mode too.
The Everest is available in two 4x4 derivatives; XLT and a top-spec Limited.
Bells and whistles
The XLT-spec includes the ‘innovative new terrain management system (TMS)’; comes with seven airbags, driver assist technologies such as electronic stability program with roll stability control, cruise control, rear park assist with rear view camera and 18” alloys.
For R50 000 more, the flagship Limited model has power-fold third row seats and a powered tailgate and heatable front seats.
It comes packed with standard driving aid programmes such as active park assist, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam control, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane keep assistant aides.
You can tell it apart from the XLT model by its bigger 20” alloys, high intensity discharge (HID) headlights and LED daytime running lights.
Not ugly duckling
And boy is it a looker, it’s as if it has transformed from the ugly duckling it once was in the previous model. It has a seriously assertive stance, similar to that of the F250 big bakkie in the US, but nice enough to take the family to a fancy restaurant after coming from a hectic off-road trip in the most challenging terrains.
I've never been a big fan of chromed bits but it looks good on the Everest, even inside the car everything is framed and instead of looking tacky, the chrome around the soft-touch materials is classy. The chrome looks good outside at the back too, and I like the big scuff plate under the tailgate. However, the rear looks a bit out of proportion like someone with a 36 waist trying to squeeze into a size 28 pair of pants.
The cars are available in eight body colours.
Launched in the Western Cape this week when the weather has reminded us that winter is not yet ready to go, we were unable to put its 4x4 capabilities. It does however have 225mm ground clearance, 25 degree departure angle, 800mm water wading, 21 degree ramp-over angle and a 25 degree approach angle.
The TMS - which looks and functions very much like that of a Land Rover even though Ford won’t admit it - has four settings: normal, snow/gravel/grass, sand and rock - designed to take on the tough terrain.
The Everest's 4x4 mastery is capable thanks to its active transfer case, torque on demand and an electronic locking rear differential.
You can manually select high and low range modes on the fly below 60km/h, but the car needs to be stationary and in neutral to select the heavier modes.
'Tough but not rough'
Ian Fosten, Ford’s global chief programme engineer for Ranger and Everest, was at the launch to present the tech-savvy SUV.
Fosten told Wheels24 that the brief to the designers in terms of looks was it had to “look the way it performs. It had to be unmistakably tough, aerodynamic and it had to have a bold, modern design".
It's very difficult not too fall for this SUV's looks, its candy to the eye, and with bakkie-like features and stance, its almost irresistible. It also has the largest Ford oval badge on its chromed grille fitted to any other vehicle outside the US. And it definitely has a distinctive identity for people to resonate with which Fosten speaks of.
The interior brief, says Fosten was "premium but practical" and includes many creature comforts like 30 storage compartments, power outputs for the second row and my favourite in the Limited edition - the powered third row seats. I wish second row seats could come with this function in other cars where the seats are sometimes tricky to fold flat.
There are eight-way adjustable front seats, a big glass roof and even the technology is user-friendly with one-touch buttons for most functions. The glovebox is big enough to stow away a laptop.
How does it drive?
Ride quality is very pleasant on the road and handling is suffice too. With that said, it takes a while for the car to get going meaning its sluggish on the offset. It's a big, heavy vehicle weighing in at 2.5 tonnes but that should not be an excuse for the delayed engine response. Perhaps Ford's engineers could tweak and refine that in the next version.
Gear-changes are smooth in the auto transmission but even though the Everest is pushing 470Nm it lacks overtaking power and left me hesitant and slacking off at times.
It's not the kind of car to chuck around in bends but it does have a comfortable road presence and I definitely felt safe driving the car through the Cape's mountain passes.
More from Ford...
Ford will launch the exciting new Ranger later in October, the little city-slicker Figo and the hotly-anticipated Mustang early December.
Everest XLT 3.2 4X4 - R593 500
Everest Limited 4x4 - R646 900
The options list only includes, mud flaps, metallic paint, a R4000 towbar and the dual moon (glass) roof - for the Limited model only - for an additional R10 360.
More news in SA
Toyota's popular Avanza receives a facelift in 2015 with the launch of a revised version in South Africa.
BMW celebrates the 40th anniversary of its popular sedan, the 3 Series, in South Africa. Here are five things you need to know about the new model!
'No insurance company will cover you for reckless, negligent driving,' writes First Car Rental's executive head, Melissa Storey. What happens if you crash a rental car?