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Everest to conquer Fortuner?

2009-11-09 09:59
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Ford
Model Everest
Engine 3l TDCi
Power 115kW @ 3 200r/min
Torque 380Nm @ 1 800r/min
Transmission Five-speed (manual/auto)
Fuel Tank 71l
Weight 1 894-2 025kg
Boot Size 341l
Airbags Dual front
Tyres 245/70 R16
Front Suspension Double-wishbone
Rear Suspension Leaf-spring live axle
Service Intervals 10 000km
Service Plan 5year/90 000km
Warranty 4year/120 000km
Rivals Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

Lance Branquinho

Ford has a thing with product names. Think Focus, Ranger or Territory - they’re all proper model names effortlessly finding resonance with the intended target market.

Now there’s the ambitiously monikered Everest. Named after the world’s most demanding climbing excursion, it’s a Ford Ranger with a third row of seats. Why would you want it above a Ranger double-cab though?

Well, the local market seems to have an affinity for bakkie-based SUVs though, if you look at the the Nissan Sani and Isuzu Frontier.

Then consider the tremendous sales success Fortuner has been for Toyota and it would appear South Africans are awfully keen on seven-seater bakkie-based SUVs.

Until the recent introduction of Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport and now Ford’s Everest, Fortuner has been allowed to corner this bakkie-based SUV market unchallenged.

Two models

Built in Thailand, the Everest is based (very closely) on the Ranger bakkie. Local buyers have option on three models, all powered by the highly regarded 3l TDCi turbodiesel engine.

The range features two levels of trim - XLE and LTD - with the latter featuring five-speed automatic transmission coupling.

Cabin trim is too light and should show scuff marks and texture wear quickly. Steering wheel needs satellite controls, too.

Fair equipment levels

XLE derivatives are available in both rear- and part-time all-wheel drive. Both two- and four-wheel drive models feature anti-lock braking, boast front and side first row occupant airbags, and a single-slot CD-front loader relaying via four-speakers.

Leather seats are standard too, whilst second and third row occupants have their own dedicated air-conditioning vent feeds.

Everest’s LTD specification adds shift-on-the fly four-wheel drive engagement (possible due to the automatic transmission) and five additional disc spaces on the CD front-loader (two extra speakers too, totaling six).

Terrain illuminating puddle lamps under the side mirrors ensure you don’t ruin expensive suede shoes when stepping out after parking beyond the paved safety at a venue after sunset.

Rear three-quarter view not a happy point of view. Boxy proportions and huge glasshouse area behind the rear axle look rather awkward.

Bakkie logic?

Mechanically Everest’s bakkie DNA is very much evident.

Whereas Fortuner and Pajero Sport are coil-sprung at the rear axle (buoyed by multi-links) Everest features a live axle with leaf springs, which many traditionalists will argue is better for towing and more stable under load on treacherous local dirt roads.

Be that as it may, leaf springs don’t yield the kind of ride quality you’d expect from a vehicle retailing the wrong side of R300 000. Fortunately Everest’s 16-inch wheel specification enables it to find a golden mean of sorts, ushering in adequate surface irregularity management.

In sweeping turns at speed though, the leaf-spring rear axle shows off its ox-wagon origins...

Peculiarly there is no load-capacity benefit despite the presence of a leaf-sprung rear axle over and above Fortuner or Pajero Sport.

Even stranger, considering its workhorse chassis, ample power and ABS-modulated deceleration, is Everest’s 1.2t tow rating, which is 300kg shy of Fortuner and Pajero Sport’s…

Operationally, Everest feels similar to a Ranger TDCi double-cab on the road, with the additional mass around the rear axle barely noticeable.

The manual transmission’s shift action is still substantial yet precise, whilst Ford’s TDCi engine, by no means the most powerful in class, deploys 115kW of power and 380Nm of rotational force with premium SUV refinement.

We didn’t venture off-road during the one day driving evaluation, which is just as well considering Everest has only a slippy diff at the rear.

If you get yourself stuck in a cross axle scenario, or need secure traction at the rear on an angled slippery surface, plenty of vehicle damaging momentum will have to suffice for the absence of a differential lock.

The Ranger bakkie range’s handsome lines and muscular proportions have not transferred to Everest’s aesthetics. Thin-slit grille design doesn’t really endow Everest with rear-view mirror overtaking presence.

Undercutting the rivals?

So, you might justifiably be wondering, what is the logic behind this oddly equipped newcomer from Ford?

After all, it pretends to be an off-roader, yet lacks a lockable rear differential (unlike Fortuner or Pajero Sport). Similarly, Everest espouses SUV dynamic values, yet makes do with leaf springs at the rear.

Furthermore it sports seven seats, whilst lacking airbags protection for the second or third row passengers (unlike Fortuner) and the driver does without cruise control or a trip-computer.

Oh, and the beige cabin trim is simply horrid – although Ford says darker trim (probably the Ranger’s charcoal) will be in the offering as an Everest mid-lifecycle update.  

Thing is though, Everest is discernibly cheaper than either the Fortuner or Pajero Sport, which in a price sensitive market could mean the difference between a double-cab or SUV purchase.

It also offers five-speed automatic and manual transmission options in 4x4 guise too, something that both Japanese offerings lack…


3.0 TDCi XLE 4x2          R324 990
3.0 TDCi XLE 4x4          R364 990
3.0 TDCi LTD 4X4 auto  R382 990

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