In 2016, we were introduced to the new Everest – a shining example of a sparkling era in Ford design and capability. Initially, only the top-spec models were imported fully-built-up from Thailand, which meant that this SUV (loosely based on the T6 Ranger platform) was priced to compete with the likes of Toyota’s Prado. For many, that may have been a bit of a stretch.
Now, with local assembly on the table thanks to a R2.5 billion investment in the Silverton factory in Pretoria, there are six new Everest models to choose from, including five lower-priced versions powered by the 2.2-litre TDCI. This means that the Everest can go head to head and model for model against the segmentleading Toyota Fortuner, just as the manufacturer pits Ranger against Hilux. The 2.2-litre Everest scores highly in three major areas: occupant comfort, high levels of specification and fuel-efficient engines. Available in either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic versions with the option of 2WD or 4WD, the smaller-engined Everest aims to match its rival’s efforts punch for punch, with some added benefits thrown in.
With regards to comfort, the Everest comes with noise cancelling technology across the range, making it by far the quietest vehicle in its class. A Watts Link rear suspension provides class-leading gravel road and asphalt stability at high speeds. The interior is also impressive, with third-row seats that fold into the floor (which, unfortunately, can’t easily be removed). Air-con vents for all three rows of seats is an added bonus.
In higher-spec XLT (and Limited) models, a new SYNC 3 infotainment system replaces the SYNC 2 system previously used, while SYNC 1 still operates in base-model XLS trim. All models get six airbags (and optional 7th driver knee airbag) as well as traction control, stability control and trailer-sway control amongst other safety aids.
Everest Lite Images
The familiar 2.2-litre and 3.2-litre Duratorq engines (as found in the Ranger) are employed, while gearboxes are exactly the same as before. As of the launch date, rear-drive-only models get no diff-lock, while 4WD models come standard with a rear locker as well as low-range and a terrain management system. Alloy wheels are common across the range, with XLS versions getting off-road friendly 17-inch wheels, the XLT 18-inch and the Limited 20-inch. Unfortunately, and unlike in the Ranger line-up, no 4WD automatic version is available with the 2.2 litre engine.
We’ve always liked the Everest, and a smaller engine is welcome, particularly as it delivers impressive fuel economy – a major factor when measured against the thirstier 3.2-litre or against the efficient rivals from Toyota.
But, as with many small capacity turbocharged units, turbo lag is a problem, especially in the manual. Get a gear change wrong and the diminutive lump can be left gasping for breath. Automatic versions are much better and keep the engine in its happy place, contributing to a smooth drive. The added sounddeadening and noise-cancelling works well, making this busier mill perfect for those long roads.
Off road, the anti-stall and hill-startassist systems make life easy, while the Watts Link offers by far the most stable ride in the bakkie-based SUV class. As a value all-rounder, the Everest is a top notch choice. But, if you want an automatic with 4WD capabilities, you’ll have to stretch to buy the punchy 3.2-litre version.