Motoring / Motoring News
Jaco Van Der Merwe
Football coach Steve Komphela is never one to mince his words. One of his famous quotes that made its way into folklore is that ‘’statistics are like a bikini, they don’t reveal everything’’.
Komphela was referring to football statistics of course, but those words ring true in most cases numbers are involved. Take new vehicle sales figures for instance. Healthy figures might be the lifeblood that keeps manufacturers in business, but it’s not entirely a true reflection of what a vehicle is capable of or not. Impressive sales numbers don’t necessarily constitute a superior product, whereas low returns most certainly don’t indicate an inferior product.
An excellent example of Komphela’s bikini theory is how Ford’s ladder-frame SUV, the Everest, stacks up against the local market leader, the Toyota Fortuner. In January and February 2020 combined, 1 586 Fortuners found new homes compared to the 426 Everests that were sold. Taking nothing away from the Fortuner, which has proven its popularity for a good reason, on face value alone the Everest doesn’t deserve to take a hammering of almost five to one from its closest rival.
Quite ironically, the Everest’s bakkie sibling which rides on the same platform, the Ranger, outgunned Toyota’s popular Hilux in the double cab stakes from 2014 until 2019. Quite a feat in a country were the Hilux has played a key role in Toyota’s four-decade run on leading new car sales. But unlike the Ranger, the Everest, even after being updated midway through 2019, doesn’t seem to gain any ground on the Fortuner, which has been spared major transformations since it’s local launch in 2016.
After I completed hundreds of kilometres in the updated top-of-the-range Everest Limited during the launch drive in Botswana last year spanning from the Okavango Delta to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan, colleague Andre de Kock also spent some quality time in the flagship model later in 2019 and was equally impressed. In moving down the ladder, last month we got better acquainted with the XLT badge in 2.0-litre bi-turbo 4WD guise, which slots in just below the Limited at R717 800.
At over R80 000 less than the Limited, the XLT offers the same drivetrain, 10-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive system, the same spaciousness and seven-seat layout, leather seats and SYNC3 entertainment system, plus basic safety features.
The differences between the two top models lie in a shiny 20-inch alloy wheels instead of the 18-inch alloys, plus advanced safety specifications and creature comforts which include adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist, fatigue detection, head-up display, electric adjusted and heated front seats, both with lumbar support, parking assist, tyre pressure monitor, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, auto headlight level adjustment, high-beam assist, 230v power socket, ambient interior lightning, power tailgate and a dual power sunroof.
Whether all this spec is truly necessary must be determined by a potential buyer, but the bottom line is that the XLT performs exactly the same under the bonnet, can climb over the same mountain with the same number of passengers on board enjoying similar space. So instead of thinking as the XLT as a down-specced Limited, I’d much rather entertain the idea of the Limited being an up-specced XLT. The XLT is as much car as most people will ever need for the intended purposes they’re going to be buying it for.
In fact, I logged a longer journey in the XLT from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park last month than I did in the Limited in Botswana last year and can gladly report that both trips were equally enjoyable and comfortable. Both journeys included generous amounts of dirt roads, badly maintained stretches of tarmac and long stretches of well-maintained toll roads.
In fact, the XLT probably edged ahead of the Limited as my two pre-teen daughters managed to entertain themselves all the way to Mpumalanga and back. Any parent would know sustained second row peace is already half of the battle won. Not more so than when you do pull up close and personal to a herd of relaxed buffalo right next to a by-road like we had to privilege to encounter near the Kruger’s Numbi Gate.
One very convenient way of ensuring a truce in the back during a road trip is splitting up two children over two rows should your luggage still fit in the rear of your seven-seater. And the nice thing with the Everest is that it’s third row seating folds down instead of to the sides like the Fortuner, which is both easier to operate and provides more boot space should you decide to stow them.
The 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine produces 157 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque. Mated to the 10-speed auto that debuted in the new Ranger last year, the powertrain manages to provide the right amount of power through smooth shifts without giving away precious juice unnecessarily. We completed 1 079 km during our week in the XLT, achieving a fuel consumption of 10.6l/100 km, which is very acceptable for this cruise ship weighing almost two and a half tonnes.
Having to choose between two top notch competitors as closely matched as the Everest and Fortuner is not an easy task and not one you should take hastily. But not blinding yourself by numbers alone is a good way to start.
The XLT comes standard with a four-year/120 000 km warranty, a six-year/90 000 km service plan, three-year/unlimited kilometre roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited kilometre corrosion plan. Service intervals as 15 000 km.
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