Sensible and Wild new Ford Everest additions show their talents
Line-up grows from two to six models, with the Wildtrak being the headline addition powered by the 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 engine.
Wildtrak name now features on the Everest.
The lofty expectations Ford set out for the new Everest, in every sense of the Ranger-based SUV’s name, got off to a steep start when it removed stickers from the two model line-up’s asking prices last year.
Caught between a Fortuner and Prado
Besides being a radical departure from the old model, the third generation Everest’s target was clear; no more rivalling the Toyota Fortuner outright, but rather the step-up Land Cruiser Prado with a more premium and it has to be said, newer product.
As much as the shift in focus made sense in principle, the simple truth that has accompanied the Everest ever since the post-facelift original generation debuted in 2009, is that it will always be viewed as an alternative to Fortuner, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport in spite of its Prado-aiming price tag.
It is a notion the Blue Oval is well aware off as last week, it expanded the local range from two trim levels; Sport and top-spec Platinum, to four with the addition of the XLT and the first-time Wildtrak.
At the same time, the four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive drivetrains are supplemented by a rear-wheel-drive configuration that has upped the local model count from two to six.
According to Ford, the additions provide a better spread of models targeting the Fortuner and Land Cruiser Prado from a pricing standpoint, with a range of features and tech it says dramatically bolsters the appeal of the Everest as both a premium SUV and a less luxurious but still capable family hauler with seven-seats.
As a way of saying ‘hello’ properly, the launch of the XLT and Wildtrak involved a mini-adventure drive from Johannesburg passed Rustenburg and then into the Pilanesberg on both tar, badly patched of what looked like tar, and gravel in a form of a game drive through the Kwa Maritane National Park.
Return of the XLT
First to sample, the XLT returns as the new base Everest model and possibly – although it can be argued – as the direct rival for the Fortuner VX that sits atop it’s line-up.
Compared to the Sport that now sits above it, the XLT loses the black mirror caps and door handles, blacked-out 20-inch alloy wheels and gloss black grille for conventional colour coded mirrors and handles, silver 18-inch alloys and a partial chrome grille.
Also carried over is the LED headlights and option of having the wheels swapped-out for 18-inch all-terrain tyres – a no-cost option available across the entire Everest range.
Inside, the XLT’s specification sheet is almost identical to the Sport as Ford has furnished the interior with partial leather seats, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, the eight-inch digital instrument cluster, a wireless smartphone charger, eight-speaker sound system, electric tailgate, five type-A and type-C USB ports, cruise control and the 12-inch SYNC4 touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
On the safety front, the XLT comes standard with Pre-Collision Warning Assist, front and rear parking sensors and Blind Spot Monitoring as standard, along with Lane Keep Assist, Hill Launch Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Reverse Braking, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Driver Attention Alert and Hill Descent Control on 4×4 models.
In fact, the only omissions specification-wise from the Sport is the 400-watt inverter and Road Edge Detection system.
Not as luxurious as the Platinum, the off-road focused Wildtrak, which debuted last year initially only for New Zealand, follows the same exterior logic as the Ranger, in addition to being the most accessible Everest model to offer the new 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 engine.
From the outside, the Everest Wildtrak’s adaptions are clear and comprise model specific 20-inch alloy plus a different grille finished in Bolder Grey, freestanding silver roof rails, an alloy front skidplate, grey mirror caps, Wildtrak scripting on the bonnet and silver side-steps.
Inside, the 12-speaker B&O Play sound system and ambient lighting from the Platinum are specification absentees, though as standard, the Wildtrak gets the 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster, the 400-watt inverter, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, black roofliner, a tyre pressure monitor, the now customary Wildtrak yellow stitching on the doors, dashboard, steering wheel and the e-shifter gear lever.
Safety-wise, the Wildtrak builds on the Sport by getting the 360-degree surround-view camera system as standard, along with Adaptive Cruise Control, tyre pressure monitor, Park Assist, Evasive Steering Assist and a drive mode selector with six settings; Slippery, Eco, Normal, Tow/Haul, Mud & Ruts and Sand.
A further differentiating factor is that the Wildtrak eschews the XLT and Sport’s part-time four-wheel-drive system, for the permanent setup featured on the Platinum, meaning the rotary transfer case dial gets the 4A setting in addition to the standard issue 2H, 4H and 4L.
Four and six
Regardless of the drivetrain or trim level though, the constant is the Everest’s 800 mm wading depth, towing capacity of 3 500 kg, 229 mm ground clearance, breakover angle of 22.2-degrees, departure angle of 25.3-degrees and 30.4-degree approach angle.
Out on the road, the differences are immediate and while a lot has been said, and continues to be said of the new V6 once used in the Ford F-150, the revised 2.0-litre bi-turbodiesel powering the XLT is anything but a disappointment or slouch.
Known internally as the Panther unit, the mill delivers 154kW/500Nm and is connected to a recalibrated version of the ten-speed automatic gearbox co-developed with General Motors.
The V6 on the other hand, aptly called Lion, uses the same ‘box, but fires 184kW/600Nm to all fours. Unlike the Ranger, the single-turbo 2.0-litre engine isn’t available on the Everest, which once again becomes an imported model sourced from Thailand.
Behind the wheel, the first stretch of the journey in the XLT was something of an eye-opener compared to the old Everest.
Besides the improvements to the interior and refinement, plus the seats that made the journey comfortable over some truly horrible surfaces near Rustenburg, the revisions made to the transmission stands out as the changes are not only much smoother, but no longer prone to the skipping sensation exhibited by old the Everest.
This means a better utilisation of the available power and torque delivered in a more linear fashion than the 157kW/500Nm made by the previous generation.
The return run in the Wildtrak started off with a slow drive though Kwa Maritane for its obvious reasons, and one which is coped with well on a route well-rutted and littered with sharp stones in places.
It was, however, felt that the road-biased 20-inch wheels teetered on the firm side for the gravel terrain, although as mentioned, it can be swapped-out for the all-terrain 18-inch alloys.
A different story awaited on the tar where the wheels felt adept and the ride still as good as on the XLT. Unsurprisingly though, the drivetrain stands out.
Suffice to say, the V6 hauls as a simple prod of the accelerator results in the Everest’s accelerating with such verve and immediacy that you tend to forget its mass of nearly 2.3-tons.
By the same token, the transmission is even more impressive as a result of the greater power and torque. Smooth and inconspicuous, it works an absolute treat and comes with the added party piece of moving itself to Park automatically when left in Drive with the ignition switched-off.
While some are likely to still question the Ford Everest’s validity of being a Prado the Blue Oval says it is, the inclusion of the XLT and Wildtrak has nonetheless left in the prime of position of indeed being able to rival it and Fortuner regardless of the longstanding perceptions some will continue to have.
Colours and Price
Standard across the Everest range is a four-year/120 000 km warranty as per the Right to Repair legislation, and optional six-year/90 000 km service plan.
In total, seven colours are available; Arctic White, Aluminium Metallic, Absolute Black, Snowflake White, Meteor Grey, Equinox Bronze, Sedona Orange, Blue Lighting reserved solely for the Sport and Luxe Yellow unique to the Wildtrak.
- Everest 2.0 BiT XLT AT – R832 400
- Everest 2.0 BiT XLT 4×4 AT – R896 300
- Everest 2.0 BiT Sport AT – R918 500
- Everest 2.0 BiT Sport 4×4 AT – R984 300
- Everest 3.0 V6 Wildtrak AWD AT – R1 084 000
- Everest 3.0 V6 Platinum AWD AT – R1 146 500