Sporting a new engine and transmission, Ford's revitalised Everest has its sights set on the refined family-SUV niche...
"The ride is busier than it should be and the agricultural powerplant is less acceptable here than it is in the Ranger.” While it scored an impressive 77/100 in our December 2015 road test, the Ford Everest 3,2 TDCi XLT struggled to convince the team those two shortcomings were minor enough to overcome strong pricing.
Fast-forward nearly four years and what you see here is a thoroughly revised Everest sporting a brand-new biturbo-diesel powertrain linked to a 10-speed automatic transmission plucked straight from the Ranger Raptor (and the Mustang). The engineers have also tweaked the suspension in a bid to smooth the ride on the Ranger’s ladder-frame chassis and solid rear axle. The front-mounted stabiliser bar is bigger in diameter and stiffer for improved roll control and handling performance. To compensate, the front spring rates have been reduced, plus Ford has adopted three different damper tunes depending on the engine and drivetrain configuration in place of the previous single system across the range.
Lastly, Ford’s streamlined the range from eight to six derivatives, all equipped with automatic transmissions. The older 2,2- and 3,2-litre engines are still offered in a model each, while another variant uses the new 2,0-litre engine in single-turbo guise and the remaining three this test vehicle’s bi-turbo setup. We’re testing the flagship Limited model, which comes exclusively with all-wheel drive.
Let’s start with the biggest change: the new drivetrain. Employing a small, high-pressure turbo boosting at low revs alongside a large, low-pressure unit, the 2,0-litre offers 157 kW and 500 N.m from just 1 500 r/min (improvements of 10 kW and 30 N.m on the 3,2-litre). That bigger turbo takes over duties at higher engine speeds for enhanced top-end power.
The 10-speed transmission, meanwhile, keeps the engine on the boil and, handily, can skip gears. It offers a sport mode and full manual override, plus the ability to lock out higher gears should the vehicle be towing a caravan, for example.
So, how does the performance of the BiT engine compare with the 3,2-litre’s? Keeping in mind this better-equipped Limited model weighed 70 kg more on our scales despite boasting a lighter engine, an improvement in 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 0,32 seconds is impressive, as is the reduction in the 80-120 km/h test of 0,47 seconds. The average braking time, too, fell from 3,13 to 3,06 seconds.
What bare facts and figures can’t convey, however, is how much more cultured the 2,0-litre is. There’s little vibration and clatter at idle and the powertrain stays notably subdued as the revs approach the 4 500 r/min redline (where performance tapers off sharply and the transmission swiftly hooks another gear).
Are 10 ratios too many? Possibly. There is a great deal of shifting taking place, thankfully most of it unobtrusively but, occasionally, quite noticeably. It’s undoubtedly a more instinctive transmission than the older six-speeder but our experience with the revised Mustang has shown the 10-cog unit gels better with high-revving petrol engines.
Anoraks may notice this test unit is equipped with 18-inch wheels and tyres where Limited variants normally sport 20-inch items. Offered as an option for those buyers who’ll take their Everests off the blacktop, their chunkier sidewalls improve the ride, too. The CAR team was impressed with the Everest’s ability to hide its utilitarian roots (the coil-sprung rear suspension in place of the Ranger’s leaf springs do their part) and perform a solid impression of a unibody SUV in most driving conditions. Bumps mid-corner tend to deflect the rear axle and undulating roads will see the suspension struggle slightly to keep firm control of the body. But we’re nit-picking; generally, the Everest offers a pleasant, refined driving experience.
Other highlights of this mid-cycle nip and tuck include a new keyless entry and start system on the Limited and mid-rung XLT, an enhanced security system, a revised dark colour palette inside and extended soft-touch surfacing (not enough for one tester, who bemoaned the lack of cushioned door tops on such a premium-priced vehicle).
Limited grade includes such luxury-car features as xenon headlamps with automatic high-beam control, powered and heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, satellite navigation coupled with Ford’s comprehensive Sync3 infotainment system, adjustable ambient lighting, and an electrically controlled tailgate and third row of seats.
Perhaps most impressively, the Everest Limited has a full range of active and passive safety systems, including forward-collision alert and auto braking (now detecting pedestrians), lane assist, blind-spot monitoring and parking assist.
There’s little doubt the Everest would benefit from a diet to shed some of those nearly 2 500 kilograms and make it more competitive in terms of dynamic ability compared with unibody SUVs such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento. Despite its obvious bloat and the strain that places on the drivetrain, however, the new BiT engine and 10-speed transmission have elevated what was already the market’s best bakkie-based SUV.
The greatest gain? Fuel consumption. Where the 3,2 TDCi used a thirsty 10,80 L/100 km on our mixed-use fuel route, the revised Everest needed just 8,0 L/100 km.
So, the new Everest is quicker, quieter, uses less fuel, looks more upmarket and is better equipped. What’s not to like? Our only advice if you’re considering an Everest and have no plans to commit serious off-roading is to investigate the 2,0 BiT XLT 4x2. At R624 100, it’s the sweet spot in an improved range of vehicles, and likely an 80/100 SUV.
ROAD TEST SCORE
See Full Ford Everest price and specs here