We noted that compared to the Everest flagship’s burly 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine, the 118kW/385Nm 2.2 four-cylinder was capable of solid cruising pace without any fireworks, but we weren’t so sure how it would cope with a heavy load strapped to its back.
So when the Everest 2.2 TDCi came our way for a full road test a couple of weeks ago, we decided to put it to work. Some real work. We piled in six people, strapped a Sprite Splash caravan to its towbar, filled the Sprite with all six peoples’ luggage, and schlepped the whole lot to the Drakensberg for a camping trip.
The Everest 2.2, like its more powerful 3.2 sibling, is rated to tow a 3000kg braked load (750kg unbraked) but the first time we hitched on that caravan we thought Ford had made a grave miscalculation with this boast. While towing the empty caravan home from where I’d collected it, the Everest’s engine light came on and the vehicle went into a reduced-power ‘limp’ mode. It was barely able to crawl along at 70km/h on the freeway up some of the hills.
But then the problem disappeared and the Everest behaved itself for the remainder of its time with us.
On our trip to and from the Drakensberg there were no more issues with engine lights or limp modes, despite the vehicle being far more heavily laden. What had caused that original problem remained a mystery.
With the engine in full health the Everest 2.2 proved to be a very capable tow vehicle after all. No doubt the more powerful 3.2 version will get going with more vigour, but the smaller engine hauled that heavy load quite comfortably once it got into its stride.
The car was generally able to maintain the speed limit on the freeway, except for uphills necessitating a downshift or two in the six-speed manual gearbox (an auto version is also available). It rolled along calm and collected, without feeling like the engine was being strained or overworked.
Also, the 11.8 litres per 100km wasn’t bad fuel economy for the big load being hauled.
The Everest’s large size and weight ensured solid directional stability, preventing it from being too badly affected when the caravan started swaying. A system called Trailer Sway Control uses gyroscopic sensors to measure vehicle roll and turning rates and selectively brakes wheels and adjusts engine power to help prevent sway.
It’s a quiet performing vehicle with noise-cancelling technology that uses microphones to detect and measure engine noise, then cancels it using opposing sound waves from the speakers in the cabin.
The big Ford also has great glideability, especially in this 2.2 XLS derivative which comes with nice, fat 17” high-profile tyres that generally laugh at potholes (the pricier XLT version rides on 18s).
The third row of seats was not the happiest place for our teenage passengers, due to its low roof and the fact that you can’t adjust the backrests of the upright seats. But there’s ample legroom in row three when the middle-row passengers feel merciful and move their seats forward - whilst still retaining decent legroom of their own. The backrest angles of the middle row can also be adjusted for comfort.
That third row is ideally for younger children, but our teens managed to survive the long trip without asking “are we there yet?” too many times. Middle and rear seat passengers get their own air vents and climate controls, so from a temperature point of view everyone was a happy camper.
With all the seats up there’s not much luggage room, and holiday travels with a full complement of passengers will definitely require a trailer. But with just the front two rows occupied and the rear seats flipped down, cargo space is a very generous 1 050 litres. There’s a full size spare wheel mounted under the vehicle.
On test here is the Ford Everest 2.2 TDCi XLS 4WD selling for R537 900. It comes with an offroad package including selectable four-wheel drive, low range, four terrain modes (Normal, Rock Crawl, Mud, Sand), 225mm ground clearance and a generous 800mm wading depth. The 2.2 XLS also comes in a two-wheel drive version retailing at R458 900.
Equipment levels in the baseline XLS spec are fairly comprehensive and include a SYNC 1 entertainment system with Bluetooth with Voice Activation, plus mobile and multimedia device integration. The pricier models get Sync 3 with a large tablet-like touchscreen.
The XLS also comes standard with cruise control, four 12v power points, leather seats, and safety features like stability control, hill-launch assist, rear-view parking camera, and six airbags. Service intervals are every 20 000km and the new Everests are sold with four-year/120 000km warranties and five-year/100 000km service plans.
The Everest 2.2 delivers no high-performance fireworks but is capable of an honest day’s work, even when loaded to the max. For caravanners and boaters on a budget, it offers a very handy price saving of around 100 grand compared to the 3.2-litre 4x4.
Sprite Splash caravan is a home away from home on two wheels
The four-sleeper Splash, selling for R229 900 is the flagship of Sprite’s caravan range which also includes the Swing and Sprint.
With a tare mass of 1094kg which requires a tow vehicle with a GVM of 1330kg, the Splash features an island double bed and a four-seater dinette that converts into a second double bed.
With its lifting roof the caravan is more streamlined while being towed, but roomy and well ventilated when being lived in.
It comes standard with a 173 litre fridge, and a slide-out external kitchen with a microwave, two-burner gas stove and sink. The Splash comes standard with a built-in awning.
There’s no toilet or shower, but it does have a washbasin and a mirror inside.
The Splash seems solidly built except for a couple of niggles: the flimsy securing clips for the fridge door snapped, causing it to open and dump its contents on the floor during towing.
The battery-operated ceiling lights were also ill-secured and fell off during towing.
But it’s cleverly laid out and there’s storage room galore, with a plethora of cupboards for stashing groceries and camping gear.