DRIVEN: Ford Everest Sport deserves to succeed
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GEORGE - You can’t always account for peoples’ taste and even less for their buying decisions, but it’s been somewhat puzzling that Ford’s Everest hasn’t been more competitive when it comes to monthly SUV sales.
I’ve never understood why it hasn’t run the Toyota Fortuner a lot closer because it’s a fine vehicle with rugged looks, nifty tech and safety features and decent offroad ability, but as they say, I am not my brother’s keeper.
That may change though in the next few months with the introduction of the Everest Sport.
In the past year Ford has launched a number of different variations of their popular Ranger double cab with the Thunder, XL Sport and FX4 all based on standard Rangers with a variety of attractive add-ons that give it a fresh and funky appearance.
We know that South Africans like nothing more than some zoosh added to their double cabs and manufacturers across the board have obliged and now Ford have turned their attention to the Everest.
The Sport is based on the XLT so under the bonnet you get the same 2.0-litre four cylinder single-turbo mill that produces 132kW and 420Nm of torque distributed to the wheels via Ford’s now familiar 10-speed automatic transmission. You get the option of either a 4x4 version or a 4x2, both with rear diff-lock.
It’s on the outside and the interior though where the people at Ford have struck the right cord.
A black mesh grille, a black front bumper chin, 3D Everest lettering on the bonnet, black mirror caps and door handles, ebony roof rails Sport decals on the rear doors and finished off with black 20-inch alloy wheels certainly makes it a looker.
The interior finishes are striking too with embossed leather seats in blue stitching and soft-touch leather with similar stitching on the dashboard while the driver’s seat is eight-way power adjustable.
The last time I drove the new Everest was at its launch in Botswana a few years ago which included mostly dirt roads and fairly long stretches of straight tar.
This time however, we took off from George and headed towards Oudtshoorn along some delightfully twisty tarred mountain passes.
The first thing I noticed was how solid the vehicle felt, from closing the doors to sound dampening and no squeaks or rattles to speak of. It’s the same when driving. Sure it’s an SUV so hard cornering wasn’t in the design brief but it handled well and felt secure at a variety of speeds.
Much of this has to do with the fact that all 4x4 Everests are permanent all-wheel drive with an electronic coupler on the centre differential, so there’s no wondering where the front is going to end up as it grips around the corners. It also has a tweaked suspension set-up and I suspect the 20-inch rims with a decent profile had something to do with it as well.
Personally I’m not a huge fan of large rims on a 4x4 but in the Sport guise I’m guessing most owners won’t be tackling grade four and five obstacles over weekends so for normal dirt roads and tar the application works perfectly.
To prove that we drove over the famed Swartberg Pass which was Thomas Bain’s final and best piece of road building with 28 spectacular kilometres of sharp twists, hairpins and sweeping bends.
The Everest comes standard with Ford’s Terrain Management System allowing you with a turn of a dial to switch between snow, mud, grass, sand, rock or normal roads. And if the going gets really tough you can switch to low range as well.
It was dry on the day and you could have done it with a standard 4x2 vehicle but when you know that the electronics, including hill descent control should you need it, are doing all the good things to keep you safely ensconced it provides a large measure of comfort.
Driving around the Southern Cape also showed that the 2.0-litre single turbo is Ford’s sweet spot in their engine range. It has enough power when called on, will gladly cruise all day at the national speed limit and is light on diesel averaging just over 8l/100km covering various terrain over the two days we drove it.
The Everest Sport comes standard with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system and while it’s been around for a while now, it’s still one of the best in the business when it comes to features and user-friendly logical ease of use. Linked to an eight-inch integrated touch screen, it has intuitive voice control, recognises multi-touch gestures such as swipe, slide, scroll and pinch-to-zoom and has standard mapping as well as Tracks4Africa for when you venture far off the beaten track.
To keep all seven occupants safe there’s the Electronic Stability programme with traction control, Trailer Sway Control, Hill Launch Assist and Roll Over Mitigation as well as seven airbags.
As a package there’s not much to dislike about the Everest Sport and it will be interesting to see over the next few months whether buyers can be swayed into the blue oval.
All Everest derivatives come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a 4-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A 6-year/90 000 km service plan is included.
Ford Everest Sport 2.0 4x2 auto R676 600
Ford Everest Sport 2.0 4x4 auto R718 000