By: Willem van de Putte

Johannesburg - When my wife and I recently spent a weekend in the Drakensberg, the first thing she noticed was the beautiful views as we headed into the resort. I, on the other hand, saw the new Ford Everest up close for the first time and decided to park next to it to take a closer look.

To say it’s an improvement on the previous model doesn’t do it justice. Parked alongside each other, there was virtually no resemblance but for the blue Ford logo.

When I got the chance to drive the new model shortly after testing its double-cab stablemate, the Ranger, I made the most of it.

It’s big, but after a while you get used to it. Minimum-specification parking bays in malls just allow it to fill the space between the white lines - so if you don’t want those shopping bangs and scratches, park further away, where it’s not too congested.

But driving is made easier with a reversing camera, parking-assist beeps and a semi-automatic parallel parking system that turns the steering wheel for you.

Once inside, the first thing I noticed was the amount of space, compared to the older model.

It’s almost cavernous and, similar to the Ranger, it’s incredibly comfortable to be seated in.

The vehicle is a seven-seater, but the two seats that pop up in the boot will probably not be comfortable for anyone taller than 1.5 metres over a long distance.

However, while I was testing the Everest, we had all our boys at home for the weekend to attend a family dinner in Newtown - and we had to stop to pick up my mother-in-law and arrived at the venue first.

It was only then that we got the full picture of how much space and weight seven people were. Ordinarily, we would have had to take two cars.

Electrickery

Swing the 3.2-litre five-cylinder into action and the dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree, showing a myriad electronic gadgets - it will take you a while to get used to what they all mean.

Rest assured, though, the instruments all have their uses. The Everest is packed with electrickery designed to keep you on (and off) the road in nearly any environment.

The impressive list includes electronic stability programme, hill-launch assist, hill-descent control, ABS, curve control, roll-stability control, a tyre-pressure monitor, lane-keeping systems and a host of other clever gadgets designed by the clever people in white coats.

It has an integrated 200mm touchscreen - as part of Ford’s Sync 2 in-car connectivity setup - that recognises 10 000 natural voice commands, controls the climate, and allows a number of cellular devices to connect.

We averaged just over 12 litres per 100km in various modes, which isn’t too bad, considering the Everest’s weight, size and six-speed automatic transmission.

White noise

Off-road, like the Ranger, there’s not much it has to stand back for, with almost every conceivable electronic aid making it a cinch tackling rough and tough terrain.

I believe these electronics are a ‘problem’ because, at the touch of a button or turn of a dial, everyone now thinks they are invincible. If you don’t believe me, spend some time at one of the many unsupervised 4 x 4 tracks in and around Gauteng at the weekend and see how ecosystems, vehicles and egos are being destroyed.

I drove the Everest around a track close to our home and it handled everything with aplomb.

However, the test car was shod with 20 inch rims and road tyres. This isn’t ideal. If the brake callipers allow, I’d go a size or two down and put on some serious off-road rubber.

On the way to our destination, one of the kids was reading through the owner’s manual and spotted informatIon about playing white noise through the speakers to cancel out road and wind noise - gone are the days that the sound of mud-terrain tyres singing on the tar was music to the ears.

Verdict

The Ford Everest makes on- and off-road driving a cruise, but can be tricky to park in city malls’ bays. - Saturday Star

FACTS

Ford Everest 3.2 4WD Limited

Engine: 3.2-litre, 5-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: 6-speed automatic

Power: 147kW @ 3000rpm

Torque: 470Nm @ 1750-2500rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 11.6 seconds

Fuel use (tested): 12.3 litres per 100km

Price: R663 900

Warranty: 4-year / 120 000km

Service plan: 5-year / 100 000km

EVEREST VS ITS RIVALS:

Ford Everest 3.2 4WD Limited (147kW/470Nm) - R698 900

Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8D 4x4 Auto (144kW/500Nm) - R591 500

Mitsubishi Pajero 3.2 DI-D GLS Exceed (140kW/441Nm) - R729 900

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.5 DI-D 4x4 Shogun Auto - (131kW/350Nm) R549 900   

Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD 4x4 Auto 130kW/450Nm - R601 200

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