ROAD TEST: Ford Everest 2.0 Bi-Turbo 4WD XLT

JOHANNESBURG - Others have laid chase, but Toyota’s Fortuner has been running away in the distance with South Africa’s SUV sales crown ever since it was first launched almost 15 years ago.

If there is one contender, however, that deserves to run with it, it’s the Ford Everest, which manages around 200 to 300 sales a month, versus the Toyota’s 1000 plus.

Nonetheless, the Everest remains an underrated option, and one that recently saw a mid-life update that brought with it a subtle facelift, new interior materials and improved ride refinement, but the big news was the introduction of Ford’s new 2-litre turbodiesel engines as seen in the latest Rangers. The new units make up most of the range, although the old 2.2 and 3.2 TDCi motors continue to be offered.

There’s a single-turbo version of the new 2-litre, with 132kW and 420Nm, which can only be bought in 4x2 form, while the perkier twin-turbo version, with 157kW and 500Nm on tap, is available in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations - the latter being what we tested for a week recently.

This 2.0 Bi-T variant uses a small high-pressure turbo combined with a large low-pressure unit. When you’re pulling off from a standstill, both turbos work in tandem to enable a lag-free launch, while the larger unit takes charge of things higher in the rev range.

But how does it work in the real world?

We were certainly impressed with this engine’s overall sense of smoothness and refinement, and there’s plenty of low-down torque, but it did feel a bit wanting at highway speeds when suddenly tasked with an overtaking manoeuvre or a switching into a faster lane. This has more to do with this vehicle’s weight than a lack of grunt. Consider that the Everest weighs in at 2387kg in 2.0 XLT 4x4 guise, which makes it over 300kg heavier than both the equivalent Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

The 2-litre engine is mated to a ten-speed automatic gearbox, which can be good for off-roading, and overall efficiency, but with so many ratios it does feel a bit busy at times when navigating the urban jungle.

For tackling real jungles and other rough terrain, the Everest has a permanent four-wheel-drive system rather than the selectable transfer case typically found in ladder-framed vehicles. This should make it more stable in emergency manoeuvres (although the vehicle’s centre of gravity will certainly still count against it). For tackling tough off-road terrain, it still has low-range gearing as well as an electronic diff, and the vehicle can also do the guesswork for you via the driver-selectable terrain modes. Traditional 4x4 gurus, however, might still miss the transfer case and mechanical diff.

On the normal highways and byways the recently improved suspension system delivers an acceptably comfortable ride, but it’s still not in the same league as unibody SUV offerings such as the Kia Sorento.

But is it a good family car?

The Everest seats seven occupants but like many of its kind there isn’t a huge boot available when all benches are in place, although you could still fit a fair amount of shopping in there. The third row does fold to procure a much bigger trunk, but it doesn’t fold completely flat. 

As for seating purposes, the third row could feel a bit cramped for adults, and foot room is restricted by intrusions from the chassis, but this part of the car does become more tolerable if the second row passengers use the slide function to give up some of their legroom - which in its normal configuration is quite decent anyway. Sharing is caring, ain’t it?

Overall, it is a rather practical cabin with all the amenities that you’ll need, including Ford’s Sync3 touchscreen infotainment system. Standard safety features across the range include ESC traction control, Trailer Sway Control, Load Adaptive Control and Roll Over Mitigation, while 4x4 models also gain Hill Descent Control.

Those opting for the bi-turbo 4x4 model have a choice between XLT and Limited trim grades, the latter gaining a whole range of driver assistance gadgets such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Alert and pedestrian detection, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, Lane Departure Warning and Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist.

VERDICT

At R701 500 for the XLT 4WD on test, this Everest is priced right in line with the Toyota Fortuner flagship, but offers more power, albeit hampered by its weight. But the Everest is still an impressive and refined all rounder.

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to what you plan to do with your big SUV. If you frequently tackle rough farm roads and challenging off-road trails, and you appreciate the toughness and durability of a ladder-frame vehicle, then the Everest is arguably your best bet in this class. However, if your needs are not that intense, don’t overlook the more refined and plusher-riding unibody SUVs on the market, such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

IOL Motoring