Ford Everest Sport. Picture: Ford South Africa.
Ford Everest Sport. Picture: Ford South Africa.
Very few segments in the new-car market are as unmistakeably South African as the bakkie-based SUV. It’s so perfectly South African, isn’t it? Buyers love their ruggedness, practicality, peace of mind and the relatively simple technology beneath the skin. A Ford Ranger bakkie with a practical SUV body on top and luxurious mod-cons thrown in … What’s not to love?
The latest Ford Everest – now into its third generation and barely recognisable from its utilitarian forebear – has truly come of age. It looks thoroughly modern and eschews traditional bakkie-SUV cues – like too-strong a resemblance to the donor vehicle – in favour of a coherent design that draws inspiration from the purposeful American F-series pick-up truck.
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Secondly, it is absolutely huge now. 4.94 metres long and 2.2 metres wide. Might is right, after all, but you really are aware of its sheer size as you thread it through traffic or a tight parking lot. Thankfully there’s a phalanx of cameras and sensors to protect precious bodywork in close quarters. And clever lane-keeping assistance keeps you nudged safely between the lines should you momentarily misjudge the Everest’s size while on the move.
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Parked next to a premium SUV like a Range Rover Sport, the Ford does not look wholly out of place thanks to the aforementioned size. The Sport’s blacked-out grille, dazzling LED lights with slick daytime-running-light signature also look ace. Our test vehicle is shod with all-terrain 255/55 R20 Goodyear Wrangler tyres wrapped around upmarket alloy wheels finished in black, too. It’s oozing with machismo this car.
Grab a sturdy door handle, pull ajar one of the hefty doors and you could be fooled into thinking there’s zero relation between the Everest and the Ranger bakkie on which it’s based. Soft-touch surfaces abound and there’s sufficient padding in the seats and armrests to give the cabin a luxurious ambiance. Leather-like materials used on the upright dashboard don’t just feel durable, they’re high quality and trust us when we say there is every premium toy imaginable in here.
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Noise Vibration and Harshness (NVH) is kept to a minimum in the cabin, which is no mean feat considering how cavernous it is. Seating is comfortable throughout – including the third row, which boasts three-point seatbelts, has a surprising amount of leg- and headroom, and does indeed make the Ford Everest Sport a full seven-seater, with sufficient space for luggage left over.
The second set of seats can also be slid or reclined to free up even more space. You get 295, 898 and 1 818 litres of utility space in seven-, five- and two-seat layouts respectively. Although, there is no need to stow your surfboard or other leisure lifestyle kit inside the car, because Ford says the roof can handle static loads of 350 kg. This is in combination with 3 500 kg tow rating (400 kg more than before). Impressively, the driver and passenger seats feature electronic adjustment. The steering column is rake and reach adjustable, which it was not on the previous Everest.
In terms of standard equipment, the Everest Sport wants for very little. Ford’s latest Sync 4 infotainment with FordPass Connect and an embedded modem has Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth telephony with voice control functionality. There are a trio of USB slots.
Stealing the show inside is the system’s 12-inch touchscreen interface, which is now in an upright, tablet-like layout and is a absolute doddle to use. The graphics are great and the finger trace is supremely accurate. Many of the displays are repeated on the digital display in the driver’s instrument binnacle. Usefully, buttons on the steering wheel control the displays and you’re genuinely spoilt for ways to interact with the vehicle’s myriad displays.
Conveniently, you keep the chunky key fob in your pocket and tap the starter button. When you do that, the initial impression is that Ford has spent equal care and attention on engine refinement as it has fit, finish and build quality. The 2,0-litre, twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel is a refined and smooth-running unit, both from outside and within the cabin. It is the smaller engine of the two on offer – the other being the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel – but it’s pleasingly free of vibration.
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With our testing gear strapped in, acceleration feels brisk rather than fast. The twin-turbo oil-burner manages to shift the Sport’s hefty 2 450 kg (up 150 kg from its predecessor) bulk from zero to 100 km/h in 8.97 seconds. The braking performance was adequate when we tested it. 100 km/h to zero in 3.43 seconds in a distance of 38 metres. If the vehicle were lighter, both these performance metrics would improve.
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The standard-fitment ten-speed automatic transmission does an excellent job of keeping the boosted motor on the boil. At times we found it did have a tendency to hold too low a gear, only shifting up when the driver shifts the gear level to M and overrides the gearbox with the + button. Due to the sheer number of gears it cycles through, at times, you do get the impression of ‘clutch slip’ at certain revs. When you stab the throttle to demand a kick-down on the move, there is a moment’s lag. A delay that’s largely absent in the single-turbo version of the same engine.
Nevertheless, it’s best to leave the transmission be and let it shift optimally on your behalf in D. Once up to speed, the 154 kW and 500 Nm of torque – delivered at 3 750 and 2 000 r/min respectively – lends the Everest Sport a quiet, composed cruise.
The Everest Sport does a remarkably good job of mimicking a unibody construction SUV. Lending it this impression is the ride quality, thanks to a multi-link arrangement with coil springs at the rear, instead of the Ranger’s leaf springs. The Everest Sport displays very little of the fidgetiness that characterises most bakkie-based SUVs.
We kept our test unit largely on the black stuff, but if we had veered off-road, Ford’s clever Terrain Management System would have taken care of all the guesswork. It’s switchable through four modes – default, snow/grass/mud, sand and rock, the latter allows the actuation of low-range. Aided by speed-adjustable hill-descent control, ground clearance of 226 mm and a decent break-over angle of 22,2 degrees despite the long wheelbase, the Everest is all but unstoppable off-road. Shorter overhangs have also improved the approach and departure angles, which now sit at 30.4 degrees and 25.3 degrees respectively.
The new Ford Everest Sport has moved the game on so far for bakkie-based SUVs that it’s difficult to remember a time when they were rough and rugged version of their bakkie cousins. Thanks to bold new macho styling and the democratising of technology from the brand, never has a ladder-frame-based SUV come this close to assimilating the characteristics of a unibody construction.
Of course, one compromise still remains. The big deal being the sheer size and weight of the new vehicle. We appreciate that if you want more practicality and technology, you’re going to inevitably add size, weight and cost. Hopefully Ford will be able to bolster the Everest range eventually with a (relatively) affordable version with the single turbodiesel engine that we know all know operates so smoothly and efficiently.
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