The battle for supremacy in the Adventure SUV segment is a 2-horse race. Of this bakkie-based SUV brigade, the Toyota Fortuner seems untouchable at the top of the sales charts, but recent updates to the Everest have made the Ford a much-improved product. We test the XLT derivative to see if it can close the gap to its Japanese rival.
We like: Spacious and practical, more refined drive, modern infotainment.
We don’t like: Ride still no match for non-ladder-frame SUVs.
- Price: R701 500
- Engine: 2.0-litre bi-turbododiesel
- Power/Torque: 157 kW / 500 Nm
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- Fuel economy: 7.6 L/100 km (claimed)
- Load space: 1 050/2 010 litres
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The 2.0 Bi-turbo 4x4 XLT derivative rides on 18-inch wheels; they facilitate comfortable off-roading.
Ford likes to keep its product line-up fresh by applying regular improvements to its model ranges. After the Ranger’s facelift earlier this year, it was the turn of the Everest to get the new bi-turbo engine and 10-speed transmission. The changes don’t end there: Ford also tweaked the suspension to make the big SUV ride better and be quieter on-road. It has further dealt with security concerns by implementing a more secure alarm system.
Inside, the 2nd-from-the-top Everest offering is equipped with more soft-touch materials and a high standard of safety equipment. Most of the active safety systems (adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind-spot monitor) are exclusive to the top-spec Limited derivative. By contrast, this XLT version is specified to compete head-on with the wildly-popular Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 Auto.
How it fares in terms of...
Performance and Efficiency
The new drivetrain combination feels far more refined than the old 3.2-litre 5-cylinder and its 6-speed automatic 'box.
When the Amarok arrived on the scene early in the decade, its small-capacity engine (a 2.0-litre bi-turbodiesel) set tongues wagging in the local bakkie fraternity. Despite being very car-like to drive and well-made, the Volkswagen didn't gain much popularity until a beefy V6 version arrived. Ford is hoping to have a better time of it with its new, more powerful 2.0-litre bi-turbodiesel. The trick with the new unit is the 10-speed transmission, which is capable of keeping the Everest at peak torque while shifting through short ratios. The ‘box shifts quickly and avoids those slumps or bog-downs that commonly accompany shifts in a big-rigs like this one. It’s also able to skip-shift (jump a few gears at a time) when necessary...
We strapped a 1-tonne trailer to the Everest (note the towbar is standard, but Ford charges you extra for the towbar ball – which is tantamount to selling you a soft-serve ice cream but levying a surcharge on the cone!) and we did a fair amount of hilly driving to test out the effectiveness of the drivetrain... It certainly feels more comfortable and accomplished than the old 3.2-litre engine and accelerates faster under higher loads too.
As you’d expect with a smaller capacity engine, fuel consumption has improved compared with the old 3.2 litre (with its 6-speed 'box). Even with its higher power output, the 2.0 litre is said to consume 7.6 L/100 km whereas its predecessor was claimed to use 8.2 L/100 km. In real-world conditions, we achieved an average of just over 9 L/100 km in town and, on a return trip from Cape Town to Knysna, we saw it drop to 8.1 L/100 km.
Ride and handling
Everest rides better thanks to softer spring rates (each derivative has bespoke settings) and repositioned anti-roll bar.
A few simple tweaks to the anti-roll bar (in particular, its location) has notably improved the Everest’s ride quality. The changes have allowed Ford to implement a softer spring setup for the Everest (each derivative has bespoke settings) while reducing the propensity of the bakkie-based SUV's body to roll when cornering. It’s less cumbersome on-road and negates some leaning/high-riding sway that is inherent to a ladder-frame chassis.
All of which moves the Everest further ahead in terms of being the most comfortable adventure SUV to drive on a long journey or manoeuvre in the city. The steering feels sharper than in the pre-facelift model, which was a bit floaty around the centre. It is still light enough when off-roading, but is more convincing in everyday use. The changes haven't diminished the great off-road ability (helped by switchable off-road modes and low-range).
There is a huge loading space with all the seats flat, note that the pictured bicycle is very small.
In the bakkie-based SUV category, the Everest sits atop the pile in terms of exterior dimensions and, therefore, interior space. It’s longer, wider, taller and has a longer wheelbase than the Fortuner, for example. This all translates into more space for passengers and their detritus. The seats in either rear rows fold flat into the floor to create a huge utility loading space of 2 010 litres. The middle row, meanwhile, can slide fore and aft on rails and the seatbacks are able to recline (for further comfort). The XLT version makes do with manual levers to fold the seats, whereas the Limited has an electric-folding function for the 3rd row. The same goes for the tailgate, which is manually operated in the XLT and electric in the Limited.
Standard leather upholstery gives the updated cabin of the 2.0 Bi-turbo 4x4 XLT a distinct "upmarket off-roader" ambience. For something that’s built to travel to hard-to-reach locations (and likely to undergo punishment en route to those destinations), the Everest is plush inside. You’re not going to get premium-SUV trim materials (such as in a VW Tiguan or Discovery Sport) in the Ford, but its interior quality is every bit as good we expected.
The infotainment system sets the standard for this segment: the SYNC3 menu is easy to use, Apple Carplay- and Android Auto compatible and includes off-road-track maps. The 2 USB ports up front are useful, but you don’t get a 230V plug in the XLT derivative (the Limited does get one).
Apple Carplay and Android Auto seamlessly connect through the 2 front USB ports.
In terms of passenger safety, the 2.0 Bi-turbo 4x4 XLT comes equipped with 7 airbags, stability control, hill-start assist and rollover mitigation. It doesn’t include the fancy active safety systems fitted to the flagship Limited version, but the XLT is still a match for the segment competitors...
A Thatcham Category 1 alarm upgrades the security system to the highest rating possible on the Thatcham scale of vehicle security systems.
Pricing & Warranty
The Everest 2.0 Bi-turbo 4x4 XLT is priced at R701 500 (November 2019). Ford improved the length of the service plans it offers on its models recently; the Everest comes with a 4-year/120 000 km warranty and a 6-year/90 000 km service plan.
Only Ford SA's after-sales and reliability record is stopping the Everest from becoming the top seller it should be.
No, the Everest is not the top-selling adventure SUV in the market, but, as a product, it strides ahead of its rivals with improved ride quality and drivetrain capability... It is the most advanced vehicle in its class, as well as the most spacious and practical offering with more interior space than its competitors and a decidedly better infotainment system. There isn’t even a surplus in the price for the Everest against the competing Fortuner.
However, this segment is defined by the perception of reliability more than the availability of the latest gadgetry, which at least partly explains why the Toyota Fortuner continues to dominate this segment. Ford’s reliability record and after-sales struggles are well documented and the findings of our Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey (even the most recent data) underlines the Blue Oval's predicament. Having said that, there are signs that Ford is gradually turning things around: customers are experiencing improved service from dealers and better reliability. That augers well, because the Everest is easily the best product in its segment; it deserves to close that big sales gap to the Toyota Fortuner, even if only partially.