SUVs are the rage in South Africa at the moment – selling like hot cakes on a cold winter’s day – and it really is understandable as to why they are selling so well. They are safe to drive, comfortable and practical – especially when you consider the lives that we lead, which all have their own demands – it really requires a vehicle that can adapt.
In an effort to show us this, Ford South Africa gave us their bakkie-based SUV – the Ford Everest – to test drive for a week, luckily for our pockets, we received the more economical but equally capable XLS 2.2 6MT 4WD spec to take on the urban jungle. Sitting in the middle of the pack – price range wise – the XLS 2.2 is 4-cylinder diesel engine that pushes out 115kW at 3500 rpm and 382 Nm of torque between 1500 to 2500 rpm, that’s 32kW and 88Nm of power less than the top spec Limited 3.2 6AT 4WD version along with a R162, 000 difference in price – on the basic models.
At first glance the Everest which is 1,837 metres high, 4,892 metres long and 1,860 metres wide – it’s quiet overwhelming in size – once inside it does not feel as big as it looks from the driver’s seat, that is until you take a look back into the 7-seater – it features acres of space. Driving around the urban jungle of Durban, you are well pronounced as the vehicle does sit high up however, once driving the vehicle it does not feel as daunting. Ford has cleverly managed to make the driver’s cockpit as user friendly and enjoyable as any of their other mid-sized and smaller models.
In and around the city, the Everest feels at home with its 6-speed manual gearbox and delivers power to the axles adequately and smoothly whether its inch-by-inch in traffic or robot to robot in the morning and afternoon’s traffic. As daunting in size as it may look, the Everest has good manoeuvrability for a vehicle it’s size – yes you do have to slow down and inch passed other vehicles in smaller roads and tight corners around the city – however, parking really is much more of a breeze than you may think.
This is thanks to the very practically sized and near feather light steering-wheel with excellent power-steering that Ford have put in the Everest, the 3-inch reverse screen and park distance control (PCD) also assist – although we believe that it’s not all that necessary. We believe that it’s rear-view cameras are to blame for scratches, dents and bumps that you normally see on vehicles that come with such features – they make drivers unaware of their surroundings and only aware of what’s on the screen.
Well specked, the XLS 2.2 also came with Ford’s All-Terrain Response System, to be honest, we never really got a chance to put it to full use, however we found the mud, snow and sand application handy whilst driving around Oribi Gorge. The descent assist system is also one that we never got a chance to use, but we are sure that it works well – as we have seen in other videos – the drivability of the Everest was a complete and utter joy in the bush. On the highways and freeways, the cabin was surprisingly quiet with very little tire and wind noise if any – taking corners on these roads provided very little body roll – another surprise for a vehicle this large.
On the rougher roads, the Everest did get bouncy – especially for the rear passengers – but it certainly was not an uncomfortable ride, especially when you consider that they had overhead grip handles, independent air-conditioning with independent control, recline-able seats, a 12V connection in each row, cup holders and sufficient headroom for the extra bumpy parts of the gravel and sandy roads. If that was not enough to keep them comfortable, the audio entertainment system provided enough of a distraction – Bluetooth connectivity to 7 quality speakers that included a 10-inch sub – to keep preoccupied whilst they bounced around.
Although the 2.2-engine derivatives may seem the obvious bet over the 3.2-engine’s, we feel that there really cannot be that much of a difference – the estimated economy of the XLS 2.2 is 8.7-litres per 100km. We only managed to get the vehicle as low as 10.5-litres per 100km’s and this was at an average speed of 110km/h on cruise control – most of the time. Although nearly 3-litres per 100km’s off its estimated economy, the Ford Everest – for a vehicle it’s mass and size – it does quiet well. So well – that we really do miss it, I for one would gladly trade in my beloved Opel because it has shown me just why SUVs are in such high demand.
Whether it’s going to be used as an everyday mom’s taxi, dad’s work car, weekend getaway vehicle, off-roader or even – yes – a vehicle for a 20-somethng to 30-something singleton, the Ford Everest is truly ideal and of the new sales numbers are anything to go by – this vehicle is knocking at the door of Toyota’s Fortuner.