THE FORD EVEREST one of those vehicles that appears common, yet is actually quite rare. It may be called an SUV, but your typical SUV is really just a high-riding wagon with no real rough terrain or towing capability. Instead, the Everest is a wagon built on the same platform as the Ranger ute. And that means it can tow and handle offroad work.
News of the Everest was received with delight by Australia's offroad tourers, who rightly hold the Ranger in high regard and wanted some more choice in the rather moribund offroad wagon market dominated by Pajero and Prado, both of which are better described as old faithfuls rather than young guns. The Ranger tie-in helped too.
So where does the Everest fit in? Compared to the others it's on the large side for a medium wagon. Here's the overall lengths some of its peers:
- Pajero Sport 4785mm
- Fortuner 4795mm
- Pajero 4900mm *
- Prado 4930mm *
- MU-X 4825mm
- Discovery 4838mm
- Everest 4892mm
- LC200 4990mm
* includes spare wheel, comparable body length at least 100mm shorter.
The Everest is available in three trim levels; Ambiente, Trend and Titanium. All Everests are six-speed diesel automatics, and there are now rear-drive only Trends and Ambientes as of April 2017.
Our tester is the 4WD Trend, and we had it for a week during which we did some country road cruising, off-road work and commuting.
What’s it like inside?
Practical and not bad looking is the summary. There's more use of different shades and colours than is usually the case for a car of this class, and it all looks rather cohesive.
On the practicality score, up front the Everest varies from good to average.
On the good front, there are two clearly accessible 12v sockets and two USBs, and a phone cubby. Then there’s the usual glovebox, side-pockets, drinks holders and centre console which are all just par for the course. It's interesting to compare my own PX Ranger with the Everest - in mine, I've got a split centre console and by the steering wheel another little storage box where the Everest (and PX2 Ranger) now has its fuse box.
Moving into the second row and there's a 12v plus a 220v socket, which is a truly great addition, and heat/cool controls. It's amazing how few, allegedly family, vehicles have electrical connections in the back.
We also have one-touch windows all round, and the second-row seats are a 40:60 split. Each second-row seat can be slid forwards and backwards, and the seatback angles are adjustable. The second-row folds down but not flat. The seats are pretty comfy too.
Into the third row and the good news continues. That's a 50:50 split, folding into the floor which is a good start – unlike, say, Toyota Fortuner, LandCruiser 200 Series and Mitsubishi Pajero, which don’t have a split third row - and there's a 12v socket which is another positive. There are four tie-down points that fold flush and appear to be strong.
There are child restraints points on both third-row seats, a rare and very good design feature. But in the third row there's not very much room for your feet even given the Everest's size; this is no Land Rover Discovery.
What's the infotainment system like?
The 2017 Everest runs Ford's Sync3, which is one of the better infotainment units on the market, if not the best, and I include marques like Mercedes and Audi in my consideration. It is clear, responsive, easy to use and packed with features that are mostly useable, not gimmicks. And it's not just the features, but how they're done.
For example, the Bluetooth display pulls in a photo of the artist, and shows how far you've got through the track. You can enter the frequency of a radio station, there's a do-not-disturb mode for your phone, the sat-nav has a pinch-zoom feature, it'll read text messages, the map shows congestion, and on which side of the road that congestion is. There's a where-am-I feature, the sat-nav can find parking automatically at the end of your trip, there's app integration for Spotify and Glympse. The list goes on, and in the safety section we'll cover a bit more.
There's also Android Auto and Apple Carplay integration, but both are optional. Which is great, use it when you want to, for example if you're the driver, or not if you don't wish to as when you're the passenger.
I have said before that I generally don't like or use in-car satnav, preferring my phone's Google Maps, but if I owned a Sync 3 equipped car I'd definitely use it. Aside from all the reasons above the Sync system is about the only one that gives the driver situational awareness - which means you can get a sense when looking at the map of where you are in context to everything else.
Most satnav doesn't do that, it just gives you directions and you can't get a feel of the overall route, at least not easily. And you can just enter an address which the system will figure out as you type, and it works while you're moving. This is the best satnav on the market in my opinion.
Then we have the driver's dash display. There are two TFT screens, one to the left of the speedo, one right. The left one shows navigation, entertainment and phone, even changing background colour as modes change. The right screen shows various vehicle-related information, a lot of it; detailed information on fuel consumption, trip meters, gauges, even a digital speedo.
Perhaps the only improvement to this setup would be a set of physical shortcut buttons for the main features of navigation, phone and audio because as good as Sync 3 is, it's still a touchscreen and hard to use off-road.
There is one feature that saved hassle and that's breadcrumbs, or a tracklog for those who know GPS. Like most parents, I do a lot of driving to some random teenager's house or other and often that involves travelling deep into some suburb of McMansion identikit housing - and I'm totally lost after the first five junctions. Fortunately, turning on the Everest's breadcrumb feature shows little dots on the map where you've been, so I simply followed the dots out back to the main road. Yes, I could have set the sat-nav, but I liked that feature nevertheless.
What's it got?
The Everest has a full-time (AWD) drive system. The centre "differential" is a clutch type system and cannot be manually locked but is computer-controlled to distribute torque front and rear as required, with a rear-drive bias thanks to a 40:60 front/rear nominal torque split. There is low-range and the usual aids of brake and engine traction control.
A cross-axle rear differential lock is standard and is manually selectable. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with sport mode and manual control, and the sole engine is a 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel (143kW/470Nm). Whenever you take control of the gears yourself the right dash automatically shows the tacho which is often hidden by other displays.
There is an adaptive terrain system called Terrain Management: Normal mode - This mode is for on-road conditions and should be used on hard road surfaces, or once the need for any of the off-road modes has passed. Mud/Snow – This mode should be used where a firm surface is covered with loose or slippery material. This includes gravel, shallow mud, wet grass or snow covered road. Sand - This mode should be used for crossing deep sand or deep sticky mud. Rock - This mode gives low speed controllability for crawling over rocks. Low range must be selected before this mode is activated.
So in low range only Normal and Rock can be selected, and the vehicle will not upchange from first low in Rock - you need to manually select higher gears. As usual with mud/snow (and grass) modes these are not suited for use in deep, soft conditions such as snow more than about 100mm deep or thick mud. Think of them more as 'slippery surface' modes, as per Ford's description, and that's why they recommend the Sand mode for deep mud.
The hill descent control system works in forwards and reverse, and with the rear locker engaged. It is active at speeds less than 35km/h, deactivated above 40km/h and is turned off above 60km/h. The target speed is set using the cruise control buttons in 1km/h increments, or just use the accelerator or brake. The initial speed is determined by the gear you're in when you switch it on.
What’s it like on the road?
The Everest weighs between a portly 2300-2495kg empty - so the lightest Everest is heavier than the heaviest Ranger - and is powered by a commercially-oriented 147kW diesel engine, so sprightly performance is not its forte. You certainly do not leap away from the lights, but once moving there's sufficient grunt for the performance to be acceptable, if not exciting.
But I'd trade some power for what the Everest offers which is handling that's not only safe but fun. I love the on-road drive - Ford has managed to give this off-roader a dynamic zestiness that's a bit unexpected, more fun its 4X4 peers.
The steering is quick and precise with good turn-in and solid mid-corner stability. The gearbox shifts smoothly and accurately – the sport mode is useful, but the gearbox is sufficiently smart that it's not often needed. And you don’t really need to worry about traction thanks to the all-drive, rear-biased system doing its work.
The wing mirrors also need praise - they're big and so you get a great view behind. We also need to mention here that the reversing cameras are well above average. There's a big, clear, bright picture and you can zoom in, there's guidelines for the wheels, side of the car and even the towball. Basically, it's a best in class reversing camera. There's even forward and rear parking sensors, so tight maneuvering is easy.
The steering column is not reach adjustable which is a big omission these days, but nevertheless most drivers should manage to be comfortable.
Out of all the 4WDs on the market, I think the Everest would be pretty much my pick for the suburban drive, and I'd take it over many soft-roader-SUVs too.
The Everest is a comfortable long-distance cruiser too. The noise levels in the cabin are hushed, no doubt due to the noise cancelling tech and there's adequate power for overtaking. The engine pulls well, but is a bit gruff and at higher revs seems to make more noise than power.
Away from the bitumen, the Everest is a fantastic dirt-road cruiser, and the only improvement I'd want to make is another hundred kilowatts of power…
Part of our dirt-road test is emergency braking; a full-on ABS-activated stop on surfaces with different traction levels. Most vehicles these days pass that test well enough so it's unremarkable. The Everest did as well as any other recent 4WD we’ve tested, but when we braked hard with two wheels on dirt and two on bitumen the Everest was stable and pulled up as straight as the laws of physics would allow. Impressive. Essentially, you can just slam on the brakes in any situation and the electronics will do their best to keep you alive.
I was also impressed with the Everest it charged up my test dirt-road hill which is full of corrugations lesser vehicles bounce around or have their electronics cut power - the Everest loved it, and so did I. A car I'd be very happy to drive on dirt roads for hours.
What about when the going gets a little harder? The Everest’s engine could do with more power, but it’s got plenty of grunt and easy throttle modulation and no turbo lag. Also good is the gearing; not so much the crawl ratio which is 42:1 (transfer case ratio 2.717:1), but the control. You can pull away in second gear both in high and low range, and if you select a gear the car will do its very best to keep in the gear come what may, and it won't change up when you hit redline. This is good for off-road control, for example, when you select first for a downhill the car won't change up, and if you select say third for a climb the car doesn't decide fourth is better just as you start the ascent.
The electronics also don't inhibit throttle response once you're in low range or when stability control is switched off - engine traction control is disabled. The hill descent control system is one of the best on the market, working down to 2km/h and even better can be activated with the rear differential lock engaged. That means you don't run out of engine compression braking when one rear wheel lifts in the air or loses traction as you descend a hill. Most other vehicles make you choose - hill descent control or locker in.
The Everest's front/rear torque split is effective. This is no soft-roader which spins wheels on one axle while the other wheels sit idly by...
Now we come to what is perhaps the most important part of any modern 4WD's design for off-road capability, which is the brake traction control design, or torque control left and right across an axle. One important test I give every 4WD and SUV is to cross-axle it; diagonal wheels in the air, and always on an upslope, and then have it climb up and out, if it can. On this measure, the Everest wasn't quite as good as other vehicles I've recently tested such as the LandCruiser 200 Series, Toyota Fortuner, Haval H9, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and others, although it is better than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. There was a lot of fuss and bother from the traction control and the vehicle required momentum to complete the obstacle.
In the end, the Everest isn’t quite in the same league as, say a Land Rover Discovery but, would I drive an Everest across the toughest tracks in the High Country with my family on board? Yes, I would and I'm happy to recommend the vehicle as the basis for an off-road tourer.
What about the safety features?
The Everest scored a 5-star rating in 2015 with a 35.98 out of 37 score. That's par for the course so we need to look at what else the car offers, and in most reviews the answer is not a lot, but the Everest does better than average.
Our Trend gets some advanced safety aids - lane departure warning and lane keep assist. Both are nicely configurable, so you can choose whether you want one or the other. Both aids are effective, but the keep assist gets in the way too much and spoils the steering wheel when it doesn't need to. It is easily disabled or enabled with a touch on the right stalk, unlike some systems which have tedious menus to plough through.
The Everest is also unusual in offering child restraint points in the third row, so there's a total of five, plus ISOFIX points on the second-row outboard seats. And there's more.
The MyKey system allows you to create a key for someone else, usually your children, with reduced vehicles functions. The Emergency Sync system will call the emergency services in the event of a crash. There's also a collision warning system that illuminates red lights on the dash and even sounds an alarm. This system isn't AEB, but it's still useful. We've also praised the reversing camera. About the only thing missing, rather oddly, is blind spot warning which you do get on the Titanium.
The Everest is above-average for safety in its class, and it's again a sad limitation of the ANCAP system that its safety features are not reflected with a higher rating than some of its 5-star competitors.
Why would you buy one?
I don't need to think hard about why to buy the Everest. There are so many reasons; on-road and dirt-road handling, useful livability features and above-average safety combined with reasonable off-road performance and good support from the aftermarket. It's a great vehicle that deserves to do well.