FORD found success in its previous-gen Ranger-based Everest wagon, a sales slow burner that picked up pace in recent years, but the new model takes the fight to both unibody SUVs and dedicated 4×4 wagons, while leaving the rest of the body-on-frame seven-seat pack in its dust.
The range hits showrooms this month, but starting from $52,990 before on-road costs – a $2900 increase over the previous base model. Does it represent good value? Based on our two-day stint in the various models, the answer is yes.
While ute-based wagons have seen strong sales success in Australia, the segment has operated downwind of dedicated 4×4 wagons like Toyota’s wildly popular LandCruiser.
That was, until Ford Australia threw its best engineers and plenty of development dollars at an all-new Everest that feels more SUV than ute-based wagon, while still offering serious off-road performance and, finally, a full 3500kg maximum braked towing capacity for all 4×4 models.
Ford Australia’s chief platform engineer for the Everest, Ian Foston, summed it up when talking about his objective for the next-generation range: “Tough on the outside, a sanctuary on the inside, amazing capability underneath.”
It means something coming from Foston, too, an avid overlander himself who’s travelled the world opting for the path less trodden.
“When we started imagining the next-gen Everest, we started not at the beginning but at the end: with our customers,” said Mr Foston.
“They’re people who like adventure, recreation and being able to go out with family and friends. Whether they’re conquering sand, rocks or city life, these customers appreciate the utility, capability, and spaciousness of an SUV.”
Keen adventurers, for the first time, are afforded a viable Toyota LandCruiser or Nissan Patrol alternative, with comparative luxury, ride, refinement, and grunt.
The new Everest range consists of four models, with the base Ambiente, mid-range Trend and Sport, and top-spec SUV-rivalling Platinum models offering a range of options for buyers.
Ambiente and Trend models score the proven 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo diesel engine, mated to the same 10r80 10-speed the previous generation used, and are available in both 4×2 and 4×4 guise.
Ford made tweaks to the Bi-Turbo unit, now producing 154kW/500Nm, which is still healthy in its output but down on grunt and refinement compared to the new diesel V6.
The tough-looking Sport and luxurious Platinum models get the new 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, which produces 184kW/600Nm, and they’re only available with constant four-wheel-drive.
The move to a constant four-wheel-drive system on all 4×4 variants, which features an electronically controlled transfer case for off-road duties and various drive modes, brings the Everest up a class in terms of performance and safety.
From the outside, the new Everest is a far more confronting beast compared with its predecessor, with similar C-clamp headlights and grille to the new Ranger and stronger lines from front to back.
A wider track and longer wheelbase were adopted for the new Everest, requiring a “more dramatic swell” over the wheels, contributing to its dominant stance but also improving its ride on- and off-road.
It’s the Sport and Platinum models that scored the full gamut of exterior styling goodies, with the Sport offering the closest thing to a beefed-up off-roader and the Platinum setting a new style standard with its luxury SUV looks.
The Sport scores 20-inch black alloy wheels (available in 18-inch for eager off-roaders), with blacked out trim pieces to match, and tough ‘SPORT’ badging, while the top-spec Platinum goes even further with massive 21-inch alloys, a unique premium grille, Matrix LED headlights, and premium chrome accents that set it apart from other 4×4 wagons.
Inside the new Everest, the technology-rich interior is substantially more modern than the outgoing model and feels more spacious too.
A modular layout features various premium soft- and hard-touch finishes, and a shallow, stout dash left us feeling like we could spread out more.
Ford Australia says it took inspiration from modern home design, which we can understand given the luxurious yet functional layout, which is premium without feeling out of place in a 4×4 wagon that’s likely to see some rugged use.
Large vertical centre-mounted screens running Ford’s latest Sync4A system take care of infotainment duties, with 10.1-inch for the Ambiente and 12-inch for the rest of the range, as well as 8-inch digital clusters for the all but the Platinum, which boasts a massive 12.4-inch digital dash.
The Sport and Platinum also get heated and ventilated front seats with 10-way power adjustment. In fact, even the second-row occupants get to enjoy heated seats in the Platinum – fancy.
The Ambiente model comes standard as a five-seater, but can be optioned up to hold seven, while the rest of the range comes standard with a full three rows of seating.
The focus for seating was on accessibility and overall space, making the third-row seats easier than ever to jump in and out of – even for adults – and adding second row legroom through clever design.
The second row also slides further forward than before, and folds flatter, adding space for occupants or seat-down load carrying. We fit a 10-person table in the previous generation Everest Titanium, with the rear two rows folded down, a feat we were proud of, but one the new model would do with ease.
Ford’s detail-focused design team even added a lip to the rear parcel section, to prevent rogue items flying out when the tailgate is up, as well as a nifty underfloor storage compartment for valuable or delicate items.
The new Everest is quieter inside the cabin, too, something Ford focused on to allow first and third row occupants to communicate without shouting. A benefit road-tripping parents will no doubt be thankful for, as their third-row occupants are able to use their ‘inside voices’ to beg for snacks or stops.
Standard safety tech is class-leading, too, with new and existing driver aids across the range, and the entire line-up recently gained a full 5-star ANCAP safety rating thanks in part to its nine airbags.
Enhanced safety aids for the new range include a lane-keep system with road-edge detection to keep the car centred on rural roads with poor markings, evasive steer assist, reverse brake assist, blind sport information system with trailer coverage, and an improved pre-collision assist with smart intersection functionality.
All models also get 360-degree camera functionality which, when used in conjunction with reverse brake assist, makes short work of tricky urban parking scenarios. The reverse brake assist also offers the critical safety benefit of stopping the vehicle if a pedestrian or, god forbid, family member walks behind the vehicle.