2016 will be remembered as the slugfest of the PPV category. The launch of the new generation Montero Sport and the upcoming release of the Fortuner have reingnited interest in the class, promising new expectations in the pick-up based SUV, much in the same way that the Trailblazer and mu-X did in 2014 and 2012, respectively.
The launch of the Montero Sport and Fortuner have, in a way, dampened the hype about this: the new generation Ford Everest.
Let's see if the Ford is ready for the challenge ahead of it.
From the get go, what I (and many of us) particularly liked about the Everest is its styling. The body is shaped and proportioned like a proper sport utility vehicle; tall, wide, and gives the feeling that it really can go anywhere. The massive grill is imposing when viewed up close, matched with a pair of HID headlights and other details that are proper for the design. The huge 20-inch alloys give it plenty of character on the road, while the rear end finishes the design quite nicely. There are no high tech details nor does the Everest try to be futuristic; it's a no-nonsense, masculine take on a ute, and it looks good whether you're using it for the urban commute or for charging through the tricky terrain.
If you're familiar with the previous Everest's interior, then this one will be a big surprise. Instead of a cabin that is a page out of the truck playbook, the Everest gets an interior that feels much more luxurious and much more spacious. Like the exterior, the cabin is quite no-nonsense but is color keyed with a mix of cream beige, black/gray, and a variety of accent pieces like that leather-like surface atop the dash. Most importantly, there's a sense of quality and build that raises what was previously expected in the PPV class.
Seating for seven is, of course, standard. What's remarkable is the amount of room available, as the Everest's dimensions give the occupants plenty of knee, leg and hip room. The visibility from the second row is also good, as the seat is positioned a bit higher. The third row is also decent, especially considering the class. If cargo space is needed when, say, picking up relatives at the airport, then the 50/50 third row can be easily folded after pressing two buttons. The second row can likewise be folded flat.
The previous Everest 4x4 had the 3.0-liter TDCI motor shared with the previous ranger, but this new one is even bigger, better, and more importantly, smoother. To rein it in, Ford used a 6-speed automatic with a multi-mode 4WD system featuring capabilities that we've put to the test in the mountains of Thailand.
Before we do get going, it's good to get familiarized with the comprehensive list of features that the new Everest has because this is the most complex and best equipped vehicle in its class. By far. The variant we're testing is the best in the breed: the Titanium 4WD with the optional Premium Package that adds the big panoramic glass roof, among others.
The instrument cluster is similar to that of the Explorer with a large speedometer and dual LCD screens that can display a multitude of data, and its all controlled by directional switches on the wheel. Ford's proprietary SYNC infotainment system is standard and unifies the vehicle's climate control, phone, entertainment and other functions. SYNC can even be controlled via voice commands. The Everest also comes with a 230 volt socket, something you'll find useful if you have to work with a laptop on the road.
The usual airbags, traction control, stability control and ABS are present for safety, and the Premium package even adds the active park assist that makes for flawless automated parking if you know how to use it. The surprising function afforded by the Everest is the terrain management system; it allows the driver to set the traction control and 4WD systems depending on the type of terrain.
On the daily drive, the Everest delivers a ride and drive that is above and beyond its class. At city and highway speeds, this new generation PPV feels like it has shed its trucking origins fully, exhibiting road manners expected of vehicles like the Pajero and Land Cruiser Prado. And that's saying a lot. The steering, at city speeds, is a bit too light for my liking though.
The suspension tuning isn't fully dialled-in for plushness, instead it offers a surprisingly good balance between handling and comfort. It's still a live axle in the back, but Ford engineered a Watt's link into the coil sprung configuration, reducing the lateral play (read: shimmy) that is common with that axle set up. It does send slightly more of the lateral motion into the cabin that may feel odd at first, but it's fine once you get used to it.
The acceleration of the 200 PS 3.2L TDCI turbo diesel is excellent. In fact, the Everest feels really light on its feet. And that's saying a lot. Overtaking latency is great for its size and weight, and the handling could very well be one of the best in class. The Everest also makes use of ventilated discs in front and solid discs in the back, ensuring balanced and planted braking in most situations.
Fuel economy in the city is decent at 8.2 km/l (moderate to heavy traffic, 19 km/h average) while out on the highway its much better at 12.8 km/l (89 km/h average). One thing I did notice is the wind noise coming from the wing mirrors, as well as the way the noise of open-muffler vehicles (i.e. PUVs, motorcycles) can permeate into the cabin.
Without a doubt, Ford pushed in all their chips with the Everest Titanium with the Premium Package, and that's what justifies its PhP 1,999,000 price tag. While most of us see the upgrades in technology and features, it's the huge charge forward in design, engineering and quality that counts for much more in our book.
It takes a lot to step into a ring that has seen the arrival of new generation versions of its two strongest fighters in their respective corners. But while the established champs will trade blows and go toe-to-toe, it seems Ford has prepared for mixed martial arts.