BOTSWANA – Standing on the majestic salt flats of Makgadikgadi I observe something that is tragically absent from modern-day life: absolute silence. The kind of stillness and peace that cuts to the soul and makes one re-evaluate life. A few metres behind me, with its wheels planted firmly on the hallowed ground, is the latest iteration of the Ford Everest. With objectivity out the window when engulfed in such splendour, it feels more like a companion than a mere lump of lifeless metal and plastic. Maybe this is exactly what Ford had in mind with this stunning location...
The Everest range has received a slight facelift, with most exterior changes evident on the Limited model. These include a new bumper and chrome grille design, 20-inch alloys (the 18-inch items fitted for our overland trip are optional) and a panoramic sunroof, to name but a few.
Inside, it's mostly familiar fare but the Limited version does gain some piano black panels to enhance the feeling of sophistication and luxury. Keyless entry and start is standard but there's still no reach adjustment on the steering column. The acclaimed Sync3 infotainment system with satnav (Tracks4Africa) is available in both the XLT and Limited variants.
The main change to the Everest range, though, is the introduction of the new 2,0-litre biturbodiesel engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. This is the same powertrain recently launched in the refreshed Ranger line-up, including in the Ranger Raptor. Delivering 157 kW and 500 N.m of torque, it easily shades the old 3,2-litre engine now reserved for only one Everest model.
During our stay in Botswana, we covered around 600 km on a variety of surfaces, ranging from sandy jeep tracks to faster dirt roads and tar sections. Even the odd water crossing was thrown in for good measure.
Unlike its main competitor, the Toyota Fortuner, the Everest employs permanent four-wheel drive with a centre differential (allowing all-wheel-drive operation on tar) and not a transfer case, as found in the Ranger bakkie. This makes it easy for the driver as he or she need only select the appropriate terrain programme via the rotary dial for optimum engine and drivetrain calibration to traverse the chosen surface.
I was impressed by just how smooth the new 2,0-litre unit is during low-speed operation; there is an abundance of torque on tap when a particularly soft sandy section tries to slow progress. It also helps that the 10-speed transmission selects the most appropriate gear for pretty much any situation and that there is no need to even engage low range. Because of the sheer numer of gears, there is the sensation the ‘box continuously shifts during town driving, which is not ideal.
If you are a nature lover then a visit to the Makgadikgadi in Botswana is a must! The Ford Everest with updated 157 kW 2.0-litre biturbodiesel engine and 10-speed transmissions took us there! pic.twitter.com/C06D1wT6XE
— Nicol Louw (@NicolL_CARmag) July 6, 2019
As speed picks up on the motorways, the engine shows it has enough punch to overtake slower traffic or swiftly get up to speed after crossing wildlife halted our convoy. Owing to the mass of the vehicle, the performance is not explosive but 500 N.m is more than sufficient to waft the vehicle to its next destination, which fits the application perfectly.
Fuel consumption during cruising at the national limit ranged between 8,0 and 9,0 L/100 km, which is impressive and a significant improvement over the older five-cylinder unit.
Ride and handling
The Everest feels like a substancial vehicle from behind the wheel but it is easy to place on tight sections through the game reserves. The suspension set-up feels softer than in Ranger (it shares the rear axle arrangement with the Raptor, sans the Fox shocks) which improves comfort levels for family use. It manages to soak up bumps and potholes at speed and does a good job ironing out some “sinkplaat” dirt road sections. The body-on-chasssis shimmy is still present but probably less instrusive than in other models in the body-on-chassis segment. All the bouncing around did unearth some interior rattles, though, with the most prevalent being on the driver’s door.
XLT or Limited?
According to Ford, the specification level in the Limited model combined with the proper seven-seat arrangement (the third row neatly folds out of the boot floor) allows it to compete with more expensive and premium-badged vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and Land Rover Discovery. Still, I'm not convinced buyers will see it this way and be prepared to fork out the bullish asking price of R761 200.
As the XLT is essentially the same vehicle from a powertrain perspective, I would rather save R70 000 and do without a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control and electrically adjustable seats, to name a few of the Limited model's flagship features.
Both models, however, performed exceptionally well in the harsh conditions and helped create memories that will last a lifetime. Did I spot a twinkle in the Everest’s headlamp?
FAST FACTSModel: Ford Everest 2,0 BiT 10AT 4x4 XLT (and Limited)
Price: R687 700 (XLT) and R761 200 (Limited)
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl, turbocharged diesel
Power: 157 kW @ 3 750 r/min
Torque: 500 N.m @ 1 500-2 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: n/a
Top Speed: n/a
Fuel Consumption: 7,6 L/100 km
CO2: 201 g/km
Transmission: 10-spd auto
Maintenance Plan: S6/90 000 km
See Full Ford Everest price and specs here