Limpopo – Ford’s popular Everest Range has been expanded with a spectrum of more affordable models, each using the brand’s capable 2,2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Producing 118 kW at 3 800 r/min with 385 N.m on tap from 1 500 to 2 500 r/min, this engine does not feel as outgunned by the 147 kW 3,2-litre mill as one might expect.
The vehicle is now fully assembled in the Silverton factory and the engines come from the Struandale factory near Port Elizabeth.
The oil-burner is smooth and torquey, but you have to make sure that you have the right gear chosen if you are in the six-speed manual model. Below 1 500 r/min, there is precious little torque, but above that figure you will keep up with the best. Those who do not require the 4×4 can opt for a 4×2 with an automatic transmission.
Like the recently launched Ranger 2,2 AT, the ‘box comes from the USA and is based on a ZF. It also has six ratios and is an excellent match to the turbodiesel, with very little slip. Because we were travelling at altitude in the Limpopo province, we often had to use maximum acceleration to overtake trucks. This is the only time that we could have wished for the 3,2-litre and, in order to achieve full acceleration, some gear hunting was necessary. In all other driving conditions, both the power and the gearbox operation were smooth and fully capable. Thumbs-up here.
Solid and refined
The steering and suspension of the XLT (and the XLS) have an equally capable feel with accurate directional stability and a comfortable ride, considering the fact that we had only two occupants on board and no luggage of which to speak. On the gravel sections, there was of course some discomfort from the millions of corrugations, but no rattles, no skittishness and no dust ingress.
Over the many hundreds of kilometres we drove, the ride quality was excellent and the quietness of the cabin very impressive. Apparently this is enhanced by noise cancellation technology using sound waves from speakers, but the body integrity and low NVH levels are of course fully built-in. Cruising at 120 to 140 km/h feels more like 100 and it was best to keep the cruise control active to avoid the speed rising – and filling the pages of the many speed-trapping law enforcement officers’ pink books.
Off the beaten track
For off-road enthusiasts, the Everest has a generous ground clearance of 225 mm, along with a wade depth of 800 mm. For the 4×4 version, a locking rear diff and low-range transfer case (by Borg Warner) are added, together with traction control settings of mud, sand and rock crawl. We tried these out on a compact off-road course with no problems other than a couple of engine stalls due to the abruptness of the clutch action. The system is permanent four-wheel drive with torque-on-demand. The 4x4s are available only with a manual transmission.
Stability control, including trailer sway control, is standard across the range. Six airbags are standard, with seven on XLT/LTD models.
As far as specs go, many will no doubt settle for the XLS that has most of the features one needs, although it does lose the great SYNC 3-enabled 8-inch touchscreen used in the XLT. This is one of the best with large buttons and pinch-and-swipe functionality, and is a huge improvement over the 4-inch display in the XLS. XLT furthermore adds 18-inch wheels (as opposed to the 17s on the XLS) as well as more chrome-effect trim. Seating on the XLT is leather (cloth for XLS), but all models have the full seven-seat layout. Options are limited to metallic paint for R1 150, a towbar for R4 000 and a driver’s kneebag (standard on XLT) for R1 250.
If you don’t need to tow a boat or large caravan, the 2,2 will do the job very nicely. The auto ‘box is the way to go with the diesel and, while the XLS has all you need, the extra features offered by the XLT may just be worth the additional R25 000.