The engine isn't the most important change though, because everything else about the new model is a giant step forward. Build quality is very good, styling is streets ahead of that of the previous model and the black leather interior is top-notch, but the ace up Ford's sleeve is the very comprehensive range of electronic safety and convenience features that are standard on both the XLT and the top-spec Limited models.
Both come with all the driver aids we've come to expect plus ROM (Roll-Over Mitigation) and TSC (Trailer Sway Control) as well as rear parking sensors and rear-view cameras, auto wipers and lights with electronic high-beam control, and Ford's SYNC 2 in-car connectivity with an 8" touchscreen. SYNC 2 recognises up to 10,000 natural voice commands for the entertainment system, climate control, and any connected mobile devices. The question here is, of course, how badly we need 10,000 commands to operate our cars?
A handy feature that's unique to Ford products and will thrill parents is the MyKey system that clips Junior's - or the staff's - wings by allowing the owner to programme a spare key to limit the car's top speed and audio system volume, while issuing stern warnings when the maximum speed limit looks close to being infringed. There'll doubtless be a fair amount of sobbing in the suburbs over this.
The flagship Limited version is loaded with interesting stuff that has until now been available mainly in top-end German SUVs as expensive add-ons. These include six front and four rear electronic sensors that work with strategically-placed radar sensors to monitor what's happening around the car, and these can send pulses through the steering wheel to warn you when you're drifting out of your lane, or even cause the steering to start easing you back on course. They also feed info to the Adaptive Cruise Control to automatically slow the car down when it comes up close behind another, and then get back up to speed when the road ahead is clear again.
The same sensors are used for the Active Park Assist that measures a gap for parallel parking and then eases the wagon into an appropriately-sized parking bay without any input from the driver. A novel touch in the Limited is that the third row of two seats can be electronically set up or stowed away.
The car is solidly luxurious yet seriously capable, whichever version you buy. There's a strong ladder-frame chassis with decent suspension, a straightforward four-setting terrain management system with intelligent four-wheel-drive, an electronic diff-lock, a low-range transfer case and decent ground clearance and approach and departure angles.
At the launch in the Western Cape, a planned off-road excursion was scrapped because of continuous heavy rain that would have slowed our large group down too much to keep to the programme, but the essentials and more are all there for serious bundu-bashing.
On the road the wagons feel comfortable and lively enough, with decent handling and a quality feel, but the 2.5 tonne mass makes them feel a little less spirited than the specifications imply.
The Ford Everest has Toyota's Fortuner squarely in its cross-hairs, and is a much more up to date vehicle, but it's also a fair bit more expensive at R593 900 and R646 900 for the XLT and Limited versions. The question on everybody's lips is how good the all-new Fortuner will prove when it arrives here next year, and how much the price will be affected.