This further improved last year with Ford not only announcing local production of the Everest alongside the Ranger at its plant in Silverton, Pretoria, but also the introduction of several models powered by the updated 2.2 TDCi engine, as well as the availability of two-wheel drive models and option of a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox.
As with the Ranger tested a few months ago, a greater number of buyers are likely to splash out on the self-shifting Everest 2.2 TDCi in either XLS or XLT guises though, with the latter likely to be the preferred option for those unable to stomach the asking price of the 3.2 TDCi XLT.
It therefore came as somewhat of a head scratcher when an Everest 2.2 XLS 4WD equipped with aforementioned manual ‘box arrived for testing. Leaving this aside for now, it would be fair to stay that what is essentially the base specification Everest is somewhat of a mixed bag in the styling department.
While the in-your-face appearance highlighted by the angular looking headlights and satin silver grille remains, the overall look is let down somewhat by the black cladding at the base of bumpers as well as the non-colour coded mirrors and door handles.
Granted, it does retain a fair amount of machoism associated with the XLT, further boosted by the chunky sidesteps fitted here and 17-inch alloy wheels, but there is no hiding from the fact that it stands out as the entry-level offering a bit too much.
This is also prevalent inside where much of the XLT’s luxurious and shiny trimmings are binned in favour of a somewhat cluttered looking facia housing the tiny 4.2-inch static display infotainment system, surrounded by a myriad of buttons. Like the Ranger, hard yet rugged and durable feeling plastics are the order of the day, although the general fit-and-finish didn’t warrant any complaints.
What continued to do though was that button-operated display which looks out of place in a vehicle carrying a sticker price of R536 900. Fortunately though, this can be offset using the first iteration of Ford’s SYNC Voice Recognition system with Bluetooth, which proved slick when selecting music from a USB or connecting with one’s smartphone.
Space in the Everest is a different story, measuring over 4 900mm in terms of overall length, resulting in a spacious environment. Indeed, while the third row of seats are mostly reserved for small children, head and leg room up front and in the second row are praiseworthy with a further boon being the presence of a separate air-conditioning panel complete with roof mounted vents.
Speaking of seats, access to the third row is slightly thwarted by the second row only sliding forward and not titling up to aid entry. That said, cargo space is commendable with Ford claiming a capacity of 450-litres with all seven seats up, and 1 050-litres with the middle row folded flat.
Tipping the scales at 2 240 kg, it quickly became obvious that the application of the Port Elizabeth-built 2.2 TDCi engine, especially around town, might have been a stretch too far.
In a reversal of the automatic equipped Ranger, the agricultural sounding 118 kW / 385Nm oil burner felt a tad underpowered when tasked with the hauling the Everest along on a day to day basis, made worse by significant levels of turbo-lag and added weight of the four-wheel drive system.
Despite featuring a light clutch action, a firm hand is required to operate the six-speed manual gearbox, with the laggy engine seeing the selection of second gear on a number of occasions when going up a slight incline.
On the open road however, the opposite side of the coin showed with a comfortable ride setup and suitably bolstered cloth seats. With sufficient levels of engine and wind noise damping, a weekend trip to Witbank saw average fuel consumption drop to 8.3-litres/100 km, well off Ford’s optimistic claimed figure of 7.1-litres /100 km, but nonetheless impressive.
Unfortunately, testing its off-road capabilities was limited to a small gravel road near the Red Star Raceway outside Delmas, although it hardly broke a sweat despite the rotary low-range dial being in two-wheel drive mode.
It is worth keeping in mind though that as well as featuring the full off-road hardware, including Hill Decent Control, the Everest XLS is currently the only seven-seat off-roader in its class to offer both four-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, something likely to be welcomed by purists.
With the XLT variant not offering a 4WD / manual combination, the Ford Everest XLS does have its merits in appealing to buyers wanting to row gears themselves while going off-road and with good levels of standard spec. More than likely though, it will remain a niche model within the Everest line-up only a select few will find favour with.
|ENGINE LAYOUT||DOHC 16v Inline 4|
|MAX POWER||118 kW @3700 rpm|
|MAX TORQUE||385 N.m @1500-2500 rpm|
|DRIVE LAYOUT||Front engine; Rear-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive|
|ACCELERATION (0-100 km/h)||n/a|
|FUEL CONSUMPTION*||8.3 L/100 km*|
*As recorded during tenure