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Ford Everest scaling new heights


It's funny - no, make that interesting yet predictable - how priorities change with age.

At 46 one of the most important things for me in a vehicle is less badge and brum-brum performance, and more ride quality. This being an area in which the Ranger-based Ford Everest simply excels, with a cushion-y ride that has it sailing serenely over the poxiest road surfaces. It's not going to win any track-based handling contests, of course, but that's not the point of large, seven-seater SUVs, is it now?

This, the all-new Everest launched on our market last year, is a vastly more handsome, slick, sleek machine than its slightly lumpy, awkward-looking predecessor, and the whole package has a vaguely American, good-ole-boy appeal to it. In fact, it almost needs a column shift.

But what you get instead is a standard console shift linked to a six-speed automatic 'box. All the better to put down the 147kW and 470Nm of torque generated by the 3.2-litre, five-cylinder Duratorq turbodiesel with its exhaust note vaguely reminiscent of a WW2 torpedo boat's (I had a borderline nerdy youth spent reading too many war novels). Fuel consumption is pegged at 8.2 litres per 100km. Zero to 100km/h comes up in an adequate 11.6 seconds.

It's also a serious off-road tool with a body-on-frame design, an intelligent four-wheel-drive system, an exceptional 800mm wading depth, 225mm ground clearance, and low range, as well as a terrain management system. This gives drivers four settings to chose between. But don't worry too much about all that. Most SUV buyers never take their machines off road, even if they are as capable as this Everest.

It will also haul up to three tons and, yes, it really does seat seven people in real-world use. I tried.

There's plenty of tech at work in this beast, including SYNC2, Ford's in-car connectivity solution, mated to an eight-inch touchscreen and - really, really important this - an excellent 10-speaker sound system. Vital on which to play your Blake Shelton and Dolly Parton albums.

There are two models in the range. The XLT and the top-spec Limited. Slightly strangely I had an XLT model to test  - "slightly strangely" because manufacturers tend to put the halo models into their press fleets. But I minded not a jot.

Besides a full host of creature comforts, and safety features such as seven airbags and an Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with Roll Stability Control, plus rear park assist with camera, the XLT gets 18-inch alloys and running boards. Useful for shorter passengers.

Move up to the Limited model, and you can expect power-fold third-row seats and a powered tailgate, plus a full suite of driver aids.

You'll pay R663,900 for the top-spec Limited, or R607,900 for the XLT here. That includes a four-year/120,000km warranty, and a five-year/100,000km service plan.

And yes. I like this Everest very, very much indeed, with the conspicuous absence of badge snobbery being another attraction - as is the fact that on our deteriorating, anarchic roads, large SUVs make more sense than ever. It's like a Mad Max film set out there.

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