For many years, Ford Motor Company has been making two of the best-selling vehicle types in the world ? the pick-up (F-Series) and? the SUV (Explorer). Millions of both vehicles have been sold (mostly in North America) and they continue to be top-sellers each year. The interesting thing is that the F-Series and Explorer have a common history and in fact, the Explorer was a SUV created out of the F-Series pick-up. The Explorer, which began life in 1990, rode the wave of SUV growth throughout the decade and became so successful that it was made a model line of its own.
With such long experience in pick-ups and SUV?s, Ford aimed to use the same success formula in Asean and developed the Ranger as an alternative to the ?Asian Cars? (Toyota Soluna/Vios and Honda City) which were introduced in the mid-1990s. It was a success and forced other manufacturers to change the way their pick-ups looked and even created a boom in the pick-up segment in Malaysia. Until the Ranger came along, a pick-up was a spartan workhorse that only businessmen loved but the Ford pick-up made it a ?cool? alternative to the sedan for a new generation of motorists. ? and it also popularised diesel engines.
Having seen how the derivative Explorer had worked so well when it was created off the F-Series platform, Ford did the same thing in Asean and though not originally intended, the Everest was born and could be produced at a relatively low cost because it could share many major components with the Ranger. That?s important in today?s competitive environment where production costs need to keep getting lower.
The Everest has been a success in many markets where its ruggedness has been a strong point and has served as an alternative for those who require a cabin with three rows of seats for humans instead of a pick-up bed for cargo. Common components with the Ranger has also been a plus point for fleet operators.
Given the ?genetic similarity? with the Ranger, it was only to be expected that the Everest would also get the new TDCi Duratorq powertrain that has proven very impressive in the new Ranger. Full details of this 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine have already been described in detail when we wrote about the new Ranger and can be referred to by clicking on the link at the end of this article.
Also now available with the new Everest is a bigger 3-litre TDCi engine which produces a whopping 380 Nm of torque at 3200 rpm (300 rpm lower than the peak torque for the 2.5-litre engine) and 115 kW/156 bhp (13 more bhp). This more powerful engine should be welcome by those who have more demanding requirements.
Like the Ranger, there are 5 forward ratios for both manual and automatic transmissions, the latter allowing efficient use of all the output of the engine and smoother transitions between ratios. The 5-speed automatic transmission is the same one as used in the latest Explorer and has been engineered to cope with the large amounts of torque passing through it.
As before, customers can choose 4×4 and 4×2 drivetrains, with the latter being practical if you don?t intend to do any serious off-road driving. Even then, unless you are in extremely rough and muddy terrain, a 4×2 Everest should still have enough capability to get you through. Often, it is more a case of whether the tyres are suitable for the conditions.
Those who choose an Everest 4×2 have only a single variant which has a 2.5-litre engine and automatic transmission. It appears that Ford Malaysia is targeting urban buyers with this variant which should prove a valid strategy since there is really no need for 4×4 in city driving. A 4×2 drivetrain saves some weight and also fuel and wear and tear is lower on drivetrain parts.
Looks-wise, the new Everest will likely draw the same comments as the new Ranger: ?Why does it look the same as before?? One reason would be that Ford believes trucks should look like trucks and SUVs should look like SUVs. Perhaps it takes a lot to convince designers to be radical when the come up with a new generation when it seems that a large number of customers still like such looks. The latest Explorer is an example although most Malaysians would probably not know about it and likewise, with the latest F-series, which also has evolutionary styling changes.
For the new Everest, there is certainly a cleaner profile and the front end is bolder, like the Ranger. It shares some cosmetic cues with the Ranger when viewed head-on but you will still be able to identify it as an Everest. For the top version with the 3.0-litre engine, a two-tone colour scheme is provided as standard, along with four colour choices (the other versions have 5 colours choices but no two-tone scheme).
Inside, the cabin, as before, offers three rows of seats for seven persons and the third row can be folded or removed to expand cargo floorspace. The third row is, however, still set low to the floor but the seats have been restructured to offer better comfort at least. The other seats have also been redesigned to give better support, reducing fatigue on long journeys.
The first impression on looking at the interior of the new Everest would be that it has been upgraded in a more significant way. Previously, it lacked refinement but the new model has better materials with a classier touch and appearance. The dashboard is the same as that in the Ranger which means it is functionally designed and also comes with the slide-out tray on the passenger side.
The 3.0-litre Everest gets some additional equipment as standard such as leather upholstery, an in-dash changer for six CDs in the audio head unit that also has MP3 capability, wood trim, six speakers (4 in the other versions) and signal lights on the door mirrors along with a ?puddle light? under the mirror to illuminate the ground at night when the door is unlocked. Ford Malaysia says that those who buy the 2.5-litre version can ask their dealer to change the door mirror to the type on the 3.0-litre version as the wiring is already inside. However, there will be an extra cost involved for the purchase of the different mirror housing.
The chassis of the new Everest has the same layout as before but it has been improved to give a more refined ride and handling. If what we experienced with the new Ranger is anything to go by, then it would be praiseworthy as well. However, the Everest is a heavier vehicle and it remains to be seen how the chassis engineers have tuned it.
Safety has always been a big thing for Ford and even when they developed the Ranger for Asean, they made sure that it would be tops in protecting occupants ? a point which helped the model quickly gain popularity. With the new 3.0-litre Everest, Ford Malaysia has topped other locally-assembled SUVs by providing side airbags for the front seat occupants ? a first in the segment. The side airbags, which are stowed in the seat backrests, will inflate when there is a strong impact on the side doors, giving protection against injuries as the head is snapped sideways. Incidentally, side airbags have also been standard in the smaller Escape SUV 2.3 and 3.0 V6 for the past few years.
Apart from the airbags, the Everest also has standard ABS managing the front disc/rear drum brake system and preventing lock-up that leads to skidding, as well as Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) which is especially useful on a vehicle which will have different loads on board. EBD has a sensor to determine the weight distribution and adjusts braking pressure (via a proportioning valve) on the front and rear brakes to ensure that braking is stable and optimised. Brake Assist is also standard for all versions, this providing a boost to braking pressure in emergency braking situations so that the maximum force is exerted.
Needless to say, Passive Safety ? which comes into play when there is a crash ? is also well provided. The body structure is tough but at the same time, impacts forces can be dissipated effectively before they do harm to the occupants. The chassis itself is also integral in the process of first resisting deformation and then channelling the forces around the cabin.
Of the four versions available, Ford Malaysia expects the 2.5-litre 4×4 Everest to account for 45% of sales, 15% for the 3.0-litre and 40% for the 4×2 version. Other than the Everest 2.5 4×4 Automatic which will be in the showrooms from October onwards, the other versions will be in Ford showrooms nationwide from September 12.
Everest 3.0 TDCi 4×4 LTD Automatic : RM172,488
Everest 2.5 TDCi 4×4 XLT Automatic : RM158,288
Everest 2.5 TDCi 4×2 XLT Automatic : RM145,188
Everest 2.5 TDCi 4×4 XLT Manual : RM145,188
(Prices for private registration in Peninsula Malaysia, excluding insurance premium)