Ford takes you to the summit of this Everest

Ford is engaged in an almighty battle with its competitors for the heart and soul of the South African motoring public – the lucrative “bakkie” and SUV markets.

On the bakkie front the giant American automaker is well represented by the Ford Ranger, which boasts nearly 40 derivatives and is regularly one of the top sellers in the country. The Ranger is sold in single cab, super cab and double cab versions.

The company’s SUV range is headlined by the impressive seven-seater Everest, which is based on the Ranger. The Everest offering is not as comprehensive as that of its bakkie sibling but the eight-model range does include:

lAn entry level 2.2-litre turbo diesel which retails for R459900; and

lA range topping 3.2-litre 4WD turbo diesel that sells for R699900.

It was the former model that Dispatch Motoring was recently given to review. The white test vehicle was supplied by Eastern Cape Motors and we got to use it recently on a trip to Grahamstown.

As an indication of how important Ranger and Everest sales are to Ford, the company was the second-best selling automotive brand in South Africa during March 2017 thanks mainly to these two models.

A total of 6433 vehicles carrying the Blue Oval badge were sold, of which Ranger and Everest units accounted for more than half – 3234 Ranger’s and 577 Everest units, which represented an all-time record for this model.

Neale Hill, director of marketing, sales and service for Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region said it was encouraging to see Everest sales increasing. “We are delighted with the growing demand for the expanded Everest range, and we expect this to continue in line with the growth of this very popular segment.”

Everest sales have been on the up since last year thanks to an expanded model line-up. Initially only two high spec models produced in Thailand were available locally. But Ford invested R2.5-billion in its Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria, which allowed it to offer six new models – five all-new 2.2-litre versions in XLS or XLT trim, as well as the option of a new 3.2 XLT 4x2.

The engine found in the 2.2 XLS model supplied to the Dispatch is exactly the same as the one found in the Ranger. Delivering 118kW and 385Nm torque, it effortlessly propelled the spacious SUV along the N2 to the City of Saints with four of us on board and some luggage. Overtaking when needed was a breeze and it held its speed on inclines. The drive was smooth, the suspension comfortable and the seven seats meant there was an array of seating options available.

There was enough room for our bags without having to fold the rear seats flat, but if needed the load space is rated at 1050 litres with them down expanding to 2010 litres with both second and third rows folded completely flat.

The Everest proved just as capable on dirt too when we tackled a rutted farm track without hassle.

Although the middlemannetjie may have caused concern for lower slung vehicles, the commanding ride height of the Everest meant it was never a factor.

Fuel consumption for the five days I had the vehicle was recorded at a respectable 10.3-litres per 100km.

Standard features I particularly enjoyed included the full-colour 4-inch display for the reverse camera, rear parking sensors, an array of storage bins and bluetooth connectivity. Shod with 17-inch rims, the 4x2 XLS model will easily meet the needs of most families as an urban commuter during the week and as a “getaway” vehicle on weekends.

For owners intending on heading far off the beaten track, there is a 2.2 XLS 4x4 model available.

An intelligent four-wheel drive system provides permanent drive to all four wheels and it comes equipped with high and low range and a rear differential lock. Ground clearance is 225mm and wading depth 800mm.

Customers wanting a little more luxury can opt for the higher-specification Everest 2.2 in XLT guise. Ford’s latest-generation SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system is fitted standard in this model and includes 10 speakers and two USB ports. The XLT model also has an 8-inch touch screen and 18 inch rims.

The Everest with its handsome looks, good specification levels and excellent build quality is a really attractive proposition for anyone looking for a seven-seater SUV backed by one of the world’s most reputable motoring manufacturers.