Ford has been kicking some pretty serious 4X4 goals lately, if you haven’t noticed. Every man and their dog is talking about the Ranger Raptor, and the Ranger is going toe-to-toe with the HiLux in terms of overall sales. And don’t forget, after launching as an all-new model in 2015, the Everest has also achieved some pretty solid success.
Ford proudly line up the Everest against the LandCruiser Prado. And it makes sense, to a degree. Both are full-time 4WDs with good off-road capability and have similar dimensions inside-and-out. And although the Prado is more expensive, they are in a similar price bracket. At the same time, the Everest has some natural competition amongst other ute-based wagons. Those looking at the Blue Oval will no doubt cast their eyes over the Pajero Sport, MU-X, TrailBlazer and Fortuner.
It’s only a mid-life update, but the 2019 Ford Everest has managed to score a lot of updated and new.No doubt the biggest news is a whole new ‘Bi-Turbo’ driveline, as well as lots of tech and safety gear. Let’s get into the details.
The new engine is a two-litre, four-cylinder diesel, based on the latest new ‘EcoBlue’ family of Ford diesel engines. This is the highest output unit with two (sequential) turbos, which is also used in the 2019 Ford Ranger and Ranger Raptor.
The engine makes 157kW @ 3,750rpm and 500Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm, which runs through a new 10-speed automatic gearbox and low-range transfer case. The old 3.2-litre five-banger is still available, with the same outputs (143kW @ 3,000rpm, 470Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm) and six-speed gearbox.
The new driveline is not available on the bottom-spec Ambiente, a $1,200 option on the mid-spec Trend, and your only option on the top-spec Titanium. While we’re at it, here are the prices: Ambiente: $54,190. Trend 3.2: $59,990, Trend 2.0 $61,190, Titanium $73,990, including the luxury car tax.
It’s still full-time 4WD, using a clutch-driven centre differential. The centre diff can’t be completely locked, depending more on off-road traction control to keep the right wheels spinning off-road.
Suspension, whilst still the same combination of strut IFS and a Watts Linkage live rear end, has been tweaked slightly. Ford engineers have changed the packaging of the sway bar mounts, which has stiffened them up. Stiffer swaybars control body roll better, so Ford has been able to soften the spring rate slightly. It’s a noticeably good improvement, with a noticeably softer overall edge to the front end. Body-roll is still fairly tight, unlike most other 4WDs. Compared to the Prado, it’s a night-and-day comparison. On-road, the Everest makes the Prado feel like it’s made out of Aeroplane Jelly.
The new ‘Bi-Turbo’ is smooth and quiet, with a progressive delivery of power. More overall poke is definitely noticeable, compared to the 3.2-litre unit it’s much happier to move up to its 4,000rpm redline, but also feels good when bumbling along at around 1500 to 2000. When you reach 110km/h, 10th ratio leaves you at 1,500rpm. The new driveline, along with some extra tech like noise cancelling and acoustic glass, makes a big improvement in refinement. That being said, the 3.2-litre engine and six-speed gearbox is still a good performer. In comparison, it has a noticeably stronger surge of torque off the line, but wind does start to leave the sails noticeably at higher speeds faster.
I honestly didn’t know what to make of 10 choices in a gearbox, and how it would perform. Part of me thought it would be like looking at a huge restaurant menu and never knowing what to choose for entrée, or a bunch of grown adults trying to make a grown-up decision in a Liberal party room. But I’m quite happy to report it’s a ripper gearbox. Changes are smooth without feeling slushy or CVT-esque. It makes good decisions on ratios depending on throttle and load, and sticks with them.
Throttle response varies between D and S noticeably. It’s edging towards doughy in D, which many will like for the smooth progress leaning towards economy. Slap the gear shifter across to S, and the throttle tightens up nicely with a much sharper reaction. Gear choices become a little more aggressive, as well.
Suspension is set is a bit on the firm side, which pays dividends with dynamics. EPAS (electric, not hydraulic) steering is pretty clean and doesn’t really boat around at all. Body-roll is well controlled. I couldn’t help but compare it to a Prado, which although might have more comfort over bumps, feels about as enjoyable to drive as having a frozen steak thrown at your face. The Everest, on the other hand, is quite a bit more enjoyable.
For the family duties
No doubt, the majority of Everest buyers are looking for three things: safety, convenience and economy. And it does deliver on all of these nicely. Having an autonomous braking system, traffic and pedestrian detection and the ability to read traffic signs are all nice additions. This adds on top of the adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning it already had.
The interior hasn’t changed much, but that’s allright in my books. It’s still a nice place to be, which all feels nice and solid to touch. The SYNC 3 is still one of the best infotainment units to use, and you can pull up more info you can shake an index finger at.
In terms of off-road capability, it’s the same story: Good, but not great. Although the Prado does lose points left-right-and-centre on-road, it makes plenty back in low-speed, low-range work. The Everest is a good and effective off-roader for what most people will want. But if you want the very best off-road wagon in terms of capability, you’re best off looking elsewhere.
Traction control is still not as great as other options out there (Namely, Toyota). When you’re cross-axled, there is still a bit of wheel-spin happening before torque starts to bite and move in the right direction. And while a rear locker does solve a lot of issues, the centre differential (which cannot mechanically lock up) does let a lot of torque fly around to different wheels without a whole lot of control. The Terrain Management System (TMS) has four different modes: normal, grass/gravel/snow, sand and rock. They all have their subtle tweaks of throttle response and traction aids, but rock is the best for an effective traction control system, especially when wheels are lifting and spinning freely. You need to be in low-range to engage this mode.
What about for touring duties?
There are a few things you need to accommodate for if you want to make an Everest your touring rig. Firstly: Adblue. Despite what many think, it’s not the devil returning to punish us and expunge our souls. It’s just an emissions control system, and we all better get used to it. But, it is a bit of a pain you have to be aware of.
On day-to-day duties, Ford reckons most owners won’t even have to top up the system: it will last easily between services. However, if you’re using your 4WD for long stints at heavy loads, towing, low speed and whatnot, then you might develop a bit of urea range anxiety. And, it’s another complex electromechanical system that could cause issues, if you’re unlucky.
You’ll notice the Adblue tank sits down fairly low behind the rear passenger wheel, next to the underslung spare. You’d have to be going pretty hard or pretty silly to manage damaging it, but it is still a possibility. And no AdBlue means no engine starting.
But otherwise, the Everest would make a fine 4WD tourer. It’s not as well suited as others in terms of accessory and gear fitment, but it will do it fine. Just remember to get one with 18” wheels, not the flash 20” units. You’ve got stacks comfort and technology, as well as a good amount of load space. The five-seater Ambiente with a 3.2 is your best bet for a tourer in terms of load space, value and payload. If you want the new driveline, get up to Trend spec, and you’ll have seven seats whether you want them or not.
Ford’s update has made a good bet a bit better. The new driveline combines well for good performance, great refinement and impressive economy all at once. But if you prefer your capacity over complexity, the option of the 3.2-litre unit and six-speed gearbox is still available. And we reckon although there are nice gains to be had through the Bi-Turbo, the older driveline is still quite nice.
Where the Everest’s strengths lie is definitely in its combination of a snappy on-road drive, interior and technology. It all feels really nicely planned out and put together, a result no doubt of the Australian-led design and development program it enjoyed. The suspension is really nicely tuned, combining well for a great overall package.
While there is some good ground clearance and traction aids available, the Everest does show up a few flaws off-road. The centre differential has a bit more of an on-road bias with its 40/60 front/rear split, and that means more pressure is put on the traction control system, which isn’t as nicely tuned as others out there. That being said, it’s still good.
I’m inevitably drawn back to that LandCruiser Prado comparison, which is so heavily dominant in terms of sales. The Prado is better off-road, and is no doubt better suited to turning into a touring 4X4. But you’ll make sacrifices if you go that way: The Prado is not a particularly enjoyable vehicle to drive, sit in or look at. The Everest, on the other hand, is significantly less boring, and I reckon that’s still pretty important.