Two months before the rugged and refined Ford Everest reaches Philippine soil, Ford Philippines brought a group of motoring media to the backwoods of Northern Thailand to take a stab at the new gear and technologies that abound in the much-touted all-new SUV.
The all-new Ford Everest was first unveiled in Thailand in March that made a stir in the market with its excitingly rugged and heavily-sculpted exterior design. During the unveil, Ford officials assured that the new Everest will take the motoring world by storm with its smart features, advanced off-road capabilities as well as new-technologies that would raise the bar in the SUV segment.
Back in June, the new-generation Everest was presented in the Philippines together with the announcement of its price-point that turned out to be surprisingly higher than the competition. But barely four months after the unveil, Filipino motoring journalists were back in Thailand to get a first crack at driving the new Everest and see if it’s worth the higher price, and to prove if it has the mettle to lord over the segment once again, as it did 13 years ago.
The ride and drive even took place in the boonies of Chiang Rai, which is some 800 kilometers north of Thailand. The Philippine contingent almost numbered 30, which included Ford Philippines’ Kay Hart (president), Dino Obias, Joseph Ayllon and Isa Suarez.
Just before the drive, a briefing was held revealing the Everest’s new features that included a body-on-frame construction, intelligent four-wheel drive and an advanced terrain management system that help drivers navigate challenging terrain with confidence.
First on the list of new elements on the Everest is the choice between two powerful but fuel-efficient engines. Now on offer is the latest generation 3.2-liter Duratorq five-cylinder TDCi diesel engine with 197 horsepower of power and 470 Newton-meters of torque. For maximum fuel economy without compromising performance, there’s the latest generation 2.2-liter Duratorq four-cylinder TDCi diesel that puts out 158 hp of power and 385 Nm of torque.
Both diesel engines are mated to a six-speed automatic or manual transmission that features advanced technologies that improve fuel efficiency. The automatic transmission features an advanced driver recognition software, which allows the transmission to adapt to the current driving style by analyzing acceleration and deceleration rates, brake and throttle applications, and cornering speed. The driving behavior of the user is learned by the computer and will adapt to the driving style within 200 kilometers.
Unlike its predecessor, which was a pick-up-truck-based SUV, Ford engineers disclosed that the Everest was designed from the ground up with the durability to take on the most inhospitable environments.
One of the toughest SUVs in its segment, the new Everest has a true body-on-frame design, assuring the torsional strength required for challenging terrains. Together with an intelligent four-wheel drive system, an active transfer case with Torque on Demand, Terrain Management System, a best-in-class water-wading capability of 800 millimeter, 225 mm of ground clearance, and aggressive approach and departure angles, the Everest helps drivers navigate difficult terrain with ease.
Complementing the Everest’s on and off-road handling capabilities is the coil spring suspension with Watt’s linkage that combines toughness with agile handling and exceptional ride comfort.
Ford designers also talked big on the Everest’s class-leading features including its spacious, modern interior; advanced connectivity; and driver assistance technology, including SYNC 2, Active Park Assist, and segment-first Curve Control and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert.
A well laid-out 170-kilometer route was prepared by Ford for the ride and drive event that covered well-paved highways, dirt roads with steep inclines, water crossings and sheer descents to put the Everest’s capabilities to the test.
With each Everest only having two people onboard—taking turns in driving the route, we really were able to test the Everest’s mettle.
Initially, the highway drive was unexcitable as we already know how exceptionally quiet and smooth a Ford rides on paved roads. It was when we tried its smart features and driver assist technologies that we were truly impressed. While driving on the city streets, the Everest’s BLIS with Cross Traffic Alert informs drivers when there is a vehicle in the blind spot. The system works while preparing to reverse out of a parking spot or while driving in highways. An audible alarm sounds off when there is a car in your blind-spot, either left or right. The Active Park Assist enables drivers to parallel park hands-free, requiring only accelerating, shifting and braking from the driver.
The vehicle also has Roll Stability Control and an Electronic Stability Program that works with traction control to help the driver stay in control. While driving on dusty roads at 80 kilometers per hour, we tried to avoid a deep rut with a quick jerk on the steering wheel, which induced the body to roll to the side and the made the rear wheels lose traction. Just as the body was starting to roll, the system applied brake to the outer front wheel to counter the oversteer—thus preventing the loss of traction.
We also got to try the Everest’s Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Collision Mitigating System (CMS) and Curve Control (CC). We traveled in a convoy while on our way to the boonies and the route took us through four-lane highways as well as narrow and winding rural roads. We activated the ACC and set it to a maximum speed of 85 kph and took our foot off the gas pedal (but had our right foot very close to the brake pedal). Through a built-in radar, the system measures the distance between the front of the Everest and the vehicle in front as well as the speed. When the system detects that the distance between the two vehicles is diminishing too quickly and a collision may occur, a visual and audio warning is triggered and the brakes applied as well. A distance of about 30 meters between the two vehicles is maintained by the system. When the vehicle in front speeds up and the ACC system detects this, the Everest accelerates up to the pre-set speed (85 kph). The CC also worked in preventing the Everest to enter a turn too quickly. With the system on, we tried to enter a tight 90-degree turn at 35 kph. Detecting that we were entering a tight turn too fast, the system immediately reduced torque and applied brakes on all four wheels—slowing down the Everest to a more controllable speed and helping me stay on the right path.
An even more exciting part came next as we got to the off-road section of the route. It was a 20-plus kilometer rugged drive in a mountainous area of Chiang Rai that led to the Akha Hill tribe, an ethnic village perched on top of the mountains. The area provided a great venue to try out the Everest’s Terrain Management System. Having four preset modes – Normal, Snow/Mud/Grass, Sand and Rock– the system alters the vehicle’s throttle response, transmission, intelligent four-wheel drive system and traction control to help drivers confidently tackle any road situation. For extreme off-road environments, drivers can manually lock the transfer case in low-range four-wheel drive mode for increased control.
The Everest’s Hill Descent Control now can be controlled just by using the fingertips. With the system enabled, we drove down a very steep hill without ever having to step on the brakes. The speed (as slow as 3 – 4 kph) can be controlled by an up and down toggle on the steering wheel, and enables the driver to concentrate on maneuvering the car. The system will be the one to engage the brakes on whatever wheel it is needed to provide traction at all times.
A wide variety of other intuitive and practical technologies come with the all-new Everest. For one, Ford equipped the new Everest with Active Noise Cancellation through its audio system to provide very low levels of noise, vibration and harshness. This is in addition to the extensive use of cabin sealing and sound absorbing materials throughout the vehicle.
Another is the use of Ford’s latest-generation in-car connectivity solution, the SYNC 2. The system lets drivers use natural voice commands to control the car’s entertainment system, climate controls and connected mobile devices more easily than ever before. The SYNC 2 makes use of an eight-inch touchscreen with color-coded corners for easy menu navigation. The entertainment system features a first-in-class 10-speaker sound system with an integrated subwoofer, providing accurate and precise sound reproduction and deep, rich bass.
Form follows function
The all-new Everest has a modern chiseled design that exudes its capabilities and smart technology. Its wide stance and LED daytime running lights work completes the Everest’s hefty look.
Inside, the Everest makes use of refined materials to create a comfortable, harmonious environment for up to seven adult passengers. Interior features balance comfort with ultimate practicality, including a dual-panel moon roof, a first-in-class powered liftgate, more than 30 cleverly designed stowage spaces, multiple power outlets and flexible seating and cargo arrangements – including fold-flat second- and first-in-class power-fold third-row seating. With all the rear seats folded, the new Everest can hold up to 2,010 liters of cargo.
An entire day of driving the all-new Everest is truly not enough to try out all its new features. But one thing is certain – all the smart technology together with the off-road features that come with the Everest makes it all worth the price.