There’s no way to avoid it: every mainstream car company needs a three-row SUV in its line-up to be taken seriously these days.
We’re long past the first-generation efforts of automakers unsure of how best to tackle the extended family demographic, which means if you’re going to seat seven or more in 2017, then you’re going to have to do better than merely go through the motions. More to the point, you’re going to have to beat rivals like the Ford Everest.
The 2017 Ford Everest is the latest version of an SUV one-two punch that first debuted for the 2015 model year. Positioned as the more capacious sibling to the compact Kuga, the vehicle has built a strong following thanks to its affordable bundling of features and practicality that often undercuts major players from Toyota (the Fortuner), Honda (HRV), and Chevrolet (the Trailblazer) in both areas.
2017 brings a few changes to the Everest formula, although nothing all that dramatic. LED daytime running lights are the most noticeable aspect of its exterior makeover, and its front and rear fascias have spent some time under the scalpel as well, emerging with a new fog light design as well as a slightly chunkier grille, and vertical rather than horizontal reflectors out back. It’s a handsome sport-utility vehicle, one whose somewhat imposing presence suggests a higher sticker than its R492K starting price. Even the Limited model that served as my week-long tester barely broke the R700K mark with its all-wheel drive and safety-loaded Tech Package.
Crack the door to the Ford’s cabin and you come back down to Earth – at least, a little – in terms of the materials used throughout its interior. I personally found the passenger compartment design to be pleasing to the eye, but the Everest’s Limited’s focus on function was evident by the monochromatic presentation of the soft, textured plastics, broken up by chrome-colored surrounds on the dash and door panels and leather-look trim inserts.
While not especially flashy, almost all of the Ford’s controls fall readily to hand, and its (standard) 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to figure out and use while driving, it also has smart technologies including all-new SYNC®3 . The SUV also gains a full complement of advanced safety gear for 2017, with Ford adding adaptive cruise control (which functions even at low speeds), automatic forward braking, a top-down camera system, and lane departure warning to the list of equipment. Depending on the model, these features join blind spot monitoring to more fully flesh out the Everest’s safety offerings.
While not especially flashy, almost all of the Ford’s controls fall readily to hand.
One aspect of the all-new Everest that hasn’t been altered in the slightest is its enormous amount of passenger and cargo space. As with most mid-size SUVs, that final row is best left to children since adults will find their knees jackknifed up in front of them due to the low perch of each cushion. Better yet – fold them flat by the touch of a button and enjoy the 1050 liters of total storage space on offer inside the Everest, a figure that almost doubles to 2010 with the second row out of the picture as well.
Out on the road the Everest doesn’t betray its size through the steering wheel, which was unexpected. Having previously driven the outgoing model and been impressed by its confident handling and comfortable ride, I was expecting only the latter from the upgraded version of the SUV. In addition to being quite easy to herd through urban traffic, the 3.2-liter 143kW/470Nm were more than enough to keep the Ford on its toes when darting forward on the highway to take advantage of a brief opening to pass on two-lane roads.
Probably the only ones who will be disappointed with the Everest’s 6-speed automatic setup will be turbo watchers, as the 2.2 and 3.2-liter are the sole engines available.
I hesitate to use words like ‘alternative’ when discussing the all-new Everest within the context of other three-row mid-size SUVs. Ford is well past having to prove itself to potential buyers based on value alone, yet it continues to make over-delivering in terms of features a core part of its brand identity. Despite its more modest sales figures, the Everest deserves your full attention if you’ve ever thought of adding a mainstream seven-passenger daily driver to your driveway. Throw in one of the most comprehensive new car drivetrain warranties in the business, and this Ford hauler could very well end up being the last vehicle you have to buy before the kids head off to university. The Ford Everest is priced from R470 000