Much overlooked as a tourism hotspot in Thailand, the largest northern Thai the city of Chiang Rai is diverse, relaxed and yet serves as Golden Triangle’s (Thailand, Myanmar and Laos) main commercial centre.
It is also here, that Ford chose to showcase its all new Everest to the Asia Pacific market. 21 Malaysian media members arrived here for a full day, get-to-know session on the Everest. But before we dive into the details, here’s a slice of the Ford Everest’s history.
The Everest is aimed at catering to the needs of emerging markets, therefore leading to a wagon body fit to a ladder chassis, which is normally derived from its double cab or ute (Ranger) cousin for durability. The idea behind the Everest is to provide added convenience while maintaining the rugged characteristics needed to conquer offbeat roads. Think of someone who is probably working at a construction site on weekdays while the same car is used for family excursions or balik kampung trips on weekends.
Now let’s have a close look at what the new Everest offers.
Using straight, bold lines, the dashboard is modern, with a 8″ LCD colour coded corners touch screen between 2 air-cond vents at the centre console. It is here that Ford’s latest generation of in car connectivity, SYNC 2, lies. SYNC 2 lets drivers use natural voice commands to control the car’s entertainment system, climate controls and connected mobile devices. To ensure the journey in the car more relaxing, a first-in-class 10-speaker sound system with an integrated subwoofer is fitted.
Peeking out of the steering binnacle is a speedometer, again, flanked by 2 smaller LCD screen on either side, displaying car and entertainment information.
Over 30 storage spaces, multiple power outlets (inclusive of one 240V ac for the rear passengers), 60:40 slideable second row seats and foldable third row seats give the Everest great flexibility. The 3.2 gets both 8-way electrically controlled front driver and passenger seats (driver side only for the 2.2), a sunroof and powered folding third row seats. Clever second and third row rear seat flat folding mechanisms ensure 2,010 liters of cargo is possible with a 750 kg payload. The third row seat is comfortable enough for adults over short journeys.
Ford went to great lengths to ensure a more refined cabin environment by equipping it with Active Noise Cancellation, in addition to double sealing and using sound absorbing materials throughout the vehicle.
Strong, angular lines are carried outwards with Ford’s latest design trapezoid grille in between projector headlamps, which are embedded with LED daytime running lights. The front is very pronounced with its bulged wheel fenders. Separating the 2.2 and 3.2 is the range topping Titanium trim, which differentiates itself with massive 20-inch alloys, a moon-roof, and power lift tailgate.
2 diesel engine choices are available. The 160hp/385Nm 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder Duratorq or 200hp/470Nm 3.2-litre 5-cylinder Duratorq are mated to either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. In the Malaysian market, however, only the 6-speed automatic version will be made available. The ZF sourced 6R80 gearbox has adaptive software built-in, learning the driver’s driving preferences, uphill or downhill and also if the vehicle is towing, optimising the shift patterns accordingly.
It is interesting to note that the 2.2-litre comes as a 4X2, while the 3.2-litre gets the 4X4 with all the technical wizardry such as the Terrain Management System, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Locking Rear Differential, Torque on Demand via Active Transfer Case, Hill Launch, Active Park Assist, Curve Control, Blind Spot Monitoring System and Lane Keep. Standard to both cars are the Electronic Stability Control. The 3.2-litre also gets 7 airbags.
The front and rear suspension gets the full independent coil-over treatment. The use of coil-overs in place of leaf spring, offers much improved ride comfort quality, while the usage of a solid rear axle offers off-road and towing capabilities. A Watt’s linkage at the rear axle prevents axle movement in the longitudinal direction of the car, thus giving the driver more precise driving and handling – fulfilling Ford’s fun to drive DNA.
A 140km route, comprising of both on and mild off road, enabled us to find out more about the Everest road mannerism. We started off with the 2.2-litre 4X2 Everest, covering about 55 km of mostly single lane or A-roads, cutting through towns and villages. Having adjusted the sitting position, the Everest strangely omitted telescopic (reach) steering adjustment. The Ford team justified that with the 8-way electrical driver seat.
The ride quality of the Everest is surprisingly refined, given that it is a body on frame construction. The Everest soaks up bumps and rough patches of the A-roads and handles corners equally well. From past experience of driving competitors’ similar segment vehicles, there was a tell-tale sign that the underpinnings are from a double cabin pick up truck without much engineering work being done on it. We managed to get it up to speed on certain stretches of double lane roads to about 100km/h and were happy to report that wind noise intrusion was very minimal. Power wise, the 2.2 felt adequate.
We then switched to the 3.2 4X4 Everest in our next leg of the route – mild off-road to Baan Pang Klang Hill Tribe village. Along the route, there are river crossings, and rain from the night before made the route a little bit more interesting. The off-road route allowed us to make full use of the bells and whistles of the 4X4 system. Advancement in electronics and a very capable chassis meant that the Everest 3.2 is able to get out of tricky situations despite being equipped with 20-inch highway terrain tyres.
On road, the 3.2 felt even more firmly planted than the 2.2. However, the low profile tyres have also introduced minor jarring on uneven roads into the cabin, unlike the 2.2 which uses higher profile tyres. Needless to say, the 3.2 propels the 2000kg Everest up to speed effortlessly.
The brief drive of the Everest basically elevated our expectations in body-on-frame SUVs. So much technology, engineering (Ford engineers said that engine mounting point rearwards are unique to the Everest) and refinement works have gone in to the Everest, pushing it upwards to a niche market, compared to its competitors. Much like the destination of the drive, it need not have the usual Thailand tourist attractions such as beaches, bars and beer. It has its own unique quality that attracts a different segment of tourists altogether.
A quick check with Ford Thailand reveals the pricing from THB 1,269,000 (2.2 4X2) to THB 1,599,000 (3.2 4X4 Titanium+), which roughly translates to RM142k to RM180k. It would definitely be interesting to see how much Ford is planning to ask for the Everest (at the media drive, pricing remained hush-hush despite continuous prodding from the journalists) with the incoming Japanese rivals; the Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.