LO­CAL HERO IN A TUX

It may have started life as a ute, but the Ford Ever­est Ti­ta­nium is now as flash as they come.

4 x 4 Australia - - Test -

JUST in case you didn’t know, the Ever­est is es­sen­tially a wagon ver­sion of Ford’s highly suc­cess­ful Ranger ute. Aside from the ob­vi­ous body change, there are coil springs in place of leaf springs for the rear axle, disc brakes in­stead drums at the rear, and an ‘ac­tive’ full-time 4x4 sys­tem rather than the Ranger’s more util­i­tar­ian part-time sys­tem. The wheel­base has also been re­duced from the Ranger’s ex­traor­di­nar­ily long 3220mm (which is even longer than a Toy­ota LC79 cab-chas­sis) to 2850mm, which is the same as a Toy­ota LC200 (still very long).

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

THE EVER­EST shares the 2015 facelifted Ranger’s 3.2-litre in­line five­cylin­der diesel en­gine. Changes from the orig­i­nal Ranger en­gine in­clude a smaller, more ef­fi­cient turbo for faster spool-up, a more so­phis­ti­cated higher-pres­sure com­mon-rail fuel sys­tem, and other changes to the cylin­der head de­signed to im­prove en­gine NVH.

What the Ever­est has that the Ranger lacks is SCR pol­lu­tant-re­duc­ing tech­nol­ogy, which al­lows the Ever­est to meet up­com­ing Euro 6 emis­sion reg­u­la­tions. The Ever­est’s max­i­mum power of 143kw is 4kw less than the Ranger, al­though torque max re­mains at a solid 470Nm, which comes on-stream at a low 1750rpm.

Thanks to its strong low-rpm power and five-cylin­der de­sign, the Ever­est’s en­gine has a nicely re­laxed low-revving gait on the high­way, de­spite hav­ing the short­est gear­ing of the three wag­ons here. It’s not as re­fined as the Kakadu’s new 2.8 or the Dis­cov­ery’s V6, but it’s still a gen­er­ally pol­ished en­gine. The Ever­est’s 3.2 is the largest-ca­pac­ity en­gine here, but it can’t match the heav­ier bi-turbo Dis­cov­ery for pedal-to-metal per­for­mance; al­though, it does have the wood on the slightly lighter but taller-geared Kakadu.

The Ever­est comes with a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, which is the only gear­box op­tion for the Ford wagon. It of­fers smooth and de­ci­sive shift­ing and has a closer spread of gears than the new six-speed in the Kakadu.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HAN­DLING

FORD’S en­gi­neers have done a good job on the Ti­ta­nium’s on-road dy­nam­ics. De­spite its weight, height and off-road-ca­pa­ble sus­pen­sion, it feels quite sporty through cor­ners. What part the Watt’s link­age rear­axle lo­ca­tion (in­stead of a sim­pler Pan­hard rod) plays is dif­fi­cult to say, but the whole thing works nicely – even if the live axle at the rear can make its pres­ence felt through bumpy cor­ners.

On the flip-side, the Ti­ta­nium’s ride is a lit­tle sharper than the plush-rid­ing Kakadu or even the Dis­cov­ery. That the Ti­ta­nium is on 20-inch tyres wouldn’t help here.

Like the facelifted Ranger, the Ever­est has elec­tric power steer­ing, which is ex­cep­tion­ally light at park­ing speed but firms up nicely at higher road speeds, without ever quite of­fer­ing the feel and feed­back of a good hy­drauli­cally as­sisted sys­tem.

OFF-ROAD

THE Ever­est doesn’t have the front or rear wheel travel of the Kdss-equipped Kakadu, and it can’t match the front travel of the Dis­cov­ery. How­ever, it has the ben­e­fit of a driver-switched rear locker, the per­for­mance of which is fur­ther en­hanced by the fact that en­gag­ing it doesn’t can­cel the trac­tion con­trol across the front axle.

Like the Dis­cov­ery, the Ti­ta­nium also has an ‘ac­tive’ elec­tronic self-lock­ing cen­tre diff, whereas the Kakadu has a me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip cen­tre diff that has to be locked by the driver.

The end re­sult of all this is that the Ti­ta­nium gen­er­ally com­petes well off-

FORD

EVER­EST TI­TA­NIUM $76,990

The Ever­est’s rear diff lock is in­te­gral to its off-road prow­ess.

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