Moun­tain of gear

Herald Sun - Motoring - - SHORT CUT - CHRIS RI­LEY CUTS TO THE CHASE

VALUE

The Ever­est Ti­ta­nium is pricey even for a seven-seat 4WD. For $16,000 less, the Trend is a bet­ter buy and you can get a rear-drive ver­sion for less again. There is plenty of kit to jus­tify a price tag that is close to $80,000 on the road yet it feels a lit­tle down-mar­ket, never quite shrug­ging off its ute ori­gins. Lat­est eight-inch touch­screen brings sharper graphics, faster per­for­mance and im­proved voice con­trol, with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto sup­port. Three-year/100,000km war­ranty. Ser­vic­ing is $1470 for three years/45,000km.

COM­FORT

Ford has done well to turn the Ranger ute into a fam­i­lyfriendly SUV. It looks ter­rific, has plenty of legroom front and back and a third row that’s kid­sized. There’s even space for lug­gage. Ride qual­ity re­mains smooth even on bumpy roads. The in­stru­ment panel is clev­erly de­signed, with con­fig­urable info screens ei­ther side of the speedo, but why are the air­con con­trols du­pli­cated in the touch­screen?

SAFETY

Gets the full five stars for from ANCAP with a score of 35.8/37. Even for a big brute, ANCAP says, pedes­trian pro­tec­tion is ac­cept­able. Stan­dard re­vers­ing cam­era is sup­ple­mented by front and rear park­ing sen­sors. Other driver aids in­clude rollover pre­ven­tion, blind spot alert, lane de­par­ture as­sist and for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, though the lat­ter won’t au­to­mat­i­cally ap­ply the brakes.

DRIV­ING

Sur­pris­ingly smooth for a gen­uine 4WD. Noise from the diesel en­gine isn’t in­tru­sive and once you’re off the mark, in­gear ac­cel­er­a­tion is strong. Nor­mally drive is di­rected to the rear, un­less it loses trac­tion or you lock in 4WD to go of­froad — there are four all­ter­rain modes and a lock­ing rear diff. Adap­tive cruise, park as­sist and auto high beam are handy ad­di­tions. With lowrange and plenty of ground clear­ance, it can mix it with the best off-road. Tows 3000kg, not as much as the ute, but it has more civilised rear sus­pen­sion and bet­ter steer­ing, although it is still a lit­tle vague.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES Holden Trail­blazer 2.8 LTZ, from $52,490

Based on the Colorado ute and for­merly known as the Colorado7, the Trail­blazer has been re­cently up­graded in­side and out. It has more torque than the Ever­est, with a 2.8-litre turbo diesel (147kW/500Nm) and sixspeed au­to­matic. Uses 8.6L/100km and tows 3000kg. War­ranty is av­er­age at three years/100,000km. Pay $1396 for three years/45,000km ser­vic­ing.

Mit­subishi Pa­jero Sport 2.4 Ex­ceed, $52,750

Based on Tri­ton ute, its styling is po­lar­is­ing. High­est tow rat­ing but lacks satnav. Pro­pelled by 2.4-litre turbo diesel (133kW/ 430Nm) with eight-speed auto re­turn­ing 8.0L/100km. Tows 3100kg. War­ranty is longer than Ever­est at 5 years/100,000km. Ser­vic­ing is $1510 for three years/45,000km.

Toy­ota For­tuner 2.8 Cru­sade, $59,990

Based on HiLux ute, with good com­pro­mise be­tween on and off-road abil­ity. Driv­e­line is a 2.8-litre turbo diesel (130kW/ 450Nm) and six-speed auto. Claimed thirst is 8.6L/100km. Tows 2800kg. War­ranty is three years/100,000km, ser­vic­ing is $1080 for three years/60,000km.

VER­DICT

Looks rugged and has plenty of fam­ily ap­peal, with seven seats and all the cre­den­tials to get off the beaten track and tow a car­a­van — but it’s over­priced.

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