Dean Evans checks out Ford’s ute-based seven-seater SUV and his wife Arna gives a mother of young chil­dren’s ver­dict on the ve­hi­cle.

BY NAME AND BY DE­SIGN, THE EVER­EST IS THE TOP OF THE Ford range. At $75,990 for the en­try level Trend model, it’s still $6350 more than the top-spec Ranger Wild­trak ute, the ve­hi­cle upon which the Ever­est is loosely based.

And the $87,990 price for the range-top­ping Plat­inum model we tested widens that gap even more.

That’s the price – we’ll get that part out of the way first, be­cause it’s ar­bi­trary and ob­jec­tive.

LCV mag­a­zine last sam­pled the Ever­est in the April/may 2016 tow test, and the blue Plat­inum ca­pa­bly pulled 2.7 tonnes of horse float, a weight well be­low its 3000kg limit.

But we needed to spend some time with the Ever­est, to as­sess its other virtues – and there are many.

In blunt terms, the Ever­est is a re­fined Ranger with a rear body and im­proved rear sus­pen­sion that uses coil springs in­stead of leaves.

The engine is the same 3.2-litre five-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel that’s found in the Ranger. It’s full of torque (470Nm), and though it’s a lit­tle noisy, it’s qui­eter than the Ranger due to ac­tive noise can­celling, which we noted doesn’t just re­duce cabin noise, but im­proves con­ver­sa­tions be­tween front and rear seat pas­sen­gers.

The trans­mis­sion slides like but­ter on a hot­plate through the six gears, and it’s a pack­age that works re­ally well to­gether, whether it’s on the open road or crawl­ing in traf­fic.

That’s partly be­cause the gear­box soft­ware “learns” a driver’s style, and al­ters the shift­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics ac­cord­ingly, bi­as­ing them to­wards per­for­mance or econ­omy.

The cabin has a real qual­ify feel, and lacks none of the ex­pected fea­tures, ex­cept for tele­scop­i­cally-ad­justable steer­ing.

The heated elec­tri­cally-ad­justable front seats are sup­port­ive and com­fort­able, all-around vi­sion is great, and along with Ford’s im­proved Sync3 voice-con­trol sys­tem, there’s also Ap­ple­play and An­droid Auto, which trans­fer and repli­cate an iphone/an­droid phone’s ba­sic func­tions to the cen­tral touch-screen. The glove­box is also de­signed to store a lap­top of up to 16-inches.

Au­to­mated par­al­lel park­ing and ac­tive cruise-con­trol are two big con­ve­nience items. And along with the ‘nor­mal’ lux­ury trap­pings you’d ex­pect, there are blind-spot warn­ings, a panoramic two-panel sun­roof, and lane-as­sist which vi­brates the steer­ing wheel and very gently tugs it back into line if the ve­hi­cle in­ad­ver­tently strays to­wards a painted line.

There’s also Curve Con­trol, which warns the driver if a turn is ap­proached too quickly – and all these warn­ings are her­alded by a strip of red lights that flash-up on to the wind­screen in front of the driver, head-up’ style. They’re ac­com­pa­nied by an au­di­ble warn­ing when the cau­tion in­creases, which cer­tainly grabs a driver’s at­ten­tion.

The mid­dle row seats split 60/40 and both slide and re­cline, with both fan con­trols and 12 volt and 230v out­lets, for things like camp­ing fridges or lap­top charg­ers…now that glove­box fea­ture starts to make sense.

In the third row, things be­come much tighter and the seats are best suited to kids; adults can fit, but the sec­ond row needs to slide for­ward to pro­vide knee­room.

In the boot, stor­age changes from handy to huge, depend­ing on the sta­tus of the third row seats, and stored un­der­neath is a full-size

al­loy spare, an im­pres­sive fea­ture given the 265/50 20-inch tyres.

On the road, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is all-around im­pres­sive. The sus­pen­sion is a lit­tle floaty at times, but very com­fort­able and de­spite the 20-inch wheels, the Ever­est rides very well.

The Du­ra­torq engine is strong and pulls solidly from low revs, never feel­ing off-boost or out of breath through­out the rev range.

We put our tim­ing gear on to the Ever­est, and recorded 0-60km/h in 5.0 se­conds and 0-100km/h in 11.9 se­conds, rea­son­able num­bers given its con­sid­er­able 2457kg heft.

The torque makes it feel quicker and, the mo­tor is al­ways smooth with am­ple power on tap.

What suf­fers, how­ever, is the econ­omy. Though Ford quotes 8.5 litres/100km on the com­bined cy­cle, and 11.2 litres/100km on the ur­ban, our mix of ur­ban and mo­tor­way driv­ing re­sulted in 10.5 litres/100km.

We kept our test route to on-road, but the Ever­est also fea­tures the same 4WD Ter­rain Man­age­ment Sys­tem as the Ranger, with snow/mud/grass, rock, and sand and rock pre-set op­tions.

Though some peo­ple might per­ceive it as a big, lum­ber­ing be­he­moth, the Ever­est is any­thing but.

It feels 500kg lighter than its spec­i­fi­ca­tions sug­gest, it’s loaded with tech­nol­ogy, fea­tures, elec­tron­ics and safety. It isn’t cheap, or par­tic­u­larly eco­nom­i­cal, but it’s sharp on-road, is highly prac­ti­cal and is a fit­ting sum­mit to the Ford range.

Ford Ever­est is a hand­some SUV based on the Ranger ute. This is the top of the range Plat­inum.

1 4 2 5 3 Above: 1. Dash­board and con­sole de­sign is un­clut­tered; 2. With third row seats folded, there’s a use­ful amount of cargo space; 3. Ever­est shares its five-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel with the Ranger; 4. Ever­est’s engine meets Euro 6 emis­sion...

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