Ever­est is up there in its class

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMOTORING - WILLEM VAN DE PUTTE

WHEN my wife and I spent a week­end in the Drak­ens­berg, the first thing she no­ticed were the beau­ti­ful views. I, on the other hand, saw the new Ford Ever­est up close for the first time.

To say it’s an im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous model doesn’t do it jus­tice. There was vir­tu­ally no re­sem­blance, but for the blue Ford logo.

When I had a chance to drive the new model shortly af­ter test­ing its dou­ble-cab sta­ble­mate, the Ranger, I made the most of it.

It’s big, but af­ter a while you get used to it. Min­i­mum spec­i­fi­ca­tion park­ing bays in malls just al­low it to fill the space be­tween the white lines.

But driv­ing is made eas­ier with a re­vers­ing cam­era, park­ing-as­sist beeps and a semi-au­to­matic par­al­lel park­ing sys­tem that turns the steer­ing wheel for you.

Once in­side, the first thing I no­ticed was the amount of space there was com­pared with the older model. It’s al­most cav­ernous and, sim­i­lar to the Ranger, it’s in­cred­i­bly com­fort­able to be seated in.

The ve­hi­cle is a seven-seater, but the two seats that pop up in the boot will prob­a­bly not be com­fort­able for any­one taller than 1.5m over a long dis­tance.

How­ever, while I was test­ing the Ever­est, we had all our boys at home for the week­end to at­tend a fam­ily din­ner in New­town.

No, not all of us who live on the other side of the Jukskei are so nar­row-minded that we’re content to re­main co­cooned in se­cu­rity es­tates with Blue Bull stick­ers on the back of our dou­ble cabs. We had to stop to pick up my mother-in-law and ar­rived at the venue first.

It was only then that we got the full pic­ture of how much space and weight seven peo­ple were. Or­di­nar­ily, we would have had to take two cars.

Swing the 3.2- litre 5- cylin­der into ac­tion and the dash­board lights up like a Christ­mas tree, show­ing a myr­iad elec­tronic gad­gets – it will take you a while to get used to what they all mean.

Rest as­sured, though, the in­stru­ments all have their uses. The Ever­est is packed with elec- trick­ery de­signed to keep you on (and off) the road in nearly any en­vi­ron­ment.

It’s an im­pres­sive list that in­cludes elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gramme, hill-launch as­sist, hillde­s­cent con­trol, ABS, curve con­trol, roll-sta­bil­ity con­trol, a tyre-pres­sure mon­i­tor, lane-keep­ing sys­tems and a host of other gad­gets de­signed by the clever peo­ple in white coats.

It has an in­te­grated 8-inch touch screen – as part of Ford’s in-car con­nec­tiv­ity so­lu­tion, Sync2 – that recog­nises 10 000 nat­u­ral voice com­mands, con­trols the cli­mate, and al­lows a num­ber of cel­lu­lar de­vices to con­nect.

We av­er­aged just over 12 litres to 100km in var­i­ous modes, which isn’t too bad, con­sid­er­ing the Ever­est’s weight, size and six- speed au­to­matic gear­box.

Off-road, like the Ranger, there’s not much it has to stand back for, with al­most ev­ery con­ceiv­able elec­tronic aid mak­ing it a cinch tack­ling rough and tough ter­rain.

Per­son­ally, I be­lieve th­ese elec­tron­ics are a “prob­lem” be­cause, at the touch of a but­ton or turn of a dial, ev­ery­one now thinks they are in­vin­ci­ble.

If you don’t be­lieve me, go to one of the many un­su­per­vised 4 x 4 tracks in and around Gaut­eng at the week­end and see how ecosys­tems, ve­hi­cles and egos are be­ing de­stroyed.

I drove the Ever­est around a track close to our home and it han­dled ev­ery­thing with aplomb.

How­ever, the test car was shod with 20-inch rims and road tyres. This isn’t ideal.

If the brake calipers al­low, I’d go a size or two down and put on some se­ri­ous off-road rub­ber.

On the way to our des­ti­na­tion, one of the kids was read­ing through the owner’s man­ual and spot­ted in­for­ma­tIon about play­ing white noise through the speak­ers to can­cel out road and wind noise.

The Ford Ever­est makes onand off-road driv­ing a cruise, but can be tricky to park in city malls’ bays.

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