The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Road Test - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARSGUIDE EDITOR

MEET the Everest Titanium, the most pre­cious metal in the Ford Aus­tralia line-up.

For­get about the V8 Mus­tang con­vert­ible that’s just ar­rived. At al­most $84,000 on the road ($85,000 if you want one with a tow bar), the Everest is com­fort­ably at the sum­mit of the Blue Oval price range.

Ford ar­gues that the big of­froader is good value when com­pared with a Toy­ota Prado but fails to men­tion that it is roughly $25,000 more than the com­pet­ing Holden and Mit­subishi. Which brings us to the $85,000 ques­tion — is it worth the out­lay? Ford has done an ex­cel­lent job of dis­tanc­ing the Everest from the Ranger work­ing ute it’s based on. Some of its ri­vals look like utes with a roof tacked on but the Everest For­tuner looks as if it was built from the be­gin­ning as a wagon.

In­side, there’s ev­i­dence that the Everest starts life as a con­sid­er­ably cheaper work­horse. There are plenty of hard plas­tic sur­faces on the door trims and cen­tre con­sole, al­though the fake stitched leather fin­ish on the dash lifts the tone a lit­tle, as does the soft blue am­bi­ent light­ing that fills the cabin at night.

The cen­tre screen and in­stru­ment panel have a hi-tech feel and are re­fresh­ingly easy to nav­i­gate. The in­stru­ment panel in par­tic­u­lar has a space-age feel. There is a dig­i­tal read­out on ei­ther side of the cen­tral speedo and th­ese can be con­fig­ured for myr­iad dis­plays.

One side shows sat­nav, mu­sic li­brary and phone­book and the other trip in­for­ma­tion plus spe­cial off-road aids. The lat­ter give you the pitch and yaw of the ve­hi­cle and dis­play which of the four wheels are en­gaged and locked — in this, the dis­plays ri­val what you get on some Land Rovers.

The leather trim is more func­tional than fash­ion­able, though, and there’s no push- but­ton to start the car, which is a rar­ity at this price.

The third-row set up is well thought-out, with the middle row of seats slid­ing to en­able a mix and match of legroom with the third row, which folds au­to­mat­i­cally for a flat floor. An adult or taller teen could ride in the third row on a short jour­ney, al­though head­room is a bit tight.

The iPhone and lap­top gen­er­a­tion is well catered for with four 12-volt out­lets, two USB ports and a house­hold power point. Ford is good at mak­ing cab­ins fam­ily-friendly — note the Ter­ri­tory — and this is no ex­cep­tion. If the cabin is lack­ing a lit­tle in fi­nesse, the Everest makes up for it in driver aids for ne­go­ti­at­ing the rush-hour traf­fic. It can au­to­mat­i­cally guide you into a par­al­lel park, watch your blind spot, warn you if you’re drift­ing out of your lane and slam on the brakes at low speed to avoid that rearen­der in the traf­fic.

The rear view cam­era read­out is clear and there are guide­lines for the dum­mies. The sat­nav warns of school zones and has real-time traf­fic alerts, al­though they can be a lit­tle too fre­quent and un­nec­es­sary — do you re­ally need telling ev­ery 30 sec­onds that there’s traf­fic up ahead?

The Everest is a com­fort­able way of ne­go­ti­at­ing the ur­ban sprawl. The sus­pen­sion soaks up bumps and road im­per­fec­tions with lit­tle fuss while the steer­ing is light enough for ne­go­ti­at­ing tight Uturns and carparks.

As with all big off-road wag­ons it can feel some­what large and clumsy around town and the tell­tale diesel rat­tle is a Sun­roof, leather, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, park­ing as­sis­tance, sat­nav with traf­fic up­dates, front and rear park­ing sen­sors. Stop-start en­gine tech­nol­ogy, push-but­ton start, stan­dard tow­bar. The war­ranty is noth­ing out of the or­di­nary at three years/ 100,000km but ser­vic­ing costs are rea­son­able at $1470 over three years. If you ser­vice with Ford you can get road­side as­sis­tance and a loan car. Com­posed road man­ners, clever cabin lay­out, mod­ern, easyto-nav­i­gate read­outs, gutsy en­gine. No stan­dard tow­bar at this price, hav­ing to pay for pres­tige paint, big ask­ing price. con­stant at low speeds. There’s no fuel-sav­ing stop-start tech­nol­ogy so fuel con­sump­tion will head for the mid-teens in heavy traf­fic. The Everest is sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble and com­posed on the open road. It will lean in cor­ners, the steer­ing is a lit­tle vague but it is the least truck-like of all the ve­hi­cles in this class.

It doesn’t want to skip side­ways when it hits a mid­corner bump, nor will it jig­gle around on cor­ru­gated sur­faces. As far as com­fort and cor­ner­ing abil­ity go, it’s up with the best of this breed.

The diesel has lots of grunt for tow­ing and free­way over­tak­ing and the diesel clat­ter is less no­tice­able on the free­way where it purrs along at low revs. It’s well equipped for the great out­back trek, too, with 3000kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity, 800mm wad­ing depth and good clear­ance for of­froad­ing. There’s no doubt the Everest is a qual­ity of­fer­ing and a wor­thy ri­val for the Toy­ota Prado, which has had the fam­ily of­froader mar­ket cor­nered for some time.

It has of­froad smarts, im­pres­sive tow­ing ca­pac­ity, more hi-tech safety gear than the com­pe­ti­tion and good road man­ners.

The only real ques­tion mark is the value. It’s big money to ask for what is es­sen­tially a ute­based wagon.

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