The Citizen (KZN)

Surprising­ly close to perfect

EVEREST XLT: BREEZED TO DURBAN WITH A FULL LOAD AND A TRAILER, LOOKING PRETTY Has all the basic requiremen­ts and it‘s easy to navigate.

- Hein Kaiser

Okay. Any car that allows a tagalong mother-in-law for a sixhour drive without claustroph­obia has already delivered a miracle. Add to that, two very active boys, aged four and five, a sisterin-law who gets car sick and a wife who overpacks any suitcase. But what could be a road trip from hell from Johannesbu­rg to Durban becomes, against many odds, a pleasant drive.

The new Ford Everest gets the credit because everyone is afforded a decent spot, with legroom to boot.

While a trailer had to be hooked to accommodat­e the tonnage of luggage that a week away requires from some (we won’t say who), the drive remained easy and uneventful – bar the odd sod that had never learnt the intended use of indicators.

My knowledge of cars does not extend past the basic functional requiremen­ts of attaining a driver’s licence.

D is for drive, and it makes a vehicle move forward, R is for reverse, N is for neutral, and so on.

Then there are the necessary accessorie­s like rear-view mirrors, indicators, headlights and, of course, a steering wheel.

Beneath the bonnet, at the front, there is an engine, and the car is carried by four wheels. Some are 4x4, some all-wheel drive and others 2x4 or, in old terms, rear or front-wheel drive.

The Ford Everest XLT 2x4 has fulfils the basic requiremen­ts of qualifying as a vehicle that goes forwards and backwards.

It offers seven seats and a small boot when fully occupied.

Then, there are the technical thingamaji­gs that read like Cyrillic to me, and just like my inability to speak Russian, I don’t understand what torque, a “2.0-litre bi-turbo engine” and things like 154kW and 500Nm have to do with the driving experience.

But when it comes to driving, whether in the city or on the semiopen road of the N3 to Durban, nothing beats this SUV.

It’s an upgrade from the already super-amazing Everest predecesso­r but, impressive­ly, the

LED display is very large, making map reading and choosing songs off Apple Music a breeze.

You can feel your way about easily without really taking your eyes off the road.

Air conditioni­ng, radio, and almost every aspect of the car is controlled from an efficient cockpit. Even I didn’t have to read the manual to understand its workings.

Now, if only the Bluetooth would work every time you wanted it to, the car would be perfect.

The connection is iffy, and according to both Google and the dealer I bought it from, that is not an uncommon problem.

To solve it, either turn the car off and on and hope for the best, or get a software upgrade at your next service.

Annoying, but a small inconvenie­nce within a bigger picture of driving pleasure.

Whereas my previous Everest’s engine, thankfully, drowned out a mother-in-law’s back-seat driving, the new model is as quiet as a mouse. You don’t need to turn the dial to deafen yourself with guitar solos because the well distribute­d audio system is excellent, and replaces the previous Everest’s ability to fade out critics.

The Everest has power. All the specs that read like a mechanic’s resume must be correct because it pulls away from intersecti­ons like four horses pulling a chariot; the car doesn’t feel draggy when you drive it, and on a stretch of road at speed it feels safe, solid, and sexy.

Looks wise, this SUV is the prettiest specimen in the room.

Halfway to Durban, at Harrismith’s Bergview Engen, I parked next to an expensive German competitor, a clumsy-looking little black number that’s got double the price tag. Even if I had the money, I’d choose the Ford.

The Everest is a value-for-money luxury sports utility vehicle that is as good looking as it is practical as it is comfortabl­e.

It’s somewhat larger than the previous model, bolder in design and has everything you need to drive, well, simply, lekker.

The XLT doesn’t have an onboard fridge or cooling cup holder like some other expensive cars, but there are two clever front seat cup holders in the doors, right in front of the air conditione­r vent, and that chills drinks effectivel­y.

The stay-in-your-lane feature takes some getting used to, but it’s a safety feature I now wouldn’t want to do without.

I tested it around my neighbourh­ood and closed my eyes while driving for a moment. Where there were street markings, it stayed in its lane. Problem is, it doesn’t have a pothole detector and in South Africa that is as important as choosing roads with visible markings to have the feature do its job.

It’s a lovely car with a good pedigree, although in Cyrillic techspeak.

But the real proof is in the pudding, and this ride is sweet – its Bluetooth irritation­s, compensate­d for by the space for mom-in-law.

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