16.4 L/ 100km
The much lauded 4x4 is now available in rear-wheel drive. The question is, who will buy it?
With its locally-built Territory SUV going the way of the dodo, Ford needed a product to plug the gap and it opted to produce a two-wheel-drive version of its much-praised Everest 4x4. This involved Ford Australia removing the front diff, engineering a new prop shaft, and revising the front engine mount, all of which resulted in a 98kg drop in the Everest's weight. This also meant the steering and suspension had to be re-tuned.
The hope was that it would be a more drivable Everest, since the 4x4, with its Ford Ranger underpinnings and off-road bias, is rather wallowy for day-to-day urban commutes. Well, the RWD is better suited – but not much.
Under the bonnet remains Ford's 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, which is excellent for commercial purposes, towing, or going off road, but from a family SUV perspective is noisy and unrefined. The steering is also off the mark. Even though Ford says it added weight to make it more feelsome and responsive, during a series of bends on a country road it required constant correction it in a way the modern crop of urban-focused SUVs never do.
The suspension serves it better – it stays reasonably flat in corners and doesn't pitch when braking, while it can, of course, take anything a terrible road throws at it without transmitting it to the occupants. Combined with comfortable seats, it's a cushiony drive experience. Its big off-roader origins also mean loads of passenger space and room for cargo, plus the weight reduction and two-wheel drivetrain make it a fraction more economical than its 4WD drive brother (8.4L vs 8.5L/100km).
What will nobble the rear-wheel-drive Everest most is its price. It is available in one spec level, the Trend, and while it retails for $5000 less than the comparable 4x4 model, the entry point is still $55,990. Given the bounty of large, better-handling competitors that start around the $40K mark, convincing families to go with the Ford might be akin to climbing Everest.
Moreover, Ford says there is a five-seat Everest coming in 2017 that well have still better driving dynamics and handling, and another large five-seat SUV called the Edge due in late 2017. Unless seven seats and ruggedness are a must, then either one would likely be a preferable option for those dedicated to the Blue Oval's products.