The 2015 Ford Everest feels like ultimate merging of an old-school off-road setup with modern amenities. Body-On-Frame construction, two diesel engine options, and six-speed manual transmission... plus automatic terrain control and a panoramic sunroof. This thing just might make me move back to Australia.
While SUVs seem to be getting watered down into crossovers with fewer exceptions every year here in the US, Ford seems to think the market for a family people-mover with real off-road abilities still exists elsewhere in the world.
The 2015 Everest will go on sale in China, Australia, New Zealand, India, and other markets across the ASEAN region soon. An introduction to Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa is planned for shortly after that.
The seven-seat vehicle will be offered in 2WD or 4WD, with three engine options and your pick of an automatic or real, three-pedal, manual transmission Ford's still quiet on power and economy, but the engine lineup is a 2.0 EcoBoost gasoline and two Duratorq diesels: a 3.2 for maximum power, and a 2.2 for economy.
Towing will top out at 6,600 pounds with the big diesel engine. The Everest can carry around 1,600 pounds inside and another 220 on the roof.
But seriously, check out these off-road specs
Just about 9" of ground clearance and stubby bumpers allow for an impressive 29º approach, 25º departing, and 21º ramp-breakover angle. Water-wading is even wilder; the diesel versions can press on through streams up to 31.5" deep.
Ford's Terrain Management System (TMS) has four distinct settings for optimizing the vehicle's configuration between "everyday roads, snow, sand (allows some wheelspin to carry momentum, late upshifts, early downshifts, increased pedal sensitivity), and extreme rocky terrain (reduced throttle sensitivity, mitigates wheelspin)."
The 4WD system with low range has an electronically locking differential, and is paired with a descent control that locks the torque converter to provide engine braking downhill. None of that "just hitting the brakes for you" bullshit.
And of course, Ford's delightful digital "pitch and roll" gauge on the dash to show you how much the SUV is tipping.
Watch the Everest off-road test in Australia's Simpson Desert
The Simpson sand is very loose, the terrain is bumpy, often steep, and generally very hot. Over 110º on most of my adventures across, and I pretty much spent 2011 driving over it from one end to the other.
To make the SUVs suffer the sun even harder, Ford shipped a few to Arizona to test towing under maximum strain.
All that crap you like for the grocery and drive-thru run, too
In addition to cabin sealing and "sound absorbing materials throughout the vehicle," the new Everest has Ford's Active Noise Cancellation tech.
Like the stuff you might get in high-end headphones, Ford's system works via "three strategically placed microphones inside the cabin to detect and measure sounds. A smart control module instantaneously generates opposing sound waves, which are then fed through the Everest's audio system to cancel out unpleasant noises. The result is a quiet interior that lets the driver comfortably speak with third row passengers without shouting."
That, plus a big 8" touchscreen and optional panoramic sunroof should make the Everest's interior a pretty nice place to be for all seven passengers. Cargo space looks pretty reasonable too.
Real, hard-working SUVs aren't dead. They just aren't popular in America. It's a damn shame, because a modern multi-passenger off-roader with great fuel economy and a manual gearbox is pretty much the vehicle I've been dreaming of since I started getting around on four wheels... I bet I'm not alone.
Hat tip to Carscoops!