|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Take a look at the Ford Everest, for example. When it was announced way back in 2003, it was dubbed as the future of mainstream Filipino transport. At the time Toyota was hawking its Revo and Mitsubishi its Adventure, Ford presented a much more modern, much more robust vehicle that can go anywhere and can still seat the extended family (naturally). Unfortunately for Ford, the other car makers followed suit and soon, you have the likes of the Fortuner and the Montero Sport nipping at the heels of the Everest. A full model change in 2007 and a refresh in 2009 managed to close the gap, but didn’t show something particularly mind-blowing.
Thanks to the revolution called Ranger, the Everest is already showing signs of middle age. Sure, the metal wrapper is still handsome in a rugged sort of way but for all intents and purposes, it’s dated. The 18-inch alloys for example look great on the corners of the Everest, but not when it’s stuck at the back as a spare tire. At a time when the extra wheel is often hidden from view, the Everest still showcases its asset in all its glory. Worse still, this same spare tire hinders access to the rear wiper during replacement and makes an already challenging vehicle even more difficult to park thanks to an increased length.
Still, this hasn’t stopped Ford from giving the Everest yet another facelift before the expected full model change. But this time, they are very, very minor; almost invisible to all but the truly observant. For instance, the grille is now smaller and features a black trim running through the three bars making the Everest’s nose look smaller. The front bumper has been retouched a bit, and the words, “Everest” once emblazoned on the grille are now a sticker on the hood.
Because this Everest feels more like a Version 2.75, the interior remains largely unchanged. This will undoubtedly play to those who love a straight -forward cabin, but if you’re expecting a bit of avant-grade styling, you’ll be better off somewhere else. The driver’s seat can’t be adjusted for height, but at least the steering column offers tilt adjustment. This gives a very truck-like driving position, where you’ll be more hunched towards the steering wheel than when you normally would be in other cars. The truck-like atmosphere is emphasized even more with the Everest’s lack of a dead pedal as well as the umbrella-type parking brake.
The same is true for everyone else. For example, the person riding shotgun will complain for the lack of seat width—not good for long-distance driving. But while the people at the front may be clamoring for comfier seats, those in the second row will revel in the king-sized leg room. Thanks to the Everest’s long wheelbase, the middle row occupants can cross their legs with space to spare. But, once they put uncross their legs, their knees will end up slightly raised because of the Everest’s tall floor. The third row occupants are actually the worse off because of the primitive headrest-less seating. And you can’t even lean your back for long in these seats because you’ll end up hitting the rear glass. Thankfully, everyone gets leather seats so that’s one less thing to complain about.
Though the Everest’s long length should have translated to a cavernous cargo hold, this isn’t true. The cargo flexibility is meager at best. First, the second row flips up in a 50/50 split rather than the standard 60/40. This severely limits the passenger count of the second row to one when loading long objects, compared to two (in a squeeze) on other SUVs. And then you have the third row that simply folds as one whole piece. This means you can either fit luggage or a sixth person for that trip to Baguio. Plus, the third row lacks any sort of sophisticated locking mechanism. Need to stow the third row up? You need to latch it to the second row’s headrest with a strap. You can’t get cruder than that.
The recently revamped Everest finally sees a more advanced audio system replacing the old aux-less set-up. It may be an aftermarket job from AVT, but the ICE or In-Car Entertainment system does the job will all sorts of gimmicks from DVD playback to iPod capability to being the only local Ford product with a GPS navigation installed as standard. Unfortunately, after a week setting the bass and tremble still remains a mystery.
The 2.5-liter DuraTORQ has more than enough juice for city driving. Unfortunately, that experience involves a lot of times where you’re overtaken by Fortuners, Montero Sports, and Santa Fes. Once you’ve tasted the next-generation 2.2-liter and especially the new 3.2-liter DuraTORQ, there’s no going back. This old engine is a different animal together. Like all Ford diesels, it’s smooth, but with noticeable clatter. It feels adequate, but not quick from a standstill. The five-speed automatic may have been the one to have before, but there’s noticeable shift shock and lag. Again, blame the bar set by the Ranger’s crisp six-speed box. And surprisingly enough, a week’s worth of driving returned just 8.2 km/L in mix city/highway driving.
The Everest is known to have balanced the ride/handling equation quite well. And it still continues to do so despite the pick-up suspension. It certainly doesn’t handle like a sports car, but it’s commendably stable and predictable through corners while giving a forgiving ride. The body structure is largely rattle-free, but the primitive third row strap can cause a bit of a ruckus. The large 18-inch tires may delight pimpmobile enthusiasts, but contribute to heavy low-speed steering and a bigger than expected turning radius.
In the end, though the Ford Everest has substantially changed for at least three times now, most of the changes have to do with cosmetics rather than mechanical. That said, Ford could have given the Everest some of the Ranger magic, but alas that’s something that remains as a future product plan. As it stands, the Everest continues to be a practical family hauler, only it’s showing its age.