The Ford Everest – off-road touring and my first year of ownership
I’d been considering the Ranger Wildtrak, but the Ford Everest made more sense… my car might now be Australia’s most modified Everest?
I HAD BEEN EYEING OFF the Ford Ranger since Ford came out with the Wildtrak. It came with a great engine, versatile four door, automatic transmission and decent towing. Why not purchase one for myself? Well the simple answer is my wife was not game to drive a big ute around town as we share vehicles.
I tried to convince her to no avail but then something amazing came up on my Facebook feed, the concept photos of the Ford Everest. It had a Ranger front half with an SUV back half. It seemed perfect, tough looking body, same great engine as the Ranger, improved transmission, selectable terrain control and a whole host of other goodies for the techie in me. I also then had a bargaining chip for my wife as it has seven seats. Excellent idea as we have three teenage sons who hate to be sitting hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder in the back, now each one can have their own space.
So the Everest was finally released and it looked as good as the promotional photos but I wanted to wait, to give Ford time to iron out any bugs in the system. I was able to hold out a whole four months before I finally decided to start the negotiations with my wife and with the many Ford dealers. After a few weeks of running around we finally made a purchase of a model runout 2015 Ford Everest Trend in a Reflex Blue. I ticked a few boxes that I had to have such as satnav, adaptive cruise control, tow bar, snorkel and the lane keeping system.
Now I am one of the few 4X4 owners who actually goes off-road and this was one of the nicer looking rigs I have owned so I wanted a bit of protection. I had all the painted surfaces (barring the roof) covered in a clear protective vinyl wrap. I also needed proper off-road tyres as the stock highway tyres would not like to go where I like to go. I found a nice set of General Grabber AT2s that were just under two inches taller giving me more clearance but not taxing the power too much or causing legal issues. I even found a tyre shop who would purchase the stock Ford tyres from me, they came out to the dealer and swapped them out before I took delivery. They fit very nicely with no rubbing on the guards which was a good thing as no one yet had a suspension lift for the Everest.
I promptly signed up for a Victorian High Country trip that was posted by my Jeep Club. After receiving the expected razzing from my Jeep friends about bringing a Ford to a Jeep trip we were under way. The Everest performed wonderfully. It tackled everything my old Defender and Wrangler would have done with a little more tyre waving (tyre lift) and bouncing around.
It also touched a bit more underneath than I would have appreciated, as the car didn’t yet the usual suspension lift yet. By the end of the trip the plastic fuel tank bash plate was a little worse for wear. It finally fell off on the next trip. I was quite shocked to see how brittle it was, and I have never damaged a fuel tank skid plate like this before.
I brought it up to my local dealer who promptly said that I had broke it so Ford won’t replace it. We had a little back and forth about suitability of plastic and the product not being fit for the purpose of protecting anything and in the end I told them to keep their $800 replacement plastic tank guard and I would source a proper one. I found a company who makes protection plates for the Ranger and they were keen to develop something for the Everest so I drove my Everest down to Mornington and had my Everest scanned.
I now have a full length protection system from the front bumper all the way to them AdBlue tank. Speaking of which, the AdBlue tank was one of my biggest worries with this vehicle. As per European emission rules, if the AdBlue tank runs dry the engine cannot be started again until it is filled back up. So what happens if I am driving up a rocky track and the plastic tank meets a rock and cracks open spilling the contents? According to Ford, you don’t turn off the engine or you will be stuck wherever your are with no work around, even in emergencies.
I had already scratched the tank few times as it hangs pretty low behind the left rear wheel. When I expressed my concerns to Ford their reply was that it had been all over the desert and outback with no damage to the tank so don’t worry. Not being one to want to be the first person stranded 800kms for home with an AdBlue tank failure I found that Rhino4x4 wanted to create an AdBlue skid plate so, again, they scanned my vehicle and installed a nice metal plate to protect it.
Some of the requirements I have for my 4X4s are self extraction, suspension lift with heavier duty springs, extended range capability, fridge provisions, dual battery and a drawer system. Sounds easy enough right, but no. These are the dramas of owning such a new rig and not many companies making accessories. But I persevered and harassed as many companies as I could.
I finally found a low profile front bar from Rhino4x4 that has rated recovery points and could take a winch. ARB came out with a lift but I wanted a bit more flexibility than the standard lift entertained so I talked with one of the engineers from ARB and found that the Ranger front BP51 remote reservoir adjustable suspension would work and I had ARB install that up front with the OME system in the rear.
Harrop Engineering was developing a front cross-axle differential lock so I decided to have that installed to compliment the factory rear locker. I found a company in Queensland that makes a fridge slide with a cage so I mounted it on some marine ply and fitted it to half the rear compartment so I could still use one of the third row seats. I was able to mount a slim 100 ah battery with a battery charging system to the cage. It also gave me a structure to mount my 2500 watt 230v sine wave power inverter and fire extinguisher. I then had a removable two drawer system made that fits along side the fridge. Of course a roof rack is necessary to carry the swags, mount a light bar and awning to so I found a large Rhino Rack that covered most of the roof.
I now have a very capable and comfortable solution to my needs. Day to day I enjoy the road manners of the Everest and the electric steering that makes low speed manoeuvres easy and yet you still feel the road at high speeds. It also encourages you to stay in your lane with a little steering input to keep you centred but, no, it will not entirely steer for you, it tends to create an overcorrection oscillation, maybe in the next version.
The adaptive cruise control works at all speeds over 20kph so it makes traffic much more tolerable and will emergency brake for you if traffic stops in front of you. This only works when the cruise control is active though, otherwise it beeps and flashes red lights on the dash letting you know you are approaching something with too much speed. Please be careful to not bring over your adaptive cruise control habits to vehicles without it. I have almost come to a few collisions while driving my wife’s vehicle which doesn’t have the adaptive system.
Now let’s talk dirt. I am not one of those “hold my beer and watch this” individuals. I don’t go up tough tracks just because they are there. I own 4X4s to get me to amazing places where there are not thousands of people right on top of me, think of a beach caravan park over the Christmas holidays, no thank you. During those busy times I pack my rig, load the family and head up to the High Country, the Little Desert, the Otway, the Snowys, anywhere the views are incredible and the population is lacking. You must try rolling out your swag at Wonnangatta Station sometime. Amazing nights with enough stars in the sky you can almost read by them. Some of the best and most scenic tracks around there, accessible by most slightly modified 4x4s.
The Everest excels in this environment. The traction control is very impressive and even works with the rear diff lock engaged, and the rear diff lock even works in high range. Although I have a front locker, I haven’t found a time I needed it as the traction control is so effective. One of the biggest surprises is the downhill descent control. I have had this function on other vehicles but I refused to use it because it was always too fast, too loud and too obtrusive. The Everest version is more natural, so much so I often forget it is on. It makes almost no noise, it adjusts speed either by cruise control inputs or by throttle and brake inputs. Simply, if you want it to go faster you just give it some throttle and it will maintain the speed you bring it up to. If you want it to go slower just tap the brakes and it slows to that speed. I went down Zeka Spur while using descent control the whole way and it was more enjoyable being able to focus more on the track and less on vehicle speeds, shifting down, shifting up, etc.
When the tracks get bumpy I do notice a bit of wheel lift but the traction control works it out so nicely I am often only aware of the wheel lift when observers tell me. I have found that when I am fully loaded the flexibly of the suspension is quite good in the twisty stuff.
The navigation system has almost all of the off road tracks in its data base which is very impressive for a stock system. I am usually able to use it to navigate to the many High Country Huts I like to visit. There is no way to enter waypoint with UTM coordinates so finding certain places in the outback can be a little time consuming but it is possible and a lot of the iconic things to see are listed in the system. The dash has two screens on each side of the speed which you can change the displays to what you want to see. One of my favourites is the screen that shows you which way your front wheels are pointing and where the power is being directed.
The boot on the Everest is not terribly tall but it is deep so you can bring a lot of gear but you need to pack accordingly. You will want to keep your fridge down low otherwise you won’t be able to open the lid due to fouling with the roof. I also bring a small table as the rear lift door doesn’t allow a space for preparing lunch. And watch your head with the rear lift gate, if you are taller than six foot you will hit it occasionally. The rear does have a 12v power supply for your fridge but I wired in something more substantial because I have a fridge back there frequently. There is also a 230v power supply to charge your laptops or to power low watt items.
It is hard to not go past the Everest if you are looking for a “Jack of all trades” rig. I considered the Prado, Pajero Sport, and Fortuner when I was looking for my next rig. I found the Pajero Sport to be way too small inside for my 6 foot tall sons, the Fortuner felt very immature, like it was designed for someone in their early twenties, the Prado is an ageing design with a questionable new engine and a $10,000 to $15,00 premium over the Everest when comparing like for like models.
It was a no brainer for me as I don’t have any brand loyalty, I base my vehicle decisions purely on the merits of the vehicle. I tow a two-tonne caravan frequently and the Everest handles it with little effort and no overheating issues I have had on previous vehicles. It also features a trailer stability control system that should control any sway when towing those long caravans at speed. I am very happy with my choice and with my build and would highly recommend it for those who have similar needs. My only wish at this stage is for a long range fuel tank, I rarely get more than 500kms from a tank.
Pluses: 3 ton towing, engine, transmission, traction control system, rear diff lock, terrain control, good descent control system, techie LED screen dash, lane keeping
Minuses: Low slung fuel tank with brittle plastic guard, exposed AdBlue tank, AdBlue empty engine non-start function with no override, small fuel tank.