2015 Ford Everest – What can we expect?
Let’s not hold back, I reckon Ford has a great chance to deliver an iPhone into the world of keypad Nokias with its 2015 Ford Everest which will be launched here later this year.
RIGHT NOW THE two default, don’t-think-about-it choices for offroaders in the medium-sized, low-range wagon market are Pajero and Prado. Below that you have Challenger, MU-X and other ute-based wagons, and above you have Discovery and LC200. There’s also the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but that’s not a 7-seater and rather small in the back if you’re a family heading offroad.
Now Ford is going to unveil the Everest, a wagon based on the Ranger ute. You’d think it would take on the other ute-based wagons, but the aim should be higher.
Ford can deliver an absolute knockout blow to the comfortable mid-size duopoly of Pajero and Prado, because both Mitsubishi and Toyota have been idly complacent for too long, enjoying the bountiful harvests of cash with nary a thought to investing in the land. At this rate of evolution these cars will be up with 2015 standards some time in 2035. A body panel here and a limited-edition model there is Botox on the wrinkles, not son taking over from father. Look at the LC200, a very different car to the predecessor LC100. That’s development. And the Discovery of 2015 is apparently similar to, but actually quite different from the Discovery 4 of 2009, let alone the Discovery 3 of 2005 – engine, gearbox, electronics, interior.
So let’s take a look at the two laggards. The Pajero is based on the NM platform which was groundbreaking with fully-indie suspension…nearly 15 years ago. Prado is of similar vintage. Both have 5 speed auto transmissions, when the market is saying 7, 8 and 9. The interior of each, including seating arrangements, is looking increasingly dated. Anyone that drives say a Discovery against these two is left in no doubt which is the better car, and a basic D4 can be had for less money than an expensive Prado. Neither vehicle can claim to be innovative or market-leading, offering only safe, same-as-your-father conservative surety and reliability, which is the reason they’re continuing to sell in such strong numbers – they’re both bloody good cars proven in rough conditions over the decades, and I continue to highly recommend both to people looking for serious offroad touring. Nevertheless, the lack of development does leave the door open to competitors.
Enter Ford. The Ranger has been a huge hit, and has gained the mindshare of the off-roading world. Since I bought mine the words I’ve heard most are “Oh yeah, Ranger. They’ve got a good reputation”. That’s why they’re selling, because every Bloke and his mates have decided they’re good and so word spreads.
So when the Everest arrives it will enter an offroad market predisposed to favouring the Ranger and its cousins, and by extension Ford, pushing an open door. And Everest needs to hurtle through that door, fast, before the sleepy giant incumbents wake up to an unpleasant reading of VFACTS sales figures and leverage their massive buyer base who reflexively buy yet more of the same. It can be done, witness what Toyota Kluger did to the Territory which once sold so fast I was sure they were breeding in suburban garages.
What Everest needs to do is follow the Discovery’s lead of multi-role capability, but at a cheaper price – come with a great interior setup of 7 seats, fold-flat second and third row, triple-split second row, lots of storage and the like. It needs to be technically advanced – Bluetooth, active cruise, standard cameras, all the gear there. Five-star safety is a given, but it should also have auto emergency braking and other active safety factors to lift it above Prado/Pajero. It has to out-tow them too, which shouldn’t be difficult. And it’s got to be better offroad, which again shouldn’t be hard – rear locker from the Ranger but keep traction control rolling on the front axle, recalibrate the tardy Ranger traction control and it should be ready to rock, literally. Beating Prado/Pajero on power shouldn’t be a big ask either, for those that still care about such things, and there’s a six-speed auto (at least) from the Ranger. Everest doesn’t need to be as good as Discovery, as they’ll price below it, but the Landie should be the benchmark. And there’s no inherent anti-Ford prejudice of the sort Land Rover salespeople have to battle.
The other thing Ford need to do is not stuff up. That means not delivering the car with some big problem, like Toyota did with the early 200s drinking oil – they only got away with it because they are Toyota and the market has decided Toyotas are infallible, allowing the company to trade comfortably on past glories. It also means not stuffing up some important design factor, such as not having an easy to access spare wheel – looking at you, Discovery 3 – or deciding that an open centre diff with just traction control will work well – hello, Discovery 2 – or relying on only a Torsen centre. It’s fair to say that the Ranger success and all Ford’s press-release words have set a high expectation with the 4WD community, and specialist journos like me have marked this one out as the #1 vehicle release of 2015.
But I think those traps will be avoided. In short, given Ford’s expertise in Territory, Kuga and Ranger I think that the Everest could be better car, in just about every way, than Prado/Pajero and it could even steal Discovery, ute and LC200 customers. The aftermarket industry would love the vehicle, especially if parts could be shared with the Ranger.
And the buyers? More car choice is never bad, but if it spurs the moribund medium wagon market to deliver cars worthy of 2015, then it’s even better!