Ford Releases Not-For-U.S. Everest SUV in China
Body-on-Frame Sport Ute Boasts Real Off-Road Capability
Americans who want a three-row family carrier aren’t exactly lacking in options. With choices ranging from the massive Cadillac Escalade to the compact Nissan Rogue, we’re spoiled for choice. One thing we don’t have is an off road-ready midsize seven-seater. However, our friends in Asia and Australia won’t have that problem, as Ford has just revealed the new Everest SUV for those markets at a trade summit in Beijing. That's right: Our global neighbors are getting one more off-road SUV to taunt us with.
Like the first Explorer, the Everest is a body-on-frame 4x4 based on a lengthened version of the global Ford Ranger platform. But while the present-day Explorer has transmogrified into a car-based front-drive crossover, the new Everest maintains its status as a real truck. Its maker claims that the Everest has nearly 9 inches of ground clearance and can ford (pun intended) water more than 31 inches deep, and a new version of Ford’s Terrain Management System (TMS) ensures that each tire maintains maximum traction in a variety of conditions.
A console-mounted dial controls TMS, optimizing throttle response, transmission behavior, and traction control for four different settings: Normal, Snow/Gravel/Grass, Sand, and Rock. Switchable low-range four-wheel drive maximizes control as well, and an electronically locking limited-slip rear differential shuffles power from the wheel that slips to the wheel that grips. Hill ascent and descent control manage speed on inclines, allowing the driver to focus on steering the vehicle.
Properly equipped, the Everest can tow up to 6,600 pounds, which is more than our Explorer can manage. Overseas, it can be optioned with a 2.0L EcoBoost I-4 or one of two Duratorq diesel engines, a 2.2L I-4 or a 3.2L I-5. All engines can be ordered with a six-speed automatic transmission, but compellingly, the diesels come standard with a six-speed manual. The prospect of a diesel-powered stick-shift seven-seater is pretty tantalizing.
Unlike even the previous-generation Explorer, the Everest uses a live rear axle controlled by a Watt’s linkage. That’s appropriate for an off-roader, but we won’t expect a carlike ride and utterly secure handling from this vehicle. That axle also eats up lots of rear-seat and cargo space. However, hanging a log out back keeps costs low and will undoubtedly be more robust and capable off-road.
The Everest brings lots of new creature comforts to the name as well. Ford’s SYNC 2 makes an appearance, as does the company’s suite of driver-assist technology, including blind-spot monitoring, Curve Control, cross-traffic monitoring, and collision-warning and -mitigation technology. A cocoon of airbags (including a dash-mounted knee airbag for the driver) keeps passengers safe in a crash.
As you can see, the Everest has a handsome, somewhat anonymous design. Ford’s three-slot grille is toned down for this application, and simple, attractive projector-beam headlights and LED running lights bring a touch of understated class to the front end. Silver front and rear skid plates add some flash to the body-color bumpers, and the rear-end graphic looks like a tougher, bigger Ford EcoSport. We like it, overall.
The interior looks like it strikes a good balance between comfort and durability. Fancy dashboard stitching suggests that most driver and passenger touch points will be pleasant and luxurious, although the lower dash looks like it’s crafted from hard plastic. That’s not a huge problem, especially since that part of the interior can wear quickly. Cargo capacity looks reasonable, although the third-row seat eats up a huge portion of the cargo bay, and the seat itself looks pretty cramped.
All in all, we’re mighty jealous of the Everest’s intended markets. We doubt Ford will ever sell the vehicle here, as it would most likely cannibalize Explorer, Flex, and Expedition sales. Even if it did make the jump to the American market, we bet it would sell poorly, since most three-row buyers here prioritize comfort and economy over off-road ability and truck toughness. Looks like the Everest is just another branch of the tree that grows sweet, forbidden fruit.