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FORD EVEREST SPORT

Being a late addition to the Ford Everest Sport launch in the Eastern Cape recently, I missed out on the pre-launch research I usually immerse myself in before an event. The mental images I conjured of the Everest Sport were quite athletic in nature, but was the Everest Sport as sporty as its name suggests? 

The Ford Everest Sport is the latest addition to the marque’s popular family SUV line-up. Before the Sport nametag activates your performance lust, be informed that it is a cosmetic enhancement rather than a dynamic one. 

Despite my initial misgivings, my first impressions of the upgraded Everest is that it cuts a majestic figure. As part of the Sport treatment, Ford decided to go dark, deleting all chrome around the exterior and replacing this with black trim all-around. This means that the car now sports black mirror caps, black front and rear bumpers, and black roof rails. Collectively, the changes work to great success, giving the Everest some fresh kerb appeal. 

Other visual cues include a reworked mesh grille nestled between LED headlamps, complete with DRLs that come as standard. 20” alloys complete the look and, as you may have guessed, come in black as well. Ford offers six body colours: Diffused Silver, Frozen White, Agate Black, Moondust Silver, Sea Grey, and Copper Red. If not going for an all-black look, I reckon the brighter colours would better showcase the black trim that differentiates the Sport from a regular XLT.

Cabin Impressions

The Sport’s cabin also gets some exciting touches to complement the exterior makeover. Entering the cabin exposes you to leather seats with blue contrast stitching and Sport logos embossed on the backrests. Ahead of the driver, a multifunction steering wheel – replete with contrast stitching – adds to the theatre. The dash gets faux carbon fibre treatment with blue inserts continuing from the blue accent theme on the seats. Subtle bronze accents around the air vents add a tasteful splash of colour in an otherwise dark cabin. 

Build quality, although not class-leading, is reassuring. Buyers will find soft-touch materials in the upper sections of the dash where your significant points of interest lie. However, as you go down lower, the materials get hard and scratchy and, for good reason, given how they are better suited to withstand scuffing. 

Central on the dash is an 8” Ford SYNC3 infotainment system. It comes complete with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with two USB ports up front, and a 12V socket for charging devices on the go for the “always connected” generation. The screen also doubles as output for the reverse camera, making it easy to back this big girl into places.

In addition to these amenities, the Sport gets a host of safety features, including seven airbags, ESP with traction control, Hill Launch Assist, Roll Over Mitigation, ABS, and Trailer Sway Control.

Thoughts on Performance

This is the part where the Sport name feels somewhat disingenuous. There is no big engine with eyebrow-raising performance figures. Instead, the Sport is powered by a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine producing 132 kW and 420 Nm and is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. This is the same engine found in the XLT Everest and some of the Ranger bakkies. Is this engine a problem? Far from it. Despite preconceived notions of how much power one actually needs, you will find the engine to be a capable unit in its own right. 

For our launch drive, Ford chose the coastal Garden Route. Starting from George and ending in Oudtshoorn, the planned route provided a balanced diet of tarred and dirt road for the Everest to gobble up. This allowed us to assess the duality of the Everest’s character as both an off-roader and a daily asphalt cruiser. Out on the highway, cabin noise was low, which is paramount in any road trip vehicle. The engine, though audible in the cabin, is refined enough not to be a nuisance. 

The car’s 420 Nm of torque were ever-present, making light work of overtaking manoeuvres. Ford claims that you can access 320 Nm of torque from as little as 1,250 r/min, and I dare say, it sure felt like it. There was never a need to depress the accelerator pedal all the way down to stir a reaction. While performance was not blistering, it is entirely sufficient, as the car’s ten gears also do wonders for its fuel economy. I managed to return about 8.5 l/100 km, which slightly overshoots Ford’s claimed 7.1 l/100 km.  

The ride quality is smooth; I believe in part to the synergy between the coil springs in the back and the chunky tyres absorbing the jolts of road imperfections. The typical firmness of a car built on a ladder frame chassis is noticeable, and while this setup raises the seating position for an exceptional view over the road and most other motorists, rear visibility is not the best due to a narrow rear window. Also, the car’s upright stance means that handling dynamics is not the Everest’s area of focus. It can take a corner with composure but add too much enthusiasm around the bends, and the high centre of gravity takes a toll.

Not missing a chance to showcase what the Everest can do once you take it off-road, Ford had us meander along the Swartberg Pass to connect to Oudtshoorn. This 20-odd-kilometre mountain pass comprises dirt, hairpins and sheer drops. With a permanent 4×4 setup and Ford’s terrain management system at hand, however, the Everest does all the heavy lifting when it comes to off-roading. The drive was highly intuitive, with the car’s electronics taking the stress out of the experience for me. 

By the time we had arrived in Oudtshoorn, I was won over by the Everest Sport’s surprisingly good package. 

Last Word

The Ford Everest has always offered a solid platform in a challenging segment where competitors such as the Mitsubishi Pajero, Toyota’s Fortuner, and the Isuzu MU-X set the bar high. While the competition throws some solid punches, the Everest has always been an easy recommendation, given how it is a good all-rounder and an easy vehicle to live with. The Everest Sport continues to build on that formula by giving the vehicle an extra level of kit to make it that much more desirable. This car falls in the emotional buyer’s category, where the aesthetics appeal to one’s expressive side. Hopefully, this is the makeover the Everest needed to garner the sales it deserves.

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © FORD SOUTH AFRICA

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