REVIEW | The new 2021 Ford Everest Sport is a segment leader
When you drive certain vehicles back-to-back with rivals, it is much easier to declare supremacy.
Some products are just a notch above their peers. Even if, from a sales point of view, they might not be at the summit of the respective chart.
On more than one occasion we have had an opportunity to drive the Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner in the same setting.
If you asked me outright how they are ranked, my ordered list would be as follows: Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner and Isuzu MU-X.
The former two are undoubtedly more convincing as passenger vehicles, disguising their ladder-frame chassis roots with a plusher ride and cabins that are better insulated.
On the other hand, the latter two err on the ox-wagon side of the scale.
Say what you want. The Belgian paving of the suspension track at Gerotek testing facility in Tshwane does not lie.
Ford recently released a special edition Sport version of the Everest. The model has been around for some time now. A chap in my neighbourhood was cruising around in his new purchase even a month before we members of the fourth establishment had a turn in George, Western Cape, last week.
If you were thinking that Sport denoted something significant in terms of power, hold on a second. This is a brand whose most extreme pickup, the Ranger Raptor, musters up a mere 157kW and 500Nm from a 2.0-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol with four cylinders. The same engine used in lesser-specified versions of the double-cab.
Sure, it has a brilliant suspension, but in a straight line the Raptor is totally decimated by the Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI, packing 190kW and 550Nm in current form.
So you will not find any surprises lurking beneath the substantial prow of the Everest Sport. You get a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged-diesel (132kW and 420Nm), paired with the familiar 10-speed automatic gearbox.
Sporty? No. Stout, tractable and efficient, yes.
The Sport part of things comes into play with a shortlist of stylistic enhancements. “Visually, what sets the Everest Sport apart from its established siblings are a black mesh grille and unique Everest badge on the bonnet, along with black mirror caps and door handles – replacing the chrome finishes on the Everest XLT,” reads the press release. Black trim for the front and rear bumpers, as well as 20-inch alloys (in black too) pretty much comprise the full extent of it all.
Inside, it gains model-specific embossed leather seats, blue stitching and electronic seat adjustment for the driver.
That is in addition to the existing specification of the XLT on which it is based, with amenities such as cruise control, a reverse camera and the comprehensive SYNC3 infotainment system.
We did some adventuring in our time with the vehicle, the nature of which is typically encountered by the average Everest owner.
Tackling the famous Swartberg Pass provided a good test of the all-wheel drive and terrain management system, replete with electronic locking rear differential.
This was my third time driving the treacherous stretch, the last was in a Ranger in 2015 and before that, a Toyota Land Cruiser 79.
Since it rained the night before, the surface was especially slippery and we were thankful that we had not ended up with a 4x2 Everest.
With mud mode engaged via the terrain management system, we sauntered up gingerly, slow as possible, fast as necessary, so the off-roading mantra goes.
Totally unrelated, but probably fitting, given the cliffs on either side of the path, mortality was the subject of discussion between driving partner Melinda Ferguson and myself.
Thankfully we never got to experience the deployment of the seven standard airbags in the Everest. We were both happy to be on terra firma – no indictment on the capability of the vehicle, but the vertigo suffered by the occupants.
Cruising back to the airport, the Everest reminded yet again just how comfortably and relatively quietly it goes about its business. We steered our chat to happier topics.
A torquey engine, superb road manners for the type of vehicle it is and an all-round feeling of sturdiness, the Everest is a good sport – and we knew that even before these new stickers were tacked on.
2.0 single turbo 10AT 4x2: R662,800
2.0 single turbo 10AT 4x4: R704,400
Includes four-year/120,000km warranty and six-year/90,000km service plan.