The sweet spot in the bakkie based SUV universe may just be held by Ford’s Everest XLT.
The Everest is a medium to large SUV with all the bells and whistler one could want, and the few goodies it is not equipped with as standard you can add on as optional extras or you can get the Limited Edition.
The Everest is perhaps the best of the large bakkie based SUVs available in SA. It is definitely the prettiest, has the best handling, cleverest packaging and a really good infotainment system. The design and operation of the third row of seats is streets better than the competition.
The interior is practical, well laid out and very comfortable to spend time in. I like the instrumentation which is comprehensive but uncluttered and clear. The cabin is very car like , well finished and uses pleasant materials.
Ford’s Synch3 infotainment system is one of the best on the market. It is easy to use, comprehensive and works first time. A joy to use.
The Everest feels fairly wieldy around town and is easy to park thanks to its various parking aids. Its easy to drive in town and a joy on the highway. A modern Grand Tourer especially in our context where bad roads and sand are to be expected during an extensive tour of especially our game parks and nature reserves.
The newish two litre diesel mill, built in Port Elizabeth, enjoys two turbos giving 500Nm and 157kW coupled to a superb 10-speed gearbox. Having 10 gears means a wider ratio-span, resulting in better acceleration and responsiveness in all driving conditions, matched to improved fuel efficiency of around 10L/100km if your foot is not too heavy. Very nice to drive.
Six models are available in the Everest range, starting off with the XLS 2.2 TDCi which provides an extremely competitive range of standard comfort, convenience and safety features.
Four XLT models are included in the new line-up, with the option of the all-new 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo and Single Turbo engines, along with the current 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi.
I think the Everest is a better package than the Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu MU-x or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport,although the latter handles really well. It hits the sweet spot in this niche.
Bear in mind that you need to consider trim level, in our case XLT, type of engine and turbo set up, in our case 2.0 bi-turbo and 4×2 or 4×4, in our case 4×4.
Cost: the 2.0 BiT XLT 10AT 4WD we drove is listed at R701 500.
The range starts with the 2.2 TDCi XLS 6AT 2WD at R522 700.
The top-of-the-range 2.0 BiT LTD 10AT 4WD is a slightly eye-watering R776 500, but it is really very comprehensively equipped.
The warranty can be extended to 7 years or up to 200 000 km, but talk to your dealer for exact details. The standard warranty is 4 years /or 120 000km.