Ford Everest set to scale new heights in 2015
WHY were we in China for the global reveal of the Ford Everest that had been designed and engineered in Australia?
Simple really - as well as being Ford's newest and shiniest big SUV that will go on sale across the Asia-Pacific region next year, the Everest is also the first Australian designed and engineered vehicle to be built in China.
The Everests we will get in Australia will come out of the right-hand drive production of the Rayong plant in Thailand, where we get our Ranger utes from, but the Chinese news was the first really big and unassailable proof that Ford Oz has a strong future in the global Ford empire post-Falcon production.
The Everest has more than a passing relationship to the hugely successful Ranger ute. The Everest has long been acknowledged as being based on a shortened version of the Ranger platform - or rather, that bit that the body sits on and that the suspension hangs off.
But in this case, while the suspension at the front may be somewhat familiar, the gear at the back is rather different to that of the Ranger, with coil springs and a Watts linkage set-up replacing the Ranger's leaf spring ute set-up.
The styling is hugely more cohesive and deliberate than the other ute-based SUVs, and the amount of new technology, styling and sheer engineering effort that Ford has put into the Everest marks it out as a vehicle that stands several rungs further up the ladder than the opposition.
But the classier interior and huge amount of technology that Ford has jammed into the Everest actually lends credence to the engineering line that the Everest is "its own car", with advances over the (already massively impressive) Ranger that strongly suggest a vehicle that will be remarkably good on the road and remarkable off it.
With its proper SUV construction of a separate body-on-chassis and ground clearance of 225mm and a fording depth of 800mm, the Everest already threatens to be one of the most capable off-roaders on the market when it goes on sale some time in the second or third quarter of 2015.
The addition of an advanced terrain management system that gives drivers four preset settings - normal, snow/gravel/grass, sand and rock - that alter the vehicle's throttle response, transmission, intelligent four-wheel drive system and traction control ensure the Everest will boast the best of both worlds, in terms of hitting the muddy stuff - the proven mechanical way of doing it and the new hi-tech way of doing it.
The Everest will be available in 4WD and RWD, with a range of three engines - a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol EcoBoost, a 2.2-litre four-cylinder Duratorq diesel and the Ranger's mighty 3.2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq diesel - and a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.