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Everest is an adventure on wheels

The Ford Everest XLT is a journey through the capabilities of a luxury 4×4, with advanced tech part of the package, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

There are few better ways to push the capabilities of a 4×4 than on a tailor-made test ground. That way, one gets to try features that rarely come up randomly on a regular ride.

So it was that we joined up with the Ford Adventure Club to test drive the next-generation Ford Everest XLT on the 4×4 trail at Zwartkops Raceway.

It provided a deep dive into the variety of 4×4 modes available in the various Ford Ranger expressions, from a seriously challenging hill-descent to traversing an impossible-looking donga.

All of those would have been standard terrain for the workhorse off-road 4x4s we have tried out before, but were unexpected in a luxury seven-seater SUV – especially at the entry-level. But affordability did not mean skimping on features. The XLT hides a compelling suite of technology designed for everything from comfort and convenience on the one end of the driver’s comfort zone to safety and capability on the adventure end of the experience.

As such the XLT strikes a balance between style and tech, with chrome grille bars contrasted by color-coded accents on mirrors and door handles. Privacy glass in the rear ensures passenger comfort, while high-tech LED lighting for daytime running lights, headlights, fog lights, and taillights match the premium look of higher-end models.

Of course, that is all about the look. What about the feel?

Inside, the XLT echoes the Everest Sport, with partial leather seats for all seven passengers and power adjustment for the front two.  

Dominating the center console is a user-friendly 12-inch touchscreen in portrait mode, the heart of the feature-rich SYNC 4A infotainment system.  Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the dedicated SYNC off-road screen on 4×4 models. That also gave us a clear picture of just how much intelligence was being pumped out by the car when we were dangling in mid air over the more challenging segments of the 4×4 trail.

The XLT’s 4×4 system features electronically controlled, on-the-fly, shift-on-the-fly modes, including 2H, 4H, and 4L. The 4×4 trail allowed each of these to be tested and, more important, for us to learn just when they come into their own. A rear differential lock for truly tough terrain proved itself repeatedly, and six selectable drive modes allowed for greater control on challenging surfaces like sand, stones, and mud.

Standard features include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, and multiple USB-A/C ports throughout the cabin, keeping everyone connected and powered.  Keyless entry comes standard, with the option to deactivate it via the SYNC menu.

The most surprising aspect of the 4×4 adventure was the extent to which it always felt safe in the cabin, even when the vehicle was pulling off moves that seemed to come straight out of the stunt-driving escapades of action movies.

The fact is, the Everest XLT takes safety seriously.  The standard suite of features includes airbags, stability control, collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring with trailer coverage, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors with a rear camera.  So much for the highway.

Off-road, hill start and descent assist turns an off-road adventure into a drive in the park.

Under the hood, the XLT shares the proven 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo diesel engine from the Everest Sport, delivering 154kW of power and 500Nm of torque.  This punchy performance is paired with a responsive 10-speed automatic transmission for a smooth ride and impressive fuel economy.

The Everest XLT proves that you don’t have to break the bank to get a feature-rich, adventure-ready SUV for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike. We also highly recommend that anyone making this choice add the Ford Adventure Club to their itinerary.

• The Everest XLT 2.0L BiT 4×4 10AT starts at R896,300

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