Let's face it, top-of-the-line models have almost everything one can ever need in a high-riding runaround. Whether it's touchscreen infotainment, smartphone connectivity, navigation and an array of safety features, top-spec models get all the good stuff. However, they're not particularly the most sought after since they're pretty expensive. Entry-level models are no different either. Sure they're more affordable but they do lack certain toys and features which can deter some buyers.
So what do carmakers do? Like any good business, they come up with a compromise. Enter the mid-range offering. They're not as bare as entry-level models, but are still equipped with enough features to keep both driver and passenger/s happy. Basically, the mid-range variant acts as the 'Goldilocks' of a nameplate's lineup.
After getting familiar with the 2017 Everest in top-spec Titanium guise, Ford recently handed us the keys to the more practical Trend variant. Will the lack of certain amenities and extras hurt the Everest's reputation in the cutthroat pickup-platform vehicle (PPV) segment? Let's take a look.
As the 2017 update is more of a technical revision than an outright facelift, the third-gen Everest keeps its pre-updated look. While not as sleek or as aggressive as the rest of the competition, the Everest's roguish looks actually gives it a more prominent and purposeful look which I really liked. The bold front fascia is dominated by the hexagonal grill finished in chrome, along with the projector halogen headlights.
It does not have the huge 20-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires, but I do like the smaller 18-inch alloys more. Why? The smaller wheels actually get the slightly thicker 265/60 all-season tires. This meant the Trend actually felt more comfortable when dealing with rough roads which I'll talk about later.
Perhaps one of my most favorite portions of the Everest are its C-shaped taillights. In both the Trend and Titanium models, the taillights come with LED lighting which look cool (Ambiente models use bulbs). Like the front fascia, the rear tailgate trim is also finished in chrome while the rear bumper comes with reverse sensors for easier parking.
All in all, I can describe the Everest's exterior as butch with a hint of elegance thanks to the flowing lines and modern design touches.
Open the doors and those familiar with the Ranger's interior will not have a hard time getting comfortable in the Everest. The dashboard design and control layout is the same, as well as the leather-wrapped steering wheel that comes with a multitude of controls. Utilitarian it may be for some, but I have to commend Ford for still making the cabin ergonomic and stylish to say the least.
Lifting interior ambiance are the faux metal trim pieces which are spread throughout the cabin. Meanwhile, all of the seats are upholstered in leather with contrast stitching. Hard plastic is still used throughout the Everest though they are of good quality. Also, given the abuse these kinds of vehicle endure, soft-touch plastic may not hold up against rough use.
Gone, however is the SYNC 2 infotainment system as it has been replaced with the all-new SYNC 3. With a more intuitive display along with a quicker processor, navigating through the menus was easy. Speaking of navigating, SYNC 3 also comes standard with navigation. Aside from the usual AM/FM radio, USB, Bluetooth and CD support, the new system also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Even though this is the mid-grade version of the bunch, Ford still put a lot of equipment in the Trend. For example, it gets dual-zone automatic climate control with seperate controls for the rear vents, cruise control with adjustable speed limiter, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, semi-digital instrument panel with multi-info display and trip computer, 8-way power-adjust driver's seat, ten-speaker audio system and power folding side mirrors. It's safe to say this particular model comes pretty loaded.
Under the hood is a 2.2-liter Duratorq four-cylinder turbo-diesel. Codenamed the 'Puma', it generates 160 PS at 3200 rpm along with 385 Nm of torque between 1600 – 2500 rpm. Power is then sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.2-liter may look small but great things do come in small packages.
Despite its size, the engine pulls along nicely and there is plently of torque at low revs. A light prod of the throttle is all that is needed to get the Everest going. Jump on the acclerator pedal and the Everest lunges forward with gusto. There is still some turbo lag but thanks to common rail technology, a variable geometry turbo and a slick shifting automatic transmission, the Everest remained smooth, refined and punchy.
With ample pulling power available all the time, overtaking with the Everest was a no brainer. Around the city and along highways, the Everest never missed a beat and kept on the power whatsoever. Should one feel the need to go through the gears themselves, the automatic transmission comes with manual select which is always a nice addition in my opinion. Also worth mentioning are its good brakes which actually felt car-like and are progressive.
As for fuel economy, the Everest will average between 9.0 – 10.0 km/l in city driving. Heavier traffic conditions will net the Everest with an average fuel consumption of 7.5 km/l. Out on the open road, the Everest is capable of returning 14.0 – 15.0 km/l. Paired with an 80-liter fuel tank, the Everest can make the most out of a full tank of diesel.
For such a tall vehicle, handling on the Everest was quite good too. It's not something you'd want to take on corners with but it is surprisingly agile and kept its wheels planted to the pavement. The electronic power assisted steering (EPAS) meant the ute was easy to drive around town roads or in tight parking spaces. However, I wished Ford made the steering heavier at highway speeds.
Ride comfort on the Trend is also good thanks to its soft damping and slightly thicker tires. There is a hint of firmness when going over potholes or rutted roads but nothing too concerning. There is plenty of legroom on the second row seats as well as elbow- and headroom. In fact, three passengers can fit themselves at the back with no problem. The third row is mostly for kids and teenagers but it can also accommodate taller passengers as the second row seats can be slid forward for additional legroom.
For PhP 1,569,000, the mid-grade Everest Trend is priced very competitively. Instead of skimping on creature comforts, Ford decided to keep some of the features and amenities on the 4x2 Trend. Sure it does not have the AWD capability of the Titanium model, the fancy HID headlights with LED daytime running lights, 20-inch alloy wheels, reverse camera and tire pressure monitoring system, but these are features that one can live without.
Plus, the Everest Trend still comes with the following safety kit: anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control with roll stability control, hill-launch assist, reverse parking sensors and six airbags. It can also wade through waters as high as 800mm.
For those looking for a well-equipped, midsize seven-seater SUV, the 4x2 Everest Trend is one of those vehicles that can fulfill that need.