2016 Drive Car of the Year: Best 4WD

“As good as the new competition is, the Everest’s 2015 success was clearly no fluke and in 2016 it remains the best 4WD on the market.”

The Ford Everest made a big impact on the 2015 Drive Car of the Year awards, winning not only Best 4WD but going on to take the overall title.

So it returns in 2016 with high expectations and facing two new rivals to retain its title. And unlike 2015 where it went up against only the Jeep Cherokee, this time around the Everest is up against two of its own kind – seven-seat off-roaders based on popular utes.

The Ranger-based Everest’s rivals are the Holden Trailblazer LTZ (based on the Colorado, with a new name replacing Colorado7) and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (based on the Triton).

As good as the new competition is the Everest’s 2015 success was clearly no fluke and in 2016 it remains the best 4WD on the market.

It has retained all the characteristics that made it a winner last year – a grunty turbo diesel engine, refined cabin, good on-road manners and strong off-road capability and SUV practicality.

“It’s a comfortable car to live with as a family and doesn’t make you feel like you’re driving a truck,” was one judge’s summation.

The 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel produces a healthy 143kW of power and 470Nm of torque, which feels more than enough to get the Everest moving briskly on- and off-road. Its refinement also impressed the judges, feeling less like a working-class ute and more like a car-based SUV.

Ford Australia’s role in the development of the Everest is evident when it was tested on the road – our test route is typical of the surfaces you find around Australia. The Everest rides comfortably and feels smoother and more refined than its rivals.

Inside too it looks more car-like than a workhorse ute, with a nice combination of materials to lift the ambience. It’s also spacious with seating for seven and tri-zone air-conditioning is standard.

One new development since its 2015 victory is the introduction of Ford’s latest infotainment system, SYNC3. It brings added functionality, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an easier to use interface.

The Everest Trend isn’t a cheap car, starting at $60,990 (plus on-road costs), but it is well equipped for an off-roader incorporating active safety features including adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist.

“It’s a more expensive car but you can feel where the money has gone,” said one judge.

Underlining just how impressive the Everest is was the fact it was the only category winner in this year’s awards to get a unanimous vote.

The Trailblazer took second place and won praise from the judging panel for its improvements over the previous Colorado7.

While not wholly developed in Australia like the Everest Holden has done a significant amount of local optimisation, especially to the suspension, to improve the way it rides and handles. And it worked, with all the judges praising the step forward from the old model in its on-road dynamics while still retaining its off-road capability.

But the Trailblazer shows more of its ute roots than the Everest does.

The 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel produces a healthy 147kW and 500Nm but makes more noise – that unmistake gruff diesel growl – than it should as a car meant for families.

It’s working-class origins also show in the cabin. While an improvement over the Colorado7, it fails to match the heights of the Everest.

The lack of reach adjustment for the steering (a common trait in all three finalists) combined with an unnaturally high seating position makes for awkward ergonomics.

While there is decent space in the cabin overall, the third row of the Trailblazer was noticeably smaller than its rivals.

In third place came the Pajero Sport, which replaces the Challenger nameplate and is the cheapest model of our trio.

The Mitsubishi has some very positive traits, aside from its affordability, with the most car-like interior (which includes leather seats) and a spacious interior for seven. But in such a high-quality field its weakness were easily exposed.

The most obvious one was the way it rides and handles, feeling very similar to the Triton. That translates to a fussy, busy ride that feels unsettled without any significant weight in the back of the car to settle the rear down. Several judges complained that the steering was vibrating noticeably during our testing on road.

The engine is the least powerful of the group, 133kW and 430Nm, and it feels it too, with more lethargic performance. It’s also noticeably noisier undre heavy acceleration.

However, with a $48,500 starting price the Pajero Sport is a lot of car for the money.

But Drive’s Best 4WD for 2016 proves that in the automotive world, as in life, you often get what you pay for. The Ford Everest Trend isn’t the cheapest off-roader you can buy – but it is the best.


Judge’s votes:

Ford – 6

Holden – 12

Mitsubishi – 18

(The Drive Car of the Year judging process awards points to every car in the category according to the position they were ranked by all six judges. The car with the lowest score therefore wins the category. If this vehicle defeats the existing category champion it is then eligible for the overall 2016 Drive Car of the Year award.)


Ford Everest Trend:

Engine: 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel

Power: 143kW at 3000rpm

Torque: 470Nm at 1750-2500rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive

Fuel use: 8.4L/100km


Source: www.drive.com.au

by Stephen Ottley
07 November 2016