Let me fess up to you straight away: I don't do a lot of towing. And when I say I don't do a lot, I mean I don't do it at all. Like a trip to the dentist and audience participation in theatre restaurants, I've somehow successfully avoided it for my entire 44 years on the planet. Until now.
It's all because I like old cars. See when I'm not reviewing the latest vehicles, I'm driving ancient ones – hot rods and customs specifically.
My 1951 Ford Tudor had been in the workshop and it was time to take it back home, 200-odd kays away. She still needed mechanical work and an interior so driving her up wasn't an option.
I'd reviewed the Everest a few times over the years, but I'd never used one to tow – and in this case it was my most prized possession, the one I'd sunk a ridiculous amount of my own time and money into.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Ford Everest is pricey compared to its rivals and the Trend grade with the 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo engine and four-wheel drive (our test car) with its list price of $61,190 is two grand more than the same grade with the larger 3.2-litre five cylinder. You can also get a rear-wheel drive Trend and save yourself $5000 compared to the 4WD Bi-Turbo version.
The Trend is the Everest line-up's entry-level spec.
You're getting a little bit more power and torque with the smaller capacity engine, but you're not getting anything extra in terms of features.
While the Trend is the entry grade into the Everest range it comes with most of the features that you'll find on the top-spec Titanium. You do miss out on a standard tow bar and tow kit though.
Is it good value? Well, I didn't feel the Everest Trend was missing anything feature-wise, but with competitors offering similar equipment (or more) for less money, I'd have to say the Everest is a tad overpriced.
That said, brand loyalty is still strong for the Blue Oval, and there are many who see Ford products as worth the extra moolah.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
Our Everest Trend had the 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo four-cylinder diesel and while I've clocked up a squillion miles in the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel version, it was my first time at the helm of this SUV with the smaller powerplant.
The Bi-Turbo Trend's engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder.
The 2.0-litre four makes 157kW and 500Nm, while the 3.2-litre five pot has an output of 143kW and 470Nm. The difference in outputs isn't hugely noticeable but the way the grunt is delivered is different. The four cylinder suffers from a bit of turbo lag and while that didn't affect my towing job much, it was something I had to take into consideration when overtaking.
Another difference between the two is the transmissions – the Bi-Turbo has a 10-speed automatic while the 3.2-litre has a six-speed auto. More cogs gives the Bi-Turbo a fuel economy advantage but I found it affected drivability, which I'll get to below.
What's it like for touring?
This towing malarkey came about for me because I have a 1951 Ford Tudor which has been under the care of Senor Ben Erdahl, the owner of Lucky's Speedshop in Sydney. Morticia, as the Tudor is known, is a '60s-style custom and had just been painted and pinstriped following a roof chop and it was ready to go up to her garage in Maitland, 170km north.
Richard's 1951 Ford Tudor in all its glory.
Richard's 1951 Ford Tudor in all its glory.
Richard's 1951 Ford Tudor in all its glory.
I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a samurai sword than tow a car through Sydney's CBD during morning peak hour on a weekday, but that was the plan. From there it would be onto the M1 and then inland to the Hunter Valley. That the Tudor is so precious to me, that I'd poured stupid amounts of money into it, that I put in billions of hours working on it made the task even more of a nail-biting one. What if I wiped it out at the first corner I took, by misjudging the turn and dragging it through the front room of the Builder's Arms?
I had a couple of aces up my sleeve, though. One was my father in-law, Rob, who I'd roped into coming along. He tows for fun all over Australia, because he's a masochist. I was adamant, though, that I was going to do it myself, but he was my 'break-glass-in-case-of-emergency' button. Another ace was the good car trailer that I'd hired – it was new double-axle trailer with a winch, metal ramps and an angled bed for easier loading.
Our mate Berry was lucky enough to have plenty of help.
We picked up the trailer in Maitland at sparrow's on the day of the tow. Hitching up was easy: the Everest's reversing camera puts the tow ball almost dead centre on the screen and we didn't require an adaptor to plug the trailer's electrics into the SUV.
We thought leaving at that time of the day would allow me to get a feel for the trailer. It was also the time every tradie on the central coast seemed to be heading to a job in the same direction. So, what was supposed to be a gradual get to-know-you felt like shaking hands with an allied soldier I hadn't met yet in a trench before going over the top.
It was easier than I'd imagined. Yes, the whole set-up is longer and needs more room, but the Everest hauled the empty trailer as if it didn't know it was there – like it was piece of loo paper stuck to a shoe. Even our descent into Sydney at 9am was fine as the city traffic glued up the roads. Little did I know the difficulty level would change dramatically when Morticia was on the back – all 1500-odd kilos of her.
A net and car cover provided Morticia with ample protection from the elements.
The father in-law Rob knows how to tie a car down and once Morticia was winched onto the trailer (a little bit too far forward for his liking though) we set about securing the vehicle. You'll see in the images that we protected the paint on the car with adhesive paper, then a car cover and a net over the top to keep it all from flapping about.
Pulling away with Morticia on board things suddenly became very real – the weight and the lack of rear visibility changed everything. The Everest's large wing mirrors became my best friends – the field of view they offered was excellent and without any distortion.
There's good visibility by way of the Everest's big wing mirrors.
Morticia is made of American steel and, even with all of her interior removed for the body work, she isn't light and her weight combined with that of the trailer would have been nudging 2500kg. Still, we were safely well under the Everest's braked towing capacity of 3100kg.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel in our test car has more power and torque than the 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five cylinder, which you can also get in the Everest, but the way it delivered that grunt made me wonder if perhaps the bigger capacity engine might be the way to go if you're towing frequently.
Vehicle and driver deserved a break after facing Sydney traffic.
I felt the turbo lag in the 2.0-litre and the willingness for the eight-speed auto transmission to step up quickly through the gears were working against me keeping the Everest in the torque band.
I was able to get around this by putting the Everest into Sport mode and holding the gears using the switch on the gear shifter. That solved the issue.
As you can see in the image (below, taken by Rob) I could sit on just under 100km/h in seventh gear with the revs at 2250rpm. While that probably caused me to use more fuel, it meant I felt more in control and not risk getting bogged down in low revs with no torque to overtake or climb hills when needed.
Cruising at just under 100km/h in seventh gear with the revs at 2250rpm.
Trailer sway was one of those phrases that haunted me in the lead-up to this trip, but the Everest Trend comes standard with a trailer sway control system which reins in any lateral movement.
Still it's not like I could forget Morticia was on the back – stopping as I found needed a stack of extra room despite the Everest's good anchors, and the sensation that something was trying to pull me in the opposite direction was there any time we'd hit a hill or moving away from the lights. Nothing unusual about that though, but there were occasions where I thought the Everest could have done with more grunt, especially on the bigger climbs.
The Everest has been out for about five years now without much in the way of a makeover, but I reckon it's still the best-looking seven-seat off-roader SUV on the market right now with its tough but premium styling. Ford has also managed to make the rear, side window look good, unlike many rivals.
It's a good-looking SUV, even without any substantial makeover of late.
The Everest's cabin is beginning to date, but its utilitarian cockpit seems more modern and stylish than rivals, such as the Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
The Everest Trend isn't as enormous as it might look. The dimensions show it to be 4.9m long, 2.2m wide (including mirrors) and 1.8m tall.
How practical is the space inside?
The Everest is a seven-seater with a second and third row which folds flat to give you a 2010-litre cargo capacity. With just the third row folded down flat there's 1050 litres of boot space and with those rear seats in place you still have 450 litres. Those capacities are measured to the roof, too.
There's plenty of room for your gear inside the Everest.
Cabin storage is also excellent with two cupholders up front and two in the fold-down second row centre armrest, another two for the back seats and bottle holders in the doors.
The centre console storage bin up front is huge – big enough for three 500ml bottles. For power you'll find four 12V outlets and there are also two USB ports on board, too.
As for people room, I'm 191cm tall and wouldn't want to be in that third row long even if it is more spacious than some of its rivals' back seats. Second-row legroom could be better I feel – I can only just fit behind my driving position.
In the pilot's seat I had plenty of head and elbow room, with stacks of space in the footwell.
What's it like as a daily driver?
The Everest felt like a rocket after 2500kg of car and trailer were unhitched – that 2.0-litre four Bi-Turbo diesel has no trouble shifting the 2.4 tonnes of SUV.
I drove it daily from the suburbs into Sydney's CBD and found the ride comfortable, the powertrain smooth and that steering is light and accurate.
The Everest's ride is comfortable and its powertrain is smooth.
I've driven some other ute-based SUVs daily and without naming names right now I'd rather catch the bus - they're that much work to park and pilot through city traffic, but the Everest made that commute easy.
Yep, the 2.0-litre seems to have a smidge of turbo lag that rears it heads when you least need it and it does feel a bit 'whooshy' compared to the more linear 3.2-litre, but I reckon an owner would get used to this quickly.
How much fuel does it consume?
Let me break this up into two sections: the trip to Maitland to pick up the trailer without a trailer hitched; and the return trip from there down to Botany in Sydney with an empty trailer and back up to Maitland with the car on the trailer.
Heading to Maitland my average fuel consumption after urban, city and motorway kays was 8.5L/100km. That was recorded off the trip computer.
The trip to Botany and back was 415.8km in total. Half of that was with the trailer empty and then the other half was with the car on the trailer. After that trip I put in 38.38 litres of diesel which gave me a fuel-consumption figure of 9.23L/100km.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The Everest was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2015. The Trend grade does miss out on some advanced safety equipment which you'll get on the Titanium, such as blind spot warning and auto parking, but it does have AEB and adaptive cruise.
Hopefully you'll never meet the seven airbags on board, but they're in their bunkers waiting for their big moment and include ones which extend all the way to cover the third row.
I used the Everest to drop my son at preschool and used the top tether anchor point on the seat-back of the second row to install the child seat. There are also two more top tether points in that second row along with two ISOFIX mounts.
It's good to see that there's a matching spare alloy wheel as standard, too.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
The Everest Trend is covered by Ford's five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months with prices capped at $360 for the first service, $555 for the second, $470 for the third, $555 for the next and $360 for the fifth.
As somebody who almost never tows, I was spoiled by the Everest Trend which made my 400km round towing trip fuss free. I even got the hang of reversing a trailer after a bit of tuition from the father in-law and some practice.
The Bi-Turbo does deliver its grunt differently to the larger capacity 3.2-litre and I wonder how frequent towing will affect the smaller engine over the long term.
But for this short trip, the 2.0-litre did the job of hauling 2500kg of 1951 Ford and trailer without a hitch.