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It’s fair to say Ford has a lot riding on the next-generation version of its popular Everest off-roader.
The next Everest is tasked with building on the success of the existing model by capturing even more buyers and filling a hole in its line-up.
Ford Australia discontinued the Edge-based Endura in 2021 following lower than expected sales. The Endura was pitched as a high-end offering in the large SUV segment, but premium pricing, no seven-seat or petrol option, and lack of name recognition saw the Canadian-sourced SUV put out to pasture early. A Territory replacement it was not.
That has once again left Ford with no car-like monocoque SUV above its mid-sized Escape, with the Everest left to fight it out in the increasingly competitive large SUV space.
The MU-X is already firing on all cylinders after only landing in August. Year-to-date sales show that the MU-X is Australia’s second best-selling large SUV, trailing the perennial number one, the Toyota Prado.
MU-X sales of 8431 units to the end of September are up 67.9 per cent year on year, which is about half the sales of the Prado, but over 1100 units more than the third-placed Subaru Outback.
The Everest sales are impressive given it’s nearing the end of its model life. Could a new version tip the scales in its favour and outplay the MU-X?
Ford is expected to uncover the next-gen Everest sometime in 2022, following the late 2021 reveal of the next Ranger ute on which it is based, with an on-sale date either late 2022 or early 2023.
Spy shots reveal that the next Everest will adopt a squarer silhouette, with sharper angles and a boxier rear end, for a more aggressive overall design. Like the Ranger, it will feature Ford’s new signature front-end styling, including C-shaped headlight cluster, found on trucks and SUVs including the F-Series, Expedition SUV and Maverick.
Isuzu has taken a cautious approach to the design of the second-gen MU-X compared to the original, with smoother lines and a softer, more rounded front end. It’s a more family friendly face than the old version, and it’s not as butch as the new D-Max ute on which it is based. This could see the MU-X hold broader appeal than the Everest, but we will have to wait and see.
Little is known about the 2022 Everest interior, but there’s no doubt it will mark an improvement over the current model’s utilitarian cabin. Expect higher-end materials and a more car-like look and feel in the next version.
Higher-grade Everests – and Rangers for that matter – should get a large tablet-style portrait touchscreen as found in the Mustang Mach-E and new Expedition. The SYNC4 multimedia system is also expected to roll out in the Everest.
The 2021 MU-X interior is, thankfully, a major step up from the first-gen model. The cabin was low-rent, noisy, the circular air-con controls were ugly, and the multimedia was way behind its rivals.
Cabin comfort was a big focus for the new model and Isuzu has delivered. It’s quieter, has higher quality materials and the multimedia is greatly improved. That being said, the Isuzu’s new multimedia setup is not class leading. It’s functional and fine, and probably on par with systems from Mitsubishi and Toyota, but Ford should have an edge in this department.
What about under the skin? The new Everest will be built on a heavily revised version of Ford’s Australian-engineered T6 platform that underpins the current Ranger and Everest, as well as the US-market Bronco.
Engine choices are expected to include an updated version of the still fresh 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine found in the current Everest and Ranger. The ageing 3.2-litre five-cylinder unit will be put out to pasture and, as previously reported, Ford will offer a new V6 diesel and, eventually, an electrified powertrain that’s expected to be a plug-in hybrid.
That’s a lot more choice than the MU-X which is exclusively offered with a 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and rear or four-wheel drive.
In terms of safety, the second-gen MU-X was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating under the latest protocols and it comes with a front centre airbag as standard across the range. Ford will likely sharpen its focus on safety for the new Everest and it will have to meet even stricter ANCAP guidelines – coming into effect from 2023 – to achieve a five-star rating.
Regardless of how the 2022 Ford Everest turns out, don’t expect Isuzu to just rest on its laurels. Model year updates will keep it fresh and ensure it takes the fight right back to Ford. Let the battle begin.