Ford Australia has announced that it will introduce a cut-price two-wheel drive variant to its Everest seven-seat SUV line-up in September, along with SYNC 3 update that brings CarPlay and Android Auto.
The rear-wheel drive Everest will only be available in the mid-level Trend specification and list at $55,990, representing a $5000 saving over the equivalent four-wheel drive version.
Sharing the same 143kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel engine and six speed automatic transmission as the rest of the Everest line-up, the new two-wheel drive version will also seat seven, have the same 225mm ride height and 3000kg towing capability as the existing four-wheel drive Everests.
Ford will also use this Everest line-up revision to upgrade the Trend and Titanium grades to the latest SYNC 3 multimedia system, replacing the existing SYNC 2 setup.
Ford says the updated SYNC 3 system will be faster, understand 'conversational-style' voice command phrases and have a new 8-inch touchscreen which will be more intuitive to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will also be integrated along with music streaming apps and Google Maps.
All Everest variants will also add two ISOFIX child seat mounts to the middle row, upgrading from the previous top tether-only points.
SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in Australia and the Everest Trend RWD will broaden our already impressive line-up of utility vehicles even further.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Ford Australia boss Graeme Whickman also fired a shot at rival Toyota with the Everest announcement, saying the new rear-drive Everest gave buyers an option the Japanese carmaker's Prado SUV didn't have an answer for.
"SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in Australia and the Everest Trend RWD will broaden our already impressive line-up of utility vehicles even further. The Everest Trend RWD offers customers more choice than Toyota Prado, which does not offer a rear wheel drive variant," he said.
Toyota does, however, offer a large two-wheel drive SUV in the form of the Kluger, although this car-based SUV lacks the ruggedness of the ladder-framed Everest.
The Everest's closest rival by design is the HiLux-based Fortuner, which kicks off at $47,990 and is four-wheel drive across the board. The new Everest entry point will still be undercut by the nearest-equivalent Fortuner GXL auto ($54,990).
Would you choose a 2WD Everest over a 4WD? Let us know in the comments below.