THERE has been plenty of online chatter regarding Ford’s decision to categorise its popular Everest off-road wagon under the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s ‘MA’ (Passenger Car) banner rather than categorise it ‘MC’ (Off-Road Passenger Vehicle).
While this in no way means that the Ford Everest is not a capable off-road vehicle, some Everest owners are concerned that as their vehicles fall under the under the ‘MA’ category, they may have warranty and/or insurance issues if they modify their vehicles for off-road use.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
According to the federal government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development: An ‘MA’ classification refers to “A passenger vehicle, not being an off-road passenger vehicle or a forward-control passenger vehicle, having up to 9 seating positions, including that of the driver.”
An ‘MC’ classification refers to “A passenger vehicle having up to 9 seating positions, including that of the driver and being designed with special features for off-road operation.” These special features include the vehicle having four-wheel drive and meeting certain parameters for ground clearance and approach, departure and ramp-over angles, etc.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Under the National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (NCOP), there is slightly more scope to modify a vehicle with an ‘MC’ classification than an ‘MA’ classification.
In regards to tyre width, for example, the Vehicle Standards Bulletin 14 (VSB 14) states that vehicles with an ‘MA’ classification may be fitted with tyres up to 30 per cent wider than the vehicle manufacturer’s widest optional tyre. For ‘MC’ vehicles the allowable increase is up to 50 per cent wider.
Overall tyre diameter is also different depending on the vehicle’s classification. For ‘MA’ classified vehicles the overall diameter “must not be more than 15mm larger” than that of any tyre designated by the vehicle manufacturer for that model, whereas for ‘MC’ classified vehicles the allowable overall diameter increase is 50mm.
VSB 14 also lists different allowable tyre speed ratings depending on whether a vehicle is classified as a “passenger vehicle” or it has “special features for off-road use”. It does not, however, specifically distinguish between ‘MA’ and ‘MC’ categories in this instance.
It should be noted that regardless of a vehicle’s classification, suspension lifts of up to 50mm are allowable under VSB 14 without certification.
WHAT TYRES CAN YOU FIT?
Ford Australia Product Communications Manager Damion Smy said that while there is a slight difference in allowable tyre sizes depending on whether a vehicle has an ‘MA’ or an ‘MC’ classification, there are still plenty of off-road tyre options to suit the Everest.
“In terms of off-road tyres, there are off-road tyres that will fit on the existing wheels, even on the Titanium, which is a 20-inch,” Mr Smy said.
“We went through all the tyre sizes for the Titanium, the Trend and the Ambiente the other day, and you can get off-road tyres. They’re not the massive chunky tyres that some people want, but they are street legal, roadworthy, off-road tyres that have chunkier tread than the standard tyres.”“Some reports have suggested that an N-rated tyre is not legal on an Everest, and from our understanding that’s not correct,” assured Mr Smy. “You can fit the N-rated tyres(except Queensland where they have to be S-rated 180km/h)”.
Toyo Australia’s Tyre Technical Manager Stephen Burke agrees. Quoting the NCOP, he said: “The speed rating of the tyres fitted to vehicles with special features for off-road use must be at least N (which is 140km/h). My reading of it would be the same as Ford’s.”
In fact, Toyo offers a range of off-road tyres to suit the Everest, particularly the Ambiente, which is fitted with 17-inch wheels, including the all-terrain Open Country A/T II and the mud terrain Open Country M/T and M55F tyres. The latter two feature LT construction exclusively. Other tyre manufacturers, including BF Goodrich, Cooper Tires, Mickey Thompson and various other brands also offer a range of off-road tyres with LT construction to suit the Everest.
WHAT ABOUT SUSPENSION?
Regardless of whether a vehicle has an ‘MA’ or an ‘MC’ classification, suspension lifts of up to 50mm are allowable without certification.
“In terms of aftermarket suspension, the ‘MA’ and the ‘MC’ classification, from what we understand, makes no difference,” said Ford Australia’s Damion Smy.
Many of Australia’s leading manufacturers of off-road suspension systems agree. Stuart Fooks, ARB Product Manager in charge of Old Man Emu (OME) said: “So long as the suspension height increase is below 50mm then it’s okay.” An OME suspension kit for the Ford Everest offers a lift of around 40mm.
“We do our development the same way no matter what classification a vehicle has; a passenger vehicle or an off-road vehicle,” says Mr Fooks. “We approach the development in the same way, we do all our OE evaluation and ride testing and check for droop and other limitations to travel and clearance of components, and tuning for application and mass and everything else that we do is not different for any category; we always approach it in the same way.”
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Don’t be concerned that your 4x4 Ford Everest has an ‘MA’ classification; it is still a genuine off-road vehicle.
“The Everest does actually meet the ‘MC’ category requirements, so in terms of its off-road capabilities, if it was categorised as ‘MC’, it wouldn’t be any different,” explained Ford’s Damion Smy. “It’s 4X4 Of The Year; you guys have obviously sung its praises, other outlets have as well, and it has been designed and developed in Australia to do that. We have no qualms in it being taken off-road and obviously the vehicle is capable as reported independently of us.”
If you drive a Ford Everest (or one of the Jeep models listed above, or a Haval H9) and you want to fit off-road tyres and/or a suspension kit, ensure the modifications don’t exceed the limits as set out in the NCOP and you won’t have any problems. Of course, regardless of whether your vehicle is classified ‘MA’ or ‘MC’, always alert your insurance company of any vehicle modifications.