The premise was simple: prove a bog-standard Ford Everest could be mastered off-road by the brazen amateur and, in doing so, be a capable weekend warrior-cum-workday plodder. The location? None other than the Apple Isle, where journos were invited to bring along a family member or friend with little or no four-wheel driving experience for a weekend bash on backcountry roads.
The contingency gathered at Devonport Airport, where a selection of Everest Trends and a couple of Titaniums awaited. With the inexperienced eager to learn how to turn all four wheels on mud and dirt, those of us travelling solo were paired up and sent on our way – us in a mid-spec Trend.
A spurt along sealed tarmac from Devonport Airport lead to the picturesque Bakers Beach in Narawntapu National Park, which provided the backdrop for a quick lunch stop – where we sampled some fine campfire-cooked tucker – and the obligatory safety/how-to chat from the boffins at Ford.
Under the expert guidance of James Stewart and Ford Australia’s vehicle integration supervisor, Richard Woolley, the contingent of journos and partners – mums, dads, partners and kids (more eager to spot a Tassie Devil than learn about the Everest’s power-to-weight ratio) – were run through the ringer on the intricacies of the Everest’s off-roading nous.
Everything from tyre pressures, basic recovery techniques and the Everest’s Terrain Management System (Rock, Mud/Snow, Normal and Sand) were ticked off and, once everyone was comfortable with which dials did what and how to use a comms system, we rolled out to the first Ford Everest Experience challenge.
We arrived at Briggs Regional Reserve, where a makeshift off-road course had been set up by the Ford team. The course was sculptured to test the Everest’s departure (29.5°), rampover (25°) and approach (21.5°) angles, as well as ground clearance (225mm). In what was a blessing in disguise, my co-pilot had limited off-roading experience, which provided the perfect opportunity to see first-hand how easy it was for her to adapt to the various obstacles the set route provided – it also tested how intently we listened to the instructions given earlier in the day.
With low range selected and Rock mode engaged (and with the support of the cross-axle diff lock at the rear), the Everest calmly negotiated the relatively subdued track, overcoming the steep inclines and driving itself downhill with descent control activated. My co-pilot’s initial trepidation was soon replaced with confidence as she realised an unmodified Everest was highly capable at traversing mud, sharp rocks, and slippery ascents and descents.
As confidence in the Everest’s abilities piqued, we followed a rutted route littered with corrugations and potholes, where the Everest’s coil-sprung rear end, in combination with 18-inch Bridgestone Dueller H/Ts, tied the vehicle down nicely – countless hours of local testing will do that. The cabin is also a peaceful place to be due to soft-touch interior materials and improved NVH, thanks in part to active noise cancelling tech.
The broken tracks were soon abandoned as we took the paved path toward the town of Sheffield – famous for its murals – and then on toward O’Neills Creek for traditional Aussie damper and tea. A local bushman wooed us with his knowledge as we tucked into our afternoon snack, before we were whisked away to our overnight digs at the iconic Cradle Mountain Lodge (within the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain National Park) some 50 minutes’ drive away via some of Tassie’s famous winding roads.
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Some of the weekend’s best fun was to be had on these twisties that are traditionally better suited to MX-5s and Subaru BRZs than 2.5-tonne Everests; not that this troubled the burly 4x4. Despite its hefty weight and considerable size the Everest remained planted through the tight 100km/h hairpins, its 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engine feeling sprightly and unfussed.
An early start the following morning had us back on some fine examples of the Apple Isle’s switchbacks, heading towards the historic town of Waratah in the state’s north-west, with coffee in hand. The bitumen ended once more as we headed off-road to experience Savage River National Park’s stunning landscape – avoiding stranded pieces of tin strewn throughout the tall grass at Hellyer Gorge, which, apparently, is where you’re likely to find tiger snakes basking in the sun.
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The Ford team then scoped out an old mining site with a couple of water crossings that’d make some pretty cool photos, and the group had a bit of fun with some high-speed puddle-bashing – not that the water was deep enough to test the Everest’s 800mm wading depth. A 98km bitumen run from Waratah north to Boat Harbour for lunch again showed off the Everest’s on-road credentials. From here, and with bellies full of pizza and soft drink, the weekend jaunt ended with a dash back to Devonport Airport.
The action-packed weekend provided ample time to sample the Everest over a range of surfaces, and it proved that you don’t have to throw the aftermarket catalogue at it; a stock-standard Everest is a capable off-road tourer sans any mod support. But can amateurs with no off-roading experience venture from the shopping centre to the outback in an Everest? Absolutely. The Everest is designed for ease of use; anyone should be able to flick it into low range and escape the bright lights of the city.
Granted, you wouldn’t take an Everest from the showroom floor straight to the remote regions of Australia or down Billy Goat’s Bluff, but, within reason, a stock Everest strikes a good balance between day-to-day chores and weekend adventurer. And, yes, this new-age of off-roading does take away the skill of old-school four-wheelin’, but if it gets more people on tracks and experiencing our great backyard, then that has to be a good thing.
INTO THE WILD
WE spent the night bunkered down in our overnight digs at Cradle Mountain Lodge, with a roaring fire but no internet or TV – a welcome change. There are a number of short walks from the lodge: Enchanted Walk (20-minute circuit); King Billy Walk (30 minutes); and Kynvet Falls (45 minutes to the top of Kynvet Falls). Dove Lake, a must-see attraction, is located 8km from the lodge and takes about 15 minutes to drive there – you’ll need a permit.
2018 FORD EVEREST TREND SPECS:
Engine: 3.2L 5-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power: 143kW at 3000rpm
Max Torque: 470Nm at 1750-2500rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed auto
4x4 System: Dual-range full-time
Crawl Ratio: 38.6:1
Tyre Spec: 265/60 R18
Kerb Weight: 2407kg
Towing Capacity: 3000kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80L
ADR Fuel Claim: 8.5L/100km
Departure Angle: 29.5˚
Rampover Angle: 25˚
Approach Angle: 21.5˚
Wading Depth: 800mm
Ground Clearance: 225mm