The all-new Ford Endeavour is here, and it demands your attention – nay, it deserves it!
When the Ford Endeavour was first launched in our market over ten years ago, it generated quite a fan following. It was big, imposing and had a lot of road presence. It was a bit rough around the edges though, and when the Toyota Fortuner was introduced a few years later some of that initial sheen began to wear off – despite the many facelifts along the way.
Well, that’s precisely why Ford invited us to the paddy fields of Chang Rai in Northern Thailand to test the brand new Everest – which will still be known as the Endeavour in India (they haven’t been able to secure the trademark for the Everest name in India). It’ll likely be launched at the Auto Expo next year, if not even sooner in January 2016. Here’s why you ought to be interested...
Firstly, it looks really good. And it’s certainly as imposing – if not more so – than the previous model. The Aston Martin inspired family face finds it way onto this butch SUV – except in this case it look as though it’s been feeding on a diet of steroids. In profile, it’s not quite as flamboyant. But the front fenders are garnished with a chrome plaque that tells you which engine configuration you’ve got under-hood. It also proudly spells out 6-speed, which is pretty much a constant since all the variants come with either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. We didn’t try the manual, but the automatic is Ford’s 6R80 box that also finds a place under the hood of the F-series pick-ups – the F150 being the best selling car in the States. So it’s not surprising that it’s a very responsive gearbox. The technical staff on hand – all from Australia, which is where the car was designed (largely for sale in the APAC region) – tell us that within an hour of being behind the wheel the gearbox will actually adapt to your driving style. Well, we didn’t get quite that much undivided time behind the wheel, so I had to resort to putting it in ‘S’ and shifting manually. The response was so good in fact that I would ideally have liked paddles behind the steering wheel.
Before you think that I’ve completely lost the plot demanding steering mounted paddles on a two-tonne, ladder-frame SUV with a solid rear axle, remember that this is a Ford – and cars with the blue oval on the front grille are known for their driving dynamics. And it’s quite promising the minute you get into the drivers’ seat. Not only is the seat extremely comfortable, but the driving position is perfect (despite the fact that the steering adjusts only for rake, and not reach). The steering wheel itself is a nice chunky three-spoke wheel that feels good in your hands. It has an element of Starship Enterprise too, since it has a myriad of buttons on both horizontal spokes. You sit facing an analogue speedo in the instrument cluster, which is flanked by two TFT screens on both sides. One mirrors the entertainment display of the 8-inch touchscreen on the centre console, while the other gives you vehicle information, such as fuel, temperature, trip information, etc. It also has a special off-road display that tells you everything from roll and pitch to the angle of the front wheels – very Land Rover-esque. What’s appears even more directly inspired from Land Rover is the Terrain Management System that has a strikingly similar rotary knob and icons to Land Rover’s Terrain Response System – perhaps Ford feels that they have every right to use it since they owned Land Rover around the time it was developed.
The modes themselves are surprisingly similar as well – Normal; Snow, Mud, Grass; Sand; and Rock. It also has Hill Descent Control, Hill Launch Assist, an active transfer case with a low range gearbox, and an electronically locking rear differential. So, as you can see, they’ve spared absolutely nothing when it comes to giving the new Endeavour serious off-road capability. It also has a ride height of 225mm, a wading depth of 800mm, approach and departure angles of 29-degrees and a ramp-over angle of 21-degrees. So if it’s go-anywhere ability that you’re after, the new Endeavour has it in spades. Ford had organized a drive through some trails in the foothills, and the Endeavour simply sailed through any obstacle that came its way. Even with the suspension demonstrating reasonable articulation, and the locking-diff doing its thing, from the inside it felt about as relaxed as climbing an annoying speed-breaker. This was off-roading for idiots!
Back on the road, things were even more relaxed. We started out in the 3.2-litre Duratorq five-cylinder turbo-diesel that produces 190bhp and 470Nm of torque. The first thing that strikes you in just how silent it is in the cabin. Ford uses Active Noise Cancellation – like in your favourite Bose headphones – that actually works incredibly well. It uses three mics in the cabin that measure engine noise. These then send a signal to the Active Noise Cancelling control module in real time, which generates opposing sound waves through the speaker system. And if you’re a technology sceptic, as someone who’s a big fan of noise cancelling headphones, I should tell you that this bit of tech works really well.
In fact, levels of refinement in the cabin are really very good. The seats are extremely comfortable, and the materials are all pretty good. In the high-end models, there’s even a quasi leather stitched dash that looks very upmarket. The cabin design, on the whole, is quite clean and uncluttered. You will, however, find 12-volt power sockets everywhere, which are actually quite useful – and there’s even a 230-volt plug point in the second row of the top-end Titanium variant. For convenience, there’s a power folding third row and tailgate. And all variants get a massive 2,010 litres of storage space with both rows of seats folded thanks to a full flat floor.
The Sync 2 infotainment system is very intuitive and easy to use via the large touchscreen in the middle of the centre console. The voice-activation, however, is just as frustrating as ever. But, considering the ergonomics – which ensure that pretty much all the controls are within a thumbs-reach, or an arms-reach at any rate – you’d be remiss to complain too much about convenience.
But, back to the driving experience – which doesn’t disappoint either. The 3.2-litre engine is strong and smooth – although it does run out of grunt north of 4,000rpm. The ride, however, is exceptional – despite the 20-inch rims on the 3.2 (265/50 R20’s on the 3.2 to be more specific, and 265/60 R18’s on the 2.2). The 2.2-litre, four-cylinder Duratorq four cylinder turbo-diesel isn’t quite as impressive as its bigger brother though. The numbers themselves aren’t bad – it produces 158bhp and 385Nm, but it just doesn’t have the grunt to provide that satisfying surge of power at low speed. Once it gets beyond 2,000rpm, it’s not bad actually. It has a pretty good mid-range, and it gets the job done – it’s just that it’s not quite as satisfying as the bigger 3.2 litre motor. Plus, it’s a little louder in the cabin and there’s a bit of vibration that filters through the throttle pedal at high rpm. Personally, I would stick to the 3.2.
As far as the handling and driving dynamics are concerned, we’ll have to reserve judgement until we get to spend more time behind the wheel. Suffice to say, the electronic power steering is very impressive at low speed. At parking speeds, it’s very light. On the move, it weighs up nicely – it’s progressive and very direct. Body roll is well controlled and the Endeavour goes exactly where you point it. In fact, it feels like a monocoque from behind the wheel. But it’s the ride quality that really impresses – even in the rear seat – which should be a great selling point for the Endeavour.
On the whole, this is an extremely refined and highly capable full-size SUV. I, for one, would seriously consider swapping my Fortuner for one of these – especially since I’m not really a fan of the initial shots of the next generation Fortuner that Toyota released recently. Ford should get a head start on the new Fortuner of a few months when it launches in early 2016, and that should help it get its foot back in the door.
This Endeavour is, at the very least, a few generations improved from the last one. The only trouble Ford will have is convincing customers that it can be as trouble-free and economical to maintain as the best from the Toyota stable. The company is working very hard to ensure that it’s after sales quality is on par with its product quality, but that’s a process that takes time. If they can revamp their image as successfully as they’ve done with this product, then they’ve clearly got a winner on their hands!
- Ford Endeavour 3.2L
- Ford Endeavour 2.2L
Engine: 3,198cc / In-line 5-cylinders / 20 valves / turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic / All Wheel Drive
Power: 197bhp @ 3,000rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Engine: 2,199cc / In-line 4-cylinders / 16 valves / turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Automatic / Rear Wheel Drive
Power: 158bhp @ 3,200rpm
Torque: 385Nm @ 1,600-2,500rpm