But not everyone wants or needs such heavy-duty off-roading ability, or the associated extra costs that brings. So Ford now has three rear-wheel-drive Everests, which are $5000 cheaper than the equivalent four-wheel-drive models: a five-seat base model Ambiente ($47,990 plus on-road costs), a seven-seat Ambiente ($48,990) and a mid-spec seven-seat Trend ($53,990).
There is no difference in trim and creature comfort features between the equivalent RWD and 4WD versions. In the latest upgrade, Ambiente models gain the SYNC 3 infotainment system, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, an 8.0-inch colour touch-screen with reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, an upgraded 10-speaker audio system and a driver instrument cluster with dual 4.2-inch LCD displays.
The Trend now gets embedded SYNC 3 satellite navigation with traffic management channel as standard (previously it was an extra-cost option).
Everest has a five-star ANCAP safety rating and the Trend has a range of advanced driver assistance technologies including adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and lane keeping assistance.
Behind the wheel, you get a sense that Everest means business. It has the look and feel of a serious SUV but still with a comfortable family-friendliness about the versatile seven-seat cabin layout. All the instruments, controls and switches are logically placed and clearly marked.
Much of the chassis, underpinning and mechanical componentry is shared with the Ford Ranger ute but Ford engineers have refined the set-up to give Everest a more relaxed demeanour in how it drives, rides and handles. It feels a little better sorted and more civilised than most other ute-based family wagons.
The RWD models employ the same 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and conventional six-speed automatic transmission as the 4WD versions, producing a handy 143kW of power and 470Nm of torque.
Based on Ford’s figures, the weight saved on the Trend by removing the drive to the front wheels is 102kg. This results in a better power-to-weight ratio and with less driveline drag, and while it also means fractionally better acceleration and lower fuel consumption, this is offset by a reduction in traction.
In normal driving around town and on the open road, most drivers will not pick any significant difference, and it’s only when accelerating rapidly on a slippery road, when cornering hard or travelling on loose gravel that the benefits of AWD really come into play.
Fuel savings, however, are only marginal. Official consumption for the RWD is 8.4L/100km, while the 4WD is 8.5L. On test, our RWD Trend averaged 10.8L/100km. It’s also worth noting that Everest’s engine, unlike that in the Ranger, requires add-blue (a urea fuel additive that reduces exhaust emissions) or it automatically adopts reduced power settings to contain emissions.
Maximum towing capacity is often a critical consideration for buyers of large SUVs. The RWD Everest can legally pull up to a hefty 3000kg with a 300kg maximum tow ball load, the same as its 4WD sibling. Trailer sway control is also standard across the range.
Despite the driveline differences, scheduled servicing requirements and costs for the RWD are the same as the 4WD version up to 10 years or 240,000km, when diff oil replacement is recommended.