I live in a metropolitan & jam packed city like Jakarta, and if there’s one thing I never get, is why do people are consistently using big SUVs like the Fortuner, Pajero Sport or Everest in a city like this. Sure it contains more people than its smaller counterparts (X-Trail, CRV, etc) but knowing on a daily basis usually it carries no more than 4 people, why? Not to mention the road space in Jakarta is very limited. The sheer sizes of those SUVs occupies more space compared to other types of cars, and moving that gargantuan body requires more fuel as well. It’s illogical.
Hence, when the good people of Ford Indonesia asked me to have a go at their latest Everest, I said ‘yes’ boldly. Not only because i want to know how a modern truck-based SUV feels like to drive (FYI, I used to drive a Diesel Chevrolet Trooper, and it feels very agricultural. Not something you’d like to drive in urban areas) but also i’m curious about what makes the city slickers around me keen on using them as their daily driver.
The test drive event itself was done in Chang Rai, a city located on the northern side of Thailand. The city is filled with lushes green trees, hills, rain & a huge river. It’s basically somewhere in Jawa Barat, but cleaner (and they drive more neatly compared to Indonesian drivers). To reach the city, it’s another hour of flight from Suvarnabhumi which makes it a full day spent travelling from Jakarta.
I was accompanied by a group of automotive journalists, people who have more capabilities to talk about cars than me, and my buddy, Raya Fahreza, that also shares his opinion of the car in here (in Indonesian). We’re probably the only one in the crowd who thinks that Camshaft is a byword for schlong.
So, let’s talk about the car. My first impression was that it’s big, bulky and looking like something that Chuck Norris would drive. It wouldn’t be misplaced with a wooden log cabin, deers & a lake in the background. It’s reeks of masculinity in every inch, i actually grow more beard & chest hairs just by standing next to it.
Climbing (yes, climbing. It’s bloody tall) into the interior, it’s actually another story. It’s very well laid out, some say that it looks a bit too spartan, but then you ran your hands across the stitched leather dashboard, the thick leather-padded steering wheel and the seats and realise that they’re serious about luxury.
And of course, it’s not a modern car without its array of toys. Dual zone electronic climate control, electric adjusted seats for the driver, front passenger and the rear seats. The visibility is really nice & bright, especially with the huge sunroof up top, and A pillars that are quite thin compared to other modern cars. Listening to music was a pleasant experience as this car doesn’t cut short in fidelity systems. It has 5 speakers, 4 tweeters and 1 subwoofer to entertain, while the head unit also function from playing music, syncing with your phone over bluetooth, rear monitor and even adjusting the colour of the ambient lighting inside the car. I won’t be surprised if anyone told me that it can do a Powerpoint deck. In short, as manly as it looks from the outside, the inside is not a gym, it’s a high-tech gentleman’s club.
Driving it also has a different feel compared to your standard big-sized SUVs. For starters, the steering is feather-light yet greatly accurate on parking lot speed, making city driving a breeze. But it as you speed, it gets heavier and meatier, building a great sense of confidence as you carve through corners. I’ve driven Fords like the Focus & Fiesta to know that the brand stands for cars that are fun to drive, and this car is no exception. Its suspension soaks up bumps like how cars with European-designed suspension does, yet it still tolerates corners well, even though eventually the tall & heavy body still contributes to body rolls when you pushed it to its limit. It’s light-years from the previous Everest, which feels truck like and handles like a 90s Toyota. The Everest magically makes you feel like you’re driving something much smaller and agile than it actually is, and as one who enjoy driving especially in the twisty road across Java, this car got me from the first drive. If previously Pajero Sport has the best balance of being sporty & comfortable, this car redefines it. It’s more comfortable yet sportier than any of its competitor.
The engine was no slouch either. I’ve driven 2 types of engines, the 2.2 turbodiesel with 158 horses & 385Nm of torque, also the 3.2 5 cylinder turbodiesel with 198 horses and 470Nm of torque. Both mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission with manual mode and offers great power on acceleration. Top tip: If your day to day is city driving with the occasional Bandung travel on the weekend, the 2.2 is more than enough, as it also has better acceleration from the get go. But if your daily route consists of challenging interstate driving, hills or empty highways, the 3.2 is a beast. My only complaint lies on the manual shifter. Instead of shifting up to upshift, it actually downshifts, making it feels unnatural even though the shifting process itself is responsive.
Also as how a Ford should be, the driving technology doesn’t disappoint (even though i think most of them won’t ever get used when you’re in a city like Jakarta). Smart lane sensors that can sense whether your car is going off the lane & warn you, or if there’s any other vehicle cut you off and brakes automatically (which will practically makes it stuck in Jakarta), or Cruise Control that can adjust the speed automatically if the car in front of you is slowing down. One of the best feature would be the park assist control though, since it can automatically adjust the steering when you’re parking (even parallel ones!) and all you have to do is adjust the braking. It’s a dream come true for ibu-ibu Pondok Indah Mall!
Last but not least, the off-road capability. Ford wanted to show us this car’s capability so bad, they took us to visit the Akha hill tribe (that obviously lives in hills) where on our way there, the car will go through muddy hills, tight turns, rivers and slippery slopes. The car was equipped with all sorts of 4 wheel drive technology wizardry that not only makes the car more than capable to penetrate those muddy hills, it does that without breaking any sweat.
The system itself can simply be adjusted to four kind of road conditions – normal, snow/mud/grass, rock & sand, where it will deliver the best power & traction for each conditions just by turning a switch. Then there’s the low range and the differential lock, plus the hill descent control where it’s basically a cruise control for going down on steep hills. All you need to do is let your foot off the pedal, steer the wheels & it’ll go down on itself. You can adjust the speed you want to go down those hills by simply tapping the buttons on the steering wheels. I was a bit disappointed though when we were going through the river, since the river’s depth is only around 30 cm-ish. The wading depth capability of the new Everest can go more than double that, or 80cm to be precise. Making it the perfect candidate to be the official car of Tarakanita high school. There are no obstacles that actually made me worry whether the car will make it through or not. It just will.
At the end of the test drive session, i get it now why these type of cars has high demand. It simply makes you feel special. It sits you high in a tall commanding position with great manoeuvrability and power, it drives nicely (very car-like, unlike yesteryears’ SUVs), it’s refined, well built, supposedly has great durability & very comfortable. To my surprise, the engine is also quite efficient for such burly car. The 2.2 ranges from 9-13km/lt during while the 3.2 is almost similar, at 8-12km/lt. But that’s not all though.
I know that the 4WD version probably wouldn’t be the most popular variant because of the price and it’ll mostly be used for city driving anyway, but there is a massive loss if you’re buying the 2WD version – adventures. I, for one never thought that 4WD is something that you need in a car, but having tried the its capability, it’s actually a shame not to explore those undrivable roads on the remote areas of Java to experience something that’s beyond Bandung or Taman Safari. If you have the money to buy it, do go for the 4WD version and go explore further. It’s simply a first-class ticket to adventure.
My concern for this car would be the pricing scheme. This car is overly designed for its class, making the top spec 3.2 with all the bells & whistles would command the price to be stratospheric, especially with the unique tax system our government has. And knowing most Indonesians who have money rather buy something with more brand statement to show just how successful they are, they will go for an “entry level Louis Vuitton” instead of the “most expensive Marks & Spencer”. Ford Indonesia needs to be smart on the trim variants, which i think will make them sacrifice the 3.2 4WD version’s availability, and go for a top-spec 2WD 2.2lt version to sell in our local market. It’ll be disappointing if it ever will be heading that direction, but at least I can proudly say that I’ve experienced the real deal on a track where it should be.
(Thanks to the awesome guys at Ford Indonesia & its PR team for the amazing experience)