Ford South Africa kindly handed over the keys to one of their Everest Wildtrak press cars for the December and January period and so we got to spend a substantial amount of time behind the wheel of the rugged-looking 7-seater.
After being one of the most successful nameplates for the Ford Ranger they decided to apply the same winning Wildtrak formula to the Everest SUV. In South Africa, the Wildtrak variant slots below the range-topping Platinum but sits above the XLT and Sport in terms of pricing.
Like the Platinum, the Wildtrak also makes use of a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine that delivers 247 hp (184 kW) and 600 Nm of torque. This is mated to their 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission and a full-time four-wheel drive system that can run in rear-wheel drive and open and locked centre diff 4×4 in high range and low range.
Visually, the Everest Wildtrak gets a slightly restyled bumper and grille with dark styling accents as well as a silver front bash plate with matching side steps. You also get wheel arch mouldings, fender vents, and mirror caps finished in Bolder Grey. The Wildtrak’s signature Luxe Yellow paint option is also available, but we prefer the Aluminium Metallic paint our unit came with.
Should you forget what variant you are driving it won’t take long to spot the word ‘Wildtrak’ which can be found on the front of the bonnet, on the side of the front doors, stitched into the front seats and of course at the rear.
The high-riding SUV sits on 20-inch machined-face alloy wheels boasting Bolder Grey detailing exactly like those found on the Ranger twin but should you plan to be off-road more often, you can opt for an 18-inch choice with better-suited tyres at no cost.
Hop inside the Everest Wildtrak and you will immediately notice the spacious cabin in all three rows. This variant comes with Ebony leather upholstery for the seats that is highlighted by orange stitching throughout. Thanks to the huge panoramic sunroof, the interior feels even bigger than it is and the abundance of natural light is very welcoming.
The second row has more than enough space to welcome passengers of all sizes and you can also slide that row forward and back as needed. That row also gets air-con vents with controls as well as USB-A, USB-C and a 400W/240V inverter plug. The third row is better suited to kids but can accommodate adults should the need arise. Should you find that you do not need to use the last row, you can fold the seats flat increasing the boot capacity from 259-litres to a whopping 898-litres.
The infotainment is comprised of a 12-inch LED portrait screen with SYNC 4A and it is brilliant. It contains all kinds of handy information and entertainment functionalities and of course the ever-important wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Sadly for the driver of the Wildtrak, you do not get the same fully digital instrument cluster of the flagship Platinum specification but rather the 8.0-inch display which does seem a little outdated for the rest of the car.
So what is the Everest Wildtrak like to drive then? Generally speaking, ladder-frame SUVs do not have the best on-road drive experiences but this car goes a long way to address that. We were expecting the ride to be a lot harsher, especially considering the 20-inch wheels but the Goodyear Wrangler Territory HT tyre leads to a very pleasant driving experience.
The V6 provides plenty of power and grunt to overtake with ease and with 10 gear ratios to choose from you will find yourself wafting along at the speed limit with the engine turning over at just 2,100rpm. Ford claims a fuel consumption of 8.5l/100km but this seems a little optimistic as we registered 10.9l/100km and most of that was done at highway speed limits.
We did do some very gentle off-roading in the Kruger Park and the car felt extremely capable and complaint over some of the corrugated gravel roads. Unfortunately, we did not find ourselves in a situation to test out the proper off-roading talent but judging by the reviews online, there is not much you can throw at it that it won’t be able to handle (especially with the correct wheel and tyre choice).
Should you fork out the extra R175,900 for the Wildtrak over the Sport? Well, that is mainly up to your budget (and styling taste) but if we were the ones shopping, we know that it is entirely justified by the extra equipment and appeal and would not hesitate.
Generally speaking, we would favour the range-topping model in any lineup but the Wildtrak in this case, ticks the right boxes. We do wish it came with the fully digital instrument cluster from the Platinum but other than that, we prefer everything else on the Wildtrak especially the rugged appearance and the more comfortable 20″ wheels.
The first ever Ford Everest Wildtrak is a very impressive package with serious mass-market appeal. It is highly capable, plenty comfortable and packs the right amount of safety features and tech for a family SUV. You would be silly to overlook this offering when shopping for your next SUV especially considering the more than reasonable price tag of R1,160,600.