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Words: Ouseph Chacko
SUV lovers, politicians and assorted bullies rejoice because, by the end of this year, there will be a new Endeavour in town. It is, without doubt, a world away from the pickup-based roots of the original Endeavour and this time around is packed with equipment that makes up the muddy dreams of off-roaders. We’ll get to that in a bit.
First up though, the way it looks. The lines are cleaner and softer, in that it has lost a lot of the slab-sidedness of the old one. In its place is a cleanly executed blend of butch and elegance that somehow manages to look very upmarket without losing any of its purposeful intent.
It has credentials – this new one is still based on the Ford Ranger pickup platform but Ford insists that past the A-pillar, the new Endeavour is very different from its pickup sibling. Yes it has a body-on-frame construction and a live axle at the back but the suspension settings, the position of the fuel tank (it is now under the seats), and the floor height among other things are different. If you remember the old Endeavour, you will recall that its high floor forced occupants (particularly in the third row) to sit in an uncomfortable, knees-up position. In the new one, you sit far more comfortably. The rear seats now have something very nice – thigh support – and, when you look around, you’ll realise that Ford has leapfrogged a few generations on interior quality. The hard plastic minimalistic interior of the old car has been replaced by high-quality double-stitched premiumness, beautiful aluminium highlights and lots of soft-touch surfaces. There’s also an eight-inch touch-screen interface that dominates the dashboard and it features Ford’s new SYNC2 system that does everything short of making fried eggs for breakfast. It’s very well equipped – there’s a ten-speaker sound system, active park assist, a reverse camera, an electrically-operated tailgate, power folding third row, twin moonroof and if you fold all the seats flat, 2010-litres of boot space! Ford claims there are 30 useful storage spaces in the cabin – I’ll take their word for it because I was too lazy to count them all. Oh, and the third row remains quite cramped and not all that easy to get in to. Lucky then that the second row slides on rails to give third row occupants a bit more knee room.
The engines and drivetrain options are different – only rear-wheel drive Endeavours will come with a 2.2-litre, 148bhp, four-cylinder diesel that you can get with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The more interesting engine is the 3.2-litre, five-cylinder, 197bhp diesel. Mated to it is a proper, full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-ratio transfer case that can juggle up to 97 percent of drive to either the front or rear axle. It has an electronic locking rear differential, Land Rover-like electronically controlled, terrain management programs, 800mm of water fording capability, 225mm of ground clearance, ESP, Hill Descent Control and a Watt’s linkage for the rear suspension that doesn’t allow the rear differential to move from its place even under heavy off-road load.
Ultimately though, the Endeavour, despite its hardcore off-road gear, is limited by its approach, departure and rampover angles (29, 25 and 21 degrees respectively). You can go quite far off-road as long as you’re okay with gouging out bumpers and plastic bits off the vehicle.
On the road, the Endeavour handles very well. There’s great body control and a tightness to its body movements that belies its 2.3 tonne kerb weight. The electrically assisted power steering is direct, light at parking speeds and weighs up well when you get a move on. You can safely throw it around corners like you wouldn’t dare in some of its competition.
Typical of a ladder-frame, live-axle combo though, the ride is a bit lumpy and it doesn’t seem to like sharp bumps. But, by shifting to coil springs all-round, Ford has managed to cure the horse-cart kick the old Endeavour’s leaf springs used to deliver to its occupants over bumps.
Onto the engines then. The 2.2-litre is a responsive motor, but strangely runs out of breath quite early. Ford uses Active Noise Cancellation that cancels unwanted frequencies entering the cabin and yet the engine sounds quite wheezy and strained when you rev it. It’s the same with the 3.2-litre engine that simply doesn’t feel like a 200bhp motor. The Fortuner’s 3.0-litre diesel definitely feels peppier and has more spring in its step. I blame Ford’s six-speed auto (both cars I drove were equipped with them) that’s lethargic, old-school in the way it shifts and works the engines more than necessary. Both engines cruise well though and there’s little wind and tyre noise entering the cabin.
What will get prospective buyers interested is the estimated Rs. 20-25 lakh price tag when it is launched here. At that price, the Endeavour is very competitively priced. More importantly though, if Ford brings to India all the equipment they say they are bringing, the Endeavour will be really good value for money. Did I just see a lot of people sit up and take notice?