2023 Ford Everest: Wheels Car of the Year winner

March 24, 2023

The judges’ quotes were telling. “Really well thought-out. Ford has not just copied best practice in SUVs; it’s established best practice in many areas,” noted one.


“Software has been developed by Australians for our conditions. You can feel the difference, especially in the effectiveness of the ABS calibration on gravel,” said another.


“The chassis stability system’s tuning is outstandingly effective in Australian conditions.” Yep, they absolutely loved the Territory back in the February 2005 issue, marking the last time Ford walked away with the Wheels Car of the Year award.


This year, dialling back the dogma to allow hugely popular ladder-framed vehicles to enter the fray has resulted in the Ford Everest carrying home the crown.


Controversial? Maybe. It was clear right from the outset that body-on-frame SUVs and utes arriving on all-terrain tyres would occupy the wooden spoon positions in dynamic tests such as high-speed avoidance and dry braking, and so it proved. Yet every judge climbed from the Everest absolutely blown away at how much this offers for the money. It hasn’t so much raised the bar in this sector as elevated it to a point worthy of its nameplate.


“It feels like a large SUV designed and built to meet the demands of Aussie buyers. And it doesn’t just tick the boxes; it goes above and beyond in virtually every metric,” commented a clearly impressed Inwood.


“The stability control system is inspired on dirt. Seriously. This vehicle has clearly been built by people with a deep understanding of how it’s going to be used by its key market,” said <checks notes> this guy. And make no mistake, Australia is the key market for this U704 Everest.


🥇 Any COTY winner needs to ace the criteria

The Everest covered that assignment quite comfortably.

The ground it lost on brake-testing and lane-changing, it clawed back on its event-best dirt performance, its innovative towing tech, its near-genius off-road functionality and its expertly calibrated and easy-to-operate onboard driver assists.


Cabin design and execution also came in for praise, with acres of space, intuitive infotainment including wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, decent materials quality and solid ergonomics.


It drove well too, with both the 2.0-litre bi-turbo and 3.0-litre V6 powerplants getting the clever automatic all-wheel-drive function, unlike the Ranger where you need to step up to the V6 engine in order to net this functionality.


Opinions diverged on the 2.0-litre diesel. While all agreed that the new torque converter had eliminated the old version’s problem of hunting up and down the 10-speed ‘box for the right ratio, there were those who felt that the smaller engine was a little shy of the NVH polish they’d like. Others considered it more than acceptable.


All judges agreed that the six-pot engine was the pick, however, delivering a cultured note – for an oil burner – at the top end and 600Nm on tap to tow up to 3500kg braked. It feels as if it could drag an errant tectonic plate back into line.


“The Everest is predictably excellent on dirt, but miles better than you’d suspect on bitumen” – Andy Enright


The Everest’s smartphone-activated trailer towing light test sequence is just another example of making life easier for owners. As is the blind-spot monitoring that takes the total length of your vehicle, including the trailer, into account. Or the grille-mounted camera that can peer over a sharp off-road crest while the driver can see nothing but a windscreen full of sky. We could go on but you get the point. It’s everyday utility done smarter.


The Everest feels large on twisty roads and the no-cost option all-terrain tyres don’t relish rapid changes of direction. Once you tune into the Everest’s cadence and give the body a beat to take a set, there’s enough composure and outright grip to inspire confidence, especially in the sort of inclement weather we encountered while testing.


Its 800mm wading depth will see it through most fords, the proper low-range transfer case and the rear diff-lock enable it to clamber up anything that seems vaguely categorised as motorable, while an 80-litre fuel tank gives it a long-legged 900km cruising range between fills.


There’s even a slot next to the drinks holders front and rear to park a portion of fries if you’ve nipped into the drive-thru at Maccas. It feels sturdy too. “Gives the sense that after 500,000km it would look and feel exactly the same,” said Campbell.


Put simply, the Everest couldn’t be a great deal better suited to how Aussies typically use their vehicles.


In the final tot-up, the Everest tallied a decisive majority on the scorecards. It’s a thoroughly impressive vehicle that offers so much capability and is packed with such ingenuity at such a keen price that it’s a clear winner for 2023. Designed in Australia, by Australians, for Australians.


Turns out there’s something to be said for that after all.


This article was originally featured on whichcar.com and can be viewed here.