Ford tasted a fair amount of success with the first-gen Endeavour. The concept of a big, brawny SUV worked in its favour initially, and it sold well for a bit. But competition soon caught up and made the big Endy look a little rough around the edges. Now, 13 years later, Ford has a new-generation car ready for sale in India. The new car is a huge leap forward over the old one, full of modern tech and clever enhancements, and it even has a more comfortable and luxurious interior. So, is it good enough to give the Fortuner sleepless nights? We drove both the 2.2-litre 4x2 and 3.2-litre 4x4 versions to find out.
What is it?
The new Endeavour is a large, seven-seat SUV built around a traditional ladder frame for strength. On the one hand, the four-wheel-drive version has the ability to flatten boulders and clamber over all sorts of terrain, but on the other, it's also good at ferrying up to seven passengers around our bustling cities without too much of a compromise on comfort. This is because it blends modern techniques and technology with old-world ruggedness like no other car in its class.
The design, for example, is very modern. The huge trapezoidal chrome grille up front sets the tone. Owners get a sculpted bonnet, LED-lined headlights and a windscreen that's steeply raked. Other highlights include a stylised vent behind the front fender, huge wheel arches that make even the 18-inch tyres seem rather small and a bar of chrome across the tailgate that succeeds in making the rear of this big SUV look quite upmarket. The new Endy sheds the tailgate-mounted spare wheel, now placed under the chassis and the top Titanium trim features a powered tailgate, usually seen on more upmarket SUVs. In terms of size, the Endy is now longer and boasts the maximum distance between the front and rear wheels among its contemporaries – the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Toyota Fortuner. There are now two engine options – a 2.2-litre four-cylinder and a bigger 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel; both mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. A six-speed manual gearbox is also offered as an option on the smaller engined car, as is four-wheel drive.
What’s it like on the inside?
Inside, the new Endeavour is clearly more upmarket than earlier versions. The cabin features top-quality materials and elegant use of chrome and faux metal. The broad sweep to the leather-covered dash with its double stitched piping elevates the look of the cabin. Adding to the plush feel are the integrated touchscreen and beautifully crafted steering wheel. The instrument cluster has a big speedometer in the centre flanked by twin screens which display a hoard of functions like a digital tachometer, driving modes and many others. Other bits that lift the overall ambience include customisable cabin lighting, supple leather seats and chrome-ringed cup holders. On the Titanium trim, you get the SYNC 2 infotainment system which, in addition to providing Bluetooth connectivity and streaming, also recognises voice commands. It’s a practical cabin too, with plenty of space for daily items and also, as it is an off-roader, there are grab handles all over. There are flaws, though. The touchscreen functionality could have been smoother and the lower half of the dash seems to be made with lower quality materials.
What there is no compromise on though, is comfort and space. The driver’s seat is electrically operable and provides great lateral support. Finding the right driving position is easy and there's plenty of room, even for drivers with larger frames. In the second row, the new Endeavour is now much more spacious and comfortable with an abundance of legroom. And even in the third row, the bench is nice and big with even an option to recline the backrest. That said, getting in here is cumbersome, there isn't too much room and being low-set, you sit in a knees-up position. The third-row seats, however, can be folded electrically at the touch of a button; another nice feature.
What is it like to drive?
The first thing you notice as you get off the line is the effortless and light electric steering. And for a car that weighs two tonnes, the Endeavour is shockingly easy to manoeuvre around even in heavy traffic. The 2.2-litre engine, although the smaller option available, is the quicker to respond, producing 158bhp and 38kgm of pulling power. It also feels more relaxed and light on its feet at speed and in everyday city driving, the difference between the two engines is not really noticeable. That said, the 197bhp, 48kgm 3.2-litre unit does provide a lot more bite. The bigger engine is slower to pick up speed but is deceptively quick even in part throttle situations. And it really takes off as you dig your right foot deeper; the car sprints to 100kph in 11.33 sec. This places it right in between the slower Fortuner and the faster Trailblazer. The 3.2 does sound quite strained when pushed hard though. This is despite the fact that Ford uses noise cancellation (playing opposing sounds through the speakers) tech to keep out engine noise. The bigger disappointment though, is the gearbox. The six-speed automatic finds it really difficult to keep up with the engine and is often slow to react; the triptronic function does improve things though. Drive it with a patient foot, and it should be not that big a problem.
Ride and handling is also some way above the ordinary. Agility really is exceptional for the big, heavy SUV it is. The new electric steering is super direct, light and helps turn this beast on a dime. And the big Ford has the requisite balance and agility to stay with the quick steering. So, flick the wheel and the Endeavour turns in one quick, clean move, no slop, no sloth. And the steering doesn't feel nervous at high speeds either.
Then the suspension takes pretty much anything our roads can throw at it. There is a bit of vertical movement over bad roads and this is mostly felt when seated in the rear but it's not that much of an issue, as only some small amount of the bump is allowed to filter in. All four-wheel-drive versions get a high-tech active transfer case and a Range Rover-like Terrain Management System. You can choose from Normal, Snow/Gravel/Grass, Sand and Rock; and the car chooses the best engine, gearbox and traction control settings for you. There's also the 800mm water wading depth and that should certainly help during Indian monsoons. Safety is taken good care of with systems like Curve Control and Roll Stability Control that work off the ESC, Blind Spot warning, Lane Departure warning and seven airbags.
Is it worth waiting for?
The new Endeavour is clearly aiming for the top. It is the most modern of the crop of traditional SUVs, it has the most luxurious interiors and the new steering and suspension make it a joy to drive, both at low and at high speeds. The Endeavour is also likely to deliver a lot of car for the money. Prices are expected to start at the Rs 24-lakh mark for the 2.2 litre 4x2 manual and stretch till Rs 30 lakh for the top-end 3.2-litre 4x4 automatic Titanium. What really makes it worth waiting for is the fact that it delivers a unique mix of performance, luxury and practicality. And with so many versions and options available, it's more than likely you'll find the right one for you.