What is it?
Big, bulky, and traditional are words that best describe Ford's all-new Endeavour. Sturdy enough to weather any conditions, tough enough to take on the roughest roads, the new Endy is an all-new middle of the road bonafide body on frame SUV; something of a rarity today. The new design is characterised by its huge wheel arches, a massive sculpted bonnet and a big Ford grille. The windscreen of the new car is more steeply raked and the metal roof rails are neatly integrated. Massive wheels and serious-looking scuff plates, both front and rear, are other nice bits that get your attention. Also new for this car is a powered tailgate, which now opens upwards as a hatch.
There's a new electric power steering system, and suspension is taken care of by coil springs all round, with a Watt's linkage used at the rear to help keep the rear axle at dead center, even when there is plenty of load going through it. All four-wheel-drive versions also gets 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 the car chooses the best engine, gearbox and traction control settings for you. Water wading depth is also a huge 800mm. The new Endeavour also gets plenty of new high-tech systems like Curve Control and Roll Stability Control that work off the ESC. And there's also Blind Spot warning and Lane Departure warning.
When it comes to engines and transmissions, the Endeavour gets Ford's new downsized 2.2-litre common rail diesel that makes 148bhp and 38.24kgm. The 3.0-litre Toyota Fortuner's engine in comparison makes 168bhp. Ford's other engine, the 197bhp 3.2-litre five cylinder is likely to be the more popular one because of the extra dash of performance this 2.1 to 2.3 ton car needs.
What's it like inside?
The interiors of the new Endeavour are clearly more upmarket than the earlier version. There's a nice broad sweep to the dash and the leather-covered top with its double stitching, is pretty plush looking too. The big chrome vents with their satin finish also impress and the flat section where the name of the car is embossed fits right in. The versions we drove had an eight-inch touchscreen that looks appropriately modern. Ford has used the new version of its SYNC (SYNC 2) on the new Endeavour, which in addition to providing Bluetooth connectivity and streaming music, also allows for enhanced voice commands. Touchscreen functionality however isn't great, and a few plastic bits on the lower half of the cabin are not built to the same standards as the ones higher up. However, the steering wheel with its proliferation of buttons, is beautifully crafted, and the pair of hi-res information screens in the instrument panel, that sit on either side of the speedo, are quite impressive too. There's ample space to store odds and ends; there are two rubberised cup holders ahead of the elbow box, a nice soft space ahead of the gearlever and all the doors can hold bottles. And there are multiple power outlets too.
Finding the right driving position is easy; the large driver's seat is powered and there's plenty of space even for drivers with large frames. This new car feels much wider on the inside than the earlier Endeavour and there's an abundance of legroom in the rear, so even tall passengers are seated comfortably. The seat is a bit low, but the bench is nice and big and you can incline the backrest. Climbing into the third seat, and especially climbing out is a chore, and you are seated very low, but because the second row is on rails and can be slid forward, sitting in the back is tolerable for short journeys.
You do get flat folding seats for both the second and third row, and Ford has used noise-cancellation technology to keep the cabin silent. This is done via speakers, they play back sounds that oppose, therefore cancelling out noise from outside.
What's it like to drive?
If you are used to the manner in which old-school SUVs drive, with their lumbering mass transferred from one set of wheels to the other constantly, you'll be in for a bit of a shock when you climb behind the wheel of the new Endy. Yes, the mass is there, all 2.3 tons of it, and so is the bulk, but the modern chassis, updated suspension and all-new electric steering are so good, the car drives with a level of poise and precision that's all but alien to this class of car. You do feel the weight when you hurl it around a corner and the mass does take a toll on the way the Endeavour reacts, but all things considered this car is really neat and tidy in corners. And the light steering makes it effortless to drive through traffic as well. Even the ride is good, for the most part. There is a layer of firmness, so sharp edges do cause a bit of an adverse reaction, but in general, on more rounded surfaces, the car just soaks everything up, and large dips and craters are taken particularly well.
We drove both the 2.2 and the 3.2 diesels along with the six-speed automatic and both engines felt quite refined. You can hear them gurgling and groaning a bit if you extend them, but under normal operation, Ford's active noise cancellation seems to work pretty well. Both engines have enough grunt too. The smaller engine is particularly nice on small throttle openings.
We assumed we'd need to give it the whip all the time, but it actually impressed us with sharp responses and plenty of pulling power from low engine speeds. It needs only a dab on the throttle to pull away from rest and acceleration is pretty effortless initially, so it's ideal for city traffic. But ask for a bit more and it disappoints, even if you press down all the way to the floorboards. It definitely does accelerate quicker, but with the engine kicking and screaming it feels like really hard work.
The 3.2 five-cylinder has much more torque and power and so gets off the line even better. And when you step on it, there's a corresponding increase in pace, so acceleration is much stronger. So it feels nice to drive, even with a leaden foot. Overtaking is a mere flex of the right foot away and the avalanche of torque does make its presence felt, especially when you accelerate in a higher gear. But power comes in slowly, in a laid-back manner, and you do miss that firm push in the back you get from a nice spike of turbo boost. Still, if it's grunt you want, this motor, with almost 50kgm of torque, has it. Wish the six-speed automatic was a bit quicker though; it feels a bit old school and a bit too laid-back.
Is it worth waiting for?
The new Endeavour ticks all the right boxes if you are looking for a large, full-fat SUV. A big leap forward technologically, it is smarter, safer, drives superbly, is adequately powerful and Ford has improved the four-wheel-drive system substantially too. What Indian car buyers will also love is the fact that the cabin is now lavishly equipped, and comfort and convenience are easily among the best in class. It isn't perfect. You expect a bit more performance from the engines, the ride could have been slightly more supple and the automatic gearbox should have been quicker on the draw. But, at an expected starting price of Rs 20 lakh, the new Endeavour is a whole load of 4X4 for the money, and probably one of the best cars in its class. It has some worthy competition in the well-entrenched Toyota Fortuner and the impressive Chevy Trailblazer headed to India soon, so we'll only know for sure when the car hits Indian roads towards the end of the year. But is it worth waiting for? The answer, simply, is yes.