Kick-starting the premium SUV segment in the country, the Ford Endeavour stayed in action for more than a decade in its last generation. Now though, Ford has brought in an all-new Endeavour to take on the likes of Toyota Fortuner, Chevrolet Trailblazer and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Ford claims it's the most technically advanced SUV in its segment in multiple areas. Naturally, we put that claim to test to check if the Endeavour has the goods to rattle the segment.
Endeavour is an important model for Ford India, considering the premium SUV segment is growing at a terrific pace. When the old Endeavour was launched, this segment was sized at about 500 units per annum. Last year, this segment had grown to about 18,000 units and is expected to grow to about 100,000 units by 2024. This kind of growth provides a great opportunity for OEMs to grab a slice of this pie, which also offers higher profitability. While Ford India will launch more SUVs in the coming time, the Endeavour is its only bet right now.
Big is better, and more macho the design, even better it is for Indian consumers. And the new Ford Endeavour scores amply on these expectations. The Endeavour's large size, along with a robust design, helps it exude the kind of rugged image that many people buy such SUVs for. The large chrome grille merges in a triangular manner with the headlamps, which are equipped with Daytime Running Lights (DRL). Beyond adding a modern appeal to the design, these elements help retain the character of a boxy and large SUV, something not all of Endeavour's competitors have successfully managed. Despite this, the Endeavour cuts through the air with good efficiency, something the low drag coefficient of 0.389 testifies.
The side profile does a good job of maintaining the brute element of design through large doors, 225 mm ground clearance and meaty six-spoke alloy wheels. The rear design is once again modern yet robust aided by a chrome strip merging into the tail lamps in a similar fashion to the design upfront. From a design perspective, there isn't anything that seemed out of place and all the lines and creases come together very well. The only little thing, which we thought could've been avoided, was the chrome finish on the ORVMs.
Of the 4x4 and the 4x2 variants on sale, our test vehicle was the 4x2 one, limiting our ability to go off-road. The 4x2 variant is powered by a 2.2 l Duratorq TDCi engine developing about 158 hp and a healthy 385 Nm of torque. Power is transferred to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Our test car was equipped with the automatic unit, which is a standard offering on the 4x4 variant.
The 2.2 l engine is aimed at offering a balance between power, efficiency and cost and does its job satisfactorily. The turbocharged engine utilises tried & tested diesel powertrain technologies with modifications to serve the purpose. This unit offers acceptable grunt but has some lag below 2,000 rpm. The lag also becomes a bit more evident due to the transmission, which is a bit slow to downshift. Once past 2,000 rpm though, the engine offers decent acceleration but the transmission's slow pace to upshift takes away some of the performance. Reaching triple digit speed is easy and overtaking on highways was never a problem for us. Drivability is impressive with the transmission ratios spaced out perfectly to handle stop-go traffic.
Refinement is another ace up the Endeavour's sleeve and even around 4,000 rpm there are hardly any vibrations. Ford claims a fuel economy of 12.62 km/l and during our test, we got a figure of 9.8 km/l, with around 50 % of the driving done on highways, 35 % in cities and the remaining in places, where there were no roads to be found. These are good numbers for an SUV of this size and this has been made possible partially due to the usage of piezoelectric diesel injectors, which deliver precise fuel-metering. Helping efficiency further is the variable vane turbo technology, also known as variable geometry turbocharger.
Ford India is trying hard to convince people of it shedding the high-maintenance tag and this is where things such as the variable pressure oil pump comes in to the picture by reducing wear and extending service intervals. There's also a 3.2 l engine on offer, which we'll do a technology analysis of, in our next edition.
In order to retain the rugged qualities associated with an off-road SUV, Ford has used the ladder-frame chassis for the Endeavour. Driving the Endeavour through the city and on highways, however, had us doubting Ford's claims. While it's natural to expect Ford vehicles to offer good dynamics, the Endeavour's performance was a bit unexpected since it didn't feel like a ladder-frame chassis. Feeling more like a newly-evolved version of ladder-frame, the Endeavour displayed little body-roll and pitch motion for its size. With a few minutes behind the wheel the Endeavour was responding to our inputs seamlessly and was tackling corners with aplomb. Ride quality was fantastic since the cabin remains largely unaffected even when going over roads with lunar surface quality.
This impressive balance between handling and ride quality is a result of a stiff chassis and perfectly optimised suspension characteristics. Talking of suspension, the front unit comprises of independent coil spring with anti-roll bar and at the rear, one can find a Watts linkage suspension with anti-roll bar. This is an interesting choice of suspension but hasn't been used for the first time by Ford. In this type of suspension the central moving point is forced to travel in a straight line up to a defined length. This allows the axle to travel vertically while preventing sideways motion. This is the key reason why the Endeavour feels so planted around corners.
While off-roading too, the 225 mm ground clearance comes in handy and the suspension allows a generous articulation as well. Since our test vehicle was a 4x2 drive variant, we couldn't do serious off-roading but on sand and on stones the Endeavour was comfortable and will cope well with most of the regular stuff buyers will throw at it.
The cabin of the Endeavour is largely an impressive place and looks thoroughly modern and upscale. An area where the Endeavour literally walks over the competition is noise vibration & harshness (NVH) levels. Equipped with noise-cancellation technology, similar to that found in headphones, there are three microphones mounted in the headliner. These microphones transmit a signal to the Active Noise Cancellation control module in real time and this module then generates opposing sound waves, cancelling any potentially objectionable sound within the range of 30 Hz to 180 Hz. The effect of this technology is easy to experience and only when accelerating hard, the diesel clatter can be heard inside the cabin. While cruising at triple digit speeds the cabin is so quiet, one is hard pressed to believe a diesel engine is powering the vehicle.
The seats in front are large and supportive and offer good comfort and external visibility. The rear seats too offer good legroom and headroom along with decent under-thigh support. The last row is expectedly less spacious but should be fine for seating two average-sized adults for a short while. Flexible seating on the second and third-rows are good enough for accommodating everything ranging from bags to bicycles.
The steering wheel is good to hold and has a myriad of buttons making it possible to control almost all important functions without having to take the eyes off the road. Ergonomics are of top order and finding the desired button was easy after just a few minutes behind the wheel.
The dashboard got a mixed response from everyone in our editorial team primarily due to the changing quality of it within the three layers it sports. The top part of the dashboard is of premium quality and has a soft touch to it. Below it is a glossy plastic surface and an eight-inch colour display flanked by chrome-finished air-vents. This part again boasts of good quality and design, but problems start appearing in the beige-coloured third section. The hard plastic along with the matte black finish on the centre console do not match the quality seen on the upper parts of the dashboard. It almost feels like cost constraints came into effect by the time sourcing for this part of the dashboard began.
The new Endeavour is everything the consumer of a premium SUV would ask for, and then there's a bit more to have fun with. With an impressive design, the Endeavour is right up there with the competition, and a bit ahead in terms of interiors & refinement. It offers the best-in-segment driving pleasure by a fair margin. The Endeavour scores high on the safety quotient with dual-front, side and curtain airbags, ABS with EBD, Hill Launch Assist, ESP and Traction Control System. With two engine and gearbox options, the Endeavour also meets varying needs of SUV buyers.
All of this sounds like a winning recipe, and at a price range of Rs 23.64 lakh to Rs 28.15 lakh, it surely is. The only test for the Endeavour is Ford India's ability to effectively market it and convince buyers that it's as reliable and easy on the pocket as its key Japanese competitor.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay