Driving the most hardcore creature comfort laden four-by-four this side of the Rs 20 lakh barrier has its own advantages. You remain cocooned inside, cutoff from the drama of the outside world while ignoring road conditions and the occasional craters born out of monsoon’s fury and local leaders’ apathy. The GPS system becomes your toy even though you know the route you are traversing and when the conditions do allow – read smooth roads – rear seat passengers can be spoiled with the latest DVD flick. The small car squashing ground clearance and a conventional pickup based chassis come in handy when you finally decide to do justice to the capabilities of the vehicle you are driving. When you have technology backing you up with features like a selectable four-by-four mode and a torquey diesel motor under the long hood, you often feel like pushing your luck too far. In my case, it was a bet with our lens man Sanjay whether the refreshed Endeavour would climb up a steep rocky mountain side with slippery grass all set to play spoilsport. I don’t need to pen down who won the bet as you can see the big Yankee tank in one piece without any signs of a fall down the hill on these pages.
The Endeavour has always been a great seller for Ford in this country – proving that for Indians, size does matter. The SUV’s overly generous proportions turn out to be a big ego massager on the road and it becomes your second nature to almost run small vehicles, two-wheelers and overloaded auto-rickshaws off the road. The world becomes your playground and wherever you drive to, you are never going to arrive unnoticed. Modern styling touches come in the form of new headlamps with the ‘eyebrow’ effect, tweaks in the form of smart LED type rear view mirror integrated indicators, the Endeavour logo on the sides and embossing on the top of the grille as well as redesigned bumpers to name a few. And of course, you can’t dismiss the newly styled alloy wheels.
Changes are carried over to the inside as well with impressive new additions like the inclusion of a touch activated GPS enabled SATNAV system which is clubbed with an audio system that supports a variety of formats. Further, Bluetooth connectivity is a boon for those who can’t live without being on the phone while on the move. This entertainment package is further complemented by an in-car DVD system with a roof mounted screen for rear passengers – perfect! There is a mix of colours on the inside – beige, black, brown and silver to be precise. The steering wheel looks good but the shocking omission of controls for the audio system is a letdown. The speedometer console remains the same, however for this automatic variant, there is a display for gear selection. The air-con controls look dated with no digital display or electrical adjustment whatsoever. What really gets a thumbs-up here are the super comfortable ergonomics. The leather used is on the softer side and goes a long way in making you comfortable on long journeys. The cup holders in front of the gear lever come in handy, although the quality of the plastic surrounding the lever seems out of place. Second row passengers are treated well but the third row is best for small adults due to the knee-up seating posture. The equipment levels on the Endeavour 4x4 are very generous and the car comes with a reverse parking camera too. However, I personally would have preferred parking sensors to go with this for tight parking scenarios.
Powering the over two tonne vehicle is the same 3.0-litre 156PS engine that has been on offer here earlier too. It is noisy when cold but with 380Nm of torque at play, driving the Endeavour in city traffic isn’t really difficult. The new five-speed auto ‘box works pretty well and is responsive enough for most overtaking maneuvers. In fact, once you get used to the SUV’s massive proportions and the behavior of the auto ‘box, you really wouldn’t miss a conventional manual system. With selectable 4x4 on offer and options to choose from the first three gears available, it is easy to get this Ford out of most tricky situations off the road as well. Outright acceleration is impressive considering the kerb weight of the vehicle – a 13odd second 0-100km/h sprint is applaudable.
There is no getting away from the fact that the Endeavour has a bouncy ride especially with only the driver on board. The primary reason for this has to be its underpinning as it is based on the Ford Ranger chassis. With more than three people on board however, things do improve. Off the road is where this vehicle really excels and even when driving through small towns, dropping two wheels off the road while overtaking doesn’t shake up the big beast. Around corners, body roll is evident but is nonetheless well controlled. The ball and nut system steering wheel is vague, unlike the conventional rack and pinion types, and isn’t very communicative to the driver. Safety aids in the form of ABS with EBD and front airbags are welcome features.
At Rs 17.99 lakh (ex-showroom), the Endeavour is the only true diesel powered off-roader with an automatic gearbox in this price category. There are a few downfalls, for example, the stiff ride quality and the omission of modern touches like electrical adjustments for the air-con system and the driver’s seat. Nonetheless, here is an overall package with a long list of standard features including the entertainment system, ease of driving with the auto ‘box, go anywhere capability (well almost) and ego massaging looks. It seems the refreshed Ford Endeavour 3.0-litre will continue to mint money in this segment for the company for a long time to come.