It took us close to fourteen hours to get from New Delhi to Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. This was my third trip to Thailand this year. The last time we were here, we were attacking challenging corners on the twisty roads astride the new Ducati Scrambler outside Bangkok. This time around things promised to be a bit more adventurous. All through the journey I couldn’t suppress my anticipation of traversing the jungle lands of Thailand in the new Ford Everest. That’s what it’s called here, when it comes to India it will be re-christened the Endeavour for Ford can’t get the rights to the Everest name (I still think Everest sounds way cooler). The next day we were led to our drives for the day and what I saw was quite impressive. The new Endeavour now looks like a proper full blown SUV unlike the old car which was essentially a pickup truck converted into an SUV. It is designed as an SUV from the ground up. The front sports a butch hexagonal three slat grille with Mustang-esque headlamps on either side. And it’s hard to miss the massively flared wheel arches. The rear, however, comes across as a bit underwhelming with simpleton tail lamps and a chrome strip with the car’s name running between the two sides. The car sits on brushed aluminum, diamond cut 20-inch wheels adorning 265 section tyres. As you step back, you can’t help but admire the muscular beast dripping with character. The interior on the other hand is dripping with luxury. The dash is covered with stitched leather, more leather adorns the seats and the steering wheel isn’t spared either. The centre console gets a classic beige treatment and houses the SYNC2 infotainment system which now comes with a touchscreen interface and voice activated controls which now also accounts for the Indian accent. Below the SYNC2 screen sit the controls for the climate control, volume and tuner, all finished in black. The knobs come with chrome surrounds for that added bit of style. The seats are comfortable and plush. The cabin itself feels expensive. There is ample space in the second row to seat two in comfort. A third can also be accommodated but kneeroom will be limited due to the high transmission tunnel. The seats are foldable and split 60:40 unlike 50:50 in the old car. Also, the second row seats have adjustablity for both rake and slide but manually. Moreover, there is a separate climate control for the rear passengers with vents on the roof which also houses a panoramic sunroof. The third row is electrically foldable with a 50:50 split though it’s for kids only.The variant we drove was the 3.2 Titanium 4×4 and the 3.2-litre 5-cylinder engine will only be available with this variant. Apart from the 200bhp of power and a substantial 470Nm of torque it also comes with Ford’s Terrain Management System or TMS for short. In system comes with four different modes, namely, normal, mud/snow/grass, sand and rock. Each mode is setup individually to best tackle different terrains. But a true off-road machine is incomplete without a low-range gearbox. No such blasphemy here. It also comes with a host of other driver aids like Hill Launch Assist, Hill Descent Assist, ESP, Active Park Assist (will be offered in India) and Roll Stability Control. Though blind spot assist and lane departure assist will not be offered here.Start the car and the engine wakes up with a grunt but settles down quickly. On the move the car feels quiet and composed and you can feel the engineering that went into the NVH package of the car. The view from the cockpit too is quite good. The large ORVMs take care of the rear and you can always see the edges of the bonnet which will be helpful in the city. The steering feels good to hold and feels a bit lively. The peculiar thing though is that it is adjustable for height only and not reach.The gearshifts although aren’t the fastest. In fact they feel a little slow on the uptake. But the ECU does adapt to your driving style so you can teach it to shift slightly faster if you drive a little aggressively. The power and torque are well distributed over the rev range but it rarely feels like a powerful highway cruiser. Getting off the line feels laborious plus the fact that it weighs over two tonnes, the 470Nm of torque feels little more than gentle. The ride is much smoother compared to the old car. Attacking corners is a possibility compared to a distant dream in the old. Don’t get me wrong, it still has a bit of body roll but the Watt’s linkage in the rear suspension helps keep it in check. It minimizes the rear axle’s lateral movement while allowing the axle to go up and down. It really helps the driver’s confidence. The chassis is still a ladder on frame so you cannot really expect the stiffness a monocoque construction provides but having said that, it doesn’t disappoint. It does however get a little uncomfortable on pothole ridden roads especially for the rear passengers as the car tends to move from side to side on continually undulated sections.A car can only be called a proper SUV if it can still keep going once the tarmac disappears, so naturally that’s where we were headed. The ladder on frame might not be great on the road but off it, it all starts to make sense. The independent front suspension coupled with a solid rear axle and the rear shock absorbers mounted beyond the frame significantly increase off-road stability. The course we were on made it pretty evident that the Endeavour is capable of much more. It practically completed the course with a lazy grin and its hands in its pockets. The Endeavour will also be available with a 2.2-litre engine option. This trim however will not come with a lot of convenience and luxury equipment like a leather dash, panoramic sunroof, electrically adjustable passenger seat and an electrically operated boot. It is also devoid of the TMS. Though, it does come with high and low ratio transfer cases along with hill launch and hill descent systems. And the SYNC2 system remains intact as well. The car makes only 160bhp of power but comes with a healthy dollop of torque, 385Nm. The engine feels more refined than the 3.2 and it also feels lighter to drive. It will also be available in a 4×2 trim with RWD and a 6-speed manual gearbox.advertisementadvertisementThe Verdict The Endeavour was quite a hit when it first came to India. But then the Fortuner became the new hit. The new Endeavour is a force to be reckoned with. It looks great, has luxurious interiors and is one rugged off-roader. It will be offered in 4 trims and the lower models will be well equipped. But it will be launched only by 2016 while Toyota too is readying its new Fortuner for an Auto Expo debut. So it will be a battle of the prices yet again but this time the Ford seems to be better equipped for such a showdown.