The Ford Endeavour. This was India’s first ‘premium’ 7 seater 4×4 SUV that could be driven to your corporate office on weekdays and could then be used for quenching your off-roading fantasies on weekends. All this in the comfort of luxuries and features. Sixteen years later, the brand continues to satisfy hundreds of enthusiasts and loyalists every month, being the perfect offering in the segment. But can a perfect product be improved?
We flew to Jaisalmer to get our hands on the 2019 version and more than that, to reconnect with the SUV that I have a soft corner for. Dune bashing on day 1 and a 850km drive back to Delhi on day 2 was the agenda. But before I get on the experience, lets have a closer look at the changes. The Endeavour is a beast of sorts, being wider, taller and longer than its main rival, the Fortuner. This generation model came to India in Jan 2016 and three years down the line, looks as fresh as ever. While Ford has decided to leave out the bling 20 inch wheels for our market, the 2019 model gets revised styling which is to my liking. The front gets a new trapezoidal grille with a splash of chrome while the lower part of the bumper gets tweaks for the skid plates. The rear one too, the skid plate, is a bit different than the outgoing version. What this SUV retains is its brutish and muscular stance that works wonders when you want your space on the road.
Getting into the tall Endy takes some effort but once seated, the cabin feels rich and premium. This has been the USP always and large adults will appreciate the space of offer. New additions include a smart keyless entry with push button start (finally!) and a powered co-driver seat as well. That said, wireless charging and ventilated seats could have made the deal ever sweeter in my opinion. Ford has also added a proper handsfree tail gate operation that requires you to ‘swipe’ your leg under the rear bumper for the seasons to kick open the boot. Do note that this is not offered in the Fortuner. Apart from this, no changes on the inside. The seats feel supremely comfortable, the audio set-up is kickass and ergonomics spot on. Also, the Trend version has been left out now. The 2.2 is sold with the Titanium trim set-up while the 3.2 will only be sold in the Titanium Plus trim.
While a lot of Endeavour fans were waiting for the new twin turbo 2.0-litre turbo diesel to make it to India, Ford has decided to continue to the older set-up of a 2.2-litre unit and a larger 3.2-litre engine. A new engine (for India) might have increased the costs and further, the popular tagline of “there is no replacement for displacement” works well to massage an owner’s ego. After all, the Endy has the largest engine with the highest power and torque among rivals. What Ford has done instead is re-introduced the 4×2 MT with the smaller 2.2 unit.
We started with a quick one hour highway run from the airport to our base camp for the night and then to the dunes. Located at Sam (ahead of Jaisalmer), the dunes were more than initiating for city dwellers like us. The Endeavour 3.2 comes with the Terrain Response Modes and the first thing to do was switch over the Sand mode that changes the way power goes down to the wheels and also the shift points. We remained in 4×4 H (not low) and with all that torque coming in early, the convoy moved ahead without a struggle. However, as each SUV passed the same dune multiple times, the going got a little tough at places. This is where 4×4 Low came handy and we still had the confidence of a rear diff lock in spare – just in case.
Do note that we were driving the Endeavour with stock tyres though the pressure had been reduced to 20. None of us were seasoned sand dune drivers and yet were able to pilot these big heavy SUVs with a grin on our faces. Says a lot about the capabilities of the vehicle. A line up of Endeavours driving around the dunes with camels for company was a sight to capture for most tourists around. The approach and departure angles did aid a lot when it came to climbing and coming down steep dunes. At the end of the two hour stint, the convoy headed back to the base camp with each one of us sharing our stories over drinks and light winter drizzle.
Day 2 was special. A 850km journey lay in front of us with the route going through Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Churu and Hisar. I have done quite a few cross country runs in my career including a 23000km / 53 day road trip but yet, I was eager to get behind the wheel like a kid who got his new RC toy from parents. Grinning already! We left our camp site at 8:15am and the outside temperature being 12 degrees, started covering ground to our destination. This was the 3.2 AT 4×4 model and first things first : it loves guzzling diesel. By the end of the run, the display showed 10.1 kmpl. If you want cheaper running costs, go get the 2.2 MT. It is about 30% frugal which means 13-14 kmpl for a run like this.
As there are no mechanical changes in the new Endeavour, it continues to churn out more than ample power and torque. This really comes handy when you want to overtake fast moving traffic on open highways or close in on gaps. We had a clear run mostly and stuck to using the cruise control at most times. Even the seat comfort and suspension combination is far better than most rivals and this is one important factor which covering such distances in India. Likewise, the audio set-up which belts out high quality audio. And a special mention of the headlights – they offer far better lighting as compare to the Fortuner and this can make a world of difference during night drives.
I will admit it – this is not a major update of the Endeavour. The new entry level version, added features and slightly better aesthetics just polish up the vehicle in a better way. And it retains the low running cost of 68 paise (for the 2.2 model) along with a standard warranty of 3 years of 1,00,000 km! The best SUV in the segment then just became better. Perfect!