Sunday drive with Hormazd Sorabjee: Ford Endeavour gets an upgrade
In a world consumed with coronavirus, the virgin sand around Turkoki Basti deep in the Thar desert would seem safe from what is now a full-blown pandemic. But the reason I’m here is not out of a need for self-preservation or a result of the panic that is gripping billions. Quite honestly, it’s to have a bit of fun.
This remote part of Rajasthan with untouched sand dunes is a great playground for a hard-core off-roader like the Ford Endeavour, which has just been updated with an all-new 2.0 litre diesel engine and a 10-speed auto gearbox. Yes, you heard that right – 10! But other than bragging rights of having India’s first 10-speed gearbox, does the Endeavour really need so many gears? We’ll come to that in a bit, but first let’s take a look at what else is new.
On the outside, there are very few changes and the only giveaway is the all-LED, twin-lamp headlights, which look far more modern than the earlier lamps. The only other thing that’s different is the fake vent, placed vertically on the fender, where now instead of ‘3.2’ or ‘2.2’, which denoted the size of the earlier engines, it just says ‘Endeavour.’ That apart, the car is largely unchanged. And that’s no bad thing because the big and chunky Endeavour is a comfortable, well-equipped, seven-seat SUV that’s carved out a loyal customer base for itself.
The question is how will Endy loyalists take to the smaller 170hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which is significantly down on power from the previous and now discontinued 200hp 3.2-litre five-cylinder unit? The massive sand dunes provided the answer. But first things first, which is to reduce the air pressure in the tyres significantly. The soft sand can suck you down to your axles so it’s absolutely critical to reduce the air pressure in your tyres. Lower pressure increases the surface area of the tyres and that can make the difference between swimming and sinking.
Getting in gear
Worries that the new engine will be weak are unfounded as the new Endeavour confidently ploughed through the axle deep sand and clambered up large dunes. Sure, I did miss the stronger spread of power the now 3.2 engine offered and the 2.0-litre doesn’t feel as effortless and had to be worked hard to extricate itself from powder soft sand, but that’s where the 10-speed gearbox comes in.
With four more gears to play with than the 6-speed auto in the 3.2, the power and torque of the new 2.0-litre engine is maximised. The gearbox rapidly shuffles between closely-stacked gear ratios to ensure that you’re always in the meat of the engine’s powerband. The gearbox has a clever ‘shift-lock’ feature, which limits the number of gears you can use for maximum traction.
Bouncing around the sand dunes, I can feel the suspension is softer than before but in the real world, which is broken tarmac and potholes for most owners, it’s actually more comfortable. On the 60km drive back to Jaisalmer on fairly smooth tarmac, the Endeavour’s highway capabilities came to the fore. It feels very relaxed and the improved refinement of the engine is immediately noticeable. The 10-speed auto gearbox is always alert. So, a gentle tap of the accelerator pedal will have the gearbox react instantly.
The good news is that all this tech hasn’t come with a big jump in price. In fact, the new Endeavour, priced between Rs 30 and Rs 33 lakh, is cheaper than some of the outgoing variants.
The Endeavour is still an old-school, tough-as-nails SUV but with a modern heart. The new generation BS6 2-litre diesel with that 10-speed gearbox has further unlocked the big Ford’s capability.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, March 22, 2020
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