FIRST DRIVE – 2020 FORD ENDEAVOUR

Last weekend I got an invite to go Dune bashing in Jaisalmer with the 2020 Endeavour from Ford India. Jaisalmer also called “The Golden City” stands on a ridge of yellowish substance and is crowned by the ancient Jaisalmer Fort. This town lies in the heart of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.Snapseed 2The drive from the airport to the Jaisalmer Marriot was just a little under 30 minutes. Roads in Rajasthan are without a doubt amongst the best in the country. As we entered the compound of the Jaisalmer Marriot one spotted the 2020 Ford Endeavour, an SUV that has a huge fan base in India.

The 2020 Endeavour has been updated to meet the BSVI norms coming into effect in April 2020. The first thing visible as you walk towards the front of the Endeavour is the all new full LED headlamp cluster. They offer a wider and longer throw over the previous model. One sees a larger chrome laden grille which works perfectly well with the diffused silver paint scheme of the Endeavour we were driving.IMG_4639IMG_4709The Endeavour has always been known for clean lines running across with an upright high stance. These changes while enhancing the appeal add to the timeless design of this SUV.

Under the hood one gets a 2.0 litre Ecoblue turbocharged diesel engine which is BSVI compliant. This engine is more fuel-efficient, with reduced emissions. The Ecoblue engine continues the legacy of Endeavour’s benchmark fun-to-drive credentials, delivering 170 PS peak power and 420 Nm peak torque.IMG_4708IMG_4707Now it was time to experience first-hand the sheer refinement and power this 2020 Ford Endeavour had to offer on our drive to Sam’s Dunes in Jaisalmer. For the 1st 50 odd kilometres of our drive we were driving on flat straight roads. The Endeavour is quick of the blocks and before you know it are already touching triple digit speeds. The 2020 Endeavour comes with the world’s first 10 speed torque convertor. The transmission is extremely intuitive, upshifts and downshifts happen very smoothly.IMG_4706nm0a4213Ford offers a function called Select Shift that makes it possible to skip through gears while accelerating or braking ensuring there’s enough power on tap available to the driver. This gearbox also helps in improving fuel efficiency significantly. There’s also a sport mode on offer that helps in holding on the revs for longer.

The handling and suspension of this car has always been top notch. This new update still sees the Endeavour handle all sorts of road surfaces and conditions with ease.  The Endeavour is known for its sharp handling, which is evident when you throw into corners, while doing quick lane changes. The Endeavour also comes with the Ford Pass suite of connected car features across the whole Endeavour range.nm0a3636Now it was time to get off the tarmac and go off roading in Sam’s Dunes. Sam’s Dunes is one of the most authentic desert dune sites in India, where one will find 30 to 60 meter tall sand dunes. This was the perfect location to enjoy everything that the Endeavour had to offer. After a quick 5-minute presentation by Kapil Sharma, Director Communications Ford India, we were ready to go. There was an instructor sitting with me to help with the experience of dune bashing.Snapseed 4IMG_4640Dune bashing basically means driving at increasing and decreasing speeds over sand dunes. As the surface of the sand keeps shifting, it takes a special skill and SUV like an Endeavour to navigate this terrain. The first 5 minutes went off smoothly over relatively smaller dunes. Now it was time for the real fun to start. This was also when the instructor explained how the Select shift function on this 10-speed gearbox helps to enhance the off roading experience even further on the Endeavour. Snapseed 3The Select shift function allows you to lock in a range of ratios so one doesn’t shift beyond that. This helps in maximising the effectiveness of the Sand mode in the terrain response system, making sure the vehicle doesn’t lose momentum. This is an important aspect of making progress in the sand.

The experience of going down crazy inclines and drops, followed by accelerating full tilt while climbing up was exhilarating… But for the Endeavour this was like just another day in the office.IMG-4642IMG_4644The Endeavour has always been a fantastic SUV with over 60000 customers down the years. In the last year, the Endeavour has racked up impressive numbers which is fantastic, considering the overall industry slowdown.

The 2020 Endeavour prices start at Rs 29.55 lakh for the Titanium 4×2 version and Rs 33.35 lakhs for the Titanium+ 4×4 version. All prices are ex-showroom.

FREESTYLING ALL THE WAY…

One of my favourite weekend getaways from Mumbai is Alibaug. Located just 120 kms from Mumbai is Maharashtra’s version of Goa for people who are looking at a weekend beach getaway.

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We were headed to Karpewadi resort in Alibaug in the Ford Freestyle. Here at Karpewadi, they practice sustainable management and encourage the guests to do the same. The term to describe it is an ‘agrotel’ where being one with nature is the central theme. You get private beach access, a range of activities to choose from on site as well. For people who like sightseeing, there are several such destinations nearby. The owners believe in a no- compromise approach to providing basic comforts with quality home – cooked cuisine.

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The Freestyle was launched earlier this year. It fits into the cross-hatchback segment in India. Most other manufacturers have seen varying degrees of success with the models launched, now it was Ford’s turn to launch a cross version of their proven and successful Figo Hatchback. Of course, lots of changes have been incorporated into the Freestyle.

The first time you see it, barring some similarities in shape to the Figo, you get a different grille, bumpers, side skirts, fender extensions and alloy wheels! The new grille is sporty honeycomb design with glossy black treatment. The bumper is stylish looking with a plastic silver skid plate. On the side you have plastic claddings on the wheel arch & side skirt. This is accompanied by 15-inch split 4 spoke alloy wheels. Ford has added a racing stripe decal on the lower section of the doors which we like. There are luggage racks on the roof that can take up to 50 kgs in weight.

The Freestyle comes with 190 mm of ground clearance which is very good, specially when driving over bad roads!

Now let’s step inside…

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Fully loaded in the truest sense is what the Freestyle is. A reddish-brown dashboard with glossy back accents. The infotainment and touchscreen package are something of a speciality with Ford cars. We specially like the digital compass!. A nice-looking instrument cluster greets you with silver accents which complement the dashboard. Seven cup and bottle holders are available between the door and center console! There is also a small soft touch shelf on offer below the climate control with another square cubbyhole to store small stuff! The seat upholstery is vibrant, the carpet mats are a modular rubber which are very easy to clean and maintain! There is a small hidden storage space inside the dashboard as well. Lots of storage space is on offer!

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Two airbags, ABS and reverse parking sensors come as standard on all Ford models. The Freestyle gets six airbags on the top spec Titanium variant with electronic stability control (ESC), active rollover protection (ARP), and Traction control (TSC). This is first in segment feature. Ford’s emergency assistance program is available on the Freestyle which shuts off the pump and shares a GPS location with emergency services.

Let’s check out the engine…

This is a new petrol engine. The motor from the new Dragon engine family is a 1.2 litre unit that makes 95bhp of peak power and 120 Nm of peak torque. The new gear-box which is a 5-speed manual. Gear shifts are smooth and refined. The Freestyle comes with a lighter clutch which helps in the start stop traffic we face in cities.

The Drive…

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We started early in the morning. Traffic at that hour is non-existent so it was a breeze getting out of Mumbai.  Once we get onto the highway the kind of power sitting under the hood of the Freestyle became apparent. All the Ford cars I have driven down the years have super driving dynamics. The Freestyle is no different! Lots of power is available in the mid-range so one doesn’t have to shift down to overtake. One gets to three-digit speed very easily.

So far, the journey was on good roads hence the suspension of the car wasn’t really tested. That changed the moment we got off the Expressway. When we checked how far we were it showed 50 kms from our destination. Not much of a distance if the roads are good. But the roads just went from good to worse in a matter of a few kilometers. It was like we were transported 20 years back to a time when India still didn’t know the concept of expressways and good roads.

The Freestyle managed these roads well. The suspension and ride quality is good; it handles whatever is thrown at it. The feedback to the steering is direct, quick changes in direction are managed with ease.

The weekend spent in Alibaug driving the Freestyle was a breeze. Makes for a perfect companion on out of town weekend trips.

Price…

Pricing for the Freestyle petrol starts at Rs 5.09 lakh for the base model and going all the way up to Rs 6.49 lakh for the Titanium+ with the diesel ranging between Rs 6.09-7.89 lakh.