Sliding a car across gravel is usually quite a sight. But imagine doing that with an SUV that’s five metres long (longer than an M-Class, a Montero and most others of its ilk) and that weighs two tonnes. The Ford Endeavour is like a rampaging bull and a musth elephant rolled into one as its bulk shifts from side to side, digging deep trenches in the mud and raising a sandstorm. In 2WD mode, and by controlling the throttle and punishing the ladder chassis with sharp steering inputs, the Endeavour swings its tail wildly. This vehicle, of course, is so long that by the time it steps out and starts its slide, I can fiddle with the wipers or the stereo or even order a pizza. It is, as I mentioned before, a long car.
The difference this time around is that it has a bigger engine, and that means more torque and power to play around with. To answer your question before you ask it, yes, the 2.5 TDCi engine will very much be around. It’s just that Ford has introduced this, the frighteningly badged Thunder+, the top-of-the-line Endeavour with a 3000cc common-rail motor. Featuring a variable geometry turbo like in the smaller engine, this four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine develops 154 bhp at 3200 revs and 38.75 kgm of turning force at 2500 rpm. Just for your information, the 2.5’s output is 141.5 bhp at 3500 rpm and 33 kgm at 1800 revs. The difference this time around is that while the 2.5 IDI motor got the common-rail treatment and became the TDCi, this one has been bored-out and stroked-up to displace 500cc more, and of course, it gets an aluminium head over the cast-iron block.
Well, more power is always welcome, especially in a gigantic beast like this. It’s not that the 2.5’s output figures are bad, in fact it came in good time last year to prop up the Endeavour’s sagging performance. But here, with the 3-litre motor, the Thunder+ takes off from where the 2.5 leaves. And this is quite apparent both on-road and off. Ford India had charted out a wee bit of an off-road course on the outskirts of Delhi where we could have some fun with the Endeavour. It included a vast gravel patch where we did the above-mentioned sliding exercises and a sand pit. Okay, it was not as much fun as our annual monsoon slushfest (remember our poster of the Endeavour 2.5 TDCi yumping up in the sky?), but it was fun nevertheless. The Thunder+ features four-wheel drive as standard, and plugged into 2L, entered the sand-pit without trepidation. Stuck in second with the revs well in control by using the clutch, the Endeavour drew deep furrows in the sand. It would have been a bit of an effort had there been less torque to play around with. And here’s where the extra power helped, and the fact that
90 per cent of the torque is available at less than 1800 rpm. The Endeavour was plugging on relentlessly like a tractor, and all that was required from me was steering inputs to keep the SUV on course.
The Thunder+ is even better on the highway. Where the 2.5 would hesitate, especially in the lower rpm range of the engine, this one has brilliant torque coming in at those levels. And that makes a substantial difference when you are on city roads, making it driveable in everyday bumper-to-bumper traffic. Then of course there is the variable geometry turbo, which keeps the lag away in such situations. But here on Haryana’s highways, the Endeavour comes through as a very good distance cruncher. I am sitting at 100 kph with the tacho needle nudging the 1500 rpm mark, and there is plenty of juice left in the engine. Though it can go faster if you ask it to, the Endeavour is at its best cruising at these speeds, crunching those kilometres steadily. Though we didn’t test the SUV, the engine makes a strong showing in the mid-range, allowing you to overtake that much more effortlessly. The five-speed manual gearbox is not that slick, but for this application, it is more or less what you’d expect. The shifts are positive and feel the way they should in a macho body-on-chassis SUV.
The size of the Endeavour means it can be quite a bully on the highway, and now with the added power, it can throw its weight around rather well, surprising the other denizens of the road. The suspension on offer is of course leaf springs at the rear and an independent double wishbone at the front. The one good thing you can say about its underpinnings is that they can withstand a whole lot of abuse. You just have to remember that when it comes to handling, this is still a large SUV that’s better at accommodating corners rather than conquering them. Still, with a limited slip differential as part of the package, the Endeavour behaves well under control and it is forgiving if you do suddenly decide to push it around a curve. When it comes to the ride quality, the Endeavour is a bit harsh, but acceptable for a vehicle that’s built on a truck chassis. But take a speedbreaker too fast, and rest assured your passengers will be rubbing their skulls.
Other than a bigger engine in the Thunder+ variant of the Endeavour, you get 4x4 as standard, exterior rear view mirrors with puddle lamps and turn indicators, a ladder at the rear, a front bumper over-rider and er, the Thunder+ sticker on the flanks. That’s about it. No special colour schemes, nothing more. Ford was yet to announce the price of the Thunder+ as we were going to press, but expect it to be about Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 over the 4x4 version of the 2.5. Well, that’s a hefty price. But the vehicle also is pretty hefty and comes with quite a few bells and whistles. If you want a big SUV just because you want a big SUV,the Endeavour is your baby. Now with additional power and go-anywhere capability, it is a good choice if you want a tough, rugged machine. And that’s the long and short of it.
Why did Ford bring a new engine in just 8 months after the 2.5 TDCi?
Because the 3.0 was introduced in Thailand eight months ago and it was available for Ford India
Can I have a Thunder+ without 4WD?
Hmm, afraid not. It’s the top-end version, and hey, that 4WD makes it quite invincible
How does it compare to other diesel SUVs?
The closest you can get to the Thunder+ is the Mitsubishi Pajero. But a new one is just around the corner. Now that should be something else...