Your future car is an SUV, and it would likely be a Ford

Those who won't settle for compromise would most probably settle-in in a Ford Expedition

Those who won’t settle for compromise would most probably settle-in in a Ford Expedition

Just what is it about sports utility vehicles that have made them such a necessity in our lives? Whether we base it on the figures that the auto manufacturers have been watching ever so closely or not, it’s a visibly undeniable fact that the proliferation of SUVs on our highways, roads and in garages have increased exponentially over the last few years, and it looks like the trend won’t be letting up anytime soon.

Ford has been banking on that, and in fact, has been at it for over 50 years catering to the SUV needs of the modern motorist.

From basic to brilliant

Ford first gave the public a taste of the genuine SUV lifestyle in 1966 with the introduction of the Ford Bronco, and its entry-level model was quite Spartan. It came in a 4WD “roadster” configuration, with no roof and doors, and had a foldable windshield for that luxurious bugs-on-your-teeth cruising experience for the adventurous.

Certainly, it was meant for sports and utility use, and the rough ‘n tumble weekend getaways, so it only played second fiddle to the “proper” family sedan.

If you’re a baby boomer, you’d probably remember Virginia Slims’ “You’ve come a long way, baby” tagline, which really is a fitting, glaring understatement about what the SUV has evolved into.

Today, you can speak commands to your SUV, sit smugly as it parks by itself, and take it through some of the most hostile off-road terrain while flitting through your chill-out music playlist as you trade jokes with your brother-in-law across a continent.

Most significantly though, it’ll intelligently “make up” for your driving inadequacies or misjudgments by staying stable, in line, and on lane at speed, assist your ascent and descent, allow you to steer as you try to stop abruptly, and keep you alive though the most potentially deadly situations you may find yourself in.

On top of all that, it’s almost as agile, easily as fast, and sometimes even more comfortable than your venerable sedan.

Ford's extensive lineup is more than ready for the growing demand for better SUVs. Left to right, back: The Ford Expedition, Ecosport, Escape, Explorer and Everest

Ford’s extensive lineup is more than ready for the growing demand for better SUVs. Left to right, back: The Ford Expedition, Ecosport, Escape, Explorer and Everest

No wonder the SUV has overtaken other vehicle types in sales in many markets. Ford estimates that by 2018, SUVs will account for up to 40 percent of global vehicle sales, based on predicted lifestyle needs and preferences of millennials who’d be starting their own little families, and baby boomers who’ve bought into the SUV early on, and are even more convinced that it’s the way to go.

Taking it further

Being one of the brands that has the most extensive line-up of SUV nameplates in the industry, Ford has been in the business of perfecting the SUV longer than most, and have applied the fruits of their relentless R&D onto their creations, from the diminutive but spunky Ecosport, all the way up to its luxurious behemoth, the Expedition.

A fitting namesake: the Ford Escape is your fast ticket to an instant adventure

A fitting namesake: the Ford Escape is your fast ticket to an instant adventure

We in the Philippines, are one of the more fortunate markets in Asia Pacific, to have nearly every nameplate in the Ford SUV lineup, and that includes the Escape, Explorer and the Everest.

Potent is Ford’s DNA throughout the five SUV models available here, and it’s quite apparent in terms of design desirability. Clearly the blue oval adheres to a dynamic visual identity that’s carried across the entire lineup, making it apparent at once glance that they’re all sleek and sporty siblings with a bearing that’s all their own.

Performance and features-wise, the tendency might be to presume the disparity is disproportionately huge between the Ecosport and the Expedition, but Ford has uncannily maintained a certain level of premium in terms of build quality, engineering and actual driving feel, and that the “minimum requirement” remains at an impressively high level—and that adjusts accordingly, as the model grade goes up, say to the Escape, the Everest, and to the Explorer, without making the customer feel he’s “losing out” by not getting the next model up.

They’ve got it covered

Hosting an international Asia-Pacific drive in the Philippines was a monumental undertaking, and quite a tall order when it came to showcasing the salient features and vignetted “personalities” of all five Ford SUVs, especially in the confines of Angeles, Pampanga.

AIN’T no mountain high enough for the Everest trio

AIN’T no mountain high enough for the Everest trio

One thing comes to mind: what have we got to offer that’d make the foreigners understand what the Ford SUV nameplates are capable of, or perfectly skewed towards?

The Ford Ecosport, with its sub-compact SUV configuration and dimensions, flexible cargo space, smart interior features, ample power and pleasing looks, is the essential urban companion that won’t shy away from going a little extra-urban with its ride height and sporty character.

A little bazaar shopping, stitching around town, zipping here and there, and taking home the spoils of a full day of doing that was quite enjoyable.

The Ford Escape still strikes me, and others too I’m sure, as the city athlete that’s as sharp as a compact SUV can get in terms of power and agility. It’s the SUV that a driving enthusiast would gravitate to.

The Ford Everest. Ford's poster SUV for their built tough, go further philosophy

The Ford Everest. Ford’s poster SUV for their built tough, go further philosophy

Quick sprints to and from a nearby resort and its picturesque hidden spots were quite exhilarating. Paired with some outdoor sports like biking and kayaking, the Escape offered what its namesake suggested, in unmistakable style.

The Ford Explorer provided a fascinating balance between capability and luxury in a tech-laden package. It has all the essential amenities a demanding urbanite would want, but in a more comfortable and luxurious level.

Don’t let its sophisticated lines make you underestimate its capability to take on the rough.

Its sheer size would make you worry about having to pay real estate tax just for owning it. The Ford Expedition, in “Intimidating Black,” makes no apologies for the statement it makes, nor will it offer any excuses for what might be expected of it in terms of performance and comfort from a premium plus-sized SUV. In short, it makes its VIP passengers, feel VI.

I had to save what’s easily the favorite of the Asia Pacific Philippine drive for last, the Ford Everest. If “Aint no mountain high enough” was a song by a burly all-men band, it probably would be the Everest’s theme song.

Deep into the lahar trail, the Everests (and its occupants) were subjected to a gauntlet of sharp rocks, deep river crossings, steep drops and goopy, sticky volcanic sand … and they all prevailed with flying colors.

A show of force

Over 50 years ago, Ford had a glimpse of the future of automobiles, did something about it, and they never stopped.

By focusing on what the customer needs and wants, and pushing the boundaries by delivering the latest in automotive technology and innovation in performance, safety and design, it has arrived with five very compelling reasons to demote the venerable sedan.

Right now, Ford is looking more than ready to take on the increasing demand for better SUVs.

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