Ford Wilktrak in Focus

By Ashref Ismail


The days 13, 14 and 15 of September will go down as amongst the most memorable, most productive and most humbling days of the year for me. Not only was I afforded the opportunity to facilitate a special Mpumalanga Province Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Programme, but I also had the opportunity to test Ford’s awesome Everest Wildtrak – more about that later!

My career is grounded in road safety. I have been involved in road safety for over three decades having started at a grass-roots level, then joining the government as a lowly road safety officer at a provincial level, joining the National Department as the Project Leader for the Arrive Alive campaign before resigning as a senior founding member of the Road Traffic Management Corporation in 2014. 

One of the highlights as Chief Traffic Officer in charge of national enforcement standards and co-ordination was the many opportunities to gain invaluable enforcement training abroad that saw us adopt and tweak many international best practices for our local road safety strategies. 

So, it was with this in mind, together with my lifelong passion for executive and performance coaching that I was invited to “unlock the potential” of forty-two, female chief traffic officers of Mpumalanga Province over the gruelling three-day training intervention, covering various topics from smart policing to essential workplace productivity to transformational leadership.

My choice of steed for the trip to the picturesque province of Mpumalanga was the new Ford Everest Wildtrak, more about that just now. Wink, wink!

Since much of my income currently is derived from fleet risk management with particular emphasis on the human factor, it goes without saying that a great deal of time was spent on the officers’ enforcement experiences on the road. Much of their findings remain consistent with my personal observations: where companies invest in road safety and driver capacitation, offence rates remain low and hence crashes and casualty rates too. So, it’s a no-brainer that investing in driver development is not a cost, but an investment that builds confidence, increases morale, improves productivity and enhances the image of any company.

Sadly, many of the challenges in the traffic enforcement fraternity in respect of officer recruitment, inadequate training, lack of resources, ethics and governance, poor management and leadership and career pathing persist, leading to frustration, ill-discipline, lack of professionalism and poor productivity, all of which, contributing to the carnage on our roads. 

 At the end of the three-day workshop, we left, drained, but on a positive note, motivated to take on the challenges with an open and pragmatic mind, equipping them with the necessary skills and traits required to make the greatest impact with the limited resources. We agreed to stay in touch on social media and continue on the path to positivity via the weekly leadership masterclasses. This indeed was an enormously humbling and inspiring experience, one that I’m truly passionate about offering to other departments as well.

Over the three days, the officers could not resist the charms of the car that I was testing: the latest Ford Everest. In its new Wildtrack guise the new Everest, powered by a 3.0 litre, V6 turbocharged diesel motor boasts a power output of 184kW and 660Nm of torque. Having test-driven at least a dozen new models this year in my freelance journalist side hustle, I have to admit, that this car is my current MUST-HAVE SUV for the year 2023!

So chuffed am I with this car that I requested the editor’s indulgence in allowing me to sing its praising in this otherwise, strictly road safety column. 

In my time, I have personally owned multiple off-road vehicles from two Mitsubishi Colts to a Prado, two Rangers, a Land Rover Freelander and the Discovery 2, 3 and 4, before the ugly Disco 5 came about and ruined the looks and reputation of so capable a vehicle. Needless to say, off-roading, gravel travel and travelling off the beaten tracks are great escapes for our adventurous little family.

Amongst our all-time favourite off-road bucket-list road trips has to be conquering the magical “Ben 10”, said to be amongst the highest and most exciting mountain passes in the country, not to mention the famous Sani Pass which we did half a dozen times. 

For me, a car truly has to be multi-purpose. Given the price of these machines, I need a car that can carry training equipment on weekdays and be prepared to get down and dirty over weekends. It must cruise at the speed limit on highways, traverse over rough tar on “B” roads and negotiate hectic gravel roads and this Everest does not disappoint. Put through its paces along all conditions, the Wildtrack responded effortlessly, safely and confidently with the off-road system doing all the hard work for me. 

I would expect nothing less from a vehicle that costs just a little over R 1 million. That smooth, magical V6 purring effortlessly, even with a Jurgens caravan in tow, makes every rand paid worthwhile. 

While many cars would fit the bill, the Ford Everest Wildcat 4×4 ticks all my boxes. Sporty, and wild at heart, but mild-mannered to undertake the school run. My ideal work/play horse must impress my fleet clients enough to allow me to be Ford’s brand ambassador and also stroke my ego when it comes to making a statement at the golf course.

Features like a ten-speed auto transmission (two decades ago, whoever thought we’d need so many gears?!) a bold brash design, performance that is incredible both on and off road and the amazing, sumptuous leather with sporty stitching and state-of-the-art info/entertainment screen together with class-leading safety features are what stand-out for me. An average fuel consumption of around 10 km per litre is more than acceptable for what this car offers. 

So, what is amiss? How about self-levelling suspension (like we had on the Disco 3 and 4’s) and a rim design that was just a tad more macho? None of this black-rims stuff for me, thank you! I want the wheel design to be visible when Everest is stationary. Also, I must say with the advent of the new Toyota Prado, I may be swayed again, so eish…

Anyway, we’ve come to the end of what was quite a rocky year, both locally and globally. Whatever you wish for yourself and your loved ones, here’s hoping that it all materializes in ’24. If you’re going to be on the road remember the “Three P’s”: Be prepared, be polite and be patient. Until next time, stay safe, stay strong and stay blessed.