If you doubt the engineering ability of Ford Australia, take the 2011 Ford Territory for a test drive.
The all-new SZ 2011 Ford Territory has finally arrived after months of build up and anticipation. With it comes the first application of a diesel engine for an Australian-built SUV.
Ford Australia has a lot riding on the updated Ford Territory. With the future of its local manufacturing process always subject to media speculation, the success of the new Territory is vital to ensure the ongoing commitment of Ford's long history in Australia.
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Despite what some doomsayers would have you believe, Ford's Australian operation is a vital part of the global company's assets. Australia is the key strategic hub of the Blue Oval's Asia-Pacific operations. As well as working on vehicles for our local market, the folks at Ford Australia are responsible for a number of global projects. Their most recent complete work was the Indian-focused Ford Figo which was almost entirely designed and engineered in Australia. The vehicle has just won the Indian Car of the Year award.
Since the launch of the first-generation in 2004, more than 107,000 Ford Territorys have been sold Australia wide, making it one of the most successful models ever built by Ford Australia. Back then the market demand for diesel SUVs wasn't significant enough to convince Ford to offer a diesel variant. Fast forward seven years and about half of all SUVs sold in Australia are now diesel-powered. The past few years have seen the Territory lose market share for that very reason.
Finally then, it's here. A Ford Territory Diesel. Borrowed from Ford's European operations, the diesel Territory is powered by a 2.7-litre TDCi V6 turbo-diesel engine (140kW and 440Nm). We've previously seen a twin-turbo version of this engine in Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.
The rear has also had an update to bring it forward to 2011. Overall, the exterior design changes should be successful in appeasing the majority of potential buyers. It's not over the top but it's very much a clean, modern look.
The interior is where a lot of the work has been concentrated. Despite the overall similarity with the Ford Falcon (deliberately done for a family look), the Territory is equipped with a top-notch entertainment system that supports Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, native iPod/Phone support, easy to use menu systems as well as a built in sat-nav system (Titanium only) that will even work out the 'greenest' route for you (based on CO2 emissions).
From Parliament House we headed out through a series of twisty mountain roads, a few dirt tracks, some rough roads in rural towns as well as many kilometres on the highway. In that process we drove the Territory diesel all-wheel drive, rear-wheel-drive and the petrol rear-wheel drive. There is no AWD for the petrol variant. We got behind the wheel of a base model TX, mid-spec TS as well as the range-topping Titanium.
Unlike other SUVs which are built for overseas markets and then retuned (if we're lucky) for Australian roads, the Ford Territory is built and tuned for our roads and driving style from the ground up. It's not exported anywhere so all engineering work and resources are spent on making it the best suited vehicle it can be for its local market.
To start with, the diesel engine is a welcome addition. Its 440Nm of torque pull from 1900rpm, allowing for impressive driveability. Better yet, thanks to an extensive improvement in NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) you can hardly hear the thing. In fact, when idling, a clutch mechanism housed inside the transfer case will decouple any driving forces being pushed onto the front drive shafts. This means little noise when stopped at a set of lights.
Around Canberra's twisty mountain roads the diesel Territory pulled hard up hills and provided excellent in-gear acceleration all around. The gearbox works cohesively with the engine when driven normally. A sudden stab at the accelerator will result in a momentary delay before the gearbox decides what gear it should be in - which is no different to any of its similarly priced competitors but something that doesn't happen in the petrol variant.
The all-wheel drive diesel is as stable as you can imagine. It effortlessly pushes power to all four wheels and never once felt unstable during our test, even on wet roads. For the section of dirt road we swapped to a rear-wheel drive diesel to find out if Ford Australia had done all its homework. Once behind the wheel of the rear-wheel drive, it's actually hard to make an argument for the all-wheel drive variant given how good the RWD diesel is. Sure it won't go on a beach or do the occasional off-roading, but if that's never going to happen for you, the RWD diesel is an excellent choice.
Pushing hard at 110km/h into corners on a dirt road, the Territory's ESP system stayed out for as long as possible and corrected any momentary slide at the rear wheels with small adjustments. There is hardly any intrusion from the nanny-computers unless absolutely necessary and any minor slide can be fixed within milliseconds. The RWD diesel feels lively and more willing to play when pushed. On a normal road it's just as stable as its AWD brother. For the everyday driver, it will be difficult to tell the two apart on a dry bitumen road.
However, if one is buying the Territory for towing (which many do), the AWD diesel has a towing capacity of 2700kg (when equipped with a heavy-duty tow pack), which is 400kg more than RWD petrol and diesel.
On the highway the diesel Ford Territory is very well behaved. It can overtake with ease and also cruise along comfortably. As mentioned before, cabin noise is so low that driving along the highway at 100km/h you can hear your passenger whispering - not something we're used to in a vehicle under $100,000.
Ford believes that at least half of new Territory sales will be diesel, so that leaves a good proportion of buyers still sticking with the petrol variant. If we can offer any advice, it's to go with the diesel. Not just for fuel economy (8.2 vs 10.6L/100km) but also because of the superior driving dynamics, the torque from down low and overall better experience behind the wheel. Think of it this way, the diesel Territory RWD can do 1000km on a single tank of diesel (75L), so that's a trip from Brisbane to Sydney with the whole family for about $120 (diesel calculated at $1.60/L).
The 4.0-litre DOHC DIVCT I6 is an engine we are all rather used to. Its application in Falcon and previous Territory has made it a well-loved choice among buyers. In the new Territory, the petrol engine will no longer be offered in AWD, nor will it come with a turbocharger; so that means if you must have an AWD Territory it will be diesel. It also means there is no longer a 'sporty' Territory that can 'eat sportscars for breakfast' - reason being the lack of demand for the thirsty models.
The humble I6 has gained an extra 5kW and 8Nm of torque to achieve 195kW and 391Nm. We drove the last leg of the journey back to the airport in a petrol model and it's very much the same as the previous Territory. Easy to drive, full of power, excellent for overtaking but a little thirsty (official figures are 10.6L/100km, down 2.2L/100km from outgoing model). The ZF6 automatic transmission is well suited to the petrol engine and has no hesitation with sudden gear changes.
Moving inside, the new Territory is a classy place to be, especially in the range-topping Titanium. The base model is well equipped and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control with single-zone temperature control, four-way power-adjustable driver's seat, power windows and side mirrors, reverse sensing system and an Interior Command Centre (ICC) fitted with a 5.8-inch monochromatic LCD screen.
The TS variant gains bigger wheels (18-inch), a reversing camera, front fog lamps, a more upmarket front bumper plus a front grille painted in satin silver. The biggest change though, is the addition of a premium ICC that houses a massive eight-inch full-colour screen audio system. This is hooked up to a seven-speaker audio system with a 150-Watt amplifier and subwoofer. The bigger ICC is big enough to display album art as well as permanently show the date and outside temperature.
The top-of-the-range Territory Titanium has taken over from the Ghia badge (to make the Titanium badge the commonly used name for range-topping Fords) and comes packed with all that Ford has to offer. That includes stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, an even more upmarket front bumper with chrome-detailed upper and lower grille. On the inside the same 10.2-inch Alpine rear DVD entertainment system from the previous model is standard, as is leather seat trim. The ICC gets yet another update to include satellite navigation system with a Traffic Message Channel (TMC).
Ford's sat-nav is one of the simplest systems we've used to date; it's pretty much like your TomTom except that it comes on a massive screen and works faster. It will automatically reroute you in case of major traffic incidents and show big street signs on the screen to make understanding instructions easier.
As mentioned, Ford will sell three variants of the Territory: TX, TS and Titanium. See table below for pricing and variant guide:
Although it may not be the best diesel engine available in its class, it's a great effort by Ford and given the equipment level and technological offerings, it will more than likely be a hit with customers. Two factors stood out the most from the drive program for all variants of the new Ford Territory: the ride and handling, and cabin noise. It can be said without doubt that the 2011 Territory is by far the best suited SUV to our local roads. It's comfortable, quiet, confident and well planted on pretty much any surface you can throw at it. Interior cabin noise is top-notch and will shame even a few European marques. If anyone doubts the engineering ability of Ford Australia, a simple test drive of the new Territory will more than likely change your mind.
Of course, you won't be able to do that yet since the new 2011 Ford Territory doesn't go on sale till the beginning of May.
For more information:
- Ford Territory Specification Document
- Ford Territory Technical Details
- Ford Territory Design Details
*please note specification tab at the top of this page is still showing data of old Ford Territory as the new car hasn't been officially released. See link above for full specifications.