Ford's latest Territory is here, but the hardest part will be choosing the drivetrain for your needs.
It has been quite some time in the making, but it’s finally here. Partly funded by $42 million from the now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund, the revised Ford Territory boasts fuel efficiency gains for the 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine and the introduction of a seven-year-old 2.7-litre, V6 turbocharged diesel engine from the outgoing Land Rover Discovery 3.
To get a proper feel for the new Ford Territory, I spent four weeks driving a proportionate sample of the range to understand which variants and drivertrains are worth considering if the new Ford Territory is up your alley.
One of the key decisions buyers are faced with is between the Territory diesel and the petrol-powered Territory.
First, let’s have a look at the exterior. Despite the SX Territory’s aging design (first seen in April, 2004), it never looked out of date or like it was overdue for a makeover. This is one of the main reasons Ford stayed true to the Territory’s heritage and kept the exterior design somewhat similar to the model it replaced.
The front end now features chrome highlights and an all new headlight design. The entry-level TX features blacked out sections beneath the headlights, which are occupied by fog lights and LED lights in the TS and Titanium variants respectively.
Strangely, the Titanium’s LED lights are not Daytime Running Lights (DRL). They only operate in conjunction with the main headlights and can only be switched on manually when the parkers are on. They don’t run when the lights are set to automatic, unless it is dark enough. This defeats their purpose (to increase visibility during the day).
All models receive alloy wheels that vary in design and size. The Titanium is distinguishable courtesy of darker coloured alloy wheels with chrome highlights.
The side profile remains relatively unchanged with the rear receiving new swept taillights and some revisions to the tailgate, while the Titanium variant receives faux chrome highlighted exhaust outlets.
It’s inside the cabin that – for most parts – I was most impressed. Again, keeping to the Territory’s heritage, there are plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin, with the most impressive being adjustable bottle holders in the door pockets.
The interior now resembles the FG Falcon with an updated speedometer cluster and centre stack. Also new to the Territory is a colour touch screen that stretches a mammoth 20cm on the TS and Titanium models. The TX makes do with a single colour LCD screen that looks fairly tacky and screams entry level.
The new colour touch screen is easy to use and nicely presented, although there is a hint of lag between button presses. The Titanium variant tested came with Ford’s new satellite navigation. It’s absolutely chalk and cheese when compared with the satellite navigation fitted in the Falcon. Not only is the system very fast, clear and easy to use, it offers great features such as a running fuel economy tally (independent of the car’s trip computer) and predictive text inputs.
The Titanium also picks up leather seats and a rear DVD player to keep the kids busy.
Also a chalk and cheese comparison was the sound system in the entry level TX in comparison with the TS and Titanium. The TX only offers four speakers but has plenty of bass and clear treble. The TS and Titanium use what appears to be the same sound system as the Falcon with seven speakers and sub-woofer. It sounds extremely average if you turn the volume up. There is terrible distortion from the sub-woofer and it is woefully unpleasant if you increase the volume anywhere beyond 20 (which is around half way to its maximum).
A small cubby hole that’s hidden by a garage door-like cover houses the auxiliary power outlet and tissue box holder. The hand brake is now surrounded with chrome highlights on the driver and passenger side, with all audio features (such as USB connectivity and 3.5mm auxiliary audio input) located in the centre console.
Fit and finish inside the cabin is good, but it’s disappointing to see cheap plastics used throughout the cabin on doors and the side plates that surround the driveline tunnel in the centre of the car. The steering wheel controls still lack back-lighting, so it’s impossible to tell what buttons are being pressed at night.
Our TX test car also had a technical gremlin that caused the screen to display a back-light only. It only occurred once but could only be rectified by completely switching the car off, removing the key and starting it again.
Also disappointing is the lack of automatic windscreen wipers on the Titanium variant, but even more disappointing is the four-way electric adjustment of the driver’s seat. The vertical portion of the seat can only be adjusted manually using a rotary knob.
While we’re on the topic of things not working and disappointing, the TS variant I tested was optioned with seven seats that couldn't be retracted. While the backs of the seats were able to fold, they couldn't fold flat due to the bottoms of the third row still being in place. They are retracted by a lever that’s pulled by a strap. Despite trying several times, they wouldn't fold flat and eventually the strap came off the lever making it impossible for the seats to be stowed.
Head and leg room throughout the cabin is great. The second row of seats can move back and forth, affording more room for the third row. Despite being a kids only zone, adults could travel short distances in the third row if required.
Although I was looking forward to driving the diesel, I started off in the TS RWD petrol to reacquaint myself with the driving experiences. The petrol is now only available in rear wheel drive, with Ford making all-wheel drive diesel-only.
Power output has increased to 195kW, giving the Territory some added pep in its step from the original 182kW offered in 2004. All Territory variants are now mated to the brilliant ZF Sachs six-speed automatic transmission seen in many European cars.
The first thing you will notice when driving the Territory is the electric steering and the way it responds at low and high speed. During slow manoeuvres (such as parking), the steering is extremely light and can be adjusted with a single finger. At higher speeds, the steering firms up but retains the excellent feel and response that Territory owners have become accustomed to.
The advantage of electric steering is fuel efficiency gains and the ease of variability (such as during slow speed manoeuvres).
Throttle response in the petrol powered Territory is fantastic with plenty of torque available down low. The engine is very efficient in its power delivery and can really get moving when you need the added torque.
The gearbox handles things nicely and is always in the right gear for the situation, also offering a sport mode for spirited driving.
Brake pedal feel in both the petrol and diesel variants is fairly average with a lot of pressure required to pull the car up, along with a spongy response.
One of the Territory’s biggest downfalls was always its fuel consumption. Despite weight remaining relatively unchanged (the TS RWD petrol weighs in at 2011kg), I was pleasantly surprised by the fuel consumption.
Comprising approximately 40 percent highway driving, 50 percent city driving and 10 percent ‘performance’ driving, the TS RWD consumed 10.4L/100km, which is just below the official figure of 10.6L/100km. Compared with the likes of Toyota Kluger V6 FWD at 11L/100km (despite the Kluger’s 200kg weight deficiency on the Territory) and Holden Captiva V6 AWD at 11.7L/100km (also 200kg lighter), it’s pretty impressive. It’s only outshone by the Hyundai Santa Fe V6 at 9.6L/100km.
Through corners the car sits very flat and remains composed, lending to the engineering work performed locally on the car. The steering offers plenty of feel and leaves this car one of the best driver’s cars in this segment.
Suffice to say, I was suitably impressed with the petrol powered SZ Territory and expected the diesel to be even better still.
Let’s start with the painfully obvious. The Territory comes to market with an engine from an outgoing Land Rover Discovery that is some seven years old. It served its purpose in the Land Rover Discovery3, but is now totally outclassed by an even better 3.0-litre V6 diesel offered in the Discovery 4.
Let’s also remember that advanced four-cylinder diesels now produce similar power and torque outputs to the 2.7-litre single turbocharged V6 diesel engine offered in the Territory. The first one that springs to mind is the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 145kW and 436Nm of torque (compared with the Territory’s 140kW and 440Nm).
Nevertheless, I was prepared to give the diesel Territory a shot and tested it in both TX and Titanium specification (both RWD).
As you turn the key, you expect a loud and noisy diesel clatter to engulf the cabin. Instead, all you get is a fairly subdued engine idle and puff of black smoke from the exhaust. In fact, when I did the obligatory lap around the block with a couple of soccer mums with husbands in tow, they found it hard to recognise that it was a diesel under the bonnet.
The first thing I need to mention about the drive is what I found to be a fairly frustrating drive-ability issue. As you approach a stop, you notice that the revs on the tachometer drop from whatever rpm they are at and sit at idle speed.
Then, as you move from the brake and onto the throttle there is a sizable delay (which varies from 1.5 seconds to around 3 seconds) while the car begins providing torque.
To ensure it wasn't just the way I was driving, I had another driver jump behind the wheel. They had the exact same issue and the tendency is to increase throttle while the car is in this dead-zone. The result of increasing throttle is that the car ends up shunting forward as it tries to cope with the amount of throttle the driver has requested. The issue could be avoided by manually selecting first gear, which isn't really a realistic option if you drive this car like most people (with the gear lever in 'D').
Ford was notified of the issue and their official response is that the issue experienced was most likely the car taking off in second gear and switching back to first gear as throttle input increased to a level beyond the suitable capacity of second gear. This would explain why there wasn't any delay when first gear was manually selected.
If we put this unimpressive trait behind us, the diesel version of the Territory is actually very pleasant to drive. It doesn't have the urge of the petrol engine (even when the throttle is assaulted), but it does offer luscious lumps of torque at the driver’s disposal.
In its sport mode, it also returns an exciting drive that is unbecoming of a diesel car. It’s also worth noting that the 2.7-litre V6 diesel was at home in a car that weighed almost 800kg more than the Territory, so the benefits are quite clear. A 0-100km/h dash takes around 8.9-seconds.
One of the biggest advantages of a diesel Territory is the 2.7-tonne braked and 750kg unbraked towing capacity, and the fuel consumption. On test I achieved a highway fuel economy of 6.4L/100km, which increased to an overall fuel consumption of 8.1L/100km after a stint of city and spirited driving (a fair distance below the combined ADR figure of 9L/100km).
The Ford Territory TX RWD is priced from $39,990, with the diesel an additional $3250. All-wheel drive will set you back an additional $5000. The TS starts at $46,990 and the Titanium tops off the range from $54,990.
On offer here are two exceptional drivetrains. If it was my money, I’d pick the Titanium and save myself the $8250 spent on selecting diesel and all wheel drive and simply pick the RWD petrol version. It’s kitted out with plenty of gear, a roof mounted DVD player for the kids and an exceptional new colour touch screen that integrates satellite navigation.
Ford is on to a winner with the new Territory and it now stands the test of the consumer. Only time will tell if the revitalised Territory will reap the same rewards for Ford as it did when it was released in 2004.
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