Ford Australia has provided clarity around its post-Territory future by confirming it will launch a new large SUV “based on” the global Ford Edge.
However, the transition between the Australian-made Territory, production of which ends on October 7, and the arrival of the (likely) Canadian-made Edge will not be as smooth as many would have guessed.
It won’t launch in Australia until early 2018, about a year after Territory stocks are sold out, and by which time the car will be in its fourth year of production.
The fact that Ford Australia is only saying that the new large SUV will be “based on” the Edge gives fuel to speculation that it will actually be called Territory here, to capitalise on brand recognition. There’s also the thorny issue that Toyota currently owns the trademark to the Edge name here.
Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman would not be drawn on nomenclature when we asked him this week, but we understand the company’s general preference is to use global nameplates where possible, meaning ‘Edge’ likely remains the preferred option.
Oddly, Whickman said Ford did not consider the Edge a like-for-like replacement of the Territory, saying it was "not a facsimile". However, it will clearly compete for the same buyers, despite a more upmarket and Euro-centric focus.
The launch delay seems odd on the face of things, but Ford Australia’s comments are limited to saying “it’s the optimum time”. Reading between the lines, it appears to be waiting until a significant mid-life update of the car premieres, rather than launching a pre-update car for a short time.
Already on sale in right-hand drive form in the UK, the 4.8-metre long Ford Edge is slightly shorter than the Territory, and is available there as a five-seater only, though a seven-seat derivative is produced in China.
Nevertheless, it shapes up as a rival to diverse large SUVs from the Subaru Outback to the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger, in a segment that makes up a massive 12 per cent of the total market.
Ford Australia is keeping very quiet on specific details, though you can expect front- and all-wheel drivetrains, and hopefully both petrol and diesel engines with automatic transmissions.
The petrol engine line-up for the US comprises circa-183kW 2.0-litre and 224kW 2.7-litre four-cylinder turbocharged units, while the UK gets a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with 154kW/450Nm.
The second-generation Ford Edge will be the Blue Oval’s most advanced SUV, featuring the brand’s adaptive steering system, which changes the steering ratio with vehicle speed, and active noise cancellation technology, which uses microphones positioned in the cabin and generates opposing sound waves through the audio system.
Advanced safety technologies confirmed for Edge include a 180-degree camera, the latest version of active park assist with perpendicular parking and cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation, emergency city auto braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition and inflatable rear seatbelts.
It will also benefit from the company’s new Sync 3 connectivity and voice control system, heated and cooled seats, and a hands-free tailgate in higher specification grades.
In the year-long interim between the end of Territory stock and the arrival of the 2018 Edge/Territory, Ford will be launching numerous new SUV derivatives, including both a rear-drive version (November 2016) and five-seater version (April 2017) of the Australian-engineered Everest, plus a heavily updated Kuga compact SUV (early 2017).
The SUV category in Australia has grown by a significant 71 per cent over the past five years, while passenger cars sales have fallen by 12 per cent. According to Ford’s numbers, this has placed SUVs on a trajectory to overtake passenger cars as the top-selling vehicle type in local showrooms within the next five years.