Leaving a seven-seat option out of the Endura range might be a bit of a gamble on Ford’s behalf, particularly when rivals like the Toyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9 and CX-8, Holden Acadia and Hyundai Santa Fe come standard with the flexibility of two extra seats, be they for full-time use or ‘just in case’ situations.
If you don’t need or want the extra seats, though, none of the aforementioned rivals come with a five-seat option. That could be the 2019 Ford Endura’s unique point of difference – a little less flexibility but a greater dedication to purpose, in this case carrying cargo.
While the still-fresh Endura range starts from a family-friendly $44,990 plus on-road costs in entry level front-wheel-drive Trend specification, stump up for the range-topping Titanium tested here with all-wheel drive and you’ll be looking at a more extravagant $67,990 plus ORCs before options.
If you don’t think you’ll need it, forgoing all-wheel drive knocks $4000 off the price, but no matter which variant you pick, entry-level Trend, sports-styled ST-Line or upscale Titanium, all are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine producing 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
It’s perhaps not ideal, though, because the Endura has a hefty 2077kg kerb weight to lug around in AWD guise. It shouldn’t be a problem – the conceptually similar Ford Territory TDCi that dipped out in 2016 made the same power, 40Nm more torque, and weighed around 110kg more.
Thing is, the Endura feels relaxed. Like, terminally relaxed. Standing-start acceleration is best described as leisurely, and if you’re only using part-throttle to move about town, the turbo-diesel engine almost feels like an unwilling participant.
Not every family-sized SUV needs heaps of get-up-and-go, but surely a little willingness when prompted wouldn’t go astray? Instead, the Endura builds speed (both engine speed and road speed) with little in the way of enthusiasm.
Alongside the engine, the sole available transmission is an eight-speed torque-converter-type automatic. Smooth between gears, and fluent enough to keep up with changing conditions outside, it’s generally hard to fault.
Perhaps a little oddly, a traditional gear lever has been given the boot. In its place is a rotary dial to select park, reverse, neutral, drive or sport shift from the auto (you'll find the same in the new Focus, too). It might take a day or two to adjust to, but becomes second nature soon enough.
Unfortunately, Aussie-bound cars see the selector centred in the console area surrounded by a flat plastic surround where an older-style gear lever would have gone, wasting valuable storage space. Overseas, meanwhile, the dial is offset towards the driver, with cupholders alongside.
Sensibly, the electric park brake toggle is also on the driver’s side in the US, but for Australia it’s on the wrong side of the centre console.
No surprises for guessing that the Endura was developed primarily for left-hand-drive markets like the US and Canada. If the park brake location doesn’t tip you off, the bonnet release under the glovebox might. Or maybe the “thank you” sticker on the front windscreen from the Ontario factory could be the give-away.
Either way, forgiving the shifter location for a moment, the Endura works comfortably as a family truckster with plenty of storage locations and the top and bottom of the centre stack and big bins in each door, though only a moderately sized centre console.
Unfortunately, the dash design has a few ‘carryover’ drawbacks too. Though the Endura may only be new to Australia, at home it's been on sale since late 2014, meaning most of the interior design hails from the same era.
That in itself wouldn’t be entirely bad news, except Ford doggedly sticks to a throwback button-heavy design. As a result, a clutter of small, hard to decipher climate-control buttons down low makes the system less than intuitive to operate.
Infotainment, meanwhile, is almost the complete opposite. Ford’s touchscreen Sync 3 8.0-inch touchscreen system puts together inbuilt navigation, voice controls, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in an easy to use, mostly lag-free system. Handy.
Optional 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen premium audio was included on this particular car. The option adds $1000 to the bottom line and also adds a front ‘split view camera’ for a little extra peace of mind in close-quarters parking situations. Tick the box if you want the extra camera, but don’t tick it for the audio alone, as the sound reproduction is a long way from being high quality.
Also optional, the rear seat entertainment system ($1600) with dual headrest-mounted screens and wireless headphones. Quaint, but your kids already have iPods, iPads or iPhones, don’t they? Perhaps a tablet mount and some extra USB charging access would be more useful, Ford.
Aside from the potential entertainment oversight, the rest of the rear seat accommodation is top-notch. There’s plenty of space in the rear, as witnessed by stuffing three adults back there for a few shorter-length hauls without complaint.
Rear face-level air vents, heated outboard rear seats, a 12V and 230V power socket, and more storage make the rear seat of the Endura a very worthwhile place to travel.
Between its home market and here, there are some interesting specification changes between the American Edge Titanium and the Aussie-bound Endura Titanium (same car, different name).
America gets wireless charging as standard along with the B&O audio upgrade, but the Aussie-standard 20-inch wheels, heated rear seats and cooled front seats, and sunroof of the Titanium model, are all options on the Edge in its home market. You win some, you lose some I guess.
Other standard Titanium inclusions cover features like powered front seats and steering column (plus driver’s memory function), semi-auto self parking, and illuminated scuff plates – to distance the Titanium from lower trim levels.
All Endura models include active noise cancelling in the interior, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, all-LED external lighting, and rear privacy tint from the B-pillar back.
The ST-Line and Titanium also have power folding mirrors, a powered tailgate, the aforementioned powered, heated and cooled front seats, interior ambient light and a rear cargo blind in common.
Safety gear covers seven airbags, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and speed limiter, tyre pressure monitoring, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, front and rear park sensors, plus blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Ford’s adaptive cruise control is praiseworthy for the unobtrusive and at times clever way it operates, however the speed limiter, linked to traffic sign recognition, can frustrate by picking up speed signs on buses and school zone signs and implementing them as the default limit without driver confirmation. A good idea in theory, but often frustrating in practice.
At the rear, the Endura claims 800L rear seats up to the roof and there’s 1847L with the rear seats folded. For comparative purposes, something with seven seats, like a Holden Acadia, claims 1042L to the second row of seats or 1638L to the front seats, while going back in time sees a Ford Territory hold 1153L to the backs of the seats, or a Falcon wagon (remember those?) fitted 1254L.
Ford certainly isn’t joking around when it says the Endura isn’t positioned to serve as a Territory replacement then.
On the ownership side of things, Ford’s capped-price program covers the first five years (incidentally, the length of Ford’s standard warranty) with $299-per-visit services at 12-month/15,000km intervals.
Official fuel consumption is a claimed 6.7L/100km – hard to fathom given the size of the Endura. On test with a decent split between urban and highway kilometres, consumption settled on 7.9L/100km, which is still quite impressive.
Even without packing in a big-hitter under the bonnet, the Endura is an excellent cross-country tourer, much like the cars that came before it. At highway speeds, the Endura settles into a quiet and comfortable cruise – perfect for eating miles.
There’s little in the way of engine and road noise, though the car shown here did kick up some moderate wind noise around the base of the A-pillars. The big thick windscreen surround doesn’t do any favours for approach visibility either, while the unusually shaped C-pillar trims on the inside chew into over-shoulder visibility.
Aside from that, good bump absorption from the suspension and stable handling make the Endura an excellent big Aussie touring wagon. Or at least big-ish.
In-betweenish positioning will either make or break the Endura for you too. It’s certainly not as bulky as Ford’s more off-road-capable Everest 4x4 range (Endura is shorter in length, with a near-identical wheelbase, though slightly wider).
More obviously, it plays in a field amongst soft-road family SUVs – think Toyota Kluger and Hyundai Santa Fe, except both of those come with seven seats. The Kluger’s a petrol V6, but the Santa Fe’s a turbo-diesel four. The Kluger is longer, while the Santa Fe is shorter.
Hairs can be split even further still. There’s more power and torque (just) in the Santa Fe, though it feels much more spritely. The Everest uses two turbos on an engine of the same size for a more prodigious 100Nm and 17Nm advantage without a massive fuel-use impost, but the petrol Kluger reigns when it comes to power, falls behind on torque, edges ahead on refinement, and packs in more versatility.
Most difficult of all to overcome, though, is that a top-spec Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is almost $7500 cheaper at list price. Ford’s biggest battle may be overcoming its premium pricing skew.
Despite not sticking steadfastly to the family SUV template, Ford hasn’t done anything wrong. It has simply done something different.
Some buyers are going to immediately gel with the Endura, its form factor, and its legacy interior layout. Others might want more grunt, more seats, or more mod-cons. Perhaps cleverly then, the Endura is a slight twist on established themes.
Not ground-shaking in its versatility or presentation, but at the same time it is appealing to an almost-untapped wide niche of big-car buyers.