Car reviews - Ford - Endura
Tough ST-Line design, strong interior packaging, mostly premium cabin, excellent Sync3 infotainment, passenger car-like on-road mannerisms
Room for improvement
No seven-seat option, lacklustre engine performance, stubborn transmission calibration, firm ride on country roads, understeer when pushed
Ford successfully makes overdue premium push with hit-and-miss Endura large SUV
18 Dec 2018
TERRITORY was one of the most cherished nameplates in Australia, simply because it was a home-grown model. However, Ford then shuttered its local manufacturing operations and brought about the large SUV’s discontinuation after just one generation.
That chapter ended a little more than two years ago, and after all that time, Ford at last has its Territory successor ready to roll, but just don’t call it that; it’s more of a spiritual type of deal.
As a five-seat-only proposition, does the Endura have what it takes to make an impact in a segment that is overwhelming comprised of seven-seaters, especially when it’s pitched as a premium model? Read on to find out.
Premium is more than just a buzzword for Ford; it is the driving force behind the Endura – a model it hopes will fill a hole in its SUV line-up.
Namely, the Endura slots in between the mid-size Escape and large-size Everest but adopts different positioning to the former, despite the pair competing in the same segment.
What does this mean for potential Endura buyers? Luxury, and lots of it. The Endura is very much the premium model that Ford promised.
The Endura is available in three grades, with the entry-level Trend starting from $44,990 before on-road costs, rising to $53,990 for the mid-range ST-Line and $63,990 for the flagship Titanium. Premium pricing? Check.
Jump inside and it’s very clear that from the Trend up, the Endura is not messing around, with soft-touch materials adorning its dashboard, centre console and door shoulders.
However, this is contrasted with hard plastics for most lower trim sections, although it is the centre stack that draws the most ire, particularly due its dated plasticky design that is well known from previous-generation Ford models, although the new rotary gear selector is cool.
The ST-Line and Titanium pick up partial and full leather-accented upholstery respectively, with this trim cladding their seats, armrests and door inserts. However, the former’s quality is poorer, proving to be very shiny, even in low light.
This premium push is backed up by a strong level of technology, including the obligatory 8.0-inch touchscreen powered by Ford’s still-excellent Sync3 infotainment system, and all of the latest creature comforts.
Furthermore, a 10.0-inch multi-information display is framed by a traditional but hollowed-out tachometer and speedometer, which limit its functionality and stop it short of being considered a digital instrument cluster.
The Endura’s suite of advanced driver-assist systems — including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep and steering assist, and adaptive cruise control – is extensive and meets the high safety standards set in its class.
As nice as most of this is, what the Endura can really pride itself on is its packaging. Space is plentiful no matter where you sit, with the second row proving to be a real highlight.
Legroom behind our 184cm driving position is generous, while headroom – even with the gorgeous optional dual-pane panoramic sunroof – is enormous.
The Endura’s substantial width also lends itself to great shoulder-room, with three adults, or even three child seats, accommodated with ease. Make no mistake, this is a seriously comfortable operator inside.
This space isn’t limited to the cabin, either, with a voluminous 800L of rear cargo capacity provided, but this figure can expand when the 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench is folded flat via manual release.
However, the Endura is only a five-seater in Australia, which misses out on the seven-seat version available in China due to its current lack of right-hand-drive production.
In a segment where five-seat models are few and far between, this seems like a bit of a missed opportunity for Ford, which could do with a seven-seater that lacks the Everest’s off-road focus.
While all-around visibility is great due to the Endura’s wagon body style, it does take a hit up front, where the thick A-pillar bases aggressively sprawl out, compromising lower front-side vision.
Speaking of things you look at with your eyes, the Endura looks the business, especially in ST-Line form, which adds a black trapezoidal grille, chrome foglight bezels, a bodykit, black exterior trim and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The ST-Line has an on-road presence about it that few, if any, of its rivals can match. For this reason alone, it’s easy to imagine the style-conscious quickly making their way into showrooms to put down a deposit, but as always, styling is subjective.
Given the sportiness of the ST-Line, the Endura must be motivated by a punchy engine, right? As it turns out, that is not quite the case.
The Endura’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel unit is relatively refined, but its 140kW of power at 3500rpm and 400Nm of torque from 2000 to 3000rpm do not inspire.
As these outputs suggest, decent torque is available in the mid-range, but power is seriously lacking at the top end, which goes some way in explaining the Endura’s lacklustre straight-line performance, which is punctuated by its slow overtaking ability.
As such, the Endura’s eight-speed torque-convertor automatic transmission doesn’t have much to work with in the first place and makes things even more frustrating for the driver with its stubborn calibration.
While gear changes are smooth, the unit fires through its first two ratios very quickly, even with full throttle, as it clearly makes use of the engine’s short torque band and avoids its fleeting moment of peak power.
Engage the transmission’s Sport mode and its shift points occur at higher engine speeds, but this setting doesn’t result in meaningful gains in performance.
Similarly, taking manual control via the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters doesn’t help much, either, as the transmission will step in and upshift at about 4000rpm – well before its redline.
Also, with a braking towing capacity of just 2000kg, the Endura falls 1500kg short of most of its rivals. Granted, Ford expects owners to use this capability for lifestyle purposes, but it still isn’t going to be able to cope with heavy-duty items, such as large caravans.
The Endura also doesn’t set the world on the fire with its electric power steering and independent suspension, of which the ST-Line runs sportier tunes than the Trend and Titanium.
The ST-Line’s firmer dampers are noticeable on country roads where the tarmac is coarser, with lumps and bumps muted but not completely ironed out.
While the softer Trend and Titanium exhibit similar symptoms, they are less pronounced, but the Endura still doesn’t match the plushness of some of its rivals.
Meanwhile, the steering proves to be relatively well-weighted and direct, although it often feels slow due to its lack of feedback. Overall, the chassis just isn’t quite there.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the Endura, but it can be optioned with fully variable all-wheel drive for $4000. Either way, understeer is prevalent when tackling tighter corners at speed.
While the Endura can’t shake its SUV origins in terms of noticeable body roll around the twisty stuff, it otherwise handles like a passenger car, feeling much smaller than it actually is.
If Ford wanted to push into the premium space with the Endura, there is no doubt that it has been successful with its efforts, in regard to cabin quality and a high level of standard equipment.
However, the Endura’s performance and dynamics don’t quite reach the high benchmarks set by other large SUVs in its segment. If Ford ever brings the performance-focused ST variant Down Under, we’d be very keen to see how much of an improvement it is.
So, is the Endura worth the wait? Time will tell how Australian new-vehicle buyers respond to it, but it will be interesting to see how it fairs, especially with its lack of seven-seat availability and limited braked towing capacity.
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