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Car reviews - Ford - Territory - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
The intrinsic goodness of Territory unaltered: great packaging, adroit handling and ample performance (especially Ghia Turbo), and still a good-looking vehicle
Room for improvement
It’s becoming old hat, fuel economy still an issue

12 May 2009

THE Ford Territory has become so much a part of the landscape that it is easy to overlook.

More than 80,000 Territorys are on the road, making this medium SUV one of Ford’s biggest sales success stories in recent history.

Not recently though, as sales have taken a tumble. Why has the Territory lost its oomph on the sales charts?

While Ford would like to think it has been to do with currency exchange rates that allowed import rivals to stack their vehicles with value-added features, the stark fact remains that new cars are like fashion, and the Territory – for all its wholesome goodness – is not so fashionable any more.

In a way, you can blame Ford Motor Co for these circumstances. Many years ago, the American car-maker turned face-lifting a car into a fine art, to the point where every year a slightly altered model arrived. The Australian-American car-makers followed the lead, offering a ‘new’ model at least every few years.

Now everyone’s doing it, and models are generally replaced with new ones every five years or so. Even though the big SUVs such LandCruiser and Patrol can get away with much longer model cycles (the Patrol has almost gained pensioner status it has been around so long) buyers have come to expect mainstream models to be ‘new’ far more often.

The plain fact is few buyers want their considerable automotive investment to look like last year’s model, or in the Territory’s case, the 2004 model.

Alhough there is no getting around the fact that Territory is not going to regain many lost sales – unless it’s around long enough to go back into fashion – that doesn’t mean it is a bad vehicle. It is still a really good one.

Perhaps the cosmetic changes to SY MkII will be just enough to make people feel as if they really have bought a ‘new’ 2009-model car.

The Territory has not lost its cut-price BMW X5 feel – an observation we’ve made before at GoAuto and one that resurfaces when reacquainted with the Territory after a few years.

The way the steering turns in, its amount of road feel and the chassis’ balance are all excellent. When compared with some if its opposition, the Territory is still in a league of its own.

A 3.0 V6 turbo-diesel engine is also supposed to arrive in 2010, but Ford has been talking about this engine for close to five years. Let’s hope it finally makes it next year.

The handling may not have lost its touch, but the engine is now becoming old hat. Still a strong performer, the 190kW inline six is still a BF Falcon-equivalent engine, despite some fettling by engineers for this SY Mark II upgrade. The FG Falcon’s 195kW engine has yet to make its appearance in Territory. Perhaps we’ll see it in a 2010 SY Mark III?

Although we are not convinced that Territory is capable of achieving spectacular fuel economy – even the RWD model we drove on the launch program was averaging 12.4L/100km – performance from the lazy six is good. The AWD’s driveline whine can get annoying, but the noise from the inline six is generally subdued.

The Ghia Turbo is even more satisfying, and it is hard to think of a better point-to-point all-roads tourer. Prod the accelerator and the Turbo responds with satisfying results. It’s a good package.

The interior packaging is appealing, and when you consider Ford did this in 2004, it makes you wonder how more recent designs from other companies can be so clunky in terms of interior versatility.

There is nothing much wrong with the vision out of the interior, or its comfort or space. The new, no-cost option Cashmere interior for TS and Ghia adds a bright tone to the sombre charcoal alternative, and while Ford does not think the Cashmere interior will have a huge take up, it looks good.

Yet looking at the switchgear and some of the design of the layout and you feel that this has been around for a while – because it has.

The SY Mark II Territory may only be a once-over lightly for a model that is getting on a bit, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still a rewarding car, and in terms of what it does, more than how it looks, it is still arguably the class-leading medium SUV.

If you buy the Territory, you are buying the best in class – perhaps – but not the latest or most fuel-efficient medium SUV wagon.

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