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Car reviews - Ford - Territory - range

Our Opinion

We like
Segment leading ride and handling, loads of storage compartments, Sync2 connectivity system, turbo-diesel performance, keen pricing
Room for improvement
Cabin looks and feels old, not as roomy as some of its rivals, driver’s seating position, it’s the last Aussie-built SUV

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Ford logo27 Nov 2014

THIS week Ford may have launched its final Falcon, but the Territory SUV may live on.

Rumours persist – and Ford execs are not denying – that the Territory replacement, which is all but certain to be the global Edge model from 2016 on, could retain the Australia-only Territory moniker.

So while this might not be the last-ever Territory, it is the last-ever locally built Territory and will go down in history as the only SUV ever produced in this country.

The Territory has been around since 2004 when Ford launched an SUV based on the BA Falcon. Designed and engineered to BMW X5 levels of dynamic refinement, the Territory quickly won critical praise, and more importantly, sales as Australia’s love affair with the SUV started to heat up.

A major re-working of the Territory arrived in 2011, with a fresh new corporate face and improvements under the skin, which is why Ford Australia elected not to tweak the 2015 version too dramatically.

That, and the whole closing down of their local operations in 2016 thing meant there was little point giving it a major going over.

In fact, the changes are so minor that it might be difficult to pick the differences between the 2011 SZ and the updated SZ Series II.

Those differences include a refreshed grille with new fin design and a touch more chrome, a new front bumper, redesigned headlights and changes to the bonnet.

While it is not the freshest looking large SUV on the market, it still carries an appealing design and we think it is ageing well. You might say it’s the George Clooney of the SUV set.

Just like the Falcon line-up, Ford has dropped the prices of its Territory range by up to $6500, with the base TX down by $3000 to $36,990, plus on-road costs. The TS is the only variant with an optional third row, which sets you back an extra $2500.

Good move on Ford’s part as it now undercuts a few rivals in base two-wheel drive guise, including the Hyundai Santa Fe Active ($41,490), Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo ($44,000), Nissan Pathfinder ST ($39,990), Toyota Kluger GX ($40,990) and the Mazda CX-9 Classic ($44,525).

The other significant change is the inclusion of Ford’s upgraded Sync2 connectivity system.

It includes an eight-inch high-resolution colour touchscreen, voice control tuned to Australian English, which can respond to commands to alter the climate control, simply by using words such as ‘cooler’, change the music you are listening to or find a location on the sat-nav.

As mentioned in our launch review of the Falcon range, we think Sync2 is intuitive and easy to use and it gets a thumbs up.

Other standard goodies in the Territory range include DAB+ digital radio, two USB ports, an SD card slot, an auxiliary jack, Emergency Assistance and front as well as rear parking sensors. As with the Falcon, not much has changed in the Territory cabin. While the controls in the centre stack look a generation old, the rest of the cabin has a pleasant yet slightly generic feel, but it is more appealing than the Falcon interior.

The new tan leather option is available on higher-grade models and gives a more premium feel, but it is not in the same league as the Euros.

There is still plenty of cheap-looking hard plastics, but when you are hauling a family around chances are you might not care that much and realistically, plastic is probably more durable than some other more high-end materials.

As before, there is ample storage compartments throughout the cabin, including on the sides of the front seats, so the Territory remains very much a family friendly offering.

Ford has not messed with too much under the skin, apart from a new Chinese-built lightweight version of the ZF six-speed automatic transmission matched with the 195kW/391Nm 4.0-litre in-line petrol six, which has brought official fuel consumption down by 0.2 litres per 100 kilometres to 10.2L for the TX, while the TS drops from 10.6L to 10.5L/100km.

Elsewhere little has changed. The Territory still offers one of the best rides of any SUV other there, be it a mainstream offering or a more premium player.

We checked out the all-wheel drive Territory Titanium with the 140kW/440Nm 2.7-litre TDCi V6 turbo-diesel, which adds a $3250 premium over the petrol engine for a price of $56,740.

You would be hard pressed to realise you were driving a diesel, as the 2.7-litre unit is smooth and the excellent cabin acoustics ensure outside noises stay outside.

We found the seating position a touch too high, but it does not take long to adjust to it.

The Territory diesel feels heavy at lower speeds, because it is heavy – 2167kg to be precise. But it does not overwhelm the driving experience and once up and running, which does not take long, the heft of the big SUV is well and truly forgotten.

Ford’s suspension set-up ensures that the Territory handles smooth highway driving as effectively as it does traveling on some of northern Victoria’s less polished roads.

Small bumps and larger potholes are soaked up with ease and the Territory manages to offer handling well above anything in its class, even in wet conditions.

It is easy to forget you are driving a family sized SUV as the Territory feels nimble and offers an engaging driving experience. A major accomplishment in this class.

Fuel use in the diesel Territory remains as is with rear-wheel drive TX, TS and Titanium offering 8.2L/100km, 8.8L/100km in the AWD TX and 9.0L/100km for the TS and Titanium AWD.

Kudos to Ford Australia for building a car that has stood the test of time and one that proved an SUV can still be a joy to drive.

It’s not the newest kid on the block, it’s not as big as some of its rivals and yes, it has a few flaws, but the Territory is still the best riding, best handling SUV out there.

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