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

Our Opinion

We like
Outright performance, driveability, reserved styling, bonnet scoop, subtley unique interior, sharper steering, beefier brakes, price, bang for your bucks
Room for improvement
Extra fuel consumption, no mid-spec variant, higher insurance costs

Ford logo23 Jun 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

THERE are those that will dismiss Ford’s new Territory Turbo as simply one more overweight, fuel-guzzling, emissions-producing performance SUV in a world that’s experiencing record fuel prices, a thinning ozone layer and increasing fatalities from collisions between disparately sized vehicles on our roads.

Buyers of Ford’s homegrown soft-roader, however, have voted with their feet.

It seems Territory’s ability to combine the passenger-carrying capacity of a people-mover and dynamic capabilities approaching that of a passenger car with the option of light-duty off-road work and have struck a chord with Australians.

Safety has also been a big drawcard for Territory, which became the first Australian-built car to offer stability control and side curtain airbags, while the addition of a six-speed auto as standard for AWD models from the SY model upgrade in October 2005 reduced fuel consumption and set new refinement and driveability standards.

Now, the addition of a performance version, courtesy of the low-blow turbo six that powers the XR6T, gives Australians a locally-built alternative to the popular V8-powered German SUVs like BMW’s X5 and the new Mercedes-Benz M-class (and its forthcoming seven-seat sibling, the GL-class).

Priced from $54,000, Territory Turbo is less than half the price of the X5 4.4 V8 ($110,000) and ML500 ($116,900). Tick the third-row seating options box and the top-spec Territory Ghia Turbo’s price still undercuts that of the similarly-equipped but less powerful Prado Grande ($73,880), which of course offers greater off-road ability.

Right now, only Jeep’s new Commander combines seven seats and V8 power for anywhere near the Territory Turbo’s price (170kW/410Nm 4.7-litre V8: $54,990), but the similarly powerful 240kW/500Nm 5.7-litre V8-powered Limited version costs $71,990.

For the money, Territory Turbo offers the same 245kW/480Nm 4.0-litre inline turbo six as the BF-series XR6T, which weighs about 450kg less.

However, with at least a quarter more power and torque than the regular Territory (and more torque at 1000rpm than the regular Territory offers in total), the turbo gives Ford’s full-size SUV a whole new dimension of performance.

The upgraded SY model’s six-speed auto improved Territory’s ability to accelerate from standstill thanks to a shorter first gear and smoother, more effective gearchanges, but the Turbo takes standing-start take-offs to new heights, hunkering down and launching with efficient, purposeful ease.

No, Terri Turbo doesn’t offer the same push-you-back-into-the-seat acceleration as the XR6T - either off the line or in the midrange – and nor is it as willing as, say, the Cayenne Turbo to surge forward alarmingly briskly right from idle.

But turbocharged Territory drivers are unlikely to want for more performance, with vastly quicker take-offs and an abundance of overtaking acceleration always available at the push of the loud pedal.

Unlike the standard Territory, the Turbo never feels like it’s underpowered and delivers a whole new, more satisfying realm of driveability to the already refined driving experience.

Effortless overtaking ability is available from highway speed (100km at 1800rpm) and start fiddling with the classy ZF auto’s manual-shift mode and on twisting tarmac Terri Turbo feels as lively as any performance SUV we’ve driven – this side of a Cayenne Turbo.

For the record, unofficial independent tests indicate the force-fed Territory auto is capable of 0-100km/h acceleration in less than seven seconds and 0-400m passes in less than 15 seconds.

They’re times that would shame many current V8 German SUVs and Aussie V8 sports sedans built less than a decade ago – as well as being within about a second of the current crop (XR6T included). Officially, Territory Turbo is speed-limited to 210km/h.

But outright performance is not what Ford intended its newest Territory variant to be about. The company goes to great pains to stress the model’s "sports-luxury" market positioning, hence the lack of an XR badge and slightly softer-than-XR transmission and suspension calibration.

And while the prominent bonnet bulge is aggressive and gives Terri Turbo a new and different personality to its cooking-model stablemates, it appears far more subtle from within the well-isolated cabin, where a cool new dark interior sports colour scheme dominates and the telltale turbo whistle is barely audible.

Minor Territory irritations like the lack of a lockable glovebox, the auto down-only driver’s window and variable fit and finish – especially between the centre stack and lower left dash section – remain, but the Ghia’s black onyx ICC is a neat touch, as are the Turbo’s blue gauges and the Ghia’s white ones.

Employing the XR’s seatbacks up front is a clever move because they deliver an effective increase in lateral support while the Territory’s seat cushions continue to allow easy ingress/egress. And the height/reach-adjustable steering wheel combines with plenty of power seat adjustability to fit a wide range of body shapes.

Territory Turbo’s differentiation doesn’t stop at more performance and subtlely sporty new interior and exterior looks, however.

The addition of GT-spec front brakes provides noticeably more braking power, especially in terms of initial bite, while the fitment of 18-inch wheels for the first time gives the turbo Territory slightly crisper turn-in.

Combined with slightly firmer front springs, it feels even more car-like to drive both around town and on the open road, and we continue to be impressed by Territory’s well-controlled "head-shake" despite the distance between its occupants and the road.

This, along with its steering’s ability to "self-steer" in a straight line – despite the fact steering remains highly communicative, even in AWD models – is the mark of a well-sorted chassis.

Of course, Territory Turbo’s downside is fuel consumption, which officially rises by 1.4L/100km – from 12.8 to 14.2L/100km.

While that’s not as great an increase as we expected and results in a figure that’s comparable to many performance SUVs available, GoAuto saw average consumption figures of as low at 15.2L/100km and as high as 20L/100km over the undulating and enthusiastically-driven 320km southeast Queensland launch loop.

Clearly, while the ZF auto maximizes fuel economy, fuel consumption varies greatly according to usage. (Over prolonged highway use it may even be possible to better the regular Territory’s consumption figure because the Turbo requires smaller throttle openings to return the same given road speed.)

In general, though, the Turbo will use more fuel than its donor car in most circumstances and, for many, the extra $10 or so per week will be a big deterrent.

That said, given anyone already shopping for a 2000kg-plus vehicle will expect higher than average fuel consumption, we suspect that, like us, they will consider the Territory Turbo’s performance, driveability and exclusivity gains worthwhile.

Territory Turbo comes with the same 2300kg towing capacity and the same 15,000km service intervals as the regular model, meaning insurance may be represent its only other ownership premium.

Territory may well be the only SUV ever made in Australia, but we expect it’s also the finest SUV ever produced within the entire Ford world. In our view, these are small prices to pay for what is now one of the world’s best-value performance SUVs.

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