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

Our Opinion

We like
Smooth turbo performance, balanced ride and handling, SUV bang for bucks
Room for improvement
Still lacks a decent cruising range

17 Nov 2006

GoAuto 17/11/2006

FORD in Australia has rarely hit the mark so accurately as it has with the Territory.

The big SUV came to market after a protracted gestation and there’s no question there were some doubters in the lead up to its final launch in the winter of 2004.

Since then Ford has put the nay-sayers to rest. Territory has been an unqualified success for the company, perhaps the one vehicle in its range that is a dominant force in its category.

It has been a convincing vehicle for Ford, and continues to lead a market that reflects the state of the industry by running behind last year’s figures.

Since the Ford SUV was launched, there’s been some eagerness for a bit of powerplant variance. Unimpressive fuel economy and limited cruising ranges have prompted questions about a turbo-diesel version and it was always a certainty that the impressive turbo engine seen in the XR6 would find its way into the Territory.

As it happens, the turbo is the first to arrive, which is no great surprise because it represented a lot less investment than will the Jaguar/Land Rover/Peugeot 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel that will eventually appear under the Territory’s bonnet.

Thoughts of an even less fuel-efficient Territory rear their ugly heads with the turbo and to some degree that’s right – but seen in balance the surging power of the 245kW/480Nm forced induction six does introduce a new dimension to the Territory where Euro SUVs like the BMW X5 and ML-class Mercedes-Benz are singled out for comparison.

According to the figures, the Turbo Territory’s ability to reach 100km/h from a standstill in less than seven seconds places it ahead of luminaries like the 4.4-litre X5, the ML500 and Porsche’s Cayenne S.

The whole operation, in concept, was pretty straightforward.

The engine is pretty much a dead-ringer for the low-boost (6.5psi) XR6 Turbo powerplant, right down to the power and torque figures, with perhaps the only real major difference being the locating of the intake for the intercooler onto the top of the bonnet rather than down in the grille.

Apart from producing instant macho, it also leaves the Territory less prone to sucking in water – not that it’s easy to envisage the soft-roader venturing into a water crossing that deep.

Having constant four-wheel drive is another plus for the turbo engine – it has twice as many wheels as the XR6 to get power to the ground in marginal conditions – as is the standard fitment of a revised version of Ford’s Dynamic Stability Control system. These tend to silence any thoughts about standard SUV bugbears of having a high centre of gravity and consequently less inherent stability than a regular sedan.

With a fair bit of extra weight to carry – it weighs more than two tonnes - the Territory Turbo doesn’t have the quite the accelerative thrust of the XR6 Turbo but, checking those figures again with BMW, Benz and Porsche, it’s still a very rapid SUV. We are reluctant to drag out these comparisons again, but the big SUV is just as quick as the famed Phase Three Falcon of the early 1970s.

Considering this, the Turbo is quite understated to look at.

What it gets over the regular Territory models is that bonnet scoop, specific 18-inch alloys, a mesh grille, dual exhaust outlets and silver "skid plates" at the front and rear. Add to that colour-coded bumpers – and badging – as well as an extended colour palette that includes such hues as Seduce (red) and Ego (charcoal) and you have a very discreet sports SUV.

The Turbo, like all other Territorys, now gets the much-admired ZF six-speed auto transmission to help it along its way while also contributing to maximised fuel economy. Ford’s official figure is 14.2L/100km, which is not bad given the performance and not that far behind regular AWD Territorys.

Apart from the larger wheels with 235/55R18 tyres (regular Territorys use 235/60R17s), the Turbo hasn’t really needed a lot of work to keep the handling and roadholding up to the appropriate levels.

To cope with the 40kg weigh penalty enforced by the tougher engine, the front springs are slightly longer than standard, but that’s about it.

Brakes are taken from the FPV GT, which means they get bigger rotors (up from 322mm x 28mm to 340mm x 32mm) and "performance" callipers to cope with the extra weight and performance. The ABS, which incorporates EBD but not brake assist, has also been recalibrated along with the stability control system to cope with the expected higher demands.

Our test car was the base Territory Turbo, which meant it was fitted out with charcoal velour seats offering a tad more lateral support than other Territorys, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever, a part-power driver’s seat, Ford’s power-adjusted floor pedals, straight air-conditioning and a 100-watt single-CD sound system.

Driver and front passenger airbags are standard as in all Territorys, but unless you opt for the Ghia Turbo you’ll have to pay extra for side curtain airbags. The base Turbo also misses out on the reversing camera that is standard on the Ghia, and has to make do with (optional) rear parking sensors.

Faced by blue-lit instruments, gripping the leather-clad wheel and eyeing the bulging bonnet, the Turbo driver is subtly aware this is the top line Territory.

The impression is reinforced at the first prod of the accelerator pedal, which brings a steady, powerful shove in the back and slick – but slightly sharper – upshifts from the sequential ZF transmission.

There’s not quite the rush you experience in an XR6 Turbo. It’s all more discreet and refined, although there’s never any doubt the driver is in command of a respectably fast and substantial vehicle.

What is really impressive is the way Ford has tuned the ride-handling balance.

At no time does the Turbo feel as if it’s been compromised. The ride remains absorbent, smooth and controlled, yet the Territory steers just like a well-sorted sedan.

On tight, winding roads it is confidence-inspiring, showing little discomfort in rapid directional changes and surging with confidence out of corners before the upgraded brakes haul it down for the next one. You need to try hard before the stability control light emits a warning blink.

The Territory is every bit as comfortable on a snaking mountain road as it is cruising with silent ease on the freeway.

And the fuel economy proves to be acceptable too, provided you drive with some restraint. We had no trouble staying well below the factory figure on an extended drive that covered just about every variable except, maybe, a lot of stop/start, heavy traffic work.

The Ford Territory has always tended to look like something a little more classy than what it basically is – a Falcon derivative.

The conservative styling has survived well since its launch and, with the new performance dimensions provided by the turbo engine, it can stand quite proudly in much more expensive company.

No surprise that Ford has at least this part of the market sewn up.

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