Road Test: Ford Territory AWD & RWD
By Feann Torr & Peter Maniatis
appears to be on a bona fide home-grown winner with its new
AWD crossover vehicle, the Territory.
You've got the entry-level price of $38,990 for the RWD model,
a powerful 6-cylinder engine across the range, and the fact
that it is the first locally manufactured Australian vehicle
designed from the ground up helps give it bragging rights
over the Holden
Adventra, which is based on the Commodore wagon.
Ford wasn't messing around when it decided to plunge half-a-billion
dollars into the project, and the results have so far been
After only a few of months on sale, Ford's big investment
has paid dividends: the Territory is selling like hotcakes
and making a mockery of its rivals.
Not only has it raced to the top of the medium SUV market
segment with a whopping 30 per cent market share (VFACTS)
in the month of August , but it has even demolished
the once untouchable Toyota Prado by more than 350 units for
the month as well.
So what is it about the new Territory that's got everyone
so keen to go for a test drive? The European styling, the
smooth straight six engine, the tiptronic gearbox or maybe
the hundreds of stowage solutions? Perhaps a combination of
With all the success that the Territory is experiencing so
early in its life, should we just stop writing now and recommend
that you buy two of them? Not quite. Until it's been given
the Web Wombat rubber stamp of approval, all bets are off.
Price: $38,990 to $53,290 (TX RWD to Ghia AWD)
Transmission: 4-speed automatic w/tiptronic
Engine: 4.0-litre, 24-valve, L6 petrol
Fuel Consumption: Combined: 13.1 litres/100km
Seats: 5 to 7
Safety: Driver and front passenger SRS airbags,
ABS, traction control, stability control* (*AWD models
The Ford Territory: a smooth
The Territory and Falcon share some key components, mainly
the engine and gearbox, and upon first plonking butts in seats,
there is a very real sense of déjà vu.
But even with similar dashboard and seats, the Territory
is a confident, proud vehicle that certainly feels very different
to its family-car sibling, and the elevated seating position
grants drivers with a very un-Falcon-like perspective.
There's also a lot more headroom than you'd expect from a
crossover vehicle - one aspect we were pleasantly surprised
with - and it certainly sits nicely on the road, while offering
well-weighted, if somewhat light power steering that lends
the vehicle a higher quality feel than its closest competitors.
Compared to the award-winning BA Falcon, the Territory is
a little more ponderous to drive through twisty mountain roads
thanks to the raised height, which affects the vehicle's centre
In the real world, this won't disturb too many people, but
what it does mean is that you can't plough through roundabouts
in second gear like you might in a turbocharged
Built on the same production line as the Falcon, the Territory
inherits items such as the Falcon's 182kW straight 6-cylinder
engine and also an adapted iteration of the smooth Control
Blade independent rear suspension rig. This last item, in
combination with a completely different underbody structure
to the Falcon and unique front suspension translates to a
very composed feel on the road.
It's a great cruiser, and will happily cover hundreds of
kilometres in a quiet, smooth and unflustered fashion, one
that makes the larger 4x4s feel decidedly agricultural and
While the Territory is a great vehicle to drive on all types
of sealed roads, neither the rear wheel drive (RWD) nor all
wheel drive (AWD) version could be pushed with confidence
like a more traditional family sedan, as the higher centre
of gravity and beefier kerb weight add significantly more
body roll when cornering (even with nicely sorted spring settings)
making things very dicey when you have to change direction
quickly at speed.
The Territory won't reward
sports car, but it still sticks to the road
But that's not say it's trash wagon through corners, as the
wide 235/60 R17 tyres provide good levels of grip. It rides
rather quietly and tracks round corners faithfully - provided
you don't push too hard - and on sealed roads it is a very
easy vehicle to drive, and a quite enjoyable one at that.
Of course, the flipside of this raised height is improved
ground clearance, and while you'd be lucky to get your XR
Falcon or SV6 Commodore through some steep driveways unscathed,
the Territory handles such urban ditches with ease, and generally
speaking this is where the Territory excels.
We drove both the AWD and RWD versions of the Territory,
and both were more at home in the 'burbs and the concrete
jungle than off the beaten track.
With features like the Hill Descent Control system and of
course the AWD transmission, you'd expect quite a bit from
the new Ford 4x4, but due to a lack of ground clearance (178mm)
it can't touch vehicles like the Pajero
and its ilk. That said, the Territory doesn't mind getting
wet when fording creeks, and on occasion we were surprised
that we didn't bog the things.
The AWD model felt slightly more planted than its RWD brethren
on sealed roads, but in hindsight there wasn't a huge difference
in the way they behaved on sealed roads.
For the uninitiated, it would be nigh on impossible to tell
the difference between models on bitumen, but on unsealed
roads and in the wet the AWD model felt much more secure with
more grip and control.
When climbing up hills and steep inclines, the AWD Territory
had the RWD model's measure yet again, but most Territorys
will probably never leave the blacktop, one of the reasons
why a RWD model is offered.
In addition to is relaxed driving style, we found that the
Ford adapted to different circumstances with aplomb. We had
to move some very large, very heavy servers from the Web Wombat
HQ and with the 60:40 split-fold rear seats folded down, the
jacked up wagon offered lots of space, while the optional
$1500 pair of third row seats transforms the vehicle into
a family-friendly people mover, and they're not bad rear seats
It's no hard-core AWD,
but it can go
places where a lot of passenger cars can't
The brakes are bigger than those offered on the Falcon, to
deal with the 300-odd kilograms of extra weight, measuring
322 and 328mm in diametre for the front and rear ventilated
They do a good job in decelerating the big and bulky softroader,
and combine with stability control (in AWD models) to great
effect, while ABS, standard across the range, helps to reduce
stopping distances under heavy braking or in foul conditions.
Despite the Territory impressing us on almost every level
of operation, there was one area that it didn't excel in -
The automatic-only transmission means that this aspect suffers
somewhat, and seeing as it's close to 2 tonnes, returning
Falcon-like figures is nigh on impossible.
The vehicle motivates well for an SUV, and has impressive
levels of acceleration despite it's considerable mass, particularly
when the revs reach to 2500 - 3000rpm, an area that makes
freeway overtaking effortless.
But again, unless you're zealously hoarding all your Coles
and Woolies dockets, expect to pay the price at the bowser,
with average consumption levels at around 14.5 to 15-litres
of fuel for every 100 kilometres driven.
Out on the freeway things get better, and the 4-speed automatic
transmission is one of the best transmission offered in an
Aussie car, with smooth, quick shifts and an intuitive tiptronic
or 'sportsmode' feature.
At the end of the day, the pros far outweigh the cons, because
what the Territory does do, it does incredibly well.
It's easy to drive, had bag loads of cargo room, can transport
up to seven people at once and has impressive levels of manoeuvrability
for a car that measures 4.85 metres from end to end.
The Territory lives up to most of the promises made by Ford,
and we had a great time punting both the RWD and AWD models
around. Whether you enjoy driving, or just need a practical
vehicle for commuting, the Territory will happily oblige.
Ford Barra 182 4.0-litre L6
The inline 6-cylinder engine has a 3984cc (4.0-litre)
capacity with aluminium alloy cylinder heads and a cast-iron
block. Dual overhead camshafts are chain-driven and
actuate a total of 24-valves (4-valves per cylinder).
The petrol-powered engine has a 9.7:1 compression ratio
and has variable valve timing and a 75 litre fuel tank.
The 4.0-litre straight six that lives under the bonnet of
Ford's crossover vehicle may have been around for some time
now, but is still a very capable chunk of engineering, and
one that offers remarkably high levels of torque.
With 380Nm on tap @ 3250rpm, you don't have to wring the
engine's guts out to make the most of it. While there often
feels like more of a gap between idle and about 1300rpm than
in the Falcon, this could be put down to the vehicle's 1995
- 2095kg kerb weight, for the RWD TX and AWD Ghia models respectively.
The inline 6-cylinder engine has quite a nice thrum to it,
and while we already mentioned the not-so-brilliant fuel economy,
the car can be driven with a modicum of frugality thanks to
the sensitive drive-by-wire throttle control.
In the AWD models, torque is apportioned 38:62 to the front:rear
axles, and it's a constant AWD setup, meaning that power is
always diverted to all four wheels.
For those drivers who feel that an AWD setup would be overkill,
the RWD version offers a slightly different - perhaps more
decisive - launch feel, but misses out on the AWD model's
stability control, which helps drivers to regain control when
things go pear shaped.
Peak power from the engine is a healthy 182kW, and this power
peaks @ 5000rpm. With 4-valves per cylinder, the Barra 182
engine is a very smooth and comparatively refined engine,
even compared to more sophisticated European sixes. The low-ish
compression ratio also allows the Territory to drink 91 RON
look works well
The exterior styling of the Ford Territory isn't particularly
radical or outgoing, yet it is contemporary enough to please
a large majority of new car buyers and has just enough panache,
we believe, to stand the test of time.
With fairly conservative styling overall - most people who
see the Territory probably won't do a Ferrari-esque double
take - the crossover vehicle has just enough rugged styling
cues to give it some credibility.
The flared wheel arches, short overhangs and wide overall
footprint combine well with the strong front end, and when
you add just a touch of European styling to the rear end and
C-pillars, it's difficult to justify calling the vehicle ugly.
"One of the real attributes of Territory is just how
good the rear of the car looks; it has a presence that many
vehicles in this class just don't have," said Simon Butterworth,
Ford's Asia Pacific design director.
"We had some healthy discussions with Ford Design Vice
President J Mays, who was very supportive of getting this
strength and Ford DNA into Territory. That meant we were able
to improve the stance of the vehicle, making the attitude
and body section much stronger. The final design has an inert
poise, an athletic stance, emphasised by the short front and
It sits on the road very nicely with a somewhat squat stance,
but never looks awkward or out of place, and has quite a hunkered
down, stocky appearance that many drivers of smaller vehicles
With plenty of road presence thanks to its large size, it
gets noticed by other drivers, and whether you get the steel
or the alloy wheels, the two-tone or the solid paint job,
it is a good looking car - arguably one of the best home-grown
Australian vehicles to date.
Though the dashboard looked like it was ripped straight out
of a Falcon, it wasn't - but we were still scratching our
heads trying to figure out the differences. Beyond this very
small quibble, the interior of the Territory is a complete
and utter success and illustrates just how much hard work
the Blue Oval has put into its crossover vehicle to get things
right from the very beginning.
Everything works, and everything
From behind the wheel, the view of the road is impressive.
Higher than your normal family sedan, and with good levels
of rearward vision thanks to the side mirrors and generous
The steering-wheel mounted cruise controls (optional on TX
models) work remarkably well and also control the Hill Descent
speed, while the adjustable throttle and brake pedals are
a blessing for those who don't fall into the 'average' category
of driver sizes.
Fit and finish is quite good overall, and the sheer number
of storage solutions and cubby holes is mind boggling, while
a trio of 12-volt power points will come in handy for running
portable fridges, spotlights and videogame systems.
The interior also has an excellent sense of space, with both
front and rear occupants gifted with good levels of knee and
leg room, and even with an abundance of stowage spaces, the
interior is thoughtfully and ergonomically designed, and never
feels overly busy or complicated.
For $1500 you can get a factory-fitted third row of seats,
which gives the Territory a true seven-seat capacity, and
this $1500 option is a lot cheaper than shelling out for another
mini van type vehicle. The final row consisting of two seats
are actually very usable, and so long as you're not planning
on traversing he Nullarbor Plain, even adults will be able
to tolerate them across short distances.
Both the second and third row of seats fold flat with the
floor without the need to remove the headrests, which frees
up a huge amount of room for all the latest Ikea purchases,
and we believe it's this versatility that is helping the Territory
sell consistently well.
It must also be said that as family wagon the Territory excels,
picking up and dropping off the little tackers with ease thanks
to its ample seating and car-like handling, and the separately
opening rear window simplifies throwing small items into the
boot quickly and painlessly.
As far as safety goes, the Territory is the first locally
built Ford to offer side curtain airbags for the TS and Ghia
grades, while the entry-level TX can be retro-fitted with
curtain airbags for a modest $800. Driver and front passenger
airbags are standard across the range, and the introduction
of breakaway pedals is another nice safety feature that exists
to reduce injury to the legs and feet in a crash.
We came, we drove, and we enjoyed ourselves in the new Territory.
Sure, it's no BMW, but then it doesn't pretend to be, and
for the price it represents very good value in our book.
Even the neighbours began asking all sorts of questions,
and wanted to have a close look, expressing immediate interest
in the vehicle - something the Territory has an innate ability
to do, thanks to the impressive list of standard features,
well sorted suspension, powerful engine and practical interior.
We also think the light green paintjob had something to do
The only real sour point on the Territory's report card is
it's fuel efficiency, which is claimed as 13.1 litres (city/highway
combined) per 100 kilometres, and it could be an issue that
Ford may need to address in a few years when it updates the
Even with a less-than-rosy fuel efficiency, there are far
thirstier vehicles out there, and judging by the current sales
trend it doesn't appear to be impinging on its popularity.
The Territory is a well thought-out and refined vehicle that
suits the Australian environment and it's roads perfectly,
and it is safe to say that Ford's $500 million was money well
spent - it's able to dart around the cities and suburbs with
ease, while still offering a degree off road worthiness that
will please most customers.
It just goes to show how good Australian product can be,
and makes a mockery of some similarly priced Korean vehicles,
and punches above its weight against some heftier competition
from Europe to boot.
Well, that's about all we have got say about the new Territory.
Oh, and does it finally deserve the Web Wombat rubber stamp
of approval? Yeah, we reckon it truly does.
ride & handling
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