Ford Territory TS AWD TDCi
Price Guide (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $55,240
Options fitted (not included in above price): Nil
Crash rating: Five-star (ANCAP)
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 8.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 232
Also consider: Holden Captiva 7, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Kluger
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.5/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0
About our ratings
It's taken seven years for Ford Australia to give its once popular medium-sized SUV an oil burner, and while the struggling local manufacturer could have done with a second, more fuel-efficient powerplant a couple of years ago when Territory's sales first started to slide, better late than never, as they say.
So has it been worth the wait? Yes and no.
While the Land Rover-derived 2.7-litre turbodiesel V6 is impressive for its quietness, refinement and willingness from low revs, it doesn't feel quite as responsive as some of its diesel rivals we've driven lately, like the Holden Captiva 7 and Kia Sorento.
It's also pricey, with the AWD TS TDCi (diesel) Territory, tested priced a considerable $55,240. Of course, you can always opt for the cheapest diesel variant, an entry-level, RWD (rear-wheel drive) Territory TX at $43,240. But that would mean missing out on some of the goodies provided with the TS, like the eight inch touchscreen, important rear camera, dual-zone climate control, and 18-inch alloys.
And for about the same money ($43,490) you can get the top-spec Holden Captiva AWD diesel, which goes some way to explaining why sales of Captiva 7 were more than double that of the Territory in May.
Going from the 4.0-litre, petrol six Territory into the new diesel version, is like the proverbial chalk and cheese, performance-wise. Whereas the petrol Territory surges hard off the line with its instant throttle response, the diesel is far more relaxed, with some turbo lag and slight hesitation off-the-mark.
Rolling response is better with 440Nm available from just 1900rpm, but it's still frustrating to have to plan ahead when changing lanes or darting out in traffic, with the six-speed auto not quite as intuitive as in the petrol Territory.
That said, it keeps up with traffic and makes an excellent long-distance cruiser. Loaded up with passengers or tackling steep inclines it doesn't falter, which bodes well for those who want to use one for towing.
Fitted with the optional heavy-duty tow pack, the AWD (all-wheel drive) Territory can tow a caravan or boat up to 2700kg, which compares favorably with more rugged four-wheel drives like Prado (2500kg) and Pajero (3000kg).
Fuel economy is another diesel strongpoint, although the Territory's consumption is slightly higher than some of its SUV rivals. We achieved an average 9.5L/100km (Ford claims 8.8 for AWD models); not bad considering the petrol Territory is closer to 14.0L/100km around town.
It's obvious the amount of time and money Ford Australia has invested in regards to NVH (noise, vibration and harshness): the cabin remains whisper quiet even with the engine revving hard, and diesel 'clatter' is muted and only really evident when opening a window.
While some will argue it wasn't enough, the SZ Series styling tweaks gives the big Ford a smart new persona inside and out. The bold front end and rounded rear are enough to freshen up a design that has changed little in seven years.
Inside, the Territory remains one of the most practical, spacious and comfortable, seven-seat family SUVs around, with this tester particularly enamoured with the man-sized front seats, clever storage options, and multi-adjustable second and third rows.
The new eight-inch colour touchscreen is well laid out and easy to use after brief familiarisation, and importantly remains clear and legible in all driving conditions.
Pumping out the big tunes through the 'premium' seven-speaker audio is no problem with Bluetooth connectivity, or the usual USB/AUX points located in the cavernous centre console close to the iPod/smart phone holder.
Despite the inclusion of a driver's knee airbag, the latest Territory still lags behind some competitors which have airbags for third-row passengers.
The SZ Territory is top of the softroader class, though, when it comes to on-road dynamics. The retuned suspension delivers sedan-like cornering backed up by the sort of fuss-free ride that's become a hallmark of Ford's big, locally-built vehicles.
The new, speed-sensitive electric power steering adds to the on-road manners, whether it's providing low-speed assistance or a firmer feel at higher speeds, while it takes little effort on the brake pedal to pull the 2144kg wagon up smartly.
As an overall package, the diesel AWD Territory makes sense for families looking to save costs over the longer term, or for those needing a heavy-duty tow vehicle that's easy to live with. But those expecting petrol-engine style performance might be disappointed.
While you're left wanting for little with the Territory TS AWD diesel, it's hard to ignore the premium price when cheaper rivals can deliver similar levels of equipment. For our money we'd opt for the RWD Territory diesel, saving ourselves $5000, and with little impact on the road-holding ability or other practical benefits of this excellent soft-roader.
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