Ford Territory TDCi

Twilight time, and the living is all too familiar

TOBY HAGON

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

DYNAMIC changes to the Series II Territory amount to precisely zero. After a few corners, you realise why. Fluent steering, excellent body control and decent grip ensure a succession of challenging bends is tackled with minimal leaning for what is a high-riding family wagon.

Neutral balance leads to understeer if you ramp up the pace, but the Territoryís limits are higher than many SUVs a decade younger. Its stability control, too, stays out of play until required.

If driving maturity counted for sales, the Territory, which helped define the seven-seat SUV segment in Australia, would be near the top of its game. Itís a reminder of why it was the first SUV to win Wheels Car of the Year.

Itís also competitively quiet, quelling road roar from its 18-inch Goodyear Fortera tyres while keeping its diesel engine in check.

The car that changed the local SUV game when it arrived in 2004 remains mechanically similar, but this latest update adds extra fizz inside and some new grilles with more chrome. And thatís about it.

The ageing Land Rover-sourced 2.7-litre turbo-diesel V6, which arrived in the Territory in 2011, still delivers a power punch that suits the Territoryís two-tonne frame. Thereís some turbo lag from a standstill, but once the turbo is pumping thereís adequate torque for easy overtaking and suburban duties.

However, fuel use is not a Territory strong suit. While improvements have been made to the 4.0-litre six-cylinder petrol models with a revised ZF auto and a new torque converter, the diesel-powered AWD modelís 8.8-9.0L/100km claim is towards the top of the scale. The rear-drive petrol six gets 10.2-10.5L/100km, depending on spec.

Inside, Territoryís flexibility is still a highlight, even in an era of fresher designs, with features ranging from bottle holders beside each front seat to oversized door pockets and a tray under the driverís seat.

However, the Falcon-inspired interior is starting to date, even with the latest 8.0-inch SYNC2 screen atop the dash, though voice activation is useful for navigation functions, allowing quick and easy inputs to find a servo or ATM.

Curtain airbags that donít cover the third row is one shortcoming that didnít seem as disappointing in 2004 as it does now.

Thereís also the occasional hint of penny-pinching, even on the top Titanium level that comes with a choice of black or baseballglove brown leather. The driverís seat is only partially electric, relying on a winding mechanism for its backrest angle.

So while age is wearying the Territory, it remains one of the best-driving SUVs on the market. gns, m ets

PLUS & MINUS

Barely changed from the 2012 SZ; curtain airbags miss third row Clever interior; great SUV dynamics; strong diesel engine

Uncharted Territory

THE medium-term future for Territory remains sketchy.

The upgraded SZ MkII model is due to run until October 2016, provided the Broadmeadows factory remains viable until then.

Ford has hinted there will be an imported replacement and admits the Territory name is strong and well recognised, so could be continued.

The most likely contender appears to be the Edge (above), which was recently unveiled as a seven-seater. rem kII