Since its release in 2004 the Ford Territory has become one of the success stories of the Australian car manufacturing industry. It’s found a home in the garages of many families here in NZ as well as across the ditch and has even performed duties as an emergency response vehicle. But after seven years cruising the streets how can the Territory stay desirable in a SUV market that’s packed with machinery from Japan and Europe? By offering a diesel engine option for the first time for starters, backed up by a modernising facelift, equipment upgrades and a greater emphasis on refinement. Has Ford’s $230 million dollar investment in the new Territory paid off? Car and SUV was certainly impressed by the 2011 Territory at its launch event earlier this year and got some more seat time to take a closer look.
Looks are a good place to start because in terms of styling the Territory has really shifted up a gear. The familiar proportions remain but there are now some calculated injections of Ford’s current kinetic design language. At the front there’s an all-new face with new upper and lower grilles, the headlights, bonnet and front bumper have also been replaced. These fresh touches give a wider and more muscular frontal appearance. At the rear Ford has deftly wrapped the three quarter glass around to the rear windscreen, hiding the D-pillar and giving it a slick look. New horizontal taillights replace the previous vertical design and also wrap into the rear guards. There are some more subtle general tweaks as well, like vents on the front fenders and indicator repeaters in the wing mirrors. Our tested top-spec Titanium model was dressed up further with chrome trim on the front grille, LED front lights, tinted glass and 18-inch Y-Spoke alloy wheels. In terms of design it’s a very successful facelift, the 2011 Territory looks ‘right now’ modern and dynamic while retaining its same staunch road presence.
In the cabin the sweeping updates continue with new colours, higher quality materials and updated technology. The redesigned dashboard is very similar to that of the Falcon and has a practical focus. Higher spec models like our Titanium receive the new Interior Command Centre high-mounted 8-inch touch screen. It’s a full colour system that controls a wide range of equipment and settings, it also acts as a display for the reversing camera and satellite navigation system. Instrumentation is a conventional two-dial arrangement with a small display screen that shows trip and vehicle info. The steering wheel is thick to grip and houses nicely bulky switches for cruise control and stereo settings. The quality of materials used is a definite step up but remains mixed. Touch surfaces like the door trims and centre console are high grade but some areas of the dashboard remain hard to the touch. That said, there is an overwhelming sense of durability to the Territory cabin – a key virtue for a family hauler.
Small storage is well catered for with a deep centre storage bin/armrest and a clever garage door-hidden area for wallets and cell phones. Comfort is also a selling point, the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake plus the electronically adjusted front seats are a true highlight. Trimmed in soft leather the Territory seats are broad and deep making for a cosseting feel. The driver’s chair has 6-way adjustment, a lockable drawer underneath and offers commanding forward visibility. The second row of seating has plenty of leg and headroom and a wide centre armrest with cupholders. The stowable third row of seating gives the Territory its 7-seater capability but like most third rows is best suited to the kids or grandma providing you can push her in there.
In terms of standard equipment our tested Territory Titanium came fully stacked and really pushes its case as a premium SUV. Some notable inclusions were a thumping CD Stereo with sub-woofer and USB input, Bluetooth, three 12-Volt outlets, dual-zone air conditioning and a roof mounted DVD player for the kids/grandma.
So how about that new diesel engine then? Well, it’s not too shabby at all; in fact, it’s an absolute godsend for the Territory badge. The previous model was accused of being too thirsty and expensive to run but the new 2.7-litre Duratorq TDCi turbo-diesel motor addresses that issue. Not at the cost of grunt either, it produces 140kW of power and a very healthy 440Nm of peak torque from just 1900rpm. It’s a strong, competent unit that is also surprisingly quiet, thanks largely to the extensive sound deadening put in place with the 2011 upgrades. For diesel enthusiasts, the new engine is a 60-degree V6 with a compacted graphite iron block, alloy cylinder heads, common rail direct injection and a single intercooled turbocharger. While the Territory weighs in at a plus-size 2,167kg (kerb weight), the diesel motor still gets it moving at a fair clip with a torque-heavy pull especially through the mid range. This makes for comfortable cruising at open road speeds with enough in reserve to overtake lesser vehicles safely. The Territory is also well mannered around the suburbs and has very little diesel clatter so there’ll be no embarrassment when doing the school run. Claimed fuel use is 8.8 litres per 100km for the AWD Titanium model, which is a big improvement over the petrol models but it may be hard to achieve unless you spend major driving time on the motorways.
The diesel engine is mated to Ford’s ZF-based six-speed automatic transmission that provides smooth and assured shifts. There’s also a sports mode that holds gear longer and chops down quicker as you head into corners. If you want to do it yourself the ratios can be worked manually through the leather-wrapped gearstick. Towing capacity is rated at 2700kg braked, which is 400kg more than the petrol models and strengthens the Territory’s reputation as a very capable tow vehicle.
Dynamically, the Territory is quite involving for a med/large SUV. Its main focus is on-road ability and all round ride comfort rather than hedging its bets with any serious off-roading desires. It has good compliance and the long-travel through the wheels allows it to eat up bumps and dips without issue. Pushing through corners body roll is never severe and there is plenty of grip particularly on AWD models like our test specimen. A bonus for rural dwellers is that the Territory feels just as assured and comfortable on gravel as it does tarmac. Braking is reassuringly firm with a progressive feel through the pedal. There’s vented discs all round and a twin-piston set up in the front. It’s a smooth operator overall and on road dynamics are where the 2011 Territory has the jump on key competitors like the Holden Captiva and Toyota Highlander.
Petrol model Territorys can only be had in 2WD but the diesels are available with the AWD system but does this mean the Territory can venture off road? Like many ‘soft roader’ SUVs the answer is yes – but to a limited extent. The 175mm ground clearance and low down torque output allow it enough off road ability to traverse a steep gravel driveway or get close to the action at the local sports field. For more rugged work it may prove tenacious but push too far and it will ultimately be found wanting. However, you’ll never really know till you give it a crack.
Safety bases are covered with a range of electronic safety aids including dynamic stability control with roll over mitigation, traction control, seatbelt pretensions at the front and a full airbag package with driver’s knee bag.
To conclude, the 2011 Ford Territory is a large move forward for the model line and has much more to offer than you’d find in an average facelift. It also serves as an example of the engineering ability at Ford Australia and is a vehicle they’ll be understandably proud of. Offering a diesel option was important and it’s an impressive engine that’s strong and refined. Like previous versions ride comfort and dynamic ability remain a Territory strong point and the refreshed cabin is nicely appointed. The top-spec Titanium is pricey at a tenner shy of $70k but it’s the type of vehicle that will pose no long-term regrets. If you need the spaciousness, want the comfort and can afford the top end model, then we can find no reason to dissuade you from the updated 2011 Territory Titanium.
What we like:
- Ride comfort
- Strong silent type diesel engine
- Styling updates are effective
- Front seats
What we don’t like:
- Fuel economy is much improved but still not outstanding
- Pricey in Titanium form
Who will buy this car: It’s a precision tool for busy families. There’s plenty of interior space for the dog or packs of kids and practicality can be found in every corner.
Cool Factor: Medium, the styling updates make it look stauncher for sure, but it’s a hard road giving a family-focused SUV any real sex-appeal.
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo