When it comes to towing, Ford's turbodiesel Territory is a natural. Armed with plenty of pulling power, an intuitive six-speed automatic transmission, a broad and stable footprint and class-leading chassis dynamics, the Territory can tow up to 2700kg in all-wheel drive form and 2300kg in rear-wheel drive.
A good test of a tow vehicle is its ability to handle a load without working too hard or drinking too much. Hooked up to a 6m boat on a tandem trailer weighing about 1800kg, the all-wheel drive TX on test did it easily, pulling with power to spare.
The transmission was mostly smooth, decisive and eager to kick down, yet made good use of its taller ratios on the open road. Over flat to undulating terrain it held sixth gear at 100-110km/h and on long climbs kicked down and held fifth gear.
Rarely did it drop into fourth gear and when it did there was plenty in reserve to hold and even recover momentum. Apart from an initial pause while the turbo spooled up, standing starts were brisk, mid-range response was ample and cruising required little more than part throttle to hold the desired speed.
In sixth gear the engine was spinning at a comfortable 1750rpm, or about 100rpm more than the rear-wheel drive version, due to a lower diff ratio. This lower final drive gave the all-wheel drive an edge for reversing up steep slopes and driveways, also accomplished on light throttle.
Fuel use when towing averaged a respectable 14.8l/100km compared with 8.2l/100km unladen. Stability when towing was impressive. With a wide track, a long wheelbase and well-sorted suspension, the Territory felt solid and composed, was free of twitching and pitching over bumps and undulations and unfazed by cross winds and buffeting.
Prices for the all-wheel drive diesel start at $48,240 for the TX version, or $4990 more than the rear-wheel drive version. Add $7000 to both for TS trim and a further $8000 for the Titanium. The test car came with a heavy duty tow package priced at $2253 fitted and included wiring, adjustable ball mount and a load-levelling kit. Maximum towball weight is 270kg (230kg in the rear-wheel drive).
As for ride and handling, nothing in its price range comes close to Territory. The confident and engaging chassis and the accurate and intuitive electronic power steering are simply the best this side of $100,000.
And the engine is whisper quiet, without doubt the smoothest and most serene in its class. Apart from a subdued rumble on idle, there is so little engine, wind and road noise that there is barely a need to adjust the audio volume as speed increases.
Driving position is also about as good as it gets, which contributes to relaxed long stretches behind the wheel. The interior is as warm, inviting and functional as ever, bolstered by a plethora of storage and the simple one-step flat-folding rear seats. Over 1000km of urban and country running, the test car performed with aplomb, apart from a rattle in the tow tongue.
Price: from $48,240
Engine: 6 Cylinder, 2.7-litre turbodiesel, 140kW/440Nm
Transmission: Sports Automatic, Four Wheel Drive
Thirst: 8.8 / 100Km