With fuel prices ever rising, is Ford's new turbodiesel Territory the answer for active Australian families? Carbon taxes and natural disasters are in the news. Both will push petrol prices to record highs, analysts predict, putting yet more strain on family budgets.
So, the arrival of Ford's new Duratorq turbodiesel is well-timed, even if it is years overdue. Ford claims the Territory TDCi uses 25 per cent less fuel than the straight-six petrol, and can drive 900km from Melbourne to Sydney on one tank. If so, it will save Australian families about $540 over a 15,000km year.
Prices are up/down for the Territory range starting at $39,990 for the TX RWD with 4.0-litre petrol engine. The TS costs $46,990 and the Titanium, which replaces the Ghia, is priced from $54,990.
The diesel engine adds $3250, all-wheel drive another $5000 and is only available with the Duratorq engine. Third-row seating is an option on all models. This raises the question: does the diesel make financial sense? Keen to find out, Carsguide grabbed a Territory TS AWD and took a road trip.
Spotting the 2011 SZ Territory in the parking lot at Ford isn't hard. The new styling takes inspiration from Ford's Kinetic global design language. Slimmer headlights and a horizontal grille sit on a reprofiled nose which adds 27mm to Territory's overall length.
New alloys, a revised side-skirt and C-pillar give the side-profile a lift. At the rear, new taillights are similar to the next Focus, and the liftgate garnish has been removed. It is striking and fresh, though the front and rear themes aren't as cohesive as before.
Leaving Melbourne on the Hume Highway gives plenty of time to enjoy the new cabin where the Territory's evolution is most obvious. The new dashboard and centre console from the FG Falcon create a more mature ambience. The update includes Ford's first touchscreen which integrates stereo, air-con controls and Bluetooth controls.
The Territory has been a success story with 100,000 bought since 2004. And the elements that made the original Territory such a hit with families seating for up to seven, plenty of luggage space, double-action tailgate are all still here, some updated like the bin at the base of the centre stack which now has a tambour door styled after old-fashioned roll-top desks.
Safety also steps up; a knee airbag joins front, side and curtain airbags for a total of seven. Electronic stability control now includes an anti-rollover program.
The Territory's new EPAS electric steering system, which improves fuel economy by 2.5 percent, requires less effort at parking speeds, but can get caught short during three-point turns.
It's clear that Ford worked hard to make the Territory TDCi quiet. The Duratorq donk is barely audible at 110km/h. That diesel clatter is apparent when overtaking, but in a subdued way. The Territory TDCi's 2.7-litre turbodiesel V6 may have 12 percent more torque (440Nm) than the 4.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine (391Nm), available from just 1900rpm, but it's not as quick or as responsive.
The product of a Ford/Peugeot joint-development back in 2004, it has been used to power Jaguars, Peugeots and Citroens in twin-turbo form. The Ford Territory's single-turbo version produces the same 140kW and 440Nm as it did in the 2004 LandRover Discovery.
The engine is slow to react from standstill and doesn't get going until 1800rpm. It is also doughy when called on to accelerate once moving. The six-speed gearbox, standard on all models, is smooth, but reluctant to change down. The transmission's D-perf mode offers sharper responses more in tune with driver demands, but is likely to reduce economy, so I avoid it where possible.
Towing capacity on RWD models is unchanged; 1600kg for unbraked trailers, 2300kg with the heavy duty tow pack. AWD models can tow up to 2700kg.
The twin towns of Albury/Wodonga come and go, and a check of the trip computer reveals that fuel consumption is worse than expected. Our 9.5L/100km average is far from Ford's 7.2L/100km ADR82/02 highway claim.
As an experiment, I slow down until the instant fuel reading stays under seven, which happens around 75-80km/h. Maintaining this speed would add 2.5 hours to our 7-hour trip. I've got a flight to make, so that's out of the question. Cruise control stays pegged to the speed limit.
We pass the landlocked submarine at Holbrook then it's a quick stop at McDonalds near Yass (well, it is a road trip) before peeling off the Hume for the Federal Hwy into Canberra. We arrive in Canberra and promptly get chased away from Parliament House by the Feds while trying to take a photo.
Territory's cruising comfort is confirmed. I have none of the aches and pains of seven hours in the saddle. The fuel economy story is less positive.
Our 9.4L/100km average for the 700km trip is well short of Ford's 7.2L/100km claim for AWD models, and even failed to match the 8.8L/100km combined cycle claim. There's just 2km left in the tank according to the trip computer, so we wouldn't have made Sydney on a single tank either.
Verdict? Territory is as versatile and practical as ever, and even more refined. The Duratorq's quietness is top-notch, but low-rpm turbo-lag and its unresponsive nature isn't, and the real-world fuel economy we achieved on this easy long-distance drive was disappointing.
Adding a diesel engine to the Territory range is the right thing to do, but should have happened years ago. With engines evolving so rapidly, putting 2004 technology in a 2011 family wagon is a case of too little too late. Territory TDCi asks owners to give up too much of Ford's top-notch driving experience for too little fuel saving and dubious financial benefit.
I Bought One
Mark Ewings, 38, of Torquay in Victoria is a father of three and has owned two Territorys in the last seven years. "They're a brilliant wagon for a family, and the third row of seats comes in really handy. I'm interested to drive the new TDCi because fuel economy is, for my mind, the petrol model's only weakness."
We threw him the keys to the Territory TS TDCi, an all-wheel drive model like his Ghia, and straight away he noticed differences.
"It's not as snappy, is it? Feels like there's a hole when I want to move off. Like it's thinking too long. Feels OK once we're moving, but I don't like that initial pause."
Mark did like the Territory's newfound refinement. "It's definitely quieter than mine. I thought the diesel engine would be loud and crude like other diesels. It's not. It's really quiet."
And the new steering system? "To be honest, it doesn't feel any different. I like my Territory's steering, and this one feels just as good."
So, would he upgrade to a TDCi next time?
"I don't know. It's a lot to ask an extra $3,000 when the fuel economy would take years to make financial sense. And I don't think I like the way it drives enough to wait that long."