Toyota Kluger VS Ford Territory 2007 Review
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Hill descent control is one of those electronic driver aids, increasingly common on SUVs, designed to take the guesswork out of off-roading. Judicious use of the brakes or low-range gears are needed to stop a vehicle running away dangerously on a steep slope. Hill descent systems do the braking for you.
Every four-wheel drive is different, though, and the first time I nudge one to the point of no return on a challenging descent, HDC button pressed, I instinctively hover one foot over the brake pedal just in case.
At the launch of the new Toyota Kluger at a 4WD park in Victoria early this week, I need not have worried. The second version for Australia of this mid-size SUV handled the rocky declines just as easily as it climbed the muddy inclines. Philosophically, it's from the soccer mum end of the market, but gizmos engaged, nerves were rapidly calmed.
The Ford Territory is another SUV designed very much with school runs in mind and it also offers hill descent control.
However, an electronic system isn't much use when you're careering down a sales slope. Since its brief heyday in 2005, the Territory has been suffering. Last year, as rising fuel prices scared buyers away from large vehicles, sales fell 22 per cent. Since then, the mid-size SUV segment has recovered strongly but the Territory has not. To the end of July it's down a further 7 per cent.
The Ford SUV has clung onto segment leadership while losing sales to new entrants like the Holden Captiva. But the Kluger, backed by the impressive marketing might of Toyota, it has the potential to accelerate the Territory's descent and steal its crown. This week's presentations were explicit about Toyota's intention to take on the locally built Ford. “We have a very simple goal,” said sales and marketing chief David Buttner, “to maximise sales in the medium SUV market.”
At $39,990 the Kluger range begins with a price disadvantage of $2000 against the cheapest Territory, but the Toyota product has been aimed with extreme accuracy at its target market. The Kluger can match the seven-seat capacity of the Territory and has an equipment list calibrated like a telescopic sight.
Toyota has done its homework and knows the importance of safety features on the school run, so the Kluger has lots of them, all standard. It even introduces something I was surprised to learn had yet to appear in a Toyota; active headrests to prevent whiplash.
Toyota knows that fuel thirst is a Territory weakness and so the Kluger is more economical to run, by more than one litre per 100km. It also comes with three years of fixed-price servicing.
Needless to add, the new Kluger is bigger, more powerful and better equipped than the previous model. It lacks a diesel engine in the range, but so does the Ford.
If you want one of those, then Toyota has the Prado, a more expensive, traditional mid-size off-roader.
But all the sales action these days is in crossovers and the most significant move by Toyota is to borrow Ford's approach in making four-wheel drive an option on an SUV. The standard Kluger, like the standard Territory, puts power to the tarmac via only two of its wheels.
Toyota expects the availability of a 2WD version to bring plenty of extra buyers to the badge. One executive forecast volumes at least quadruple the current running rate of 300 a month. At that level, the Kluger is edging into Territory territory. And you know when Toyota is willing to talk numbers, then its expectations are higher. The mid-size SUV segment is one of the few it doesn't lead.
Toyota describes the Kluger as effectively an Aurion wagon, referring to the company's locally built large car. Although the two vehicles don't share any sheet metal, they both employ the same platform engineering and 3.5-litre V6 engine. With Toyota's global bodyline production system, the Kluger could be built on the same assembly lines in Melbourne which make Aurion and Camry.
Although Toyota denies it, the possibility that the Kluger could be built at its Melbourne plant must figure in its thinking. At the moment, the Kluger is mainly a US market car, built in right-hand drive solely for Australia.
Making it here would help fulfil many of Toyota Australia's production goals and its belief it needs a third model to secure its future. Supplying untapped right-hand drive export markets from Australia could make Kluger volumes viable.
Right now though, it threatens to take sales from the Ford Territory just when Ford needs them more than ever to keep its Melbourne plant busy. The Territory is struggling at the showroom, but Ford's locally built Falcon, Fairlane and Ute are hurting even more.
Success for the Kluger and the chance to build it here could come at the price of yet more pain for Ford.
Range and Specs
|Ghia (4x4)||4.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$4,200 – 6,820||2007 Ford Territory 2007 Ghia (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|Ghia (RWD)||4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$2,800 – 4,840||2007 Ford Territory 2007 Ghia (RWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Ghia Turbo (4x4)||4.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$5,000 – 7,810||2007 Ford Territory 2007 Ghia Turbo (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|SR (4X4)||4.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$3,400 – 5,500||2007 Ford Territory 2007 SR (4X4) Pricing and Specs|
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