Territory test drive
Ford have once again gone with their new way of publicising their model launches by drip feeding basic information about the cars, slowly over a certain period of time. This time around to keep it interesting, certain media groups are getting the chance to test drive the Territory over selected areas for limited distances, and of course report about it.
Territory worth the wait
By James Stanford
We have driven the Territory and it looks good. It was only 18km, it was only a prototype and it was only at a private proving ground, but it was more than enough for a first taste.
Based on those 18km, it looks as if the Territory will be worth the wait.
And it has been a wait.
The Territory has been a tantalising object on the horizon for more than 18 months, since it was revealed at the Melbourne Motor Show of 2002 as the R7 concept car.
The pace has picked up since this year's show and we have been bombarded with information about the vehicle, with Ford Australia promises that it would be the ultimate crossover car.
It's still more than five months away from its showroom debut, but we already know more about the Territory than many other vehicles heading to showrooms in 2004.
We have been told it will come with both two and four-wheel-drive, that it has a hi-tech electronic stability system that senses sideways movement and straightens the car and that it has 33 storage compartments.
The cabin was revealed, completing the picture for the Falcon-based soft-roader, at the Sydney Motor Show in October.
And customers were encouraged to get up close for a peek, both to build expectation for the Territory and to divert them from rival buys, including the Holden Adventra.
Ford used a similar teaser campaign in the lead-up to the BA Falcon and it worked well.
But this time around, we were starting to tire of the hype until we got the best bait of all.
“Would you like a drive?” came the question from Ford.
That caught our attention.
So last week we rolled up at the Australian Automotive Research Centre proving ground in the scrub just out of Anglesea to see what all the fuss was about.
First, we crawled in, out and around a Territory prototype that is pretty close to what the car will look like when it rolls out of the factory in June.
It's an impressive design.
The first favourable impression comes from the seats.
We were told this was a “base” Territory, but the supportive seats – covered with soft felt fabric and orange stitching – are much more comfortable than you would expect on an affordable model.
The second row of seats is also adequate and the third row fold into the floor, similar to the excellent system in the Volvo XC90 and the Toyota Kluger. The rear seats are small and upright and really only for smaller children.
Then you notice the hidey-holes. They are everywhere, from the compartment in the top of the dash to the lockable draw beneath the driver's seat that can hold a laptop computer.
In the centre console that faces the rear passengers (below the heating vents) there is a plastic drawer that can be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher – kids can be grubby.
There is no doubt this car borrows much of its architecture from the Falcon sedan, but Ford has gone to great lengths to make it look and feel different.
The instruments are new to Territory and trendier than the Falcon XT, with orange numbers in the prototype.
The rear glass can be opened separately from the tailgate, like the Holden Adventra, and this will be popular with those dumping shopping in the back.
There is also a wet storage area where you can stow a wetsuit without fear of it making the carpet soggy.
After much prodding of plastics and lifting of storage lids, it was time to do what we were there for: go driving.
Climb into a Territory and you notice the seating position is quite high, about where you would expect it to be in a big bush-basher.
Once you're rolling, the suspension set-up of the Territory impresses first.
Instead of lurching and rolling around the first bend like its four-wheel-drive rivals, the Territory sits quite level, even when you push it hard.
It's quite an achievement, and the car felt flatter in corners than the Kluger.
It must be heavier than Falcon, given the weighty all-wheel-drive system and the extra roof bracing to protect occupants in a roll-over, but it didn't feel too much bulkier.
The in-line Falcon six is a good engine for this vehicle, with plenty of torque, even though the Territory is never going to be a performance car until the turbo-six engine – already confirmed – is dropped under the bonnet.
Ford set up a tight low-speed steering test to highlight the Territory's good turning circle, and both the two and all-wheel-drive models proved quite nimble, considering their size and how their competitors perform.
The cars, both models, rode well over the loose rutted gravel.
So how does the Territory handle tough off-road work?
Sorry, but we don't know.
The Territory we drove was a prototype used by the bosses at Ford for the final engineering sign-off. It was very much like what the showroom model will feel like, but a few things weren't quite finished, including some of the plastics and other details.
We will all have to wait until we drive full-scale production cars, at the launch preview drive, before we can answer all the tough questions.
This time around, the conditions at the proving ground were not severe enough for a true test.
On the styling front, these photos don't really do justice to the Territory.
It looks much better, meaner and less bland in real life.
Given that there are several prototypes on Victorian roads doing reliability tests, there is a good chance you will see one.
You just have to try to convince the Ford person at the wheel to give you a preview drive of your own.
its good to hear though that the weight wasnt that big of an issue, wheels tested the Adventra and had a whinge about its weight.........
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