YOU HAVE TO BE LOADED

Ford’s top-spec SUV has all the fruit — but so do cheaper ri­vals with more seats

The Daily Examiner - - MOTORING - BILL McKIN­NON

Ford Aus­tralia would like us not to call its new five-seater En­dura SUV a Ter­ri­tory re­place­ment. I can’t un­der­stand why. The Ter­ri­tory was a bril­liantly de­signed and pack­aged wagon, ahead of its time when launched in 2004, and for a while there it was the best Ford SUV any­where in the world.

It sold in big num­bers and, although it had a few prob­lems early in life, most Ter­ri­tory own­ers seem to have been pretty happy. I’m sur­prised Ford Aus­tralia didn’t keep the name and bank its good­will. But that’s why they sell cars and I test them. En­dura it is.

VALUE

One rea­son Ford may be keen to avoid com­par­isons with the Ter­ri­tory is price. The En­dura is a lot more ex­pen­sive, es­pe­cially at the top of the range.

The En­dura Ti­ta­nium, with 2.0-litre four­cylin­der turbo diesel, eight-speed au­to­matic and all-wheel drive, costs $67,990. That’s $10,250 more than its 2016 Ter­ri­tory equiv­a­lent, the 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel with six-speed au­to­matic and AWD.

A much more up­mar­ket SUV, says Ford Aus­tralia, the En­dura is a “premium of­fer­ing” for those who want some­thing “spe­cial and op­u­lent”. It’s well equipped, spa­cious and very com­fort­able but op­u­lent it ain’t. A Bent­ley is op­u­lent.

The sole En­dura en­gine, the 2.0 turbo diesel is shared with the Ever­est seven-seater and Ranger Rap­tor dual-cab one-ton­ner, though with twin tur­bos in those ap­pli­ca­tions.

The En­dura’s out­puts, 140kW/400Nm, are sub­stan­tially down on the Ever­est/Ranger’s 157kW/500Nm, turn­ing a 10-speed auto in both.

The base En­dura Trend starts at $44,990, the mid-spec ST-Line is $53,990 and Ti­ta­nium is $63,990. These prices are for front-driv­ers, AWD adding $4000.

For a diesel-pow­ered all-wheel drive sev­enseater SUV of this size, it’s ex­pen­sive. Hyundai’s Santa Fe High­lander, at $60,500, costs $7490 less than the En­dura Ti­ta­nium tested here, and Mazda’s CX-8 Asaki, at $61,490, is $6500 cheaper.

COM­FORT

You’re hardly slum­ming it in the Ti­ta­nium, which has a lux­u­ri­ous, leather-wrapped, heated and cooled driver’s arm­chair, power ad­justable steer­ing col­umn (with mem­ory for both, plus side mir­ror set­tings), heated sec­ond row seats, full-length sun­roof, au­to­matic park­ing and adap­tive LED head­lights.

The ride is deluxe, too, even on the Ti­ta­nium’s 20-inch al­loys. It’s smooth, com­fort­able and quiet, as­sisted by ac­tive noise can­cel­la­tion, which ef­fec­tively mutes the diesel to si­lence in cruise mode.

I tested a new BMW X5 straight after the En­dura — and the Ford was just as com­fort­able and re­fined as the BMW.

The aus­tere dash is easy to nav­i­gate and you’re well sup­plied with cov­ered stor­age, plus two USBs and one 12V out­let. Ford’s touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment is fast and in­tu­itive, with stand-alone voice con­trol plus An­droid Auto/Ap­ple CarPlay con­nec­tiv­ity and au­to­matic emer­gency ser­vices di­alling (via your phone) if you have a crash.

Wire­less phone charg­ing is a no­table omis­sion.

Rear seat legroom is ex­pan­sive, thanks to a longer wheel­base than some seven-seaters, the firm bench is wide enough for three and the ad­justable back­rests split 60-40. Cen­tre con­sole vents, plus 230V and 12V sock­ets, are also fit­ted.

You don’t get seven seats but the trade-off is a cav­ernous boot. The ti­ta­nium gets a power-op­er­ated, hands-free tail­gate.

SAFETY

The Trend and ST-Line have most of the req­ui­site crash pro­tec­tion and driver as­sist safety tech as stan­dard, apart from blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert, which should be in­cluded but are ex­clu­sive to the Ti­ta­nium. Ford’s MyKey al­lows you to pro­gram func­tions such as dis­abling in­com­ing calls, re­strict­ing top speed and au­dio vol­ume, into a spe­cific key which you can then give to the young, in­ex­pe­ri­enced driver in your fam­ily.

DRIV­ING

The 2.0-litre is one of the most re­fined four­cylin­der turbo diesels I’ve driven. It makes easy work of shift­ing two tonnes, us­ing the ab­so­lute min­i­mum of revs re­quired, though it doesn’t do it in a hurry, even in Sport mode. Max­i­mum tow­ing weight is 2000kg.

The eight-speeder, op­er­ated with a ro­tary dial on the cen­tre con­sole, does its thing in a smooth, timely man­ner as well, and you can usu­ally leave the pad­dles alone.

It’s a fuel-ef­fi­cient set-up for a big, heavy SUV, re­turn­ing 6L-7L/100km on the high­way and 9L -11L/100km in town.

In ev­ery­day driv­ing, the En­dura is safe and se­cure. Torque vec­tor­ing min­imises un­der­steer but in tight cor­ners it’s a cum­ber­some beast.

Han­dling can get a lit­tle loose if you push it, es­pe­cially when a few bumps are in­volved, be­cause its sus­pen­sion is tuned on the com­fort side of the ride-han­dling com­pro­mise and is slightly un­der-damped.

It has no off-road pre­ten­sions at all — there’s no off-bi­tu­men trac­tion con­trol mode se­lec­tion or hill de­scent con­trol, even with all-wheel drive.

HEART SAYS

I wish I could buy an­other Ter­ri­tory but I can’t. Wait a minute. Yes I can.

HEAD SAYS

I want a big, lux­u­ri­ous SUV with a small thirst and all the fruit. This fits the bill and Ford’s deal on war­ranty and ser­vic­ing costs is at­trac­tive.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES HYUNDAI SANTA FE HIGH­LANDER FROM $60,500

Un­beat­able value if you’re look­ing for a high­qual­ity, fully loaded SUV. Runs a 147kW/ 440Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel/eight-speed au­to­matic. Tighter dy­nam­ics than the En­dura but a bit thirstier too. Seven seats.

MAZDA CX-8 ASAKI FROM $61,490

Haven’t yet driven this but if you’re shop­ping the class you should. Runs a 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre twin turbo diesel/six-speed au­to­matic with class-lead­ing fuel ef­fi­ciency. Also has seven seats.

ROAD TEST

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