Mo­tor­ing Wait for En­dura SUV too much to en­dure

Ford’s new SUV is launched in ST-Line form. But there’s al­ready a facelift on the way, writes David Lin­klater.

The Southland Times - - Front Page -

The Ford En­dura has and hasn’t been launched in New Zealand. It is and isn’t a re­place­ment for the Ter­ri­tory SUV.

This is one that Ford NZ has been chas­ing for a while. The En­dura, known as Edge ev­ery­where in the world ex­cept NZ and Aus­tralia (where Toy­ota owns the name), is the new sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion global ver­sion of a medium-sized cross­over that’s been on sale in the United States since 2006.

With the demise of the Aus­tralian-de­signed and built Ter­ri­tory in 2016, Ford im­me­di­ately set about filling that gap in the mar­ket – some­thing larger than Es­cape but smaller and more road-friendly than the seven-seat Ever­est.

En­dura is the an­swer, although it’s taken two years for all the pieces to fall into place.

It’s been so long, in fact, that a facelifted ver­sion of the lat­est model is al­ready on sale in Europe and the US. That’s not the one we’re get­ting here; at least not yet.

While Ford Aus­tralia is wait­ing un­til late this year or early-2019 for the up­dated En­dura out of the Cana­dian fac­tory (partly be­cause it’s also wait­ing for ADR ap­proval), Ford NZ has been bust­ing for the new SUV to the ex­tent that’s launch­ing a 300-strong batch of the pre-facelift model in sporty ST-Line trim, to cap­i­talise on the boom­ing Kiwi mar­ket for such ve­hi­cles.

The $73,990 En­dura ST-Line comes with a 2.0-litre bitur­bod­iesel that makes 154kW/450Nm (Com­bined econ­omy 5.9 litres per 100km), six-speed dual-clutch gear­box and in­tel­li­gent all-wheel drive sys­tem with torque vec­tor­ing.

This En­dura ST-Line is only des­tined to last un­til the up­dated range ar­rives for 2019, in line with the Aussie launch. The up­dated model will have a new face, new en­gine (also a 2.0-litre tur­bod­iesel) and will be the cat­a­lyst for a wider Kiwi model range that will in­clude some less ex­pen­sive vari­ants.

In Aus­tralia, Ford has lined up Trend, Sport, Ti­ta­nium and Ti­ta­nium Plus mod­els. Ford NZ says it’s still ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties, but we’re pick­ing Trend, Sport and a con­tin­u­a­tion of the ST-Line – a spec­i­fi­ca­tion level the Kiwi arm is very keen to see con­tin­ued across as many mod­els as pos­si­ble.

Petrols may come in time, but not right now. Ditto for the high­per­for­mance twin-turbo petrol V6 ST (not to be con­fused with our ST-Line), which is not yet pro­duced in right-hand drive.

Size-wise, En­dura fills the gap left by Ter­ri­tory: it’s taller and wider, but a lit­tle shorter.

Like Ter­ri­tory, it’s a cross­over rather than off-road ve­hi­cle, be­ing based on a road-car plat­form (same as Mon­deo) rather than any­thing re­motely trucky.

But it’s a lot more fash­ion­for­ward than Ter­ri­tory and it’s strictly a five-seater, whereas Ter­ri­tory had seven.

An­other row of chairs would be ideal, but that’s not go­ing to hap­pen any time soon – de­spite a longer, three-row Edge be­ing pro­duced for the Chi­nese mar­ket.

En­dura is a smart looker, al­beit dif­fer­ent to Ford’s other SUVs: EcoSport, Es­cape and Ever­est.

That’s not sur­pris­ing, be­cause they all come from dif­fer­ent places: In­dia, Europe and Thai­land re­spec­tively.

But first im­pres­sions sug­gest that as a pack­age, En­dura is the most pol­ished of the lot. The cabin is de­signed around pleas­ingly sim­ple switchgear and the touch screen fea­tures Ford’s lat­est Sync 3 sys­tem with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto. Fit and fin­ish is im­pres­sive and be­cause ST-Line is near the top of the model hi­er­achy, you’re sit­ting on leather uphol­stery and en­joy­ing 10-way power ad­just­ment for both driver and pas­sen­ger seats with heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion.

On the road, En­dura is a blend of smooth pow­er­train per­for­mance and taut han­dling.

The turbo-diesel/Selec­tShift dual-clutch gear­box com­bi­na­tion can feel a lit­tle lazy off the line, but it rolls along in very re­laxed fash­ion once you’re un­der way.

You don’t get light­ning throt­tle re­sponse or su­per-fast shifts: the En­dura pow­er­train takes its time and re­lies on the gen­er­ous torque of the biturbo en­gine (peak is de­liv­ered at just 2000rpm) to get things done.

It might be a turbo-diesel, but En­dura is as­ton­ish­ingly quiet – thanks mainly to some trick In­te­grated Ac­tive Noise Con­trol tech­nol­ogy that can­cels out the clat­tery stuff through the au­dio sys­tem.

At first you might think the STLine is suf­fer­ing from greaterthan-av­er­age road rumble, but no – it’s just that the nor­mal me­chan­i­cal noises you’d hear have been so well sup­pressed that every­thing else seems louder.

The per­for­mance and re­fine­ment might tend to­wards the lux­ury end of the scale, but the chas­sis has a more of an edge (pun in­tended).

The ST-Line has a more ag­gres­sive state of sus­pen­sion tune than stan­dard mod­els (not that we have those yet) and rolls on 20-inch al­loy wheels with 255/45 tyres.

The sec­ondary ride can get a lit­tle busy on rip­pled tar­mac, but not un­com­fort­ably so; the En­dura feels very well planted for such a large ve­hi­cle and re­ally re­wards smooth, pro­gres­sive cor­ner­ing.

It’s still not a par­tic­u­larly sporty SUV, what­ever the ST-Line badge might sug­gest. But it’s cer­tainly a smooth and swift AWD fam­ily wagon.

The ST-Line is a premium price, but it’s also loaded with key­less en­try/start, au­to­matic park­ing, a very good adap­tive cruise con­trol sys­tem, au­ton­o­mous brak­ing, blind-spot in­for­ma­tion, lane-keep­ing aid, full-LED head­lights and hands­free power tail­gate with ad­justable height.

The En­dura plugs a gap in the lo­cal SUV mar­ket for Ford. You might know it as the Edge else­where in the world.

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