Ford Territory MkII: Australian Review

Cars should get better every year, whether the improvements are gradual or revolutionary. When you have a 10-year-old nameplate, and an existing stable of other excellent vehicles to draw on technology from, you set yourself up with an easy recipe for those improvements. The new 2015 Ford Territory MkII centres around the much-improved SYNC2 interface on a 8-inch touchscreen for media and navigation, and remains a great and straightforward all-Australian SUV at the same time.

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What Is It?

  • Engine: 2.7-litre V6 diesel, 4.0-litre I6 petrol
  • Gearbox: 6sp automatic
  • Entertainment System: 8-inch touchscreen
  • Bluetooth: Yes (phone and media streaming)
  • Fuel consumption: 9.0L/100km

The new, 2015-updated SZ Ford Territory MkII is a four-door SUV starting at $36,990 (TX RWD petrol) and topping out at $56,740 (Titanium AWD diesel, as tested). It's a five- or seven-seater four-wheel-drive built on the Falcon chassis, updated this year with Ford's new SYNC2 touchscreen in-car entertainment and control system and natural language voice control. It even has in-car Wi-Fi.

Available in RWD or AWD in diesel or petrol auto drivetrains, the Territory is a straightforward vehicle technologically. It lacks the high-tech accoutrements of the Lexus RC 350 F Sport I switched out of to get into it, with no radar-guided cruise control or auto city braking or adaptive suspension onboard. It does have front and rear parking sensors, though, and a rear reversing camera on even the cheapest models in the line-up. Similarly, the SYNC2 system provides automatic emergency assistance through any Bluetooth-connected phone, calling 000 if you have a serious accident and providing details on your location to the authorities.

Look at it from the front or side and the Territory screams "normal honest everyday Australian"; its styling is modern without being at all lairy or outlandish. The front grille is quite restrained, bumpers are free of unnecessary protuberances, the default alloys are subdued. A variety of paint colours gives you a bit of range for customisation, while you're limited to black fabric or black leather until the top of the line Titanium — which includes some strikingly attractive tan leather.

In the centre of the dashboard sits the 8-inch colour touchscreen for SYNC2, equally accessible to driver and front passenger. It's this system that gives you direct access to your phone, AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth audio, satellite navigation and mapping, and dual-zone climate control, with each of the four having its own dedicated corner in the interface. It's a nice, high-res screen, too, and colours are vibrant enough for easy reading even when you're in direct sunlight.

What's It Good At?

The SYNC2 in-car entertainment system in the new Territory is great. It's not as feature-packed as some of its European competitors like Audi and BMW and Mercedes, but the colour display and touchscreen is a significant improvement over the original, smaller, monochrome, non-touch SYNC (which still appears on the current Kuga and Fiesta ST, among others). New to SYNC2 is the ability to turn a Bluetooth-connected phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot throughout the Territory, which makes perfect sense for connecting iPads and other non-mobile-network-enabled devices on long trips. SYNC2 is easy to navigate, too, since the four segments of its interface — phone, media, mapping and air-con — are accessible through each of the four corners. Everything is simply laid out and works as you'd expect.

The interior of the 2015 Territory MkII, despite being a relatively mainstream and affordable model, is a nice place to be. The Northern tan leather looks awesome against the Silhouette black paint option, by the way. Being an SUV, you would reasonably expect the Territory to have plenty of space inside, but it has even more than that. I used it to transport a three-seater sofa, an Ikea flat-pack queen bed, a week's groceries, luggage for a weekend getaway, an extendable ladder... there's not much that the Territory can't handle. Passenger legroom in the middle seat row is extensive, as is space for the driver and passenger up front; the driver's seat is almost entirely electronically adjustable apart from the tilt of the backrest, too.

What's most impressive about the Territory is how it drives. Despite being a relatively bulky and sizeable and tall vehicle with a 2100-plus-kg kerb weight, the Territory is carlike with easy, heavily power-assisted steering and a middling driver's seat position that isn't sports-car low but certainly not excessively high. There's definitely some body roll and the benchlike seats aren't especially supportive for passengers if you throw the car through corners a little bit, but overall the SUV is an enjoyable and surprisingly connected-to-the-road four-wheel-drive to actually drive.

In the same way, the variety of powertrain options on offer caters to different price points and needs. The car I tested was the top of the range Titanium AWD, powered by Ford's TDCi 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel running through a six-speed auto. The other option is the same 4.0-litre inline-6 that powers most Falcons, with a different six-speed auto 'box. I can speak to the diesel's oodles of power and smooth, responsive and sure shifts — it's not a zippy vehicle by any means, since it has all that weight to pull along, but the delivery of power feels constant and urgent in the same way that the Tesla Model S does.

What's It Not Good At?

The voice control portion of Ford's SYNC interface is genuinely useful, and it's smart enough to interpret spoken commands even if they're relatively indistinct or softly pronounced. The speech-to-action part of the system is great. But there's one significant annoyance I have with SYNC voice control, and that's the long delay between hitting the voice control button and being able to issue a command. Tap the steering wheel's voice button (which is actually a little too easy to hit accidentally, too) then there's a half-second pause before you hear a chime, then the Australian-voiced Karen's "please say a command" voice-over, then you can say what you want. It's useful, but just don't expect to use it in a rush.

While the engine and gearbox combo in the Territory Titanium AWD is a generally good mix, there's one niggle that might annoy regular city drivers. The standard shift pattern in the diesel hangs onto gears up until the 2250RPM-ish range even if you're brushing the accelerator and coasting along, and for suburban street driving this has the unfortunate side effect of fourth gear's shift point into fifth being just above the 50km/h mark. If you're driving on 60km/h streets the engine will sit happily in fifth gear, but around 50km/h the motor feels like it's doing a little more work than it has to. The diesel has a relatively tight powerband and this might be the cause of that, but in my city-street driving I found the Territory more settled travelling at 60km/h than between 50 and 55km/h. A minor complaint, but worth checking out before you buy. (Maybe it's just my OCD playing up, of course...)

If you're buying the Territory for its seven-seat passenger capacity, it's worth taking a look at the rear row before you do. The way that row pops out of the boot floor space is ingenious, and they're surprisingly comfortable seats given how slim they are, but there's nowhere near as much legroom as the middle row. The back seats are strictly for the kids; you can fit an adult (yes, I tried) but it's not especially comfortable. You also lose some vertical luggage capacity should you opt for those seats. Storage is otherwise excellent though, with the dashboard glovebox joined by a little centre console bread-bin and a cavernous centre compartment between driver and front passenger seats — where the wireless headphones for the rear-mount DVD player find a natural home.

About the biggest complaint you can make about the Territory is the fact that its interior is just a little Spartan — although whether that is actually an annoyance for buyers depends on their level of geekiness. While the SYNC2 touchscreen is a central hub for most controls that the driver and front passenger might want to fiddle with, almost all of those buttons are replicated on the central dashboard below. There's no sunroof, no rear climate control — although you do get rear air vents and a "minimum of 30 interior storage compartments" for all your odds and ends. It's not a massively high-tech place to be, but it's calming and comfortable during your drive nonetheless.

Should You Buy It?

Ford Territory MkII

Price: from $36,990

  • Great SYNC2 integration.
  • Excellent driving experience.
  • Comfortable, spacious interior.
Don't Like
  • Voice command slow to operate.
  • Spartan interior.
  • Rear seats are child-only.

If you have a large family, or if you have a lot of things that you need to transport around regularly, then the 2015 Territory is a genuinely good choice. It's a simple and straightforward vehicle, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a bunch of fancy tech inside. It's surprisingly fun to drive, too, feeling a lot more like a Falcon or Commodore or other sedan apart form the higher ride. There's an expectedly large amount of body roll if you throw it around corners, but apart from that it's actually quite car-like and doesn't feel as heavy as its specifications might suggest.

That tech inside the new Territory is, by and large, centred around that oversized SYNC2 touchscreen, which has been smartly laid out and offers a straightforward route into the four main pillars of entertainment, navigation, climate control and handsfree phone control. The voice control system is intuitive and gives first-time users a carefully guided approach into the options available, but it does get a little tiresome after that initial learning period to have to listen to that chime and the (nonetheless soothing and calm) female voice before speaking a command. Having the peace of mind of automatic emergency assistance through a connected smartphone is an excellent value-added extra.

The turbodiesel powerplant and six-speed auto make for a great combination whether you're in an empty car on your own or hauling around an oversized load — not especially fast or quick to respond to input, but with more than enough torque and outright grunt to get the Territory up and moving from a standstill and easily up to highway speeds. It's reasonably frugal too, even when tasked with the city driving that the Territory probably isn't best suited to but will be stuck with anyway. Fuel consumption of around about 10L/100km is inevitable no matter how carefully or spiritedly you drive it, too.

Apart from the rather Spartan nature of the dashboard, and the subpar feel of some of the plastics used, the Territory is a great passenger's and driver's car alike — whichever seat you're sitting in. Those seats are comfy rather than sporty, but that's the nature of the beast; it's great to see the options list include an option for seven seats, too. The Territory is a decade old now, but the newest one remains an easy recommendation if you're looking for a large car without a similarly large price tag.

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