The Ford Territory is imported from Australia, where it was car of the year in 2004. It is easy to understand why the Territory has great appeal as it is spacious, stylish and has a potent 4-litre straight-six engine under the bonnet.
Territory buyers will be able to choose between an entry-level TX model and the range-topping Ghia derivative. Both models are either available with rear-wheel-drive while an all-wheel-drive Ghia is also available. The all-wheel-drive model doesn't feature low range, making the Territory more of a soft-roader.
Ford identifies the Territory as a "crossover" vehicle and doesn't quite see it as a full-on SUV. According to Ford the Territory is rather a mix of an SUV and MPV.
This is indeed a good description of the vehicle as it offers the space and versatility of a people carrier, but at the same time it is a vehicle with which you can go and have fun with or tackle limited off-road conditions.
Ford is also a bit vague about which cars the Territory is targeting, but we pitch it against vehicles such as the Subaru Outback, Volvo XC70 and the SsangYong Rexton.
But the Territory will face tough competition from Toyota's upcoming Fortuner model, which is based on the new Hilux.
A strong point of the Territory is its clean and uncluttered design. There is really little doubt that this wagon boasts a sporty look while build quality appears good too.
Body colour bumpers, front bumper skid plate, side cladding, roof rack rails and attractive alloy wheels gives the Territory a beefy look. The Ghia model comes with front fog lights, a sportier grille and body coloured side mirrors.
The vehicle is lavishly equipped no matter which model you opt to buy. Standard features across the range include air-conditioning, CD player, audio controls on the steering wheel, electric windows all round and electrically adjusted foot pedals.
The latter is a really nice feature, making it easy for shorter drivers such as me to find a very comfortable driving position without sitting too close to the steering wheel to be able to reach the pedals. With the push of a button you can move the pedals forward and backwards to cater for those laterally challenged.
Ghia versions also include an auto-dimming interior mirror, cruise control, front footwell lights; front and rear door mounted courtesy lights, sunvisor vanity mirror lights, dual-zone automatic climate control and park distance control at the rear.
Despite the Territory's size and typical SUV high seating position, the car is easy to access and it actually feels as if you're getting into a normal sized vehicle. But once inside the cabin you will only realise that there'snothing "normal" about it!
There is space for seven passengers as the Territory comes with a foldaway third row of seats. Each row of seats is located higher than the one in front of it.
The second row of seats can slide independently forwards or backwards to provide extra leg room for passengers in the second or third row.
Furthermore the middle row seat features a 60/40 split-fold function and can be folded flat.
Territory's design allows for the second and third row headrests to stay with the seats when they are folded flat, unlike with many other vehicles.
The third row, which is actually only big enough for small children, can't be removed but can be configured to fold flat into the floor so that when both the second and third row seats are folded down there is a long, flat load space for flexible cargo carrying.
Under the skin
The Ford Territory 4-litre DOHC engine offers a generous 182 kW of power at 5 000 r/min and 380 Nm of torque at 3 250 r/min. Power is transferred to the wheels via an automatic gearbox.
The Territory's all-wheel-drive (AWD) system drives all the wheels all the time. This is unlike the "on-demand" systems in some other AWD vehicles that only drive one axle, adding drive to the second axle only when slip is detected.
The AWD Territory employs a single-speed, full-time transfer case in conjunction with four-wheel traction control system using brake and engine intervention to control wheel slip.
Available engine torque is distributed 62% to the rear axle and 38% to the front axle.
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and a Hill Descent Control system are also standard on the AWD versions.
Safety features include ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), central locking, rear doors with child proof locks and remote keyless entry with panic alarm.
Dynamic Stability Control is standard on the AWD version and this system dictates engine torque and braking to the individual wheels, maximising control to help the driver steer their way out of trouble. Traction control, standard on RWD, further assists the driver by reducing the amount of wheel spin.
Of course there are a number of airbags too, while the Ghia variant also comes with head-protecting side curtain airbags.
Ford and 4-litre power in one sentence are music to the ears of some car fanatics and the Territory doesn't disappoint at all. Naturally power is there whenever you need it and the Territory has a nice grunt as well, reminding you all the time that this a BIG engined vehicle.
This powerful 4-litre will take you from 0-100 km/h in 9.5 seconds while reaching a top speed of 180 km/h.
Ford claims a fuel consumption figure of 13.1 litres/100 km for the rear-wheel-drive Territory and 13.5 litres/100 km for the all-wheel-drive model. However, according to the trip computers of the launch vehicles it was closer to 15-16 litres/100 km.
The Territory is also one of those vehicles where you feel ready for the open road and just want to tackle a long distance. Its on-road cruising capabilities are great and the despite its size the Territory feels quite nimble.
Thanks to its crossover status and SUV-like design this is a car which is also at ease with most road conditions. Furthermore it doesn't lose its posture easily, even in rear-wheal-drive guise.
The full-time AWD system on the Territory provides predictable handling and impressive stability for cornering. On gravel the AWD is very much at home and in fact makes mince meat of such road surfaces - even at higher speeds.
The SUV segment in South Africa is already quite popular and it is indeed hotly contested. But the Ford Territory is more than capable to enter this market with ease and it has all the right qualities to do so too as it offers style, performance and luxury.
The Territory's refined 4-litre engine also gives the car an edge and this is complimented by a great drive.
But it does come at a price, and with the entry-level model costing a bit more than R300k and the range-topper close to R400k, it is an expensive buy in a market segment where the competition is tough and the buyers quite demanding.
The Territory is worth looking at if you are in the market for an SUV as its space, driving capabilities and perceivable quality impress. Once behind the wheel you get the feeling that a lot of driving fun awaits you, and believe me this expectation is spot on.
Ford Territory TX RWD: R309 500
Ford Territory Ghia RWD: R348 500
Ford Territory Ghia AWD: R389 500.