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MOTORNET: Boost For Ford Territory & Escape

Boost For Ford Territory And Escape

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

It’s been a few years since I last drove the Escape, Ford’s early ‘new century’ answer to the unprecedented Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) demand. The Escape offered a welcome alternative to a heavy and gas-guzzling full-sized SUV for a lot less money, while still offering the high riding drive and off-road respectability that proved so popular.

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Ford Escape

And while it has been left to soldier on for quite a while in the face of some pretty stiff competition, Ford has now revamped the Escape in a number of areas. The most obvious distinction between a new and earlier model Escape is the front-end, which has received a modest revamp around the nose and front headlight treatment, bringing it more in to line with ‘big brother,’ the Australian sourced Territory, and even bigger brother, the US sourced Explorer. Extensive use of chrome is another new feature which helps distinguish the new Escape from the old.

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Ford Territory

There are changes on the inside too. Most notable is the replacement of the column mounted transmission with that of a more conventional floor mounted one. It’s easier to use than its forerunner, and will be a more familiar way of doing things for most Kiwis who tend to think of column mounted transmissions as something that went out with the Holden Kingswood. Likewise, the dash has been revamped particularly the centre console which now more closely resembles the Ford family look. The faux brushed aluminium appearance is definitely de riguer at the moment, and while Ford have successfully freshened the look of the Escape, some may find this touch too much like an inexpensive after thought.

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Escape Dash

I was fortunate to have the XLT Sport 3.0 litre Escape over the New Year period and it did a generally excellent job of ferrying me around the place, most notably to Mt. Maunganui and then on to the Coromandel where we enjoyed some tremendously good weather – unlike those poor sods stuck back in Wellington.

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Escape Engine

The Escape was most at home powering up and down the country’s highways and by-ways where the 3.0 V6 and its 152kW ensured we had sufficient grunt to make the most of the passing lanes we encountered and to tackle the caravan brigade. It was a reminder too of the comfort of traveling up high where you can eye-ball other high-riding SUV occupants, while the Escape’s compliant suspension did a better than average job of ironing out the bumps and potholes along the way.

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Unfortunately, and not unlike me, the Escape suffers from a degree of body-roll. Hit the bends too fast and the Ford will lean heavily into the corners, though the steering remains pretty neutral only tending towards understeer if you’re really pushing things. The roll does tend to generate a number of complaints from passengers though and I spent much of the trip to the Coromandel trying to flatten out corners – while maintaining a modicum of speed – through a mixture of judicious overdrive button usage and flowing steering.

Ford also says they have improved the fuel economy on the 3.0 litre Escape, which has always had a reputation as a bit of guzzler. The Escape returned around 10 litres per 100km/h on the open road though this figure could easily balloon if driven hard in suburban environments. Nevertheless, it did prove more economical than its predecessor. In addition, if you like the idea of the Escape, but don’t feel you can quite stretch to a V6, there is now a 2.3 litre four cylinder on offer also. It has pretty similar equipment levels to the V6, so you won’t miss much in terms of creature comforts but with only 109kW on tap, it struggles to match its brethren in the performance stakes. Price wise, there’s not much in it either. The entry-level XLT will set you back $39,990, while the Sport, with its V6 is only a few thousand more at $42,490. So while the Escape might no longer be the newest kid on the block, it is competitively priced which should help it truck on a while yet.

Of course, if power is what you’re after, there’s another new Ford on the block that might be worth a second look – the Territory Turbo. It comes in two models, XR and Ghia, retailing for $63,990 and $73,990 respectively.

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Territory Engine

The trim levels differ depending on the model you choose, but what stays the same is the power output – a seriously tyre thrashing, foot stomping 245kWs and 280Nm of torque. In many SUVs, nailing the throttle is something you do two hundred metres back from a caravan when you’re certain you’ll have room for overtaking. Not in the Turbo. It has serious grunt and instant speed. Hitting the gas from a standing stop will see 100km/h come up in an impressive 6.96 seconds. All that get-up-and-go comes courtesy of the Falcon’s XR6T engine, thankfully on hand, as Ford’s V8 simply won’t fit in the engine bay due to the AWD layout.

There’s not a great deal to differentiate the Turbo from is stock standard brethren in the looks department – at least in Ghia form – save for a rather large and not especially discrete air dam on the bonnet. There’s also a new mesh grille which looks suitably serious, and new 18” five spoke alloys (which also allow for larger brakes).

Ford’s excellent six-speed automatic gearbox is also on hand and does a great job of extracting the best from the big bore six. Driving dynamics are reminiscent of the standard Territory – no bad thing – including a solid ride and well managed body roll. But the Turbo has slightly more feel in the steering department and a smidgen more turn in, which all helps when punting it fast through the twisty stuff and should assist dedicated drivers keep pace with more expensive European sourced competition.

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Territory Dash

The bad news (you knew this was coming) is that fuel economy takes a considerable hit. The extra couple of seconds saved in reaching the legal road limit also means bigger fuel bills. Ford claim the Turbo will use around 14.2 litres per 100km. This may well be possible but I struggled to get it below 16 and at times saw the trip-meter readings climb into the 20s after some spirited driving.

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Territory Seats

Fortunately, the standard creature comforts on offer should take your mind off the gas bill. In terms of trim, think Falcon XR6 vs Ghia and you’ll have a pretty good picture. One comes with a velour and cloth trim while the other – the Ghia – has full leather, adding dual zone climate air, parking sensors and a reversing camera.

There’ll be plenty who will be more than happy with the performance of the standard Territory, a fine vehicle in its own right. But for those that want, nay demand a little more in the performance department, the Turbo certainly fits the bill.


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