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Territory wait was worth it
The West Australian The Ford Territory's common rail turbodiesel is the height of refinement, providing more than adequate performance.

What about a diesel? That was one of the first questions fired at Ford executives at the launch of the Territory in New Zealand in 2004.

At the time, Ford Australia insisted it did not have a suitable diesel engine for its Falcon-based SUV, despite conceding demand would have been strong.

Seven years on, Ford finally has found a suitable oil burner for the Territory, a 2.7-litre V6 which also powers several Land Rover models.

The Territory was a winner from day one for Ford, and deservedly so. Its mix of stylish practicality, excellent ride and handling and class-leading refinement made it a hit in the rapidly expanding SUV segment.

The Territory's one Achilles heel was fuel consumption. Although Ford has spent millions improving the green credentials of its venerable straight-six engine, the Territory could never match its diesel competitors.

That's why the arrival of a diesel Territory is such a timely fillip for Ford. Not only does it mean its SUV can now compete on an equal footing, it also allows Ford to target buyers previously out of reach. The addition of diesel variants is only part of the Territory story. The new SZ family gets fresh, slightly more angular styling, a revamped interior, handling and safety upgrades, and more equipment.

Our test vehicle, an entry-level TX all-wheel-drive diesel, starts at $48,240, plus on-road costs. The TX rear-wheel-drive diesel costs $43,240 and its petrol equivalent sells for $39,990. The line-up also includes more expensive TS and Titanium models. The 2.7-litre V6 diesel produces 140kW at 4000rpm.

Maximum torque of 440 Newton metres is on tap from 1900 revs. The engine is mated to ZF's smooth six-speed sequential automatic transmission.

The lively common rail turbodiesel is the height of refinement, providing more than adequate performance despite the Territory's 2107kg kerb mass.

Perhaps the only criticism is that it is a tad tardy off the mark, the result of turbo lag. Apart from that, most people would be hard-pressed to pick there is an oil burner under the bonnet.

Ford quotes combined consumption of 8.8L/100km but the computer readout on the test vehicle, which had only 5500km on the clock, showed 10.0L/100km.

It has a 75-litre fuel tank.

One of the more noteworthy improvements is the steering. The new electric power-assisted tiller helps disguise the Territory's size. The steering is light but by no means vague and makes parking a breeze. Handling is another of the Territory's strengths. Despite its considerable bulk, the SUV feels smaller on the road; one of the benefits of a well-sorted chassis and a well-tuned suspension.

The ride is wonderfully compliant and overall cabin refinement is first class. That's no great surprise because Ford used BMW's widely acclaimed X5 as its benchmark.

The seats are good and there's plenty of room for five adults and their luggage.

The cabin is pleasantly finished, the layout uncluttered and all controls fall to hand easily.

Standard features include automatic air-conditioning, power-operated driver's seat, Bluetooth and iPod connections and a trip computer.

On the safety front, the base model gets an upgraded dynamic stability control system, front and side curtain airbags and an airbag to protect the driver's knees.

Towing capacity on diesel-only all-wheel-drive models fitted with Ford's heavy-duty tow pack rises 400kg to 2700kg, with a maximum towball load of 270kg.

There is much to like about the newest Ford, especially its refinement and its impeccable road manners.