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Ford seeking luxury Territory

Grounds for luxury: GoAuto graphic artist Chris Harris' impression of Ford's upmarket Territory.

Ford looks to a luxurious 4WD to counterbalance struggling Fairlane sales

1 Apr 2005

FORD Australia is believed to be working on a luxurious, brand-leading version of its Territory 4WD wagon to counter diminishing sales of its Fairlane and LTD flagships and to continue feeding the market’s voracious appetite for big, brazen 4WDs.

Having achieved commercial and critical acclaim with mainstream models of its Broadmeadows-built 4WD, Ford is now understood to be working on several variations on the theme to broaden its appeal, particularly with a slick new medium 4WD rival expected from Holden in 2006.

A senior Ford Australia executive told GoAuto that a high-series Territory would be an “interesting” addition to the market and that the value proposition inherent in the vehicle should enable it to win custom from successful overseas rivals such as the Lexus RX330 and BMW X5.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman has also confirmed at least three Territory derivatives are under consideration, including a high-performance iteration, a turbo-diesel and a high-riding, fair-dinkum bush-basher.

“We have other Territory developments we’re working on at the moment that we’re not in a position to talk about,” Mr Gorman told GoAuto last month. “The three I’m always asked about are: where are we on a performance vehicle, where are we on diesel and where are we on the off-road?” Mr Gorman said that which version came first, and when, would depend largely on a buyer/rejector study, the results of which are expected soon. However, the first new Territory model is not likely to appear before next year.

Exactly how a brand-leading version will eventually fit into an expanded Territory range is also still unclear, but given the current-generation Territory was not designed to take a V8, the most obvious engine for a premium entrant would be a version of Ford’s turbocharged 4.0-litre inline-six, as used in the Falcon XR6-T sedan.

Meantime, photographs published in an Australian motoring magazine earlier this month showed a low-riding, rear-drive Territory test mule with unique wheels and a bonnet scoop which could indicate either a turbo-diesel or turbo-petrol engine underneath.

While it is unlikely a turbocharged (petrol) Territory production model would match the 240kW output of the XR6-T engine – around 220kW of peak power is expected – a “Territory LTD” could be sold alongside a lighter, more spartan and less expensive “Territory XR”, complete with the same engine, a higher specification and a 70kg-heavier all-wheel drivetrain.

This would create a suitable power buffer of around 40kW over the current 182kW Barra engine used in Territory Ghia and lesser models, and would also leave Ford Performance Vehicles with the means to produce its own knockdown-drag-out version using the 270kW F6 engine mated to an automatic transmission.

This latter engine/transmission combination is known to be in development at FPV/Ford, with an insider revealing to GoAuto last October that testing had been undertaken with a Falcon sedan at Winton racetrack in regional Victoria.

For the luxury Territory to be a convincing proposition above the current and well-equipped $53,290 Ghia AWD, considerable work in the cabin would also be required.

In order to subscribe to the SUV school of salubriousness, the model would need niceties such as second-row bucket seats, a double sunroof, premium-grade audio, DVD GPS with television, a larger wheel/rubber combination, reversing camera and an electric tailgate.

There are some obvious references here to the RX330, though even with that sort of gear it is understood Ford would still be able to undercut the Lexus and price a top-shelf Territory below $70,000.

Meantime, the hotly anticipated turbo-diesel Territory could comprise a reworked version of the 2.7-litre unit Ford has created with Peugeot and which is found in vehicles of Ford-owned brands such as Jaguar (S-Type) and Land Rover (Discovery).

The harder-core Territory variant is expected to include items like a long-range fuel tank, more under-body protection, extra ride height and more off-road–oriented tyres.

Should the Australian and overseas markets take to such a vehicle, it could force the Fairlane and LTD into retirement. Demand for these cars has been in decline since the late 1990s and in 2004 the two flagship vehicles achieved 2190 sales between them – the sort of numbers Territory achieves in a month.

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